Slippery People

(c)2007 gekizetsu
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For the spn_halloween challenge, which is the root of all evil. Notes at the end. Horror and humor, 5150 words, PG-13 for the cursing. Title by the Talking Heads.

Summary: Sam and Dean and Halloween. Can they save a town from a terrible scourge? Will the smell ever come out of their clothes? And will Brian Dunkleman ever regain his good name?
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We are no more than candles burning in the wind.
– Japanese proverb

"If you're in a war, instead of throwing a hand grenade at the enemy, throw one of those small pumpkins. Maybe it'll make everyone think how stupid war is, and while they are thinking, you can throw a real grenade at them."
– Jack Handy

-|-

Dean's hand slipped off the motel room's doorknob the first couple of times he tried to open it. He sighed and cursed under his breath, looking around for something to wipe his hands on. Sure as hell not his own clothing; there wasn't a spot left that wasn't coated. Okay, his underwear, but he wasn't going to strip right there and use his goddamn briefs to open the door. At least he hadn't gotten it all over the car. Spreading garbage bags on the seats had made sure of that.

Sam came up behind him with a weary and very telling squelching sound. He wasn't any better off. His voice was devoid of even sarcasm when he spoke. "Trick or treat."

"Yeah, great," Dean said, wiping his hands on the inside of his shirt ineffectually. "I can't get the damn door open."

The stuff reeked and itched as it dried, too. Insult to injury. It wasn't puke-inducing like the shapeshifter's castoff skin had been, but it lost its charm pretty quick all the same. It was going to take a couple of showers to get all the organic slime off. Strings of it hung from his hair, and there was a tiny piece attached to one eyelash that he couldn't seem to rub away. It made him a little touchy.

Sam reached by him with his slimy jacket sleeve pulled over one slimy hand, and it slipped around for a moment before catching. Dean turned the key as Sam turned the knob, and they managed to get in without much more hassle.

Sam kicked his shoes off just inside the door as he took his jacket off, making an expectant noise to get Dean's attention and using a glance to indicate he should do the same. Dean hmph'd and kicked his boots into the corner by the door, leaving a smear of slimestuff on the wall. He struggled to get his watch off so it wouldn't get ruined any further, then began stripping his clothes off as he headed for the bathroom.

"Dude, don't leave those all over," Sam said. "And I called first shower!"

"I'll leave 'em anywhere I want," Dean shot back, flipping his damp and slimy t-shirt at Sam. "I'm only gonna be maybe an hour, since coming here was your goddamn idea in the first place."

"You're just pissed you didn't see it first," Sam said, stripping his own clothing inside-out as he removed it. "C'mon, you were all gung-ho about it, don't pull this shit on me."

Dean shut the bathroom door as an answer.

Sam sighed and dug in his duffel for something to wrap himself in until Dean got over his snit and got out of the shower. It wasn't really that bad, it was just cold and slimy. It wouldn't be that hard to get off. Dean didn't even mind being dirty, he just preferred his dirt more dirt-like and less like slime.

He scrubbed his hands and forearms in the vanity sink, trying to get the stuff out of the hair on his arms and from under his nails. It fought the soap at first and left a slippery residue, so he grabbed a wash cloth and kept scrubbing. He didn't remember it being that damn slimy when he was a kid. Still, a kid's idea of slime and a demon hunter's idea of it were relative.

He scrubbed at his face, enjoying the hot water for a moment, then sat on the edge of his bed and flipped the TV on. It was still Halloween for another few hours, meaning there were still reruns of Halloween episodes of sitcoms and multiple channels showing Halloween and Blair Witch Project and Creepshow.

Kind of boring, after the night they'd had. Halloween was just never another day for the Winchesters.

He looked at the scratches and bruises on his legs again. Man, they'd bitten him good even through his pants. Luckily, some of them had been going a little soft, but some had still been fresh enough to be able to gnaw. He scratched at the back of his neck and came away with a bit of wax. He couldn't help but shiver, knowing what it really was.

He kept flipping channels until he came across an old episode of Futurama. He grabbed a beer out of the minifridge and watched Bender pretend to be a Pharaoh. He tried to work a kink out of his neck, but he'd been hit by more than one flying...object that night, and it was going to take some hot water to loosen those muscles. "C'mon, Dean, leave some for me."

