Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year, Old Script --Supernatural -- Schism

Hello all, and Happy 2019!

I thought I might start off this new chapter in my writing career by sharing an old spec script that I wrote for the TV show Supernatural five years ago. I'm trying to be more active in my blogging, and I thought this might be the way to do it.

Schism is one of four scripts that I wrote at the time, and if you're a Supernatural fan, then  maybe you'll enjoy it. Two of my Supernatural specs had placed well in a few screenwriting competitions. This wasn't one of them, haha. But I still like it, and the series has progressed to a point where this particular episode wouldn't currently fit into the story. In 2013 it would have.

If you're a Supernatural fan, and if you like it, maybe you'll enjoy reading one of the two books I have available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble or other online retailers. Both The Schoharie and Perfect Prophet are supernatural horror/thrillers, and by "supernatural," I mean the genre, not the TV show.

Warning: This is a dark episode that addresses suicide in an unflinching way. You should know that ahead of time. Also, apologies for any missed formatting issues. The text conversion from Final Draft to this blog space was wonky, and I had to make limited fixes line by line.

And if you do read it, thanks for supporting my work!

Written by
Diane M. Johnson
Dean tries to break through to Sam who is trapped in a dream
world believing himself to be schizophrenic.
Phone: 02 19, 2013
Website: www.dianemjohnson.com



Fade In:


A small log cabin nestled within the woods just short of the shore. A dock stretches out across the water.
At its farthest end, a body floats face down.


A closer look at the floater. It’s SAM WINCHESTER. Eyes fixed, face placid. He’s taken his last breath.


Slender arms dip in. They struggle to pull him up.


A WOMAN rolls Sam onto the dock. Her face obscured by long locks as she frantically administers CPR.

Don’t you do this, Sam! Don’t you
do it.

Mouth to mouth, compressions, mouth to mouth. She sobs between each set, about to give up when Sam spits up water, chokes on more as he takes in oxygen.

Oh God! Thank God!
She hugs him too tight as two others, Sam’s brother DEAN and his wife LISA, roused from sleep, rush out of the cabin toward the dock.
Are you alright? Tell me you’re
Sam focuses. Gets a good look at the woman who just saved his life. Panic. The woman is JESS. The love of his life who’s been dead for ten years. He tries to slip away from her.
No, Sam. It’s okay honey--

Sam?! What happened! Tell me what
--Get away from me!
Sam, please--
--This isn’t real! This can’t be
This wasn’t supposed to happen! You
were better!
Dean steps in between them. His presence seems to calm Sam a little bit. Dean takes firm hold of Jess.
Go back inside. I’ve got this.
Jess tries to push past him. He holds her at bay, glances over his shoulder for some help.
Come on, Jess. It’s okay.
Lisa wraps a comforting arm around Jess and guides her back toward the cabin.
Dean settles in beside his brother as Sam tries to breathe.
You okay? You alright, now?
Sam shakes his head, completely lost and confused.
What is this? What is going on
It's a vacation, right? A little R
and R from the real world--
--This isn’t real. It’s a trick.
Lucifer. Or a Djinn--

--A jinn. What’s a ‘jinn?’

Sam stares up, even more troubled. He shies away from his brother.
It’s alright. Ease up, calm down--
--This isn’t happening!
You’re right. Whatever you think
this is... is worse than what it
really is. Understand?
Dean places a steady hand on Sam’s shoulder. Sam breathes.
Sam nods.
Good. Now be honest with me. Was
this an attempt? Another one?
Because you tear Jess apart every
Wait, you think I--... Suicide? No!
--Then what. Did you slip? Forget
how to swim? Or did you skip a
dose? The meds keep you on track.
You know that--
--I’m not on any ‘meds!’ And Jess
is dead! Ten years, now!
Right. Ten years. Ten years of
Managing what? You’re not back with
Lisa!... Are you?
Sam tries to remember, gets all the more confused. Dean inhales patience.

This is gonna be okay. It always
turns out okay. Come on--
Dean tries to help Sam up, but Sam shrugs him off.
--You’re not my brother--
--And who am I this time? An
‘angel?’ A ‘demon?’ What?!
Sam shakes his head, fights back tears.
Sam, I can’t help with this if you
won’t let me in--
--‘This’ is cruel.
Dean tries to comfort Sam again, but Sam shirks him off.
I know who you are! And I know what
you’re doing.
Okay... If you know who I am, and
if this isn’t ‘real’... then maybe
it’s best if you just play along.
Dean offers his hand. Sam glares at it.
Come on. We’ll go back to the
cabin, you’ll get some rest.
Everything will be better in the
Sam caves. He grabs Dean’s hand, allows himself to be helped off the dock.


Sam sits on the edge of the bed, bathed in fresh morning sunlight as he stares out the window.
His fingers trace aged scars along the length of an exposed wrist. The scars look deep, jagged.
He closes his eyes, a prayer on his lips.
Castiel, if you can hear me... If
you can find me, I need you... I
can’t live through this...
nightmare. I can’t, Cass.
A KNOCK on the open door startles him. It’s Jess. Sam pulls his sleeve down over his scars.
I brought you some coffee.
She hands him a steaming mug before gingerly placing a prescription bottle on the night stand.
Sam stares deeply into the mug as Jess settles beside him.
So, prayers to ‘Castiel.’ That’s
Is it?
I could do without our life being
compared to a nightmare, but yes.
Prayer is hope. Even if it is only
to the ‘Angel of Thursday.’
Sam almost smiles. He sets the mug beside the waiting bottle of pills.
We met on a Thursday.
Jess beams. She scoops his hand up in her own, lets her
shoulder caress his shoulder.

You remember that? Is that why you
always pray to him instead of some
other better known angel? Like
Michael, or... St. Peter?
I think Michael would be happy to
see me dead.
He laughs a little. But not Jess. She grips Sam’s hand tighter, the light moment gone.
You don’t know how much I wish this
was real.
Jess pulls Sam’s hand up to caress her face.
This is real, Sam. Our life is
real. And the demons that haunt
you? They don’t exist.
She guides him into a stiff embrace before he gives into it wholeheartedly. He shuts his eyes tight, lost in her touch.
And it’s a good life, right? You,
me, Ruby--
Sam pulls open his eyes, the beautiful Jess in his arms no longer there. Instead, she’s the last image of Jess he ever saw. A charred, monstrous thing stretching it’s bony arms out to once again trap him.
Sam launches off the bed, as far away from Jess as the walls will allow.
He turns back to face her. No charred corpse woman, just Jess full of worry. Sam recovers.

Ruby? Really? Do you think I’m that
Stop it! This is why you scare her--

Scare her?! She used me! And tried
to kill me! You’re not doing this--
Doing what--
--You’re not getting inside my head
and twisting reality. Ruby is dead--
--She’s your daughter--
--I don’t have a daughter!
Jess nods, disappointed.
She’s five, Sam. And it’s getting
harder and harder to explain why
you do the things you do.
Jess grabs Sam’s arm, pulls up the sleeve to expose his scars.
When she walked in on this? At age
three? You don’t ‘have a daughter’
because you push her away!
Sam glares. Jess grabs his prescription off the night stand, holds it out for him.
Take your meds.
He reaches for the bottle, but she pulls back. Jess pops off the cap, pulls out a single pill.
Just one.
He takes it. And she waits for him to pop it in his mouth. Tears in her eyes, she heads out the door with the pills still in her possession. She passes Dean who quietly watches Sam from the hall.
Sam leans over the dresser, exhausted. He fishes the pill out of his mouth and tosses it. A wallet grabs his attention. His wallet. He leafs through it, finds a photo of himself and his family - smiling faces that include Jess and a pretty little girl, RUBY.

Dean gives a solid rap against the door jamb. It startles Sam. He closes up the wallet.
You okay?
Maybe we can hike up to the point
later. Just you and me.
It’s not a suggestion. Sam gives a curt nod, lets Dean get a lead before he follows him out the door.
Lisa mans the frying pan as Dean greets her from behind. A quick hug around the waist, a kiss beside her ear and a whisper.
He’s not taking his meds.
Then we cut the vacation short. Get
him back home--
--I’ll handle it.
It’s not your problem.
It is my problem. It’s always been
my problem. You knew that before
you married me.
Another kiss before Lisa spots Sam listening. She forces a smile.
Hey Sam! Spinach omelets. Your
favorite, right?

Sam looks away, toward the open front door that leads to the porch. Jess stands out there, hugs herself against the morning chill. She brushes tears from her face as she takes in the lake.

