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The Curious Case of the Town that Didn't Really Exist

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TWELVE YEARS AGO. DESERT.

Six days. Or had it been sixteen? Time seemed to have no meaning when driving on an endless desert road. The days were long and hot, the nights were a mixture of void and stars. Cecil had been driving for so long that he wasn't even sure if he was in the states anymore. Or even on Earth, for that matter. He was unsure of why he was still driving, or, why he drove so far into this desolate landscape to begin with. The further he drove, the more his life, up until this point, became a blur.

Or. At least the bits of his life that weren't blacked out from his memory to begin with.

Cecil only remembered small time frames within his life. He was eighteen, single and as far as he knew, didn't exist before the age of sixteen. One day he woke up in a bedroom that seemed to be his, went downstairs to a family who also seemed to belong to him and he never questioned it. Everything seemed normal. Or, as normal as waking up with no memory of the past sixteen years could possibly be.

Maybe it happened to everyone. Cecil never bothered to ask because it always seemed to slip his mind every time he wanted to mention it. Like one of those scenarios when the word is right at the tip of your tongue, but you just can't seem to say it. That, he thought, definitely did happen to everyone else. So he just accepted that it was normal and never asked questions.

A dilapidated, rusted sign caught Cecil's attention, bringing him back to the present. The oxidized, purple metal placard was crooked on it's wooden post, and the peeling white letters formed three words.

W E L C O M E H O M E C E C I L

Cecil slammed the brakes and his clunky, old Buick screeched to a stop. He stared at the visibly aged sign, gaping. Was it intended for him? He was in the middle of nowhere in a place he'd never been to, hell, there was literally nothing around him. How could this sign even exist? The chances of coming across something like this were astronomical. Not impossible, but also not very likely.

After putting the car in park, Cecil reluctantly got out and took a few cautious steps toward the sign. He could hear a low humming sound, that seemed to be coming from the sign itself. As he walked closer, the humming grew louder, and a feeling of tranquility began to flow through him. All memories of his old life were fading away and were being replaced with new memories. Memories he didn't remember having, but, if they were being remembered, they must have happened. Right?

The humming sign was within his reach. Barely a foot away. Cecil was feeling strangely calm, given the circumstances. He stared at the sign, examining it for a moment, before he slowly reached out and touched it.

The desert and sky began swirling around, trapping Cecil in a spinning vortex, a tie-dye of colors sent him into what he assumed was a desert hallucination. The humming had become so loud that is was now a pulsing energy, disorienting Cecil until everything went dark.

12 YEARS LATER. MASSACHUSETTS.

"Okay, so let me get this straight," Dean took a swig from his half-empty beer, "you think a bunch of these unsolved missing person cases that have popped up over the last twelve years in New England are all linked?"

"Possibly. A handful of them have something in common. The families reported that two years prior to their disappearance, every last one of them woke up one day completely different," Sam typed away at his laptop and turned it toward Dean, "Here's the first one that went missing."

"Cecil Palmer," Dean skimmed through the article, "says he just up and left one day. One minute he was content, the next he was walking out the door," he looked at Sam, "are you thinking demons? Sounds like possession."

"Could be. Except I called the Palmers, as a detective, to discuss the disappearance. I said new evidence may have come up," Sam sighed, "I don't think it's possession...or at least not possession we've dealt with. Something isn't right."

"What did Cecil's folks say?"

"They said that two years prior to the day that Cecil disappeared, he woke up different from the son they knew. Mrs. Palmer said that she thought it was drugs, but she never found anything," Sam ran his fingers through his hair, watching his brother's frustration, "she said that Cecil seemed distant and confused, but was trying not to show it. Almost as he'd been replaced with his exact double, except the double had no prior knowledge of his life."

"So do you think this is our kind of thing? Maybe this is just a case of a rebel wanting to break free from mommy and daddy," Dean suggested, pulling a flask of scotch from under his pillow.

"It's ten in the morning on a Monday," Sam said, giving Dean a disapproving look, "and we have a case."

"So?" Dean took a sip. The cheap scotch burned his throat. Sam wouldn't even drink this stuff, but it never phased Dean. It was cheap, and it got him drunk; as far as he was concerned, it did the same thing the expensive stuff did and cost about twenty dollars cheaper than top shelf booze.

"You've been drinking an awful lot lately. Are you okay?" Sam was genuinely concerned about his brother's drinking habits, but he'd never directly say that Dean was an alcoholic. It wasn't worth the argument, but it pained him to see his older brother drowning himself in cheap booze that college kids wouldn't even drink.

Dean scowled at him, "I'm fine, Sammy. I'm sick of having this conversation," he said, and he meant it. Sam was always worrying about him, and it was pointless. Even if he talked about every last detail of his screwed up problems, nothing would change. The problems would still exist and there was nothing he could do to change that, so why bother.

"Okay, I get it, you're fine," Sam threw in the white flag immediately. He only saw Dean have a beer, but he was almost certain Dean started in on the whiskey he'd purchased the previous night, while he was having a shower, "what were we talking about again?"

"That Cecil kid being a rebel, and walking out on his parents," Dean stood up, and wavered a little. His head was swimming with the whiskey he had for breakfast, "I think the kid just wanted to get out. There's gotta be some kind of messed up situation at that house," Dean put the flask next to the beer.