He heard Dean respond in a surly tone and was glad he didn't hear the words. He would have needed to retaliate, or something. He settled for drinking his beer and scratching at his eyebrows. He hadn't quite managed to get all the slime out of them. Damn, that stuff was awful when it dried.

Dean came out with one towel around his waist and one around his head. Sam had never been able to figure out why he did that; girls put towels around their heads, and usually only when they had long hair. He wasn't about to ask. He'd save that for another time, when he needed a bit of backup snark. It was kind of...endearing. Dean's quirks ran in only two extremes anyway: hilarious or intolerable.

Sam quirked an eyebrow at the towel around Dean's head. "We need to figure out what to do with –"

"Dude, I know," Dean said, padding across to his duffel on the other bed and digging around. "Don't even talk about it yet. I gotta think."

"They need to be disposed of like any other remains," Sam said. "Except, you know, not cremation."

"That didn't work out so well," Dean said, pulling on dry sweatpants and socks. "I'm gonna bag our clothes until we can wash 'em. I'm not smelling that crap all night."

Sam shrugged, wincing a little at a bruised shoulder. Damn, those things had hit hard. He rose and headed for the bathroom. "Works for me."

He washed his hair twice, then stared at the now slime-free strings of the stuff Dean had flicked onto the shower walls. This case was never supposed to be an easy one, but they really could have waited a couple more days. It was better to lay low on Halloween and let all the wannabes do their thing, and maybe a few undead raised some hell that was overdue. Sometimes the really bad shit went down, and they were always on the watch for that – but there hadn't been any hints of that this year. It was just something so weird, though, and they had agreed it was too good to pass up.

An entire cemetery near Ellicott, NY, had shifted seven feet to the northeast. Just the cemetery, not the surrounding area.

The road was untouched, uncracked, just sitting there with the Ross Mills Cemetery seven feet closer than it had been. The uneven lawn had shifted neatly, torn from beneath the wrought iron gate that lined the trees near the back. Coffins, stones, mausoleums, everything; not a stone had fallen. The edges were deep, maybe a good ten feet below the bottoms of the coffins within their confines, to the beginnings of a shelf of bedrock. State route 60, on the northeastern side of the cemetery, was partially obstructed. The best part was that no one had seen, heard, or felt a thing.

It wasn't as if upstate New York had never had a moment of seismic activity. There were faults running through the whole northeast, and every now and then something moved. No one thought of any state east of Idaho ever feeling a quake, but any landmass was capable of it. Sam read some of his research aloud to Dean.

Major structural features in the area include: 1) north-south trending Clarendon-Linden Fault System, 2) northeast-trending Appalachian faults and related folds, including the Bass Island Trend and 3) northwest-trending cross-strike discontinuities.

It was a very small cemetery and fairly old, with most burials taking place in the mid-1800's and the last in 1951. No new interments, no history of curses, just a very old settlement that had become a township in 1808. There were a few farms nearby and not much else. No way seismic activity moved just one small place, even if a lot of the soil had been displaced with burials. So, that was out. Sam moved on to the next chunk of information about the area.

In 2002, hometown national television pioneer and alleged comic, Brian Dunkleman, unceremoniously left what would go to become the single biggest television show in American history, AMERICAN IDOL, shaming the entire community.

"That explains it," Dean had said. "Everybody rolled over in their graves because fuckin' Brian Dunkleman shamed the community, and it moved the whole cemetery."

Sam listened to him laugh and tried not to let on that he thought it was funny, too. He was busy looking for precedents in the area. Maybe parts of the cemetery had been moved to make way for something else, maybe it had been relocated from somewhere else, maybe it was on an ancient Native American burial ground; maybe the closed coffin set just didn't like the view. He was getting nowhere and there wasn't much to do but have another look at it after dark. There was no security posted – the local cops were just keeping an eye on it every now and then while the town council decided what to do about it. It wasn't hurting anyone, there were no mysterious deaths, the groundwater wasn't in danger. It was just really damn weird.

And it happened just a week prior to Halloween.