Sam sits isolated at the head of the table while Jess, Lisa and Dean watch him pretend to eat. He finally takes a mouthful for Lisa’s benefit. They start eating too.
So... How long has it been? Since
you and Lisa got married?
Dean looks at him curiously. Then he shrugs and goes with it.
What’s it, like six years now?
Six years.
Ben’s like, a ‘teenager.’ When did
that happen!
And too much like his Dad.
Lisa grins and nudges Dean’s shoulder.
Man, I am not looking forward to
it! Hey, remember Dad? He dreaded
the teenage years. Not that I blame
At least it’s not like having
teenage girls, right ladies? That’s
a whole different kind of hell.
Hope you’re looking forward to it,
Dean pats Sam on the shoulder, lets the comforting touch linger before he changes the subject.
Eat up. You’re going to need the
energy to beat my ass to the top.

Sam takes another bite.
Sam and Dean hike up through wooded area, Dean in the lead. Sam steps with caution. Double takes toward every suspicious shadow.
They break from the trees into stunning sunlight. Dean grins, points to a high peak still a good distance away.
Half way there.
He’s off again.

Leaves Sam blinded by the light. Sam lets his eyes adjust. A glimpse over his shoulder, and he spots a man watching him.
It’s LUCIFER. Satan. An average man if it weren’t for the evil smirk on his face.
Sam takes a breath. Focuses on catching up with Dean.
Dean drops his pack, marvels at the view beneath his feet. He throws his arms up as Sam brings up the rear.
Beautiful, right? I’m king of the
world! DiCaprio’s a poser!
He pulls out his water bottle, a pair of binoculars, settles on a boulder.
Come on, Sam. Pull up a rock and
we’ll chat.
Sam seats himself on the second half of the rock. He takes in the scenery as Dean offers him a swig from his bottle. Sam declines.
Stay hydrated. You’ll thank me
Sam pulls out his own canteen, takes a swig. Dean raises the binoculars to his eyes. Below, an
unobstructed view of the cabin and the dock.


Lisa and Jess lay out on the dock. Swimsuits and sunscreen.
Dean grins.
Looks like the girls are taking in
the sun. All we need is a little
skinny dip action, and we’ve got
ourselves some free soft core--
Come on, Sam. Look what God has
given us. Perfect day, perfect
sights, perfect world--
--Since when do you give any credit
to God.
Dean sets the binoculars down. Casual demeanor gone.
You know what? You’re right. Let’s
stop dancing around why we’re here
and get down to business.
It doesn’t matter what you say
because none of this exists.
That’s the schitzo talking--
--I’m not schizophrenic!
Then what. What is it. Should we go
through the checklist again? One, a
problem telling the difference
between reality and fantasy.
Sam shakes his head.
Two. Hallucinations. Three.
Depression! Four. Suicidal--

--Are you trying to set me off?!
Five. Anger issues!
Well, then you-- You’re not far
behind me.
Did you sleep last night?
Six. We go through this every
couple of years because you get it
in your head that you’re supposed
to suffer! And that none of this
can be real--
--It’s not. It’s a mind game. I
could be sleeping for all I know.
Or in a coma. Or back in hell--
--You were never there! Listen to
me! You have a good life. People
care about you--
--Until they die.
Who is dead here? Mom? You weren’t
even old enough to remember that. I
was... So why don’t I see the
horrible life that you do?
What about Dad?
He’s got issues. But he manages. We
all learn to manage, Sam. You need
to learn too.
Sam goes silent. Doubt creeping through his brow. He shakes it free.
It’s too perfect. Me and Jess? You
and Lisa--
--It wasn’t perfect getting here.
But right now? It’s nice. Why can’t
you accept that?
Because Lisa and Ben don’t even
know you--
--So you’re the poster child for
meaningful relationships, now? Is
that it? When I found out that she
lied about the DNA test, Ben became
mine. He’s my son! And I did the
right thing, and we are happy, Sam!
We are happy! In fact, the only
thing that stops this from being my
perfect world is you!
Sam leans back, stung by the accusation. Dean keeps the momentum going.
In fact, the only thing that keeps
Jess, and Ruby and even Dad from
being happy is you!
You need to hear it. And Jess, the
way she’s stood by you? Wow! I
wouldn’t have done it.
You have done it.
If I wasn’t your brother it would
be different.
Dean slips his hand into a pocket. He holds out his palm, a pill resting there.
I know that you don’t want to be
the reason we’re all miserable.
This will change that.

So you want me to be numb? Just
take my little pills and zone out?
Like you and your ‘water?’
Dean regards his bottle.
It’s water--
--It’s vodka. Or at least it would
be if this was actually happening.
Dean takes a swig of his ‘water.’ He holds out his hand again.
Take the pill, Sam.
--Take it. Because if you don’t? I
will shove it down your throat.
A stare off. Then Sam turns to leave. Dean grabs him by the shoulder, turns him back. A solid blow across the face.

Sam goes down, finds Dean on top of him. Struggling. Another punch that dazes him.
Dean drops the pill down Sam’s throat. Clamps his hand over Sam’s mouth.
Swallow it! Swallow!
Sam fights it. But Dean wins out. Dean pulls his hand free, watches Sam deal with the loss.
This is reality. Sam, prone on the ground barely conscious. His eyes rolled back with the whites showing.

Dean leans over him in a panic. Tries to feed him blood from a flask.

Come on, Sam! Drink it! Swallow!

The blood hits Sam’s mouth, but nothing changes. His eyes still rolled back.
It’s not working... Crowley, it’s
not working!
Footsteps close in. Dean sees their approach. Three tattooed DJINN returning to reclaim their meal.
Dean pulls a silver knife from his belt, douses it with the blood from the flask. The Djinn stop in their tracks.
Okay, which one gets skewered
That’s not much of a threat without
lamb’s blood.
Oh, it’s lamb’s blood. I
slaughtered it myself.
Nice try, Winchester. But I can
smell it.
Well, you don’t know... what else I
have up my sleeve.

The leader of the Djinn looks unimpressed. She signals the other two to close in.

A hand grabs Dean’s shoulder. It’s CASTIEL, the trenchcoat clad angel of Thursday. Castiel pulls Dean down, grabs hold of Sam and makes the three of them disappear.



It’s the same cabin in Sam’s alternate reality. Sam lies on the bed, comatose.
Castiel watches Dean fret at Sam’s bedside.
How did you know where to find us?
Even in a coma Sam isn’t afraid to
Dean ignores the inference.
He’s been missing for days. God
knows how deep the poison goes.
I’m sure He does.
That’s it? I’ve been trying to get
your attention for months. And I
mean months! And this is what it
takes to get you to answer?
Is this your idea of a prayer,
Dean sighs. Pent up frustration clear on his face.
Okay. Fine. We can pull him out of
What do you mean, how? You work a
miracle and it’s done.
Castiel stares him down. No move to take care of it.
Cass? What are you waiting for?
Castiel takes in the surroundings.
This is where he is. The place of
his dream. Do you know it?
I don’t... Cass?
Castiel keeps taking in the surroundings. Then,
I’m done here.
He takes a step to leave before Dean rushes him.
What do you mean you’re done?
You’re not done! Cass, there is no
antidote. The last time we used
one, it didn’t work. Djinn poison
is literally boiling through Sam’s
veins, and you’re more concerned
with our location? I need you to
I’m still not hearing this as a
--I don’t have time for some pissy
grudge! Sam is on lock down in a
dream that could be his worst
nightmare and--
--There are worse fates than dying
in a coma--
--I swear, Crowley has more to
offer than you.
Castiel stares Dean down again. Dean doesn’t falter.
Fix this!
A disturbance in the air. Castiel is gone.
Dean kicks over a chair. He paces, thinks out loud.

The middle of nowhere... access to
He pulls the flask filled with blood back out of his pocket, considers its value. Again, he pulls open Sam’s mouth, gently pours in the blood.
Come on, Sam, just swallow. It’s
all I’ve got, so let’s just...
Dean still pinning Sam down. He lets go, offers a hand to help Sam up.
Once Sam is on his feet.
Feeling better?
Sam spits blood. He hauls back and punches Dean in the face.
Dean reels back, cups a bloody nose before he recovers. He starts to laugh.
Whoa! Okay. I guess I deserved that
a little... A perfect world, right?
More doubt on Sam’s face. Maybe this is real. He watches Dean blot his nose before he packs up, starts heading back down off the peak.
The four of them, Dean and Lisa, Sam and Jess, enjoy dinner. The conversation a little more relaxed, a little more animated compared to breakfast.
Sam remains quieter, more reserved than the rest. He takes it all in, allows Jess to coax an occasional smile from him.
A board game in the living room. Cheese and crackers, wine and beer. Sam partakes in bottled water as Dean rolls the dice.

The game they’re playing is anything but.
Dude, Yahtzee? Really?
If it’s a win, it’s a Yahtzee.
Don’t mess with my mojo.

Dean takes his advantage.
Jess leans into Sam. A tender moment. Sam welcomes it. A brief caress down an arm. She leans toward his ear.
Getting tired?
Their hands meet in a gentle squeeze.

