A/N: This story was painstakingly beta'd by Numpty, NongPradu, and Beckydaspatz. If you are ever looking for an amazing story to read, please look them up. It was their incredible talent that drew me to them.

Dust Devils

Chapter 3: One Day Old


February 11, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

Sheets of rain pattered against the tarp dangling in front of the gaping hole at the back of the building. Bobby juggled both the flashlight and his sawed-off, checking to make sure there were two salt-rounds in the chamber ready to go. Snapping the gun shut, he lifted the tarp and slipped inside the dark, unstable structure. The hunter pointed the flashlight toward the splintered rafters and swept the beam down, revealing the chaotic damage. Picking and choosing his way with care, he crossed the split joists and broken beams littering the floor at odd angles. The force responsible for the damage had to have been unpredictable and erratic at best, since there was no organization to the jumbled debris.

Unsettled by the silence broken only by the gusting taps of rain on tarp, Bobby cleared his throat and called Dean's name, but he no longer expected an answer. He'd been searching the construction site from end to end for over an hour now, and he'd heard and seen nothing—living or dead. Casting the beam of light to the floor, he followed the wall-frame, illuminating each and every corner with disappointing results.

"Where the hell'd you get to, kid?"

He set the flashlight down so the shaft of light pointed toward the ceiling, creating some soft, diffused light to work by. Bobby fished out his cell phone and hit the redial button. He stiffened as the call switched to voice mail. The hunter wasn't sure he'd heard right or not. Again, he dialed. This time there was no mistake. Smoke on the Water was playing somewhere nearby.

Bobby picked up the flashlight, following the tinny music. He kicked away a large tarp and rifled through the debris on the floor, dialing the number again as soon as it went to voicemail. Homing in on a particular area, he swept the light over a debris pile. He was close. After another redial, he heaved pieces of wood out of the way, revealing the telltale glow of a closed cell phone. Bobby picked it up and flashed his light around, hoping to find Dean. He didn't. After searching several fruitless moments, he stilled the flashlight and gave the phone a defeated, pensive tap before pocketing it.

"Aw, hell boy."

A glint caught his eye and he moved some more scraps of wood around, retrieving Dean's Colt 1911 from the rubble. No way would the young hunter have left his gun behind by choice.

"Dammit, Dean."

He checked the clip and stuck the gun in his waistband with a despondent sigh. The exhalation smoked out an unnatural icy-white. It had been cold. But it hadn't been that cold.

Bobby spun around to find himself nose to nose with the stuttering image of a pale, grinning specter. When the hunter aimed his shotgun, the entity raised its hand, releasing a burst of energy. Bobby's hand jolted with a static charge, and the gun flew from his fingers and into the air behind him. Without missing a beat or even bothering to look where the gun clattered on the floorboards, the seasoned hunter drew Dean's Colt and fired.

"Iron bullets, asshole," he said as the last vestige of the surprised spirit disintegrated into spiraling mist.

Retrieving his shotgun from the corner, he hustled to get out of the building. The ghostly form reappeared, flickering in front of him, releasing another blast that tossed him on his ass a few feet away. The spirit grinned and began chanting in a foreign language. A strong wind blew through the room, kicking up debris, the chilling susurrus of the incantation a part of the swirling air itself. Bobby loosed a salt-round, causing the spirit to dissipate, but it had no effect on the black, rotating vortex it had summoned. The droning murmur built until its vibrations rolled through the hunter's body, and spiny fingers of electricity pulsed through the metal framework of the building. Bobby crawled toward the flapping tarp that covered the most obvious exit, watching the dark, rotating mass take on more solid shape as it advanced. Sibilant imprecations echoed around the room, growing louder along with the sudden clatter of boards and other construction materials kicked up by the malicious winds. Small jabs of electricity jolted outward from the black mass, stretching white-blue fingers toward Bobby as the vortex moved toward him.

"Oh hell, no you don't!"

Bobby scrambled away. Right as he reached the tarp, the leering ghost reappeared, its image stuttering and fluctuating from location to location around the room. It seemed to overlap itself, manifesting in two areas at the same time. The dual images bounced and flickered as the savage wind continued its approach. Both Bobby and the tarp broke free of the building, sprawling onto the prairie floor below. Bolting up with the agility of someone half his age, he sprinted away, wood rending and splintering behind him. As he ran, the chilling incantation swirled around him. Bobby memorized as much of it as he could while hauling ass away from the building.


February 11, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

It was just after dawn when her mama's comforting hand stroked her face, her low, soft voice calling her from sleep.