"I don't think so, Dean," Sam frowned, "When Cecil left home, Mrs. Palmer said he was talking nonsense. Something about mysterious hooded figures and a radio tower, among other things. She said he told her he was going home, and then he just left. He didn't take anything with him, he just walked out of the house and never went back. Which is exactly what happened with the other disappearances."

"Did she mention any physical changes? Black eyes? Anything?" Dean finished his beer and set the bottle on the night stand, and picked up his flask again.

"That was a subject she tried to avoid. When I asked, she was reluctant. I think we need to pay the Palmers a visit," Sam shut his laptop, "there's something they're not telling us and I have a feeling that once we get the details, this will definitely be our kind of thing."

"Wait a minute, Sam," Dean stood up, "this case is twelve years old. Don't you think the details are going to be kinda, I don't know, vague?"

"For the Palmers, maybe. But some guy named Carlos just disappeared from town. I bet his roommate would have some information," Sam shrugged, "Carlos hasn't even been gone a year. Maybe the roommate saw something."

"And you think they're connected?" Dean gave Sam a quizzical look.

"Maybe," Sam was thoughtful for a moment, "I just have a hunch, you know?"

Dean nodded, "alright, Sammy. I trust you."

"You take Carlos' roommate. He lives just up the street. I'll go see the Palmer family in the town over. Meet back here in an hour?"

"Right," Dean tossed the keys to the Impala over to Sam, "be careful with her, Sam."

"I've never crashed your car, Dean," Sam rolled his eyes, "I should tell YOU to be careful with her. It seems like you're always driving when there's an accident," he added, smirking.

Dean chuckled, "bitch."

"Jerk," Sam retorted instinctively.

---

The drive to the Palmer house took only fifteen minutes, but it seemed to take a lot longer because Sam was lost in thought. It had been weeks since Cas answered them. Dean always seemed to drink more when Cas wasn't around. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but Sam had a feeling that Cas, or the lack of him, might be the root of Dean's drinking. Or, maybe it was something entirely different. Dean never talked about his personal baggage, and, although reluctant, Sam accepted it. That's how Dean was.

Sam pulled over in front of an old colonial house. It literally looked like something out of Good Housekeeping- white picket fence and all. He shut the car off and took a minute to fix his tie and get his fake ID in order before heading up to the house. A woman, looking to be in her late fifties, was weeding the garden in front of the house. Her long, ashen blonde hair was pulled back in a braid.

"Excuse me, Mrs. Palmer?" Sam flashed his badge when the woman looked up, "I'm Detective Jimmy Page. We talked on the phone earlier."

"Oh," Mrs. Palmer stood up and walked over to Sam, offering her hand, "so nice to meet you in person, can I offer you a cold beverage? Or coffee, maybe?"

"No, thank you," Sam smiled politely, shaking her dirt-covered, gloved hand, "I was just wondering if I could ask you a few follow-up questions regarding your son, Cecil."

"What kind of evidence has come up about my Cecil?" She asked, folding her arms, "It's been twelve years. I thought this was a cold case."

"Well, you see, another person has gone missing from the area, and his roommate described a very similar disappearance to that of your son's," Sam explained, "we think we may be onto something. So...can I ask you a few questions, Mrs. Palmer? It'll only take a few minutes."

"Delia, please," she pulled her gardening gloves off, "come on in."

The inside of the house was as immaculate as the exterior. Delia led Sam to the parlor, and they both sat down on the plastic-covered sofa.

"So, you mentioned Cecil seemed to be in some kind of trance when he left, right?" Sam asked, shifting into a comfortable sitting position. The plastic crackled as he moved.

"He was talking about hooded figures...and a radio tower," she said softly, "and the last thing he said was that he was going home. That was the last time I saw him," she said looking at the floor.

"Did Cecil look any different when this was happening? Maybe his eyes were different? Anything you can recall?" Sam watched Delia's reaction. She looked afraid.

"Detective Page, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"With all do respect, I can assure you I've seen it all. Tell me what you saw, Delia."

Delia finally made eye contact with Sam. Her eyes were a deep shade of violet- a hue Sam had never seen before in humans or monsters. It was intriguing, but he didn't feel like he was any immediate danger. After all, she seemed to be staring through him, rather than at him, "my son had a third eye," she said after a moment.

"Like an extrasensory gift?" Sam asked, confused.

"No," Delia stared blankly at him, "there was an eye on his forehead. And that's not all. He had tentacles. All over his skin. They were like...tattoos or markings...but were glowing purple. I'll never forget what the eye looked like," she said, her facial expression vacant.

"What did it look like?"

"I'll show you," she stood up, "out in my studio."

Sam followed Delia out into her garage, which had been refinished into an art studio. Every single painting on the walls had the same eye. It was very simplistic, but instead of a pupil, there was a crescent moon. The eye's design was everywhere. Sam believed her story. He had never seen the symbol in his life, but he was almost positive this was definitely Dean and his kind of thing. He snapped a picture of the symbol on his phone.

"Wow," Sam looked at Delia, "is there...anything else you'd like to tell me?"

"That's all there is. You're the only one who knows about the glowing tattoos. The cops wouldn't have believed me," she leaned against her work bench, "what about you?"

Sam nodded, "yeah. I believe you."

"Why?"