Sam wakes, finds himself spooned into Jess. He admires as she sleeps, pulls himself to the edge of the bed.
The pill bottle stands sentry on the night stand.
Sam takes hold of it. A long moment before he pops the top, pops a pill into his mouth. A longer moment to actually swallow it.
Jess, now awake, reaches for him.
Hey. You want this, right?
I want this.
Wakeboarding. Dean at the controls of the motorboat, bottle of beer snug in one hand.

Sam on the board. He rides the wake with a huge grin until he topples, goes under.
He bobs back up, grin still plastered there as Dean maneuvers the boat back toward him.
Jess leans over the side with a hand to help Sam back in.
Your turn.
You’re not getting me on that
Jess is on that thing. She squeals as the boat gains some speed.
Come on, Jess! Show these guys what we’re made of!
Jess lets go. She sinks, then bobs just like Sam did.
Dean slows, arcs the boat back around.
She beat your time, Sammy.
Sam grins.
Beginner’s luck.
Is that a smile I see on your face?
This is nice, right?
Dean starts to close in when the motor stalls. The boat dead in the water.

He fiddles with the ignition. Can’t get it started.
What happened?
I don’t know! This is still new to

All these years fixing cars, and
you don’t know how to start a boat?
It’s all in the throttle.
Dean smiles.
I think I just had an inappropriate
thought. Would you like to show me
how it’s done, Mrs. Winchester?
Sam waves, shouts out to Jess.
It’s alright! We’ll be there in a
Lisa steps in to show Dean how it’s done, but there’s more flirtation involved than actual teaching.
Sam clears his throat, waves to Jess again.
Just... one more minute...
Patiently waiting in the water. Something yanks her under - straight out of JAWS. She comes back up. Terror.
From the boat, Sam sees her surface, then get yanked under again.
The life vest and wake board pop to the surface. No Jess.
Sam dives in. No hesitation. Dean and Lisa turn from the commotion.
Sam! Wait--
Sam swims deep, reaches out for Jess who gets pulled deeper into darkness. Sam loses sight of her.

Sam resurfaces in a panic. He turns toward the boat. Dean and Lisa not on it. Instead, Castiel. Sam’s eyes dart around for signs of anyone else before Castiel calls out.
It’s only me, Sam.
Sam shakes his head, confused, scared.
I had to get you alone--
--You’re not doing this!
Technically, you’re right. This
place all comes from you, and maybe
I don’t belong in it. It’s
complicated... But you did pray for
me to help you through this
nightmare, and I’m here to try--
--Try?! By taking her away from me?
By leaving me alone out here?!
She was never here, Sam. You are
--Bring her back!
She doesn’t exist. Not in a
corporeal sense... You’ve been
poisoned to believe a lie--
--This moment is a lie! YOU are the
Castiel sighs with a thoughtful nod.
I understand. I wish I could help
more, but I’ve been... busy... Just
know that you are not the problem.
Dean is. He needs to learn how to
pray... To think that over all this
time, I’ve been betting on the
wrong horse--

--Bring Jess back!
Is this what you want?
Sam glares. A disturbance in the air, and Castiel is gone. The boat, unmanned.
Sam looks around. He dives under again, comes up without Jess. What’s worse is that the boat is gone. He’s in the middle of the lake and completely alone.
He snaps his eyes shut and screams in frustration.
Damn it, Sam! Just give me your

Sam opens his eyes, the boat right behind him. Dean, Lisa and Jess lean over the edge coaxing Sam to take the outstretched hand.


Sam sinks to the floor after he’s pulled on board. Lisa drapes a towel around him. He pulls Jess close.
Don’t leave me.
I’m right here.
What happened?
All eyes scrutinize.
I don’t know--
--What do you mean ‘you don’t
know?’ Like you zoned out and fell
in? Or was it something else?
Dean, you need to give him some
No, Lisa. That’s all we give him is
space. And what does he do?
Takes a nose dive for no apparent
reason and doesn’t surface for God
knows how long? You were zoned out,
Sam. Where did you think you were?
Sam rubs his eyes, notes the wedding band on his finger.
I thought I lost my ring. I jumped
in to get it.
Dean grabs Sam’s hand.
Your wedding ring. This one right
here. You ‘thought’ you lost it.
Tell me, did you take your meds
this morning?
Sam yanks his hand free.
He did. I was with him.
Dean nods.
Did you tuck it back in your cheek?
Wait for Jess to leave before you
pitched it down the can?
That’s what he does!
I didn’t!
You’re only lying to yourself--
--I'm not lying to anyone!
Lisa pulls Dean aside, back to the boat’s wheel. She gives Dean a silent plead to relax.

Don't do this. Not here, not now.
Dean grabs his beer, takes a hurried gulp before he turns back to Sam with a pointed finger.
You know what? Lisa’s right. We’re
taking you home. Back to your
reality. The padded room where you
can’t hurt yourself--
--Dean! Back off!
Her glare makes him back down for real this time. Another swig of beer. He turns his own glare toward the horizon.
I’m sorry.
I’m not going back.
Dean registers the determination in Sam’s gaze. He turns to the wheel, figures out how to restart the engine and turns the boat back toward the dock.
The mansion’s exterior marred by Enochian graffiti from roof line to foundation. The symbols, designed to keep the heavenly out.
Castiel steps up to the front door and knocks.
CROWLEY, current overseer of Hell, greets him with mock surprise.
Castiel, as I live and breathe!
Come inside. Join me over a scotch.
You know I can’t do that.
Crowley casts a favorable eye at the exterior of the house.
It’s the angel proofing, isn’t it.
If I had known you were dropping
by, I would have tidied up--

--What are you doing to Sam?
Sam’s not here. I’m not doing
--I spoke with Dean.
Crowley shrugs.
Your name came up.
Ah, that. Sam went missing. No one
knew where. No one knew why. Dean
apparently couldn’t get in touch
with you, but I was fortunate
enough to cross Sam’s path. He was
in trouble. I gave Dean a lead on
his whereabouts. I guess that makes
me a good samaritan of sorts.
Crowley, about to close the door on Castiel until Cas persists.
You don’t help the Winchesters
unless there’s something in it for
You would think Dean would know
that by now. But I guess he was
desperate. What’s the matter, Cass?
Feeling a bit guilty over
neglecting your little pets?
Sam is in a coma.
A Djinn induced one. What a shame.
To be honest, I don’t think he knew
it when it hit him.
And how would you know that?
Crowley smirks. He shrugs again.
I can’t help Sam because Dean
doesn’t know how to pray.
Interesting... Can’t, or won’t?
It’s complicated.
So I take it that you bought a new
dress, and Dean said you looked fat
in it?
I don’t own a dress.
You’re pissed at him. It’s a visual
comparison- Never mind. So I take
it you know where they’re hiding?
Why do you want to know?
I don’t... But if Dean was smart
enough to find me, I just might
have a little something to keep Sam
from... you know.
Crowley mimes a sudden death.
Castiel lurches forward. Crowley waves a finger at him.
Ah- ah- ah! Angel proofing.
He shuts the door in Castiel’s face.
Castiel paces. An idea strikes him, and he disappears.


Sam lies peacefully in his coma.

Dean breaks the tranquility by ransacking a closet. Then drawers. Her pulls open the drawer to the night stand, finds a prescription bottle inside.
Dean checks out the label, considers pocketing it before he thinks better of it and sets it aside.
Dean continues his search. He finds a bowl, candles, even condiments from various drawers and cabinets.
He finds a stash of board games including the one played in Sam’s dream world. He tosses it aside in search of something useful.
On a shelf, a scrapbook catches his eye. On the cover, a memorial picture of Jess.
Oh no...
He takes it down, leafs through photos, newspaper clippings, eventually a few pictures of a happy young couple at the lake - Sam and Jess.
Dean slams the scrapbook shut. The expression on his face clear. He’s screwed. He catches sight of something through a nearby window - the Impala parked outside.
My baby!
Dean finds the things he needs inside the trunk of his car.
Cass, I owe you an apology.
He slams the trunk shut.

A makeshift altar from the collection of things found in the house and the car. Dean sets the contents of the bowl on fire.
A moment, and Crowley appears. He’s all smiles.
Dean! I’ve been waiting for your
It’s a little difficult when you’re
in the middle of nowhere with no
--Did you find him?
Crowley glances about in hopes of getting a glimpse of Sam until Dean takes a menacing step forward. Crowley doesn’t even flinch.
This is what I don’t get. Sam goes 
missing, and you come to me knowing
exactly where he is.
Sounds to me like you ‘get’ more
than you let on. Is he here--
--You set us up.
Crowley shrugs.
And?! Crowley, he’s so deep in
dream land that I can’t pull him
out! And this?
Dean pulls out the flask that once held blood.
This didn’t do anything! It’s not a

Don’t sell my blood short. It’s the
only thing prolonging Sam’s life.
Demon blood strengthens the vessel,
and all? It’s a good thing Moose
has that little flaw too. If it had
been you in his place you’d
probably be dead--
Dean pulls out a blade, a special one for killing demons. One step forward before Crowley throws him aside with the flick of his hand. Crowley keeps Dean firmly pinned to the wall with his Jedi-like power.
Drop the knife. Drop it.
Dean lets it clatter to the floor.
Not very smart, if your goal is to
prolong the inevitable.
Why do this?
Crowley confiscates the knife, frees Dean from the psychic hold.
I got a visit from Cass. He says hi--
--You owe me an explanation!
I don’t owe you anything. But,
okay. I’m in a chatty mood. Let’s
start with the Djinn. They don’t
really like you with your track
record of killing them off, so it
was easy to get them on board--
--Sam knows how to take out a
He wasn’t looking for one. He was
looking for me. The Djinn took him
out before he knew what hit him...
He probably still doesn’t.