So of course the locals were the hit of the area's news circuit, and small local papers were postulating it was some sort of omen while the larger ones were keeping their politically correct facades intact and leaning toward geological anomalies. There were no picketers or emergency church gatherings, no one was standing on a street corner in nearby Jamestown screaming about the end of days, CNN didn't descend and do a montage. Anderson Cooper was busy with other things. Based on the newspaper accounts Sam had seen, the locals were actually fairly ho-hum about it. New York City was a good 400 miles more to the east, but it was still New York, and worrying folks there took more than spontaneous cemetery migrations.

They were in the middle of a close knit group of townships and villages strung together across wide swaths of farmland near the Pennsylvania border, where nothing changed or wanted to and the nearest actual city was Buffalo well to the northeast. New housing developments didn't seem to exist, just rambling neighborhoods of homes built in the early 1900's. Maple trees lined residential streets, making a nearly closed ceiling in all but the dead of winter. Sam got the impression that the houses had grown roots of their own just as the trees had, becoming part of the landscape. The land was old, and the people that were there had always been there and would always be there.

In the end, it was interesting, but nothing to hang around for.

They headed a little south, through Levant and Falconer, looking at small cemeteries for any changes or movement before deciding to stay in nearby Jamestown for a couple of days to wait and see if anything else happened.

"Maybe it's just the appetizer," Dean said, making Sam hold the box of tapes while he dug through it. "You know, before the whole region rises up or something."

Sam shook the box a little. "Don't get your hopes up. Hey, you might wanna pay more attention to where you're going. Just tell me what you wanna listen to."

"I'll know it when I find it," Dean said. "We're out in the middle of BF Egypt, Sam, there's nobody on these roads, and don't fuckin' attempt to tell me how to drive."

Sam felt the urge to sling the box of tapes out his open window, but settled for sighing instead. They were entering a more populated area heading southwest on the 304, and as the speed limit dropped to 35mph and they entered the outskirts of Jamestown, they were confronted with huge, aging neighborhoods and hundreds of homes. Street after street of them, surrounding a basic center grid with family restaurants and small shops and pharmacies, all crowded together with brick and wood shingle. The downtown streets had names like 'Merchant's Alley', 'Potter's Alley' and 'Church Street'. A slough ran through the middle of it all, runoff from Chautauqua Lake to the west. It was obvious that it had never been plotted out with the intent of becoming a large or growing area. Schools sat next to small hotels; doctor's offices crouched alongside record shops and bars.

They found a small motel on the edge of where the shops tapered into neighborhood after neighborhood. They were in a place where Halloween still existed; handmade paper decorations were taped to windows and doors, plastic ghosts and skeletons hung from trees, and raked leaves were stuffed into huge orange plastic bags with Jack O'Lantern faces on them. Pumpkins grinned from porch after porch that they passed. The kids in the area obviously didn't go to the local malls to do their trick or treating.

"Betcha a bunch of high school kids are all over that cemetery tomorrow night," Dean said, parking in front of the single story frame building with its teal-colored doors, room #5. "Moving cemetery? They'll all be out there drinking and daring something to come get them."

Sam shrugged as Dean popped the trunk. "Same as it ever was."

"Into the blue again," Dean said. "After the money's gone."

"There is water at the bottom of the ocean," Sam said.

"You're gonna lose this one," Dean said, getting out of the car. "So don't even get started."

Sam snorted. "I probably know more Talking Heads lyrics than you do."

Dean slammed his door. "I wonder what that says about you."

Sam ignored Dean's lame attempt at a comeback and helped him unload the car. The motel was small but clean, neutral colors, no insane decor. It seemed almost...normal. He put a six pack in the small fridge.

"Find a bar and look for slutty vampire chicks, or hang out here and watch classic horror movies?" Dean said. His tone didn't indicate he had a favorite. Sam knew they were equally good ideas, in his mind.

"You haven't thought of a way to do both at once?" Sam said. "I'm shocked."

"Well, technically, you can both watch TV if you do it doggy-style."

Sam sighed and threw his stuff onto his bed. "I'm officially no longer shocked by anything."

A group of kids went by one street over, laughing and chattering, and Sam was pretty sure he saw the fluttering edge of a cape when he leaned out the door. A small town, old-fashioned Halloween. That would be nice to see, for once.

-|-

Just. Once.