"Florabel, git on up. Mornin' won't wait."

Florabel had drifted off the night before at the foot of the bed, cool cloth still wrapped in her small, capable fingers. Stirring now, Florabel noticed a snug blanket had been wrapped around her, and truth to tell she was in no hurry to leave its warmth. She breathed in the crisp air around her and coughed up a mouthful of gritty sputum. Her lungs always hated mornings.

"Come on, Florabel, I ain't tellin' you agin."

"S'cold." Florabel rubbed a sticky eye with the back of a clumsy hand.

Emma patted the groggy girl and sat her up. "Well now, the faster you move, the warmer you'll git."

Florabel yawned and blinked stupidly at her mother who, by looks of it, hadn't slept at all. Careless tendrils fell from an untended hair knot, and even though her eyes hadn't smiled in months, they looked even more tired and sad this morning. With a pang, Florabel remembered their patient and feared the worst. Her eyes darted to Mr. Hetfield.

"Is he…?" Her lip quivered.

"He's the same, Florabel. Now, I need you to go take care of the chickens and make sure the house is swept of dust. Once you done that, you can come an' help me tend him and keep him cool. His fever is still mighty high."

Florabel yawned again and scratched. "Okay, Mama. Will you call me if'n he wakes up? I don't want him to be afraid 'cause he's in a strange house." The young child scooted off the bed, hopping on her tiptoes toward the door. She needed the outhouse.

"Florabel, wait. Come here. We need to take care of that cough a'yours." Emma pointed to the greasy box and bottles lining the nightstand. The girl blanched, knowing what was coming.

"Mama, no! Please." Florabel grimaced, backing away and shaking her head. Her elusive maneuvers forced Emma to grab her by the wrist and drag her toward the chair, bodily lifting the child sideways when she dug her heels into the floor. Her little chest heaved with each panicked breath. "No! No, Mama, I hate it! Argh!"

"Florabel Mae Livingston, you stop that right this very instant!" Her mama's tired eyes flared, and the girl stilled, suffering her mother's anger, leaning into her with a defeated whimper. Florabel swiped at the fat tears pooling in her lashes.


"Stay still, Florabel." There was no more anger in her voice, but Florabel dare not disobey. Watching her mother spoon up the sugar, Florabel's calm evaporated and she wept again.

"My cough ain't so bad, Mama," she said between sobs.

"Shame, Florabel." Emma added a couple of drops of turpentine to the sugar and fed it to her snuffling daughter. The girl swallowed the revolting concoction, coughing and gagging as she fought to keep it down. "After Henry?" Emma dipped her fingers into a jar of skunk fat; its fetid odor had both their eyes watering. She added several drops of turpentine to the oily sludge and worked the two into a pasty mash. Florabel's broken squeals filled the dusty room. "And your papa?" Emma continued to scold, rubbing the remedy on Florabel's neck. She slid her hand under her daughter's shirt and overalls and smeared the foul mixture on her chest. "I won't have it, Florabel." She wiped her hands on a towel.

It was over. Florabel's body jerked a few times with hiccoughing sobs. She didn't mean to shame her mama, but she really, really hated the taste of turpentine and the smell of skunk oil.

"I'm sorry, Mama," she said with all the stoicism she could muster.

Her mama dabbed at Florabel's tears, hugging her close. "I know you are, baby girl. But I cain't have you come up with Dust Pneumonia. I cain't have it. So you must be brave even when it's real hard, right?" Florabel nodded and snuffled, finding solace as she snuggled against her mother's soft neck. "Now you be quick about your work, like a jackrabbit, and then you and we can tend Mr. Hetfield. We'll change his dressing together. You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

"Yes, Mama. I'll be quick, quick, quick!"

She ran first to the outhouse to take care of business then grabbed the pail and broom from the mudroom on her way back. Fiercely on-task, she swept as much dust as she could, scooping and tossing it out the backdoor. It felt like she swept up more and more dust every day. And while she had never known anything else but dust, she knew it was getting worse. She couldn't remember the last day the wild wind hadn't blown dust through every crack in the house. Peering out the windows, she noticed some of the glue-stripping had buckled and come loose. She and her mama would have to fix that soon. The Blow Season was upon them, and if a black blizzard came up, they'd be no safer inside than out without proper weatherproofing.

With the dust under control, at least for another day, she hunted centipedes that plagued the house, pulling up a few choice floorboards that always housed hundreds of the pests. Placing an old schoolbook over the pail to prevent the insects from crawling out, she corralled and grabbed as many as her small hands could manage.