Why, Crowley?
Because Lucifer is a problem child.
He’s hold up in a cage, bored out
of his mind making a bloody racket
24/7! Even I need a bit of shut eye
once in a while. So, I get this
idea. Lucifer has this bit of wifi
going between him and Sam’s head.
So... the Djinn put Sam in a coma,
mess with his reality so that
Lucifer can watch?
TV makes the best babysitter. And
tormenting Sam? Call it a perk. Of
course, if the Djinn had their way,
they’d drain Sam to his death. And
that wouldn’t do anyone any good.
Well, that’s just great. Except for
one problem. Sam is in too deep. He
is here, in this place, with Jess!
Crowley takes a curious gander at the surroundings.
And how would you know that?
Dean hedges.
Lucky guess.
Crowley looks around. Spots the memorial scrapbook with Jess’ name on it. He leafs through pages, finds the pics of Sam and Jess together.
They really were a cute couple. So,
how did you end up here?
Dean doesn’t answer.
Let me guess. Cass... Do you think
Sam’s little nightmare might
involve watching Jess just burn to
a crisp over and over and--

--You really are a sick bastard.
Duly noted. So is Sam here?

Crowley heads to search the rest of the cabin, Dean on his heels. They reach the bedroom where Sam rests.

A line of salt at the entrance prevents Crowley from passing through. He peeks in on Sam with a grin.
Sleeping Beauty needs a shave.
Either you fix this, or God help me
I will--
--Do what? And with God’s help?
Crowley smirks at Dean’s threatening glare.
Of course, if you don’t want Sam to
die living out his worst
nightmare... or, I don’t know.
Maybe it’s his dream come true
since the Djinn can spin it either
way, then you might want to let me

He nods toward the salt barrier.
...so that I can help keep him
strong with the blood of kings.
He pats his own wrist, tweaks his brow up suggestively.
Dean considers Sam. He breaks the line of salt with the toe of his boot.
Crowley finishes letting blood drip from the open wound in his wrist into Sam’s mouth. He staves the bleeding, regards Dean leaning as if in prayer against the edge of the bed.
Now you just look desperate.
Again with the threatening glare from Dean. This time Crowley considers the danger.
Give me a ring in a couple of days
when he needs a refill.
Get out.
Oh, and don’t bother trying to find
your way to the nearest town for
‘special supplies.’ It’s not that
close. And your fuel line sprung a
leak. I checked.
Crowley grins, leaves. Dean closes the door behind him, fixes the salt back to an unbroken line.
Back to Sam’s bedside, back to his head hung low.
Sam, I pray you can hear me...
Please. What you’re living isn’t
real. It’s not... I don’t know
what’s playing inside your head,
but I know it’s a game. And the
only way to break free and come
back to the real world is to kill
Dean falters, composes himself before he can tear up.
Find a gun, a knife, whatever you
have at your fingertips. And you
kill yourself... If you kill
yourself in a dream, you wake up.
That’s how I did it. Wake up and
come back to me. Back home.
Sam toys with his vial of pills. He pops the cap, downs two dry. Jess catches him, pulls the bottle from his grip.
Just one.

Does it matter?
This isn’t a game! They only keep
you on track when you take them
--which doesn’t matter because I’m
‘lying.’ Maybe I should just take
them all and be done with it.
He reaches for the bottle. Jess pulls it back.
I’m giving them to Dean. Lisa and I
are going home. And Dean will take
care of it.
You’re leaving me? Again?
Sam, I never left you. You left me.
She backs off the bed, tears in her eyes.
Sam watches her go, spots Dean in the hall just outside the door. Jess gives him the pills and leaves him to stare his brother down.
Lisa and Jess pack a few last things into a car and go. Sam on the porch, sees Jess take one last look back before the car is gone.
Dean steps out behind Sam.
You wanted to stay--
--I didn’t want you to stay.
Well, you’re stuck with me. To the
bitter end.
Dean retreats back inside.

From the edge of the woods, Sam spots someone watching him.
It’s Lucifer again. He leans casually against a tree. Same smirk.
Sam quickly retreats into the house too.

Sam lies in bed, fully awake.
Dean in the hallway, clearly troubled, clearly keeps an eye on his brother.
I know you’re there.
Can’t sleep? Maybe we should take a
stroll then. Or a moonlight ride on
the boat.
It isn’t a suggestion. Sam sighs. He climbs out of bed, follows Dean out of the room.
A good distance from the dock before Dean cuts the motor. Lets the boat drift. He cracks open a couple of beers, offers one to Sam.
Sam declines.
Every time I try to reach out, you
shut me down.
I never know if you’re reaching out
or getting ready to punch me.
Dean laughs.
Yeah, well... Guilty.
He takes a swig, studies the stars.
I’ve tried. I really have. For ten
years. And I’m tired. I don’t think
I can do this anymore.
Then don’t.

You’re giving me permission to give
up on you?
I never asked for your help.
No... You never do. So, it’s like
He stares Sam down.
I’ve made a decision. To end this.
What does that mean?
If you can’t find comfort in this
world, fine. I can’t change your
mind. I can’t make you happy. So
stay here. Wallow in it. But the
rest of us want to move on. And we
can’t do it with an anchor.
Is that what I am? An anchor?
Dean says nothing. Sam leans back in disappointment. Then Dean launches forward, swings a wrench, knocks Sam across the temple.
Sam falls back, struggles as Dean grabs his shirt and pulls him over the side. Dean dunks Sam’s head under water, forces him to stay there.
Come on! Just breathe it in. It’s
what you want! It’ll be done!
Sam comes up. Dean forces his head back in. This isn’t a lesson in tough love.
Survival mode kicks in. Sam breaks free. A struggle for control as both men swing and grapple.
Dean gets a couple more hits in with the wrench, leaves Sam dazed against seat cushions. He raises the wrench for a crushing blow, but Sam catches him off balance.
The wrench flies out of Dean’s hand, into the water.

Sam claws his way to the far end of the boat. Dean snags Sam’s leg as Sam grabs hold of the wake board.
Sam frees his leg, gets to his feet, smashes the board across Dean’s face before he can get the same ground.
Dean drops, dazed. He recovers quickly enough to charge with a scream.
Sam swings the board again. A solid hit. Dean goes down. Sam rages, brings the edge of the board down on Dean’s throat.
Blood splatter. Dean’s head severed.
Sam raises the board up over his head, ready for another blow. He stares down at what he’s done. A long time to react. He drops the board, looks to the shore. Lost. Alone.
Dread sets in. Panic. Shock. He sinks to the floor, hugs himself and stares at the damage.
The soft lap of water against the boat, then CLAPPING. Lucifer appears to give Sam a nice, slow applause.
Bravo, Sam. Way to commit. Be
honest. It felt good, didn’t it.
Sam remains catatonic. Lucifer studies with amusement. He shrugs.
Well, it was fun while it lasted.
There’s only one thing left to do--
--Is this real?
Lucifer leans close.
Everything you feel is real. So,
how does this make you feel?
Sam swallows. A terrified nod. But Lucifer is gone. Sam, left to clean up the mess.
He gets to his feet, gathers Dean’s body and his head, dumps them over board.
Sam lets the water soak him forever.

Scrubbed clean, Sam sits on the edge of the bed, pill bottle in hand. He pops the top, downs half the contents dry. A moment to clear his throat before he downs the rest.
Sam gets comfortable on the bed, flat on his back. Eyes to the ceiling. He waits to zone out.
Slowly losing focus. Castiel steps in. Watches over Sam with a smile.
Sam returns the favor.
Sam’s hand floats up to touch Cass, but it never reaches him. The hand drops. Sam blacks out.
Dean wakes at Sam’s bedside. Sam still comatose. No hope in Dean’s gaze.
Dean checks the Impala with a flashlight. Finds the fuel line cut. He grabs a bottle of liquor nearby, heads for the dock.
He settles at the end of it and judges the stars. He calls out.
I can't go through this, Cass! Not
again. Not like this. I can't.
He waits. Oblivious to Castiel's presence in the shadows near the shore.
What do you want me to say? That
I'm sorry because I take you for
granted? That I take Sam for
granted? Well, I don't... You're
busy, I get that. But I need you to
help me, and I don't know what you
want me to say.