-|-

It was just beginning to get dark, and they were walking in the direction of downtown trying to decide where to grab something to eat. The first trick or treaters were out, the smaller ones, with and without adults. Little pumpkins and witches, a couple of Power Rangers, a lone Power Puff girl.

"I'll bet they make that getup in your size," Dean said. "You'd love that, wouldn't you."

Sam had his mouth open to retort when the screaming started. They both immediately figured it was a prank in progress; somebody was probably running an amateur haunted house or something. Who pays any real attention to a bunch of kids screaming on Halloween?

It was when the adult voices chimed in, including males, that they paused and started looking around. People were grabbing their kids and ducking for cover, but from what, neither of them could see. Someone out of their line of sight threw a mid-size pumpkin, which smashed into the sidewalk and scattered partway into the street, candle guttering.

"They riot here on Halloween?" Dean said, and then something big hit him right between the shoulderblades.

It sent him several steps forward but didn't knock him down; he had to be a bit more distracted than that to let a hit from behind take him down. He was already reaching for his gun and turning, assuming Sam was also on the move, and when he turned –

A pumpkin lay on the sidewalk, rolling back and forth a little with momentum; it hadn't been smashed. It weighed maybe fifteen pounds and had a standard three-triangles-and-a-toothy-slash face design. The top was missing and the candle had been extinguished. Sam had his back to him, looking in the direction the pumpkin had come from.

"Who the hell threw that?" Dean yelled, one hand on his gun but leaving it concealed.

"I don't know," Sam said. "They might have run between the houses, I can't see – "

A still-lit pumpkin the size of a basketball sailed over Sam in an arc, clearing his head by several feet and slamming into the rear window of a passing car, smashing it inward. Dean didn't wait to see what else came with the shrieking of brakes, and he sure as hell didn't want to get into an argument with anyone about whether Sam had or had not thrown a pumpkin at a car. He threw himself at Sam, grabbing him and running with him into the shadows between the nearest houses. There was more screaming as people ran for it, but they still had no idea who the hell was throwing pumpkins.

They leaned around one corner of the house in time to see a volley of the things launch into the air. Some rolled, some smashed into the street, a few landed on roofs or struck people.

"Okay," Sam said. "No way anybody is throwing all those."

They glanced at each other. Weapons. They needed weapons that would smash the things. Guns wouldn't do much, and they couldn't risk a ricochet with so many civilians running around. They needed blunt weapons. Crowbars, clubs, bats –

"We need bats," Dean said. "Porch railings, two by fours, I don't care what. Start looking."

They dashed from house to house, testing garage doors to see if they were locked. The third one they tried had sports-loving kids or something, because there were several bats, both wood and aluminum. They could figure out the how and why of it all later, once the gourds quit attacking.

More people were starting to get curious and actually come outside, and it was then that the real problem became clear.

Dean watched a lit pumpkin spin in place on a porch and attack someone in their own open doorway.

"Oh, you have to be kidding me," he said, aluminum bat held at the ready as he waited for anything to come flying at him. "What'd I do, in a former life, to deserve this?" He followed in Sam's wake as his brother ran for the shrieking homeowner. "Gonna save a guy from a pumpkin...this isn't going in the journal!"

People were running all over the place, screaming. Guys were screaming like little girls; women were screaming like little girls; little girls were screaming like little girls.

They both started shouting for people to get back in their houses, but no one was listening.

Pumpkins were converging on anything that moved, faster by the moment, every conceivable shape and size. A few of the squatter white pumpkins joined the mix, managing to stand out in an already bizarre tableau. The guy being attacked on his own porch was screaming for help; the jagged, gaping grin of a pumpkin he'd likely carved was latched onto his shin. He fell back into his own entryway, and Sam hit it with his bat just hard enough to get its attention, to see if he could –

– get it to let go and attack him instead, which it did. There was a ridiculous pair of roundish eyes with upward-rolling pupils cut into the thick shell of the thing, high-winging eyebrows creating a candlelit leer. It was probably the silliest thing Sam had ever been bitten by. It had just enough flexibility to bite down, and the sharp edges of the grin allowed it to get a pretty good hold on his leg. The guy rolled away and slammed his door.