"I've been doing this job long enough to know when someone is lying. You're not lying. I can see it in your eyes," Sam half-smiled, "I'm going to find out what happened to your son, Delia. You can trust me. I'm not like other cops."

"You don't think I'm crazy?"

"You're not crazy. Believe me, I've seen crazy," Sam chuckled.

Delia was thoughtful for a moment, "you're not a cop, are you?"

Sam felt his heart start racing, "why do you say that?"

"Detective Jimmy Page?" she raised an eyebrow at him, "I'm not stupid."

"Oh, uh, well-"

"You really want to help find my son?" she interrupted.

"Of course."

"That's good enough for me then. I don't really care who you are. After twelve years I just want closure," she nodded to herself, "I need to know what happened."

"We'll figure it out, I promise."

---

Dean sat awkwardly across from a man who could have easily been a circa late 1960s Paul McCartney doppelganger. The man was talking animatedly on his cellphone, while Dean sat there impatiently. Finally the man ended the call and turned his attention to Dean.

"Sorry about that," he said, rolling his eyes, "women."

"I hear ya there," Dean smirked, "I've had those phone calls plenty of times."

"I'm sorry, what did you say your name was?" the man asked.

"Morrison. Detective Jim Morrison," Dean flashed his badge.

"Cranston McCarthy," he shook Dean's hand, "what can I do for you, Detective Morrison?"

"I came to talk about your roommate, Carlos, who went missing."

"Did you find him?" Cranston asked, interested.

"Not yet. I came to ask for more details about the day he left."

"I'll tell you what I told the cops," Cranston frowned, "I lived with Carlos for seven years. He was always a cool guy- he was an art major in college, then went on to work on getting his Master of Fine Arts degree. That's how we met. About...two years before he left, he kind of changed."

"Changed? How?" Dean asked.

"Like I told you, he was very artistic. But, one day, he woke up and decided he wanted to be a scientist, of all things. It was like he wasn't even the same person. Then a few months ago, in the middle of our weekly poker night, he got up and said he had to go home and figure out something about hooded figures or a radio tower, maybe? It didn't make any sense," Cranston frowned to himself, "After that he walked out of the apartment and took off," he sighed, "I called his mom's house and he never went there. So, I don't know where he went."

"When he was talking about the hooded figures, did you notice anything different about him? Maybe his eyes?"

Cranston looked down, avoiding Dean's gaze.

"Cranston. What did you see? I can help. I'm not like the other cops. I deal with weird stuff all the time."

"He had a third eye, Detective," Cranston looked at Dean, "it was branded in his forehead...like a tattoo or something like that. I don't know. Instead of a pupil, there was a crescent moon. It was glowing this bright purple color..."

"Can you draw this eye for me, Cranston?" Dean handed him a piece of scrap paper and a pen.

"Yeah, sure," Cranston sketched the eye and handed it to Dean, "do you know what it means?"

"Not yet," Dean looked at the drawing, "but this is a start," he looked up, "is there anything else you haven't told me?"

"That's all."

"If you hear anything else, give me a call," Dean handed Cranston his business card.

"I will," Cranston looked at the card, "Detective?"

"Yeah?"

"You just accepted everything I said without question. Why don't you think I'm insane?"

"Well, let's just say I've seen stranger things," Dean momentarily recalled the time he dealt with mutant inbred children, "I'm one of the good guys. My partner and I are going to find Carlos."

---

When Sam got back to the hotel, Dean was watching television and eating leftover Chinese food. He nodded at Sam, putting down the food container to reach into his pocket, "Sammy, take a look at this," he tossed a crumpled piece of paper over to Sam, "ever see that symbol?"

Sam caught the paper and looked at the drawing, "yeah, actually. That's the same symbol that Mrs. Palmer said appeared on her son's forehead before he left."

"Any idea what it means?" Dean asked, reaching into the mini-fridge to grab a beer.

"I've never seen it in dad's journal or any book I've read," Sam frowned, "maybe we could call Cas."

"Cas has been ignoring us for the past two weeks. What makes you think he'll just show up because we need him to find a symbol for us?" Dean snapped at Sam, standing up, "We're better off asking a demon to come have dinner with us," he stomped off to the bathroom and slammed the door behind him.

Sam sighed to himself, taking a seat at the table. He could hear Dean's muffled voice in the bathroom. Calling Cas again, Sam assumed. This happened every single time Sam mentioned Cas to Dean, when Cas was missing in action. Dean would pitch a drunk fit and lock himself in the bathroom like a teenage girl. It was annoyingly predictable, but Sam couldn't blame him for having abandonment issues.

Dean closed the lid of the toilet and sat down. He didn't mean to fly off the handle about Cas; he never meant to. He just had a tendency to be on edge when Cas wasn't around. Cas could be a huge bag of dicks, but deep down Dean genuinely cared about him, almost at the level he cared about Sam. He wasn't sure what he'd do if he lost Cas. Sure, he'd have Sam, but it wouldn't be the same. Not without Cas.

"Cas," Dean said quietly, hoping Sam wouldn't hear him through the thin walls of the hotel room, "I know there must be a good reason why you've been ignoring Sam and I...but we could really use your help," he closed his eyes, "please, Cas. I need you," he added, his voice gravelly. He opened one eye and glanced around. No Cas.