He waits, then turns as if feeling Castiel's presence. His gaze lands in the direction where Cass previously stood, but now Cass is gone.

Dean still at the end of the dock, passed out, the bottle
Sam’s eyes roll open. He blinks, takes in his surroundings, the room, a prescription on the night stand. He looks sick.

He dry heaves over the toilet, as if trying to get rid of those pills. A look at his reflection finds him pale, emaciated.

The sun a little brighter. Dean stirs from his stupor. Nurses a hangover pang. He pulls himself up, overbalances. He falls into the lake.

He comes up out of cold water, waist deep. He’s more pissed at himself than anything else.
Sam makes his way through the living room, glimpses of familiar things - the board game, the furniture.
He reaches the kitchen, pulls open the fridge. It’s oddly empty. Just a bottle or two of water and an open carton of milk.
Sam grabs it, downs the milk straight from the carton. It’s bad. Really bad. Sam spits it back up into the sink.
The faucet spits water from lack of use. Sam ignore it, more concerned with washing the bad taste out of his mouth. Then he sees it through the window. Dean pulls himself out of the lake, head and all.

Sam backs away from the window.
Dean steps through the door. He’s struck by a fire poker tothe temple. Dean goes down.
Dean on his hands and knees. Sam rams the poker through a hand. Into the floor. He kicks Dean in the gut, yanks the poker free, hits him again.
Sam! This is real! I’m real!
Dean struggles, but Sam stays relentless. Dean has no chance. Sam pins him down, the tip of the poker at Dean’s throat.
Sam, it’s me! I’m your brother--
I know an angel. Named Castiel. He
told me that you were my problem--
--C-Cass? Cass! Cass, help me-- HELP
Sam, about to plunge the poker deep when he’s thrown back, pinned against a bookcase by an unseen force.

Castiel stands between them. He waits for Dean to catch his breath.
That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Screw you.
Dean rolls over, groans from his wounds.
Castiel turns to Sam, takes the poker out of his grip. He frees Sam from the psychic hold.
Sam looks on confused. His eyes fall on the scrapbook memorializing Jess.
I’m sorry, Sam.


The scrap book gone, Sam gone.
Dean winces as Castiel administers first aid to the hole in his hand.
You’re not going to work your
little magic fingers and just heal
it? Or are you still on strike--
--Some prayers are best left
Yeah, thanks for that.
Painful lessons make your kind
stronger. Or they break you.
And where’s the benefit in that?
Tell me.
An opportunity to learn another
So all this was some test? To see
if I still had any faith in you? Or
God? Is that the ‘lesson’ I was
supposed to learn?
You chose Crowley to handle this--
--because you weren't there.
Castiel squints at him. No retort.
And Sam? What about him?
Castiel squints toward the door.
I wasn't the one testing either of

Castiel heads for the door.

Sam hugs the scrapbook, lost in the past. Castiel settles in beside him.
I have nothing, Cass. Nothing here.
Nothing in some made up reality in
my head. Nothing.
You have Dean.
Sam laughs.
Dean... Right. I’ve got... that.
Every other connection to something
meaningful to me? Just severed.
Castiel takes the scrapbook, turns to a page full of photos of him and Jess at this very lake. He lets Sam take them in.
Sam smiles at a memory.
I almost proposed here.
And what stopped you?
Sam shrugs.
Nerves. We were still at Stanford.
I thought I had time. I think her
parents knew what I was planning,
I backed out. I think they were
He laughs at the memory, brushes away a tear.

Yeah. They were relieved... Not
long after that, Dean was back in
my life. And everything changed.

Dean catches the sound of his name. He hobbles toward the door to hear better.
He has nothing but your best
--Just stop, Cass. Just--
Sam laughs sadly, shakes his head.
I thought I was past this. I
thought I was past... Jess. And
everything else. It turns out...
I'm not.
Part of Jess will always be with
you. Right here.
Sam closes up the scrapbook, pushes it off on Castiel.
Take it.
She’s in a better place.
That doesn’t mean anything. But you
were right, Cass. Dean is my
It’s Castiel’s turn to look confused. Sam motions to the camp, the scenery, the scrapbook.
And all this?... was cruel.
Sam steps off the porch, away from Castiel. Alone.

A sudden breeze. Castiel and the scrapbook gone.
Dean still watches from the doorway. Unseen by Sam. He looks guilty as hell.
Sam breaks for the Impala, around the corner out of Dean’s sight. But Dean can hear everything. An open trunk, it being slammed shut. A pause. Then the smash of a crowbar through glass.
Dean flinches, closes his eyes, flinches again with the break of more glass.
A prayer on Dean’s lips.
Not the body--
SMASH! More glass.
Not the paint--
SMASH! More glass.
Not the hood...
Silence. Dean opens his eyes. Spots Sam as he whips the crowbar toward the lake.
Sam heads for the woods. He doesn’t look back.


The pill bottle on the night stand. Dean picks it up. Reflects on its contents. This time he pockets the bottle.
Dean and the Impala. He hobbles around it, inspects the damage. Nothing but broken glass.
Dean hangs there, silent. Contemplative. He straightens up when he sees Sam returning from his walk.
Sam walks right past him. Right up the steps until Dean speaks up.
Do you have a minute?
Sam grudgingly turns back. He waits. For the first time in
his life, Dean is at a loss for words.
I don’t know what to say... I
honestly don’t.
Then don’t--
--I’m trying, Sam! I’m trying to
say that I’m sorry. Your life...
Our life? This wasn’t the plan.
This was never the plan. And I get
it. I do. It’s all my fault. Your
life might be better if I had never
come back for you... And I don’t
know how to fix it. I don’t.
Maybe you should stop trying.
So what. You're telling me to give
up on you? I can't do that.

The words strike Sam. He settles on the steps. An apparent dividing line between his side and Dean’s.
It’s not all your fault.
Well, that’s a relief... So did my
baby have to take the brunt of it?
I'm sorry.
Dean looks away.
You should be.
They continue to stare in opposite directions.
Dean, I scare myself. The whole
time I was dreaming? It wasn’t
about what you did. It was what I
Dean considers his wounds.
Did you try to kill me?
Sam’s lack of an answer is all Dean needs to hear.
Well... Was I being a dick?
Yeah... You were.
No grudges, then. Clean slate.
Silence. They fidget and steal glances at each other.
So, this dream world... Dream come
true, or nightmare?
Both. Why?
Well, the part where you wanted to
kill me. Was it--

--No grudges, clean slate.

Okay, then.

I'm tired of being manipulated...

Yeah, well I've got a hole in my
hand, so...

They both sigh and contemplate the lake.
I need a beer.
It’s eight in the morning.
A little sympathy here?
Dean indicates his wounds. Sam rolls his eyes.
I’ll see what I can find.
Sam heads toward the kitchen, pauses at where the scrapbook once was on the dining table.
A single picture rests there. The smiling couple, Sam and Jess. Sam admires the picture. He pockets it.
Sam opens the fridge. What once held a carton of overlooked sour milk and a couple of bottles of water now houses two bottles of beer. They’re ice cold. Pristine.
Sam looks around curiously, then grabs them.
Sam pops the caps, hands a bottle down to Dean.
Ah, breakfast of champions.

When are you going to find
something original to say.
Dean looks to Sam offended. He takes a hit off his beer.
They both look out at the sun over the lake. It’s quiet. Peaceful. They’re lost in it. Each from their separate side of the steps.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Entire First Chapter of the Next Potential Novel PERFECT PROPHET. Give me feedback!


When the bullet struck his chest, Alexander B. Lowell lost his focus. He wasn’t sure why the crowd was screaming, wasn’t sure if he even heard the shot. He fumbled through the last dissonant chord before his fingers dropped from the strings that were lined like an electric fence across the frets of his prized Schechter Hellraiser. His eyes glossed over the packed house of young bloods saturated with alcohol and sweetened by the latest designer drugs, and he briefly thought that maybe his own indulgent behavior prior to taking the stage had caught up with him.

            It made sense. The music of The Great was heavy laden with a bass line laid out like death. The drums put the rhythm of assault rifles to shame, and Alec’s Schechter Hellraiser added the right amount of nails on chalkboard to strike fear into the heart of any listener familiar with a mass murder horror movie franchise. Combine it with the waning influence of Molly, and he thought he understood why he was going down. But the lead singer Claire, who changed her name to Cleopatra to better fit the idea of the band’s lame name, wasn’t putting her signature raspy vocals to the test to belt out an impossibly long high note. She was screaming. Alec looked down to see a new hole, wet with blood, in his artistically torn shirt. His legs wobbled.

Alec thought that he sensed a moment of silence meant for cathedrals between the strike of the bullet and Cleo’s unexpected turn as a scream queen. But then all hell broke loose in a slow motion scene that melted in front of his eyes. The pierced and tattooed bodies of the young souls trying to prove they were fearless animals roaring to song crushed together within the sweaty confines of the underground club and pushed their way toward any perceived exit. Dancers trampled each other in a deafening roar to get out, and Alec, or Alexander The Great as he was called by the hippest punsters of his fledgling fandom, collapsed on stage and blacked out.