"Sonofabitch!" Dean yelled, and he brought his bat down onto the upturned face of the attacking pumpkin, smashing it in. The candle didn't go out, and the suddenly open hole of a face couldn't grab on but the pumpkin kept spinning anyway. Dean smashed it with several blows, sending chunks of pumpkin flying and extinguishing the candle.

Sam poked at the remains with the end of his bat. Nothing stirred. "What the hell?" he said.

Dean kicked at the closed door in annoyance. "You're welcome!" he yelled. He looked at the bottom of the stairs and nudged Sam.

There were three lit pumpkins near the lowest stair, gazing up at them with flickering malevolence. One had a cat's face with carefully cut whiskers; one was an intricate scene of a haunted castle from one of those connect-the-dots pumpkin carving pattern books; the third was huge and egg shaped and had a traditional grimace of irritation. Seven more trailed by on the street behind them, rolling or flinging themselves without managing to crack their exteriors. Another crashed through a hedge to the house next door.

"Dude, what the fuck," Dean said.

There were hundreds of them. Some had been sitting around longer than others and were softer, splattering mush onto whoever hit them hard enough to destroy them. Some hadn't been scraped out very well to begin with, and strings of gut with seeds attached made it onto faces, into hair, all over clothes. It only took a few minutes to come to the realization that extinguishing the candle was what brought a pumpkin down; smashing was only the most convenient way to accomplish that. Huffing and puffing and blowing each one out was not going to work. The hypothesis was reinforced by the random unlit pumpkins they passed, sitting passively on their porches or out on sidewalks.

"I'll bet Brian Dunkleman is behind this," Dean said. "Hell, I just like saying it: Dunkleman."

Most of the people had cleared out by then, running for cover in their own homes or those of neighbors', leaving Sam and Dean to become the main target for a roving pack of angry squash. Sam began waiting for them to come to him and leap; then he'd catch them by their widest opening on the end of his bat and fling them to the pavement or against the siding of a house. Pumpkin juice and hot wax flew in every direction. The reek of burnt pumpkin filled the air as the things rolled around, still lit.

Sam began collecting candles from the smashed remains, pocketing them as he went. They were dark brown and unevenly shaped, slicker and softer than wax between his fingers. "They're all the same," he called to Dean, who was crushing a smaller pumpkin under one boot. "Grab the candles that you can find, they're all the same!"

They moved up the street, covering most of the block and collecting candles as they went. Sam paused to check a few of the unlit pumpkins. One had the same type of candle; two had regular black or orange scented votives.

Two more pumpkins hit Sam, one in the shoulder and one in the lower back, causing him to spend a little time trying to catch his breath. One managed to land right on Dean, mouth engulfing his head and hanging on. Dean slapped at it ineffectually, leaning over to try and dislodge it with gravity. He blew frantically at the candle before it could burn him. As soon as it went out, the pumpkin stopped trying to gnaw on his neck, leaving him with a cold, slimy, too-small opening to try and get his head back out of.

Sam wanted so badly not to laugh. He was nursing a few aches from all the swinging and from taking a couple of hits, but watching his brother stumble around and curse with a pumpkin on his head made it all worth it. He pulled Dean out of the street and up against a fence so they'd have a defensible position, then pulled out his knife and told him to stand still.

"Go ahead and laugh, Sam," Dean said, his voice taking on a hollow, echoing quality in such a small space. "I'll get you later."

"I'm not laughing," Sam said, but there was glee in his voice that he couldn't hide. He widened what remained of the carved grin, slicing chunks away until Dean could pull the pumpkin off. His hair stood up wildly, peppered with bits of orangeish slime and flecks of the stringy inner shell. A stray seed was stuck to his forehead and a smear of orange color stained one cheekbone.

"I checked my watch just as the screaming started," Dean said. "It was 5:54. Sunset, to the minute."

"Exact sunset on Halloween, and look at the candles," Sam said, digging in a pocket and holding one up for Dean. "They're made of fat, not wax. They're only animated when lit. So we need to find out where the hell these candles came from."

The first cop car turned at the top of the street, blue and red lights strobing across the siding of the surrounding houses. The boys slipped between houses, cutting one block over. They'd created a wide area of damage; chunks of pumpkin lay all over the streets. There were several pumpkins still lit, but staying put. Dean tossed his bat; Sam kept his but kept it pointed toward the ground.