"Dammit Cas!" Dean yelled, throwing his bottle of beer on the ground. It smashed, spilling the beer and shattering glass every everywhere, "Fine. If you want to be this way, then don't bother coming around again."

There was a knock on the bathroom door, "Dean, are you alright?" Sam asked from the other side of the door.

"Sam," Dean's voice cracked. He didn't make an effort to unlock the door. He reached down and picked up a piece of glass off the ground, "leave me alone," he said dangerously, looking at the glass shard. He ran his thumb lightly along the sharp edge, accidentally slicing himself when Sam knocked on the door again. Swearing to himself, he threw the glass against the wall.

"So you're going to pout in a bathroom like a girl that got dumped on prom night," Sam said, his voice louder than usual, fiddled with the door handle, "you know I can pick this lock, Dean. Just open the door. We have work to do. I need you."

Finally Dean got up and walked over to the door, shards of glass from the beer bottle crunching under his shoes. He unlocked the door and opened it. Sam took a step back, his arms were folded and he looked worried, "stop looking at me like that," he mumbled, grabbing a tissue for his thumb before walking out of the bathroom.

Sam frowned, "I don't know what you want me to say. Every time I've mentioned Cas over the past few weeks you've literally flipped out. He'll come back when he can. You know how angels are," he noticed Dean was bleeding, "are you alright?"

"I'm fine, Sam, now can you shut up about angels," Dean made a bee line for the fridge and pulled out another beer, "Cas is too good for us. He probably took off when he realized what he was getting himself into. I shouldn't have told him he was my friend."

"Can we just focus on the case?" Sam pleaded, not wanting to get into another conversation that ended with Dean on the verge of tears because of Cas. Sam never understood Dean and Cas' relationship. He assumed they were just friends...but sometimes he questioned it.

"Yes! Please!" Dean flopped down on the couch, drinking his beer in one go.

"Good," Sam turned the TV off, "so, we're dealing with the same symbol. What else did Carlos' roommate say about the disappearance?"

"Just had that glowing eye on his forehead," Dean shrugged, letting out a hearty belch as he put his empty bottle on the table. He couldn't help but smirk at Sam's disgusted reaction, "he was talking nonsense about a radio tower and hooded figures."

"So, essentially the same thing as Cecil," Sam joined Dean on the couch, "do you think Bobby would know about that eye symbol?"

"Text him the picture. Bobby's probably our best bet at this point," Dean said, still sounding pouty. He reached over the arm of the couch to grab the handle of cheap whiskey out of his duffel bag, "hopefully Bobby can help us out since some feather asshat is too good to show his face," he said petulantly.

Sam ignored Dean's last comment, as he texted Bobby, "picture sent," he said, putting his phone in his pocket, "I'm going to go to the town library and see if I can't dig up more information about other disappearances in the area," he got up, "do you need anything while I'm out?"

"I would ask for pie, but the last time you remembered pie was before I went to Hell," Dean took a swig from the bottle of whiskey, "I want pie, Sammy. Get me pie."

Sam laughed, "right, pie," he should have known. That was all Dean ever asked for. Freaking pie.

12 YEARS AGO. LOCATION UNKNOWN.

When Cecil came to, his head was spinning. The temperature had dropped considerably since it was now dark outside. How long had he been unconscious? It must have been a considerable amount of time. The sun must have set hours ago because the moon was high in the sky.

As the desert around him came into focus, Cecil noticed a town in the distance. His eyes were drawn to a large radio tower towering over the rest of the buildings. The light at the top of the tower was blinking as if it were a beacon for lost travelers, beckoning them to come closer. The rhythmic dimming and brightening of the light was hypnotic. Cecil stood up and began walking toward the town, as if in a trance, not once taking his eyes off the radio tower.

The town was closer than it seemed. It only took a few minutes for Cecil to reach the town. As he stepped from the desert sand onto a paved sidewalk, he snapped out of his trance and looked around. The lamp posts cast an eerie orange glow onto the street, a glow which was made even stranger by the complete lack of people. There wasn't a single person to be seen.

Cecil took a few cautious steps into the town, "I wonder where I am," he said to himself, looking for a street sign or any sign that would tell him where he is. There was nothing. he knew it wasn't abandoned because there was power here. There had to be someone here, "hello? Is anyone here?" he called out.

"Hello, Cecil."

PRESENT. MASSACHUSETTS.

Sam lost track of how long he'd been searching through countless internet news databases regarding the disappearances, when one of the librarians told him the library was closing. He was literally no closer to answers than he was when he walked in. The people who disappeared didn't know each other, and he still hadn't heard from Bobby about that mysterious eye symbol.

After getting into the Impala, he pulled his phone out and instinctively dialed Dean's number. Dean picked up on the second ring.

"Did you find out anything?" Dean asked without a greeting.

"Nothing," Sam said, a hint of irritation in his voice, "none of the missing people knew each other, and Bobby still hasn't called about that symbol. Have you heard anything?"

"No," Dean sighed, "do you think this is just a dead end? Maybe this is too big for us. Cas obviously doesn't think it's worth him time, otherwise he would have shown up by now."

"I can't just leave this one be, Dean. Something isn't right," Sam started the car, "I don't think it's demons...but it has to be something unnatural. People don't just go into a trance and leave home."

"What do you want to do, Sammy? We don't have any leads," the cracking of a beer was heard on Dean's end.