          Claire “Cleo” LeCroix held Alec’s hand and whispered comfort into his ear after Mark the bass player and Patrick the drummer dragged him back stage away from the main point of chaos. A smear of blood marked a path for the unidentified shooter to follow if he or she so desired, but that didn’t happen. Cleo silently thanked God, which was odd considering what their band and their music represented.

            Mark the bass player was more vocal and belligerent. “God damn it! God fucking damn it, Alec! You listen to me! You fucking stay with me, you hear me?” He muscled out of his own shirt and used it to apply pressure to the gushing hole as he took terrified glances at the stage. “Alec? Alec—“

            “—He’s bleeding out,” said Patrick the drummer. He was young, technically underage to be in this club. He stared down at the body in numb shock as his mouth stuttered out the obvious with no intent of stopping. “Jesus—Jesus, there’s nothing—there’s—He’s dead, he’s—“

            “—Find your God damned phone and call 911!”

            Patrick raked his fingers through the tangle of dark hair at the center of his scalp. The sides of his head were shaved smooth, giving him the appearance of a panicked Goth rooster. He took a tentative step to the left then reversed course to the right before Mark screeched at him one more time.


            Patrick patted himself down for his phone, fumbled it out of a pocket and lost it as a club bouncer pushed through. The bouncer paused and doubled back. “Cops are on the way. You know what you’re doing here?” Mark admitted that he didn’t with a shake of the head, and the bouncer replied with a harried breath before he bent down and showed Mark and Cleo the basics; how to monitor a pulse, how to apply the right pressure, a glossed over summary of proper CPR. Then the bouncer abandoned them, and Mark hung his head feeling inadequate. Useless.

            “Dear God watch over us. Dear God help him pull through—“

            “—Shut up. What’s that worth, huh?”

            Cleo glared at Mark through her tears. “It’s all I’ve got.” She brushed at her eyes and gripped Alec’s limp hand tighter. It brought her focus. “We could find his phone, call his family.”

            “He doesn’t talk to his family.” It was true. Alec never talked to his family in the presence of Mark or Cleo or Patrick. He never talked about them either, not even with Cleo, who sometimes brought up the topic after the more than occasional drunken night of intimacy. But this... This moment was bad, and she searched his pants pockets only to come up empty. Cleo sobbed. No, this wasn’t happening. This wasn’t fair, and the God that she grew up to believe in could burn in hell if He thought this was some justified penance for hers or Alec’s or the band’s supposed sins.

            Cleo loved Alec. He was gentle with every kiss, every caress. The bad boy temper that was born from frustrations never reared its head during sex. Sure, Alec Lowell was a moody ass sonofabitch on his best days, but it never took a turn toward the hurtful or vengeful or the bullying way. Unless it involved hurting himself. A fist through a mirror, taunting strangers into fights he couldn’t win, playing his frustrations out across wire strings to the point of making his finger tips bleed; these were his acts of penance to keep his secret family demons in check. Cleo knew Alec’s demons stemmed from his family, but she had no idea what they were. And he refused to share.

            “My mom died and my dad found religion,” he would say. “Just leave it alone, alright?” And he would clam up with a sour set face, uncap whatever cheap brand of brew was left in their barely cooler than room temperature mini fridge, and he would set his strings on fire with his cut and bleeding fingertips to annoy the neighbors in the adjacent apartment.

            Cleo caressed those fingertips now as she held his hand. They were soft; not a callous, cut or scar to be seen. Odd.

            The arrival of law enforcement pulled Cleo out of her thoughts. Never in her life was she as glad to see the cops as she was on this night. They wore body armor and head gear as they secured the mostly evacuated building. They escorted paramedics inside, who wasted no time assessing Alec’s chances before they hooked him up to tubes and portable monitors, strapped him onto a gurney and wheeled him the hell out of there. Cleo wanted to go with him, but the police held her back. They had questions for her, and Mark, and Patrick, who found himself a chair and stared straight ahead in silence without blinking for the duration of the interrogation. Did you see the shooter? No. Does he have anyone who would want to do this? No.  A drug debt? Ex girlfriend? No and… well, yes. But Belinda Allen was a distant memory from high school, and a relationship that ended when Alec left his home town in Wisconsin to escape his mysterious, yet obviously dysfunctional family. It had been a clean break, as far as Cleo knew, but honestly she wasn’t sure. Alec never talked about his family, but he had occasionally mentioned Lindy, and usually with a smile. But Cleo wasn’t sure, and she told the police she wasn’t sure, and could this please all be over because she’d rather be pacing the floor of the emergency room where the unknown shooter had a lesser chance of being hidden in some missed broom closet or dark corner.

            Mark had nothing to offer. Patrick continued to stare.


           One gun. One bullet. The shooter walked away that night, or was squeezed out in anonymity along with the panicked mass exodus. He or she, for it was hard to tell when the shooter was dressed in baggy trousers and an oversized hoodie to hide inside, stepped out into the cold Los Angeles streets and kept walking; another homeless outcast in need of a box or a tent along Skid Row. A turn down the right alley, and the shooter had the opportunity to dump the gun into a trash bin that reeked from the stench of rotting sushi, but he or she didn’t bother. He or she still needed to find a way home, and a random holdup at a gas station or all night mini mart seemed like a plausible way to earn the necessary funds.

            The shooter realized that even the idea of a holdup was an unnecessary danger to make it home. The right phone call to the right person was all that he or she needed to make. Their network was vast, the mission, complete. The prophet Alexander was dead along with his legacy to the world. Amen. Hallelujah.


            A TV screen droned in the corner of the quiet Ashland, Wisconsin emergency room at two in the morning. Three young men sat watching cable news with a mix of boredom and nausea from too much liquor after a cold weekend kegger in the woods. The one in the middle was especially in a sour mood as he leaned his head against the wall behind him and held an ice pack over his nose. The front of his shirt held dripped blood stains that made his emergency look worse than it actually was.

            The locked door that separated the waiting room from the emergency ward clicked open, and the boys looked up. They straightened up too, the two friends of the bloodied one suddenly wishing that they also had a broken nose for the nurse to take care of. Belinda Allen twisted a strand of her richly curled hair then slipped a pen from between her lips as she examined a clipboard. “Kenneth McCusker? Is that you?” Her eyes pierced through the middle one, the nose bleeder, and she waited with an inviting smile as the three of them stared back, slack jawed.

            “Yeah… yeah, it’s me,” McCusker finally managed. He rose in unison with his buddies, and Belinda held up her hand.

            “Just Kenneth. But don’t you worry. I’ll take good care of him.” Disappointed, McCusker’s buddies returned to their seats and turned back to the TV news. Belinda glanced at the screen and saw the ticker across the bottom of the reporter’s story. It said Los Angeles. “What’s going on,” she asked Kevin as she led him to triage.

            “Stupid fight with a Jets fan—”

            “—No, the news.”

            It took a moment for McCusker to process. “Oh. Shooting. Los Angeles. Some club.” Belinda nodded at the all too common occurrence as she led the guy to an exam table and patted it for him to climb up and take a seat. “Some guitarist got hit. Some metal band. Never heard of ‘em. The Great something or other? Nobody listens to that Danzig shit anymore.”

Belinda didn’t hear that last part. She abandoned the patient, pushed through the door of the waiting room and startled McCusker’s buddies into standing. She closed in on the TV. The news cycle had already moved on to pundits and their political debates about guns and about the irresponsibility of rock stars who promote violent and immoral behavior. Belinda ransacked through old magazines and healthcare flyers until she found the remote. She hit the playback button for the channel, and she hushed the confused pair of friends when they asked with concern if she was alright.

            She wasn’t alright. The news report included a blurry cell phone video of a washed out club band playing music distorted by its tiny speakers. The gun shot rang out clearly. A startled guitarist stood there a moment before he lost his balance and crumpled to the stage. The rest of the video was a wash of grainy crowd shots as people screamed and pushed their way for cover, before the piece returned to the reporter outside the now evacuated club. Belinda cupped her hand over her gaping mouth and tried to understand what she had just seen. She trembled in silence, barely aware of the hand on her arm; one of McCusker’s concerned buddies. “Are you a fan or something? Are you alright?”

            Belinda backed away. She dug her phone out of her pocket as she headed for the exit. The admissions nurse, Jennie, called out before she could get far. “Lindy? What are you doing?”

            “I have to go. I’m sorry, I can’t…” She pocketed the phone realizing there was no one she could really call. She no longer had Alec’s phone number, his father was a lost cause, and his sister Ilene would probably tell her that Alec had it coming. Lindy didn’t want to be the one to share the news with Alec’s pious sister, and as she reached the parking lot she realized that she didn’t have her keys. Or her purse. Or her coat. She turned back toward the hospital and then turned back toward the lot and then pulled her phone back out as the chilly night air seeped into her bones. “Mom,” she said when a voice picked up on the other end. And then it hit her; the shortness of breath, the sting of tears, the tremble in her voice. “Mom, I need you to take care of Jake,” she managed. Jake was four, and Belinda’s mother babysat the boy whenever she was burdened with a graveyard shift. “I’m going to Los Angeles.”