When she had a sufficient meal for the chickens, Florabel dusted off her hands, grabbed the pail and loped down the path to the chicken coop. With the wind particularly strong this morning, she kept her eyes closed as much as she could to protect them from the billowing dust. Gritty wave after gritty wave assaulted her from behind, forcing her to readjust for balance and find a better bid on the ground, her slight build no match for the harsh, unrelenting gusts. Once she reached the chicken coop, the barn protected her somewhat, the structure groaning and creaking as it took each blast.

Sheltered from the wind, Florabel relaxed and spotted her favorite chicken. "Mornin' Molly!" She hopped in a circle, whooping. "Lordy above, Molly, I been so busy, you just cain't imagine! You'll never guess what happened! A man got hurt in our barn. I found him and I'm doctorin' him!" She tossed some centipedes to the chickens and watched their feeding frenzy as they clucked and gossiped to each other.

"Devil Fighter made it through the night, ya?" Slaid's voice sent a shiver down Florabel's spine and she folded in on herself. Coming up behind her, he leaned on the fence, poking his fingers through the chicken-coop wire and smiling a wolfish, yellow-toothed smile.

"He's still sleepin', and I gotta git back to him. I just come to feed Molly and the others." She dumped the rest of the centipedes in one go, her visit with Molly over in an instant.

"Ah, ya?" Slaid nodded toward chickens with languid disinterest. "Which one is Molly?"

Florabel inched away from him and timorously pointed to her favorite chicken. "That one right there."

"Ah, pretty red one. She make good pie some day?" Slaid rubbed his stomach and belched. He laughed at the girl's disgust.

"You ain't a-eatin' Molly! Mama promised she'll keep her as a layer until she goes to Jesus on her own." Florabel's chin trembled with anger. "And then we's givin' her a proper Christian send off. She ain't gonna be pie."

"Maybe, maybe. Maybe some chickens die for no reason, though. It can happen, ya? Jesus might just swoop down and…" He pantomimed wringing the chicken's neck and biting a chicken leg. Slaid laughed again. He held up his hands and wiggled his fingers as though he was merely stating facts. "Or maybe big bad wolf comes and eats her." He growled, gnashing his teeth.

Florabel stood defiant. "Ain't nothin' gonna happen to the chickens. Old Jeb keeps their yard as tight as a drum, thank you very much. Ain't no coyotes or varmits gittin' in." Florabel held her empty pail in front of her. She took a few tentative steps backwards. "I gotta scoot. Mama tol' me to be quick about it. We gotta change the man's dressings. You go on back to the bunkhouse. We don't need you today."

"Be careful of the Devil Fighter, now, little one. Maybe he'll break the house like he did the barn. Slaid will protect you and your mama if you let him. Like you were my own." He patted his heart.

"He ain't no devil fighter. Mama says his name is Mr. Hetfield. His arm is hurt is all. And he's gonna be my pal when he gits to feelin' fit agin."

"Better pals than you 'n me?" he tsked, feigning disappointment and jealousy. "Maybe I'll just have to make friends with Molly, then, ya?" He smiled and winked at the bird, bending down and clucking to it. Molly bobbed out of the man's reach.

Florabel wavered, not knowing what to say. She didn't want to get in trouble for giving him sass, but she wanted to tell him they weren't ever going to be 'pals' and she didn't need his protection. Molly was her bird and Florabel and her mama were fine on their own.

She put a finger in her mouth and cast her eye toward the farmhouse. "I gotta git. Mr. Hetfield needs coolin' off." She edged back a few more steps, spun around and ran toward the house, toiling against the wind as she retreated. She passed Jeb on his way to milk Penny.

"You's full of pep this morning, Miss Flibbertigibbet!" Jeb laughed as the child raced past him.

"I cain't dawdle, Old Jeb. I gotta git to doctorin'!" She waved and ran on.

"Didja remember to collect the eggs this morning?"

The child stopped dead and raised her empty pail. "Ugh! I forgot." She waffled, her eyes fluttering toward Slaid who still stood by the coop.

"Well, give Old Jeb the pail, Miss Doctor, an' I'll see they git collected. C'mon now." Jeb held out a coaxing hand as she stood deliberating. Looking from Jeb to Slaid and back, she ran to the old man, handing him the pail.

"Thanks Old Jeb. I'm obliged." She grinned and ran toward the house.

"Lord 'a mercy, child, I can smell that skunk oil from here." The old man hooted at her as she raced up the dusty path.

Florabel winced as the door shut with a bang. "Sorry Mama!" she said and coughed up some wet dust.