They heard a boom and then muffled cursing. A stray pumpkin had likely hit the cop car behind them.

Dean ran up to a door and knocked. No one answered. He tried several more before he could get someone to answer, and even then, they only opened the door by about half an inch. Dean held one of the candles up to eye level. "Any idea where everybody got these from?" he said.

Small gift shop on third street in town. Owner said she'd found boxes of them in the basement during inventory, had been selling them ten for a buck during the week before Halloween.

They went back for the car. No time to clean up, not if there were more candles being sold.

"You know those aren't made of animal fat," Sam said.

"Hell yeah, I know," Dean said. "They were mixed with something else to help them burn a little longer, probably. What do you think, serial killer trying to dispose of a body or two?"

"Just pray they didn't also make soap," Sam said.

"Gross. I didn't think any of this could get more disgusting, but it just did. Think the owner of the shop...?"

"Best way to get rid of something you've done is to hide it in plain sight," Sam said. "Make a little money off the deed while you're at it."

"Must have been really pissed off at somebody to sell chunks of 'em ten for a buck, though."

It was only just after seven on a Wednesday, so everything was still open. Antiques and More sat next to a children's shoe store. They parked on the street and walked in.

Just inside the door was an old, beaten and waxy looking cardboard box on the floor full of brown, lumpy candles with a handwritten sign: 10 for $1, great for Halloween!

They glanced at each other. Sam picked up the box and they walked between glass shelves of resin animal scenes and embroidered sachets. There was an older lady at the counter near the back, reading a romance novel.

"Excuse us," Sam said, putting on his best smile. "Do you have any more of these candles?"

The woman peered at them over her glasses, then put her book down and smoothed a strand of mousebrown hair out of her face. "Enjoying Halloween?"

Both boys grinned. "Oh, you know it," Dean said.

"Little pumpkin-gut fight," Sam said. "These candles are perfect for a lot of things. And at this price? Can't resist. Do you have any more? We'd like to buy them all."

"That's all there is," she said. "Had a few boxes in the basement, found them under a bunch of old books the prior owner left down there."

"Oh," Sam said, keeping his smile in place. "Cool. Handmade, looks like."

The woman shrugged. "Sure. She was a little odd, died about a year ago. I bought the place for a song. There's about fifty or so in there, give me a five and we'll call it good."

They thanked her and left. The candles went in the trunk and they stood staring at them for a moment.

"I didn't pick them all up," Sam said.

"I doubt anybody's gonna try and reuse them," Dean said. "They'll toss them along with what's left of the pumpkins. We can try and pick more up, though. Maybe they don't need a...vessel to cause trouble. Suppose this is all that's left of Mr. Prior Owner?"

"Or maybe the competition," Sam said. "In any case, I hope this is all there is."

-|-

Sam rinsed the shower walls down before getting out, washing the last of the pumpkin away that Dean had left behind. They'd only found another two dozen candles. Some were burnt down pretty far; some had been shattered along with their pumpkins. They'd need to melt them all down or chop them up and bury them in some out of the way place. They'd never know who it really was. For all they knew, it was several people. They'd be salted and laid to rest regardless – hopefully.

He toweled his hair dry and walked out of the bathroom. Dean was reclining on his bed, watching the first and only good Halloween movie.

"Michael Myers is a weenie," Dean said. "Dude, I'm starving, we never grabbed anything to eat. Let's go. It's not even eight."

"With that box in the trunk?" Sam said. "No way. Not unless we hide it better. Small town cops, Halloween, couple of young guys in an older car..."

"Nobody's profiling you, Sammy. Oh, wait. You do look like a dumbass pledge. Guess you're right. Let's take one last walk around the block, find some food."

Sam let the 'dumbass pledge' remark go by. Dean didn't know about the camera phone pics of him stumbling around with a pumpkin on his head.

Sam could bide his time.

-|- -|- -|-

-|- -|-

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The prompt was The pumpkins come alive to strike back! Naturally, Sam and Dean have to find the cause of it. What'd you think it was at first – zombies? Psh. I lived in Jamestown for a while, and I can tell you, everything in this story could happen there. Any moment now.

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