           Alec Lowell-- Alexander the Great, became famous not because of his music or because of his talent, but because of a bullet. The odds of surviving a gunshot wound to the chest are low, but possible, given the right circumstances. Caliber, trajectory and speed play their part. Then there’s the material that the bullet must penetrate, depending on those circumstances; glass, Kevlar, layers of fabric, bone. Most of those factors, with exception to bone, were absent from Alec’s case. Surgeons pulled a .38 caliber slug and bone fragments from Alec’s sternum out of the muscled wall of his heart. The lead surgeon was a capable man, but not necessarily a rock star among his peers trained in the cardiovascular arts. He was as surprised as the public by Alec’s recovery, because while a bullet to the chest had a low rate of survival, a bullet to the heart had almost nil.

            Almost. In relative terms, there have been cases over the course of centuries that have provided just enough possibility for Alec’s recovery to be attributed to luck, although those in the entertainment news industry were thrilled to call it a miracle. So was his manager. So were the Christian Crusaders who saw fit to remind him that he was going to hell because of his blatant rebellion against The One who gave him a second chance to find the right path. Some of those devout members of society did some internet digging and found fodder to further crucify Alec for his disrespect. This punk turned anarchist grew up out of tragedy, and before he turned his back on God, he turned his back on his father, a devout Catholic who suffered a mental breakdown not long after Alec left home.

            “How did they find out about him?” Cleo shushed him from beside his recovery bed.

            “You worry about you.” Alec closed his eyes and took a careful breath, and Cleo chose her words carefully. “Hon, I’m with you. I’m beside you through this whole unbelievable nightmare. You know that, right?”

            Alec freed a chuckle that was cut short by a spasm of pain in his chest. He rolled his eyes. “Whatever, Claire.”

            “Don’t. Don’t call me Claire.”

            “Why? Why not? It’s who you are. Who the hell says hon, a Cleo or a fuckin’ Claire—”

            “Are you done, hon?”

            “Isn’t it what this is? Us? Done?”


            “You worry about you? I know where this leads. It wasn’t serious. I know that. Whatever.”

            “There’s someone else here to see you.” Cleo paused. Stay cool, she thought. This is the right thing to do no matter how much it hurts. “Someone from home.”

            Alec stared at her for a long silent moment before he crushed his eyes shut in denial. “No.”

            “I’ve talked with her. She dropped everything to be here.”

            “I’m fucking tired, man. And she doesn’t care. She blames me for Dad, and I don’t care. I’m not ready.”

            “Who are we talking about, hon?” Alec huffed, like it needed to be said before he followed up without saying anything. Cleo leaned back ready to give up because she recognized the moment that she knew would come. He was shutting her out and shutting her down. “Fine. Get your rest. But I’m the one who had to talk to her. Me, Alec. She came all this way for you.”

            Alec turned his face away. He looked pained as Cleo vacated her seat and turned her back on him. “I can’t sleep, you know. I’m so goddamned tired, and I can’t sleep.”

            “I know.” Cleo left. She closed the door behind her, found the nearest restroom  and cried her eyes out in a closed stall. It didn’t last long enough. The creak of the lavatory door and hurried footsteps to reach the stall beside her were enough to make Cleo stop, rein in those emotions and dab at her muddy mascara with the ample supply of scratchy paper that hospitals equate to toilet tissue. She waited, content to feel trapped from leaving. Alec was right. Their relationship was something that they both agreed should remain casual, no attachments, because long term relationships with your band mates always ended up messy. Those relationships usually went down in flames along with the band itself. She knew that. And Alec, good God. It didn’t take long knowing him to understand that any sexual relationship with him would—not could, become complicated. He was broken inside, hurt, lost, in need of mothering. She knew that. Goddamn it, she knew that. But here she was wanting to hold him and nurture him and protect him because broken men who never really became men was her weakness. It was her mommy fix, and she hated herself for falling for it. Every time.

            What will he do when he finds out, she thought. When he finds out what’s waiting for him?

Cleo had to get out of there. She crumpled up the mascara stained tissue, flushed it down the toilet and stepped out of the stall just as the occupant in the stall beside her did the same. Shit. It was the ex girlfriend. “Oh. It’s you,” Belinda said. They stood in awkward silence for a moment before both turned to wash their hands at the sink. Cleo washed, rinsed and pulled a towel from the dispenser as Belinda took her time scrubbing.

            “What are you, a doctor or something, hon?” Cleo tried to joke.

            “Nurse,” Belinda replied without looking up, and Cleo felt heated embarrassment color her cheeks.

            “Wow. Alec, he sure knows how pick ‘em. If only he knew how to keep ‘em.” A stupid, stupid attempt at lightheartedness.

            Belinda tried to justify with a rambling clarification. “I’m not a full fledged registered nurse, just an ADN. I can take your blood pressure, take your temperature, take your history, that’s about it.”
Cleo nodded and tried to gloss over her own failure with a lie. “Look, he’s sleeping. He does a lot of that right now—”

            “—I understand. I do.”

            And Cleo felt naked, her true feelings exposed behind cellophane skin. She plowed ahead with what she knew to be the right thing to do in spite of the complicated feelings she had for the moody punk anarchist who wasn’t worth saving, according to the most vocal of the righteous haters who would unwittingly bolster his career in the days to come. Cleo took Belinda’s hand and she told her how it was going to be. “It doesn’t matter, Alec and me. Alright? You came all this way for an asshole who left you because he don’t have no brain in his head. It’s a self absorbing sponge he’s got in there, and he doesn’t deserve me, and I got this feeling that he doesn’t deserve you either.” Belinda managed a trembling laugh that made Cleo smile. It made her more confident to continue on. “But he deserves to know, so come on.” Cleo gave a nod toward the lavatory door and she gently pulled Belinda along.


            When Cleo poked her head back through the doorway of Alec’s room, she found him watching TV. It was an entertainment news show with superficial reporters dishing out the latest superficial hype. The superficial hype man being interviewed was bass man Mark. “He’s doing great, man. He’s pulling through like nobody’s (bleep)ing business.”

            “And you saved him,” said the reporter.

            Mark shook his head. He was a prideful braggart whenever the opportunity arose but humble enough to realize that this was not one of those opportunities. “I just pulled him clear of the stage. You want to give someone credit, give it to the (bleep) paramedics. And the doctors who cut the lead out of his engine.” Mark thumped a fist against his heart, and the reporter continued on.

            “Given the type of music that your band plays, are you willing to take a step back from it and thank God?”

            “Is that really your follow up?” He asked flatly. “Because, look. I’m thankful that my friend is breathing and recovering and shit, but I’m not going to make this into some born again praise the powers that be epiphany.”

            “Marcus, you dick.” Alec aimed the remote and changed the channel. He turned his head to cast an irritated look at Cleo until he saw Belinda step in behind her.

            “I’ll just give you some time,” Cleo said. She retreated back out the door.

            Alec stared ahead looking terrified. He fumbled with the bed adjuster, pressed buttons to help him sit upright, maybe to look less vulnerable and pathetic, as Belinda closed in and took the seat where Cleo once resided. He looked remarkably good for having been shot in the chest; pale yes, gaunt sure, but alive and fidgety and without seeming to be in much pain. Belinda took his hand. She caressed it, brought it to her lips and kissed him across the knuckles. She felt the faintest tremble there. “I thought you were Ilene,” he said, and she responded with a soft and confused what. “Cleo didn’t tell me it was you. I thought you were Ilene.”
            “Oh. She didn’t come? She doesn’t know?” Alec shrugged, and Belinda had nothing to say. Well, she had plenty to say, she just didn’t know how to say it.

            “I’m sorry I left. I’m sorry I left you stranded, but I had to. Shit, Lindy. Why did you come here?”

            Belinda shook her head, not sure how to answer. “Should I leave?” She bit her lip in that way that made her look insecure and she tried to smile. But the tears were threatening to flow, and when Alec caved with a shake of his own head, they spilled over. She vacated the chair and leaned in for a careful embrace. There was the oxygen line and the IV line and the heart monitoring wire to be careful of, and they somehow managed the challenge without getting tangled.  Belinda felt his hesitant breath touch her ear then inhale the aroma of her skin. He still loved her, she could tell until the fleeting moment of hope disappeared and she realized that maybe he was just scared. Alec drew his hand up into the curls of her hair and he soaked up her warmth. When she pulled away, he resisted letting go.