"I don't know yet," Sam pulled out of the library parking lot, "we'll figure it out. I'll see you in a bit," he hung up and tossed the phone on the passenger seat.

As he drove back to the motel, Sam ran through every possible idea he could muster up that would explain the disappearances. It definitely wasn't demons or anything they'd ever come across...perhaps it was a God or maybe something he's totally missing. Usually by now he at least had a lead. Even Bobby was missing in action and it was frustrating.

It was dark by the time Sam got back to the motel. He pulled into the parking spot in front of the room he and Dean had rented for the week, and turned the car off. Ideas were still rushing through his mind as he walked into the room, "Dean?" he looked around for his brother, "Are you here?" he walked to the bathroom and peeked in. Dean was nowhere to be found, "Where the hell did he go?" he asked himself, a pang of nervousness hitting him upon noticing Dean's jacket thrown on one of the beds.

It wasn't like Dean to take off without leaving a note, or at least sending a text. He couldn't have gone far without the Impala, Sam thought, taking a seat on the bed he'd claimed earlier that day, "maybe he went to get ice," Sam reassured himself, kicking his shoes off and sprawling across the bed. He closed his eyes and went over more possibilities about what made those people disappear, until he started to doze off.

BACK IN THE PAST. DESERT.

"Hello?" Cecil turned around, his heart pounding in his chest. There was no one to be seen, "Who are you? I heard you say my name."

"I did indeed," the voice said, though no person seemed to belong to it.

"Where are you? Why can't I see you?" Cecil demanded, "Where am I?"

"So many questions," there was a soft laugh that chilled Cecil to the bone, "that just won't do, friend. Questions are dangerous."

"I have rights, Mister," Cecil said petulantly, "I demand you tell me where I am and why I'm here!"

"You don't know?" the voice was closer this time, as if it came from right next to Cecil's ear.

"I've never seen this place. But I knew how to get here. I want answers, and I want them now, darn-it!" Cecil pursed his lips, folding his arms stubbornly.

The voice chuckled again, "you are a feisty one."

"I've had just about enough of this hullabaloo," Cecil turned and started walking back toward the desert, but the faster he walked, the farther away it seemed to get. He broke out into a run, trying to escape this strange, seemingly deserted town.

"Now, now, Cecil, you know deep down you can't leave," the voice was all around Cecil.

Cecil stopped running, "you can't keep me here."

"Oh, I can. And will."

"Who are you?" Cecil yelled, "Show yourself!"

"Very well," the voice was directly behind him now, and was so close that Cecil turned to face it.

As Cecil turned, he gasped. A man, who looked incredibly normal, given the circumstances, was standing a few feet away from him, "who are you?" he asked quietly, unsure of whether or not to approach the man.

"That's not important. The important thing is that you're here," the man smiled, "and you aren't leaving," he took a few steps toward Cecil and touched his forehead, "oh, how I've missed you."

Cecil's expression went blank for a moment, before his eyes refocused on the man standing in front of him. Everything around him became much clearer and people seemed to appear out of nowhere. Memories of his forgotten past came flooding back to him all at once, including memories of the man standing entirely too close to him. He narrowed his eyes malevolently, "Steve Carlsberg," he hissed through his teeth, "you get away from me, you insufferable jerk. Who said you could touch me?"
Steve laughed airily, "welcome home, Cecil," he said, before strolling off and disappearing around the corner.

PRESENT. MASSACHUSETTS.

Everything was dark. Sam was alone in a void of nothingness. There were no sounds, no light and no one to be seen; his voice didn't even echo when he called out.

"Dean?" Sam yelled, looking around. There was no response, but something made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He thought he was alone, but it definitely felt like there was a presence with him, "...Cas?" he asked, his voice barely audible.

Sam took a few steps forward, "Hello?" he called out, "is there someone here with me?"

"Sam..." a soft whisper came from above him, causing him to look up just in time to see the same flashback he'd been seeing for years.

"Jess! No!" Sam was screaming, trying to reach for his girlfriend, "Jess!" he felt someone shaking him. Everything faded away as he was jerked out of another nightmare, "No!"

"Sammy, calm down," Dean's voice brought Sam to the present, "hey, you're alright. You were having another nightmare."

"Dean?" Sam looked at his brother, wide-eyed, "Where have you been?" he asked, sitting up.

"I figured you would forget the pie, so I ran to the convenience store downtown," he said, nodding toward the plastic bag on the table, "that must have been some nightmare you were having. I could hear you yelling from outside."

"Yeah," Sam ran his fingers through his hair, "sorry."

"You wanna talk about it?" Dean asked, walking over to the table.

"No, I'm fine," Sam got up and went into the bathroom to splash some water on his face.

Dean followed him and leaned against the door frame, "Sam, are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine, Dean," Sam said stubbornly. He was the farthest thing from fine. It had been years since he was alright. Not since he lost Jess.

"You know you can talk to me, Sam," Dean watched his little brother's expression in the mirror. It was hard to tell what Sam was thinking. He always had trouble reading Sam, but for some reason, Sam never had any trouble knowing what Dean was thinking. It had always been that way and it drove Dean nuts.

"You always do this, Dean," Sam turned to face his brother, "you expect me to tell you everything that's happening in my mind, but the second I ask about you, it's a totally different story. I'm fine, Dean. Just let it be. If I need to talk, I will, okay?"