"Florabel…" She heard her mother's stern, weary voice. Running through the mudroom, she found her mother in the kitchen boiling water.

"Sorry," Florabel said again. "I'm all done, Mama."

Emma handed a stack of bandages and linens to her. "You take these on in and run a cold cloth over Mr. Hetfield, and I'll be in once this has boiled."

"Yes, Mama." Florabel's back arched under the weight of the sheets and linens as she made her way to the bedroom. Fighting to see over her burden, she dumped the items in a chair. "Whew!" She grunted in relief, turning to her next task and stopping short. Her eyes went wide, and a smile leapt up her dusty cheeks. "Well, howdy there, pally!"

Mr. Hetfield's eyes were open.


February 11, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

"It's something all right." Bobby scribbled notes on the back of a hospital pamphlet. "I need to get to a computer and see if I can't suss out what it means. I can't even tell what language it is, yet. But it was definitely a spirit, and it's controlling an elemental of some sort. A nasty one, too."

"And Dean?" Ellen sat, thumbing the soft pad of Sam's palm.

"Found his cell phone." Bobby handed it to her. "But he's not there, Ellen. It's like he just disappeared off the face of the earth. Something ain't right about this. That thing created a lot of energy, and the spirit started to shimmer and show up in two different places at the same time."

"Bilocation? That takes a real powerful spirit, Bobby. I don't think this is just 'Uncle Joe' with a chip on his shoulder we're dealing with."

"I know it, Ellen. And we can't just salt-and-burn the thing even if we knew who he was and where he was buried, because we have to banish the elemental, and we can't do that until we find out what happened to Dean."

The door opened and a young nurse with a round, Shirley Temple-esque face, complete with dimples and flawless complexion, entered. "Mornin' y'all. I'm Abby. I'm here to get some vitals, if y'all don't mind."

"Certainly." Ellen rose and stood with Bobby. He handed her the written incantation to see if she recognized it. She read it and gave him a negative shake of her head.

"Hey there, Sweetheart. You with us, now?" Abby said.

Bobby and Ellen glanced over and noticed Sam's eyes were open. Moving to the other side of the bed, the hunters watched as the nurse tried to rouse him.

"C'mon darlin', want to look at me?"

The nurse lifted his half-closed eyes, assessing their response. They never moved or changed focus, remaining fixed on a non-existent target about three feet away.

Bobby snapped his fingers in front of the boy's face. "Sam, c'mon boy. Up and at 'em."

"I'm gonna go get Doc," Abby said. "Try not to worry. I'll be right back."

Ellen scrubbed her face with her palm. She bent forward, moving into Sam's field of vision. "Sam, honey. Can you look at me?" She patted his cheek, but the boy never stirred.

"Boy's plumb catatonic." Bobby shook his head. "It's like the others. If he don't have his memories when he snaps out of it, I hope to high-hell we'll be enough tinder and flint to get the fires goin' again."

"This isn't good, Bobby. We need him to remember so we can find out what happened to Dean. But I'm afraid we'll need Dean to get Sam's memories back. It's a Catch-22 shit-storm if ever there was one."

Doc Haffner rounded the doorway. "So our boy's awake?"

"If you can call this 'awake'," Bobby said. "He ain't twitched a muscle or said word one, yet."

Doc came near and examined the patient. He checked his pupils and studied his heart-monitor.

"Ain't no response from the monitor," Abby said, lowering her voice. "It's like he's still out, but he ain't. Machinery says he's sleepin' but his eyes say otherwise, just like the others." Her last words had been meant for the doctor's ears only, but Bobby and Ellen caught them and held an unspoken conversation of their own as the doctor and nurse resettled their patient.

"Well now, it looks as though this boy is gonna be a clean slate," Doc said. "He'll come around, though. You'll just have to keep at him until he's been jarred loose again. I expect it won't take but a day or two with you good folks around to help." Doc scratched his chin. "Well, I'll be by later. Don't think there will be much doin' today. If he's like the others, he'll just lay quiet until tomorrow. You folks best get settled and get some sleep while you can. Boy's gonna need you both in the next couple of days."

Bobby looked at Ellen a long, hard moment after the doctor left them alone. He nodded toward Sam whose blank stare focused on nothing.

"Well, to quote Dean Winchester himself…Sonofabitch!"