They settled apart and found matter of fact things to talk about. Belinda told him that she had been keeping track of him on the internet, or keeping track of the band, really. She wasn’t a stalker, and Alec’s online presence was next to nil, except for the band’s website that kept track of the California and Nevada clubs they were booked at and little more. Alec seemed surprised that the website existed, and when she pulled out her phone to show him, he nodded. “That’s got to be Paddy,” Alec decided. “The kid’s a genius with this shit.” Alec told her how young their drummer Patrick was. Paddy O’Shaugnessey, sixteen years old and Latino. His mother was Colombian. His father carried the name. The kid’s parents didn’t know that this was how he spent his weekends until the shooting. Well, not exactly. And now, now the band’s future was on hold because the kid was a minor. On the one hand, the kid’s parents were relieved to discover that his disappearances on the weekend were because of a drum habit and not a drug habit, but he was sixteen  and hanging with a bunch of gringo punks who promoted devil worship. That was Patrick’s mother speaking. She was sadistically Catholic.

“And we don’t worship the devil or the dark lord or whatever. Christ, people. That’s just a homage, symbolic, an artistic statement. The people who get triggered are the people who take everything so damned literally.” Belinda nodded and smiled and wondered where Alec was getting the energy to rant. He must have seen something in her expression, because he stopped. He gave her an apologetic upturn of the lips. “I get wound up when I’m exhausted. I’m going to close my eyes and let you tell me what you’ve been up to.” He closed his eyes.

“I don’t know where to begin,” she said, and she wished she hadn’t come. When Alec pushed the issue by hopefully suggesting that she’d moved on, found another guy to replace him, she said no, not really. She told him that she was getting her life together, found time to dedicate to school and that she had a steady job in Ashland while she worked to complete her BS degree in nursing.

“Wow, Lindy. You’re going full on legit. Next thing you know, you’ll have the house, the picket fence, the kids in the yard…” He smiled at the idea, his eyes still closed as he drifted toward what Belinda perceived as a long delayed sleep.

“Can I show you something?” Alec opened his eyes, curious as Belinda scrolled through her phone and showed him a picture. “His name is Jake,” she said. “He’s almost four. He’s my world now.” Alec nodded politely with every flip to a new image. Belinda couldn’t tell if he understood what had yet to be said. She took a steady breath and made things clear. “You have a son.” Alec continued to nod in silence until Belinda finished with the last shot. She stuffed her phone away and she waited for a reaction or anything from him.

“Wow,” he finally managed. “When God teaches you life lessons, he goes in full throttle.”

“You don’t believe in God.”

“I know. But still.” Disappointment hung between them, and Alec struggled through voiced thoughts that only seemed to make it worse. “I don’t have much money—”

“—I know.”

“Especially now—”

“—I didn’t come here for money—”

“—I would suck as a dad—”

“—Alec. I didn’t come here to lay some guilt trip on you. I’m not looking for money or… I don’t know, some level of responsibility from you. I heard the news, and I got scared. I thought maybe… maybe if you knew—”

“—You didn’t tell me. Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“Because you left, Alec!” Belinda held back, pulled her hands up against her lips in a prayer for patience. “You left before I knew. And I knew you weren’t ready. And I’m not even sure if you’re ready now.”

Alec pushed his head back against his pillows and scrunched his eyes shut. Labored breaths eventually dissipated to a melancholy rhythm. ‘Does he know? That I’m his—”


“Do you… want him to know?”

Belinda hesitated to restrain a smile. She took his hand again, relieved to feel him respond to her squeeze by squeezing back. “Do you?”

“Well. I am Alexander the Great.” He laughed at the stupidity of it. “And that could be pretty fucking awesome.”


Alec found sleep that day. Belinda wouldn’t leave his side, and they talked for hours until he drifted off in the comfort of her presence. Decisions were made beforehand. When the doctors gave the okay to check out of this depressing hotel for lost causes, Alec planned to go back to Wisconsin, take a break from the life of skanky bar gigs and spend time with his kid. That was the plan. It was a simple one that didn’t require a lot of steps and considerations. Or so one thought. The hospital stay was short, far shorter than it should have been, but the wound drained and healed, and Alec’s heart literally seemed to not miss a beat. He wore the scar like a badge of honor, but when reporters clamored for an interview,  he repeatedly turned the offers down.  This did not make Marcus Anthony Eddison, the band’s bassist, happy. Mark’s displeasure was in agreement with the band’s booking agent and, eventually, the band’s management. 

Entertainment reporters are a nasty breed of weasels. They slip through the streets and find you in public places and they clamp down with jagged teeth while holding a microphone in your face. The band was barely a name before the shooting; the music they played was mostly hard edged covers. Sabbath, Dio, Iron Maiden, King Diamond; these were the classics and tame material for the uninformed. The Great played these covers to get their feet wet while aspiring to create their own sound within the world of hard core death metal bands. They had a handful of original songs that the fiercely conservative of the religious community discovered after the headlined shooting. But those songs weren’t recorded or put out on an album. The band wasn’t that organized yet.

Until the shooting. One song, one original went viral thanks to cell phones and the internet and what should have been tragedy. The song was Looney Bin, and Cleo had been singing it when the bullet hit its mark.

My daddy walked with Jesus, now he’s in the looney bin, was the first line of the song.

            Put your faith in God We Trust
            A masquerade for sin
            The god you praise
            The rapist
            Loves his virgins
            Kills his sons
            My daddy’s in a padded room
            Insane for the wrong One

Alec’s words, Mark’s composition. The bass player took the idea of the song seriously, while Alec was merely rebelling. Daddy, Brent Lowell, was institutionalized a year or two after Alec left the small Wisconsin town known as Keystone because of a nervous breakdown. That was the simple version. Alec knew. His sister Ilene contacted him soon enough and Alec, being young and irresponsible with a massive chip on his shoulder, did nothing. He convinced himself that his self righteous father deserved it. It was karma. You disown me, you bastard? Funny story, because your god disowns you. Ilene, younger than Alec, carried on with the burden of their father, and followed suit. She never called Alec again.

The song, the words at least, came from Alec. He wrote them after a particularly horrendous set at a club called A Bloody Good Time, where he got wasted after a personal call that left him surly. Yes, freaking surly. Free drinks, and the bartender got goaded into a fight because Alec said “no ice. The ice waters your shit down, man! Like it’s not half cut with tap already. No fucking ice!” Alec lost his shit, as the saying goes, and he lost the brawl. The score; Alec – one black eye and one broken nose, the bartender – one tender fist and the bouncer’s admiration. It was their last gig at A Bloody Good Time, and Mark was pissed.

“Keep it up, Lowell, and we’ll be left with nothing but weddings and bar mitzvahs. Is that what you want?” It sounded like a tame threat, but Mark was shouting an inch from Alec’s bloodied and bruised face while Alec was pinned against a brick wall. Alec shoved him off and stalked away and returned a day later with a sulky apology and the lyrics to a song. Mark assumed the words were connected to that private call the night before. He hadn’t expected them to be so literal, but when the shooting happened and the reporters did their digging, Alec’s father had been discovered.  Mark was shocked. “Shit, man. You really are messed up.”

Then Marcus did what Marcus was prone to do. He wasn’t aspiring to be the next AC/DC or Megadeth or Metallica. He wanted full blown Diecide notoriety, the kind where mutilated corpses hanging from crosses on stage looked like the real “effing” deal as they dripped with slick pig’s blood for added effect. It’s where the money was, where the controversy was, and Mark was all in.

But it was a fa├žade. Marcus Anthony Eddison was an opportunist, a businessman, an atheist; not a Satanist. He had a natural air of menace that helped him play the part of a disciple of hell, but honestly there was no desire inside him to court some fantastical dark overlord. That was ridiculous. He laughed at people who wasted their time in church or who worshiped anyone or anything. “They want to worship something,” he would say during inebriated discussions with Cleo and Patrick and anyone else who might be around. “Worship me. I’ll take your money.” He liked to follow up the notion with a cackle every time he said it. Alec was on the same team, because whenever Cleo or Patrick tried to put an abstract spin on their beliefs to justify their side of the argument, Alec would scoff with a single, “whatever,” before he withdrew from the conversation. 

Mark respected Alec for his relentless fret work. Maybe he respected him for his apathy toward organized faith. But when the gift came, the ironic Godsend of free publicity after having been shot and having survived, and when Alec shunned it even after his recovery, Mark was left with disdain. He was there too. He was shattered by it for a time, but he saw opportunity in tragedy’s wake, and he alone seized it. He alone kept the band in the public spotlight while Patrick struggled through therapy and forced family counseling, while Cleo fought the post traumatic stress with nightly hook ups and pills, and while Alec slipped out of the public eye to play father of the year. What a joke, he thought; moody, bitchy Alexander Lowell as a dad. It wouldn’t last because Alec wasn’t the kind to sit still or to settle. He’d be back. They’d all be back, and Marcus, the promoter, the advocate to take this tragedy and use it like the gift it was meant to be, would be the hero. Mark took satisfaction in that belief, and he turned out to be right.