Dean pursed his lips and nodded, "fine," he shrugged, defeated, "whatever you want, Sam," he turned and walked over to the plastic bag, pawing through it, "you want some dinner?" he pulled out a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread and some bananas.

Sam couldn't help but smile. He wasn't hungry, but he couldn't say no to Dean offering to make his favorite sandwich, "peanut butter and banana?" Sam laughed, "Just like old times."

"Just like old times," Dean tossed Sam the peanut butter, "except I have a date with a slice of cherry pie, so you can make your own sandwich."

Sam laughed, catching the jar, "but you're my big brother, Dean," he said in a mock-child voice.

"Pie, Sam. Priorities," Dean said, pulling out the container of pie and a plastic fork, "hello, beautiful," he said, grinning as he opened the container.

"You need help, Dean," Sam joked, watching his brother take a long whiff of the convenience store pie.

Dean picked up the fork and carefully cut into the pie, savoring the scent for a moment. Just as he was about to eat it, his cell phone began ringing, "are you kidding me!" he yelled at his phone that was sitting on the table, "every SINGLE time!" he put the fork down and grabbed his phone, "it's Bobby," he said before answering it, "what do you have for us, Bobby? This had better be good news. I was in the middle of something."

"Then let me talk, ya idjit," Bobby's familiar voice was welcome.

"Let me put you on speaker," Dean pushed the speaker phone button and put the phone down on the table, "what do you have, Bobby?"

"Not much," Bobby admitted, "that symbol isn't in any of my books, and that trance you described is unlike anything I've ever come across. However, I did find a similar case from about thirty years back. This woman, Josie, escaped from a mental hospital in Connecticut, saying that the angels told her she had to go home to her desert home. She was mumbling something about a radio tower before she escaped."

"You think Angels are behind this?" Sam asked, flopping over on the couch, grabbing his laptop.

"I think it's a possibility," Bobby continued, "but I'm not positive. You boys need to be careful. If it isn't angels, it could be anything. Don't go rushing into anything."

"What ever happened to that Josie woman?" Dean chimed in, "They ever find her?"

"She was never found. It was like she disappeared off the face of the planet," Bobby sighed, "I don't know what to tell you boys. I've never seen anything like this. It's bizarre, I'll give you that."

"Thanks, Bobby. If you find anything, give us a call," Sam said, typing away at his computer.

"You idjits stay out of trouble," Bobby said, hanging up.

Dean stuffed his cellphone back in his pocket, "so, angels."

"Maybe," Sam looked at Dean, "what would angels want with all these people though?"

"Uh, maybe they're vessels?" Dean shrugged.

"I don't know," Sam closed his laptop, "my gut is telling me that it isn't angels."

"Maybe your gut is wrong," Dean raised an eyebrow, "what else could it be?"

"Well look at it this way, if it was angels, Cas would have shown up by now," Sam put his laptop on the side table.

"I'm assuming you haven't heard from him then," Dean said, a hint of disappointment in his voice.

"Not recently," Sam said, watching his brother's face drop, "maybe we could try him again?"

"What's the use?" Dean said gruffly, "He's obviously ignoring us."

"Maybe he's busy," Sam suggested.

"Or maybe he's ignoring us," Dean raised his voice and swatted his pie across the room, making a mess all over the already-stained carpet, "we're alone here, Sam," he got up and grabbed his jacket off the bed.

"Where are you going?"

"Out," Dean snapped, leaving the room. He slammed the door behind him and walked over to the Impala, "hey, Baby," he said, running his hand along the hood before climbing into the driver's seat.

Dean didn't start the car right away. He sat quietly, collecting his thoughts. It was useless to get torn up over a stupid angel dick. That's how angels were. Emotionless drones. Cas was no different than any other angel, no matter what any of his asshat brother's said. Cas didn't care. Why would he? The Winchesters were bad news and everyone knew it. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the keys, "at least I have you, Baby," he said starting his beloved Impala.

The engine roared to life, and it never failed to send chills down Dean's spine. Even as a kid he loved this car, in a way, it had always been here when there was no one else. He had so many memories with this car, and he'd be lost without it.

As he pulled out of the parking lot, Dean didn't have a set destination in mind. He had to get away from everything for a while. With all that was going on with Lucifer and the apocalypse, he just had to escape, even if for an hour or two. He had to be alone.
Although, he thought, it would be nice if Cas was here. The thought made him angry because even though he was pissed off at Cas for ignoring him, it didn't stop Dean from thinking about him. There was something about that feathery douchebag that attracted Dean from the get-go. He wasn't sure in what way Cas attracted him, but the attraction was most definitely there, whether Dean would admit it or not.

A neon sign caught Dean's attention, snapping him out of his daydream: Live Nudes.

"Hello, ladies," Dean grinned and pulled the car over and parked, "maybe this case isn't a total bust. Who needs Cas when I have strippers?" he said to himself, glancing in his rear view mirror to fix himself up, "Screw Cas," he mumbled, turning the car off. As he reached for the door handle, he felt a presence in the car.

"Hello Dean."

12 YEARS PRIOR. DESERT.

Cecil watched Steve disappear around the corner, scowling. That Steve Carlsberg. What an asshole, he thought, walking in the opposite direction.

The sun was out, and the streets bustled with the usual activities of the community- people screaming at the sky, people running in terror from invisible deities and hooded figures lurking in the dark alleyways. Cecil whistled to himself as he made his way to the radio tower. He couldn't remember what he was doing before he was talking to Steve Carlsberg, and he hoped it wasn't important. Cecil internally cursed the man for distracting him.

As he reached the radio tower, Cecil smiled to himself. He loved his job, he loved this town and he loved his life. He would never exchange it for anything, he thought, reaching for the door handle. As he opened the door, he heard someone yelling his name, causing him to turn around.

"Cecil!" an old woman was shuffling toward him.

"Josie, how nice to see you," Cecil smiled broadly.

"You missed our weekly bowling night, I was afraid something had happened. Is everything alright?" she asked, touching Cecil's arm.

"Oh, right," Cecil frowned, "I do apologize for missing that. I'm afraid Steve Carlsberg distracted me," he said looking down at the old woman, "are you free this evening? Bowling, my treat."

Josie's face lit up, quite literally. There was an eerie glow radiating from her head, "You're too kind to me, Cecil," she said, a smile playing the corners of her lips.

"You supply me with information for my radio show AND you send muffins at least once a week. The least I can do is treat you to a fun-filled night at the bowling alley," he said, his characteristic smile returning.

"That sounds just lovely," she tucked a loose strand of her hair behind her ear, "I actually came to see you for another reason. Can we talk somewhere less...public?" she added in a whisper, glancing around nervously, "It's important."

"Of course. I was just heading to my office. Why don't you join me?" Cecil opened the door to the radio station, holding it for Josie.

Cecil lead Josie to his office and closed the door behind him, "have a seat," Cecil said, making himself at home behind his desk, "so, what can I do for you, Josie?"

Josie glanced around before learning forward, "It's about the angels, Cecil."

Cecil rolled his eyes, "Josie, you know angels aren't real."

"Neither is this town," she retorted.

"Oh?" Cecil's interest piqued, "What do you mean?"

"I've been here a long time, Cecil," Josie said nostalgically, "longer than anyone. Do you know how you got here?"

"Why, I was born here, of course," Cecil chuckled, "you're not making any sense, Josie."

"You're wrong, Cecil," Josie stared at Cecil, "you were brought here by something...not natural."

"Oh," Cecil humored her, "I suppose the angels brought us here for an experiment?"

Josie frowned, shaking her head, "Cecil, you have to believe me. We're prisoners here."

"Prisoners?" Cecil cocked his head to the side, "Have you been drinking again? We've lived here our whole lives. You know that."

"No!" Josie slammed her fist on Cecil's desk, "Listen to me, Cecil. We're all in danger."

"We're always in danger. Everyone in the world is in danger at all times. The world is a dangerous place," Cecil shrugged her off.
Josie stood up, "if this is real, then why don't you tell me what state you're in right now?" her voice was harsh.

Cecil opened his mouth the answer her, but closed it because no answer came to mind.

"That's what I thought," she said quietly, sitting back down, "are you ready to listen to me now?"

Cecil chewed his lip for a moment, nervous. He leaned forward, "where are we?"

"Have you ever heard of a time rift, Cecil?"

"Like, time travel?" Cecil raised an eyebrow.

"A time rift is a weakness in space and time," Josie explained, "they can transport people from one place to another."

Cecil's head was spinning. This was something out of the Twilight Zone, he almost laughed, "so you're trying to tell me that we were zapped here through some kind of portal?"

"Yes!" Josie said excitedly, "Time is frozen here. Whatever brought us here wiped our memories and replaced them with false ones. Everyone except for me. Mentally, I was too strong to have my memories wiped, and I remember everything. I was brought here and couldn't overcome whatever it was that lured me to this town. None of us belong here. You have to remember your life or you'll never leave."

PRESENT. MASSACHUSETTS.

Dean jumped at the familiar voice saying his name, causing him to hit his head on the roof of the car, "freakin' angels," he turned to face Castiel, "where the HELL have you been?" he asked, rubbing the bump on his head.

"I've been busy," Cas said cryptically.

"With what?" Dean demanded.

"I've been looking for answers," Cas looked apologetic, "that is why you called, is it not? You needed help."

"What have you found out?" Dean asked, forgetting he was upset with the angel. As usual. He couldn't stay mad. For an emotionless drone, Cas certainly had a way of looking like a lost, sad puppy. It was the eyes. It had to be. Dean wasn't a dog person, but being mad at a puppy was almost as bad as throwing away a half-eaten slice of pie.

"Have you ever heard of a town stuck in a time rift?" Cas asked.

"Time rift?" Dean gave him a quizzical look, "I'm a hunter, not a Time Lord."

"I don't get that reference," Cas pointed out before continuing, "a time rift is a weak spot in time and space. A rift can transport people and other things from one place to another. Sometimes they cause whatever they transport to age or de-age, but in the case you're dealing with, time has frozen."

"So time rifts are a thing," Dean laughed, shaking his head.

"I don't see the humor in this," Cas frowned, looking a little confused.

"This sounds like an episode of the Twilight Zone or something," Dean said, still snickering, "I'm sorry, Cas, but this sounds ridiculous, and coming from me that's saying a lot."

"Do you want my help or not?" Cas raised his voice, still scowling at Dean.

"Alright, alright," Dean turned the car back on, "let's go meet up with Sam and come up with a plan."

"That would be wise," Cas nodded in agreement.

"Are you going to sit in the back seat the whole ride?" Dean half-smiled, "An angel in the back seat sounds like a crappy country song."

"You yell at me when I show up in the front set," Cas said, popping to the front seat, "I didn't want to startle you."

"I'll never get used to you appearing out of nowhere, Cas," Dean mused, pulling back out onto the road, "why didn't you answer me before?"

"I had to lay low for a while. Being seen with you would have endangered both of us," Cas looked at Dean, "I wasn't ignoring you. I know that's what you think. I would never ignore my friends, Dean."

Dean sighed, "I'm sorry, Cas. It's been a rough week," he was genuinely sorry. When it came to Cas, Dean always seemed to feel more emotions than when he was with anyone else. Cas brought out the best and worst in him. What frustrated Dean was the there was absolutely nothing he could do to change that.

"I saw," Cas reached for Dean's right hand, gently pulling it toward him.

"Whoa, what are you doing?" Dean tugged his hand, but Cas tightened his grip.

"Your thumb," Cas said, peeling the bandage off, "was this because of me?" he asked, his eyes worried.

"I was cleaning up a broken bottle," Dean said, not technically lying.

"Dean," Cas examined the cut, "you should have gotten stitches."

"Who are you? Doctor Cas, Medicine Angel?" Dean yanked his hand back, hoping Cas couldn't see his flushed cheeks.

Cas looked confused again, "let me help," Cas took Dean's hand again and gently pressed his index and middle finger to the cut. It healed instantly, but Cas didn't let go, "Dean..."

Dean inhaled slowly, and stared straight ahead at the road, unable to say anything.

"I know you broke that bottle because you were upset with me," Cas said quietly, "I am truly sorry."

"Can I have my hand back?" Dean asked, still not looking at Cas, "This is getting awkward really fast."

Cas cocked his head to the side, reluctantly letting go of Dean's hand, "How?"

Dean's cheeks were on fire at this point, "never mind, we're here," he pulled the Impala into the parking lot, taking a spot in front of the hotel room. After shutting the car off, he got out and pulled the room key out of his pocket. Cas followed him into the room.

Sam was on the floor with tissues cleaning up the pie mess Dean had made. He looked up when the door opened, "I didn't expect to see you back so sober," Sam noticed Cas, "oh, hey Cas."

"Hello Sam," Cas walked over to the table and picked up the scrap of paper with the eye doodle on it, "this symbol..."

"Do you know it?" Sam asked, tossing a tissue full of pie crust into the rubbish bin, "We've never seen it."

Dean flopped down on his bed, reaching under his pillow for the eighth of scotch he stashed there the previous night, "Cas said we're dealing with a time rift," he said, opening the bottle, "Twilight Zone style," he took a long swig.

"A time rift?" Sam was interested, but cautious, "Are you sure that's our kind of thing?"

Cas watched Dean take another sip of scotch, then looked to Sam, "let me put it this way, what have you come up against that can control time?"

"Angels," Sam understood, "are you sure it's angels?"

Cas nodded, "the symbol is one I believe I have seen before, back in heaven, but it was ages ago," Cas put the piece of paper in his pocket, "one of my brother's always spoke of a town lost in time. He was obsessed with the idea of it until he went missing about thirty years ago."

"Wait, that's when that Josie woman went missing in Connecticut," Dean recalled.

"Are all the missing people connected to that symbol?" Cas asked, getting a nod from Sam in response, "I know what you're going up against. I need to make inquiries," he said, disappearing.

"Freaking angels," Dean complained, getting off the bed, "what do we do now? We can't just wait around for-"

"Alright," Cas' voice made Dean jump and curse angels again, "this is definitely the work of my brother. He's weak and cannot continue to control the time rift. That's why more and more people are going missing. He's using their souls, but it's not working anymore."

"He's using their souls for angel mojo?" Dean replaced the cap on the bottle of scotch and tossed it on the bed, "I thought stealing souls was a demon thing."

"So this angel dick is luring people to the rift," Cas ignored Dean's comment, "their souls are remaining in tact, but he's controlling them. The people he's collecting are special. Their life forces are stronger than normal humans," he explained, "With the large number of them together, their souls are similar to a generator, that he uses to maintain the facade of a small town."

"So, what you're trying to say is he's kidnapping special people for their souls and hoarding them in a town that isn't exactly real, because it's in the middle of a time rift?" Sam took his turn at looking baffled, "So...where is this time rift? How are we going to get to this town if it doesn't actually exist?"

"We need to get to the rift and enter it," Cas said, he eyes drifting back to Dean, who had taken to leaning on the table, "the rift should take us directly to wherever the missing people have gone."

"Okay, so we're just going to walk into something that may or may not lead us to all these missing people?" Dean folded his arms, "You don't see anything wrong with that, Cas?"

"Do you trust me?" Cas asked, his eyes fixed on Dean. He'd almost forgotten than Sam was still standing there. Dean had a tendency to have this gravitational pull to him, and Cas was fascinated by it. The bond he shared with Dean was more profound than almost anyone in the world. He couldn't put his finger on why this bond was so different, but he typically assumed it was because he pulled Dean out of Hell. That would make for a strong friendship.