February 11, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

"Cain't y'talk, there, Mr. Hetfield?" Florabel crawled onto the bed. "Aw, c'mon, pal, I know you must be real scared, but me and Mama and Old Jeb, we ain't a-gonna hurtcha none." She patted him to show she meant no harm and then enthusiastically pried his eyelid open as wide as it would go and brought her own eye within inches of his. "You in there, Mister? Hello!" She let his eyelid drop to its relaxed, half-open position. Florabel deflated with a sigh. "I guess you's an idiot now," she said. "Fever got too high, I reckon." The diagnosis crushed her. She snuffled back her grief and guilt. "I tried real hard to keep the fever down, y'gotta believe me. I tried. But they's only so much I could do."

"Florabel, what are you goin' on about?" Emma asked as she carried the steaming pot of water into the room. She noticed the man's open eyes and put the pot down, sloshing water onto the floor in her haste. "Florabel, why didn't you call me, child?" She put her hand to the man's forehead. "Can you hear me, Mr. Hetfield?" He made no response. "He say anything?"

"No Mama. I think he's an idiot now." Her voice was wet with tears. "He won't say nothin' or even take a gander around the room. He just lays there a-starin', but I dunno what he's a-lookin' at."

"Now, you be calm, Florabel. Mind what I said. We ain't gonna mourn for someone we don't know. Don't hover and let me take a look." Emma sat on the bed and bent close, waving her hand in front of his eyes and patting his face.

"I done that, Mama. I opened his eyes good and big but they ain't seein' me. I don't want him to be an idiot, Mama. He was gonna be my good pal."

"We don't know he's an idiot, yet. He's fevered and wrung, and I bet he's sore and tired to boot. Let's give him some time to come awake fully. Fever can make folks mighty confused and dreamy." She put a cool hand to his cheek and frowned. "This is a stubborn fever. I hope that poultice starts a-workin' soon." She rubbed a hand over her exhausted face and massaged the back of her neck.

"You look tired, Mama. Ain't you slept?"

"I'll sleep later. C'mon now, let's see if we cain't git him to drink a few sips. He needs to drink today no matter what. It'll help to cool him from the inside." She poured a small glass of water and waited a moment for the muddy sediment to sink to the bottom. She adjusted the pillows, leaning him against them and tilting his head.

"Florabel, you help me hold his head like so while I git the water in him." Her daughter did as asked, her face a study in deep concentration and attention. Emma tipped the glass to his lips. The first attempt had the water leaking right back out and down his chin. She angled his head farther back and tried again. This time the water hit the back of his throat and he swallowed reflexively.

"Look at that. Good work, Florabel." Emma beamed at her daughter. They repeated the task four more times and then settled him. "We'll keep doin' that every hour or so. It'll help his fever and keep his thirst down. You start coolin' him off with the cloth while I change the dressing. Then, we can rest a spell."

Florabel hummed as she resumed her ministrations. Following his fixed, glassy stare, she glanced behind her, expecting to see something, but it was the same room as always.

"He's awfully interested in a whole lot of nuttin'. I sure hope he ain't an idiot, Mama."

"Me too, baby girl." Emma reached for the whiskey bottle. "You stand back, now, Florabel. If he's even half-awake he's likely to thrash about when I pour this. And even if he don't mean nothin' by it, you could git hurt." Florabel slipped off the bed and stood a good distance away. Bracing herself, she put a sturdy hand on the man's shoulder and poured. The sick man remained lax and inert and his eyes never so much as quivered or changed position.

"Well that just beats all," Emma said, bewildered. "I'm glad he ain't feelin' pain, but it don't make much sense, neither. I never did see a fever take on so."

Both girls jumped when Jeb knocked on the doorframe. "How's the patient?"

"Land, Jeb, you startled me." Emma said, toweling up the excess whiskey. "His eyes is open, but he ain't a whit heedful yet. I don't know if'n this is the fever or if'n this is somethin' we cain't fix." She nodded toward Florabel. "But we cain't git upset if he decides he wants to go through them Pearly Gates, ain't that right, Jeb?"

"That's right, Em." His eyes met Emma's. "Why, sometimes folks catch a glimpse of Heaven, an' they ain't no 'suadin' them to come on back, 'cause it's so restful and nice there. They's diamonds and gold on the front gate alone. And angels are a-sittin' there strummin' their harps purty as you please when you walk in," he said while Florabel listened, transfixed. "So if'n this poor boy wants to go on and be with Jesus and Moses, why, we won't fuss about it."

"See, Florabel? We'll do our part, but sometimes Heaven is too good to pass up. Ain't no faultin' anyone for wantin' to stay there," Emma said. She examined the poultice, making sure it was still moist. "This should start workin' best in a day or two." She set it on the wound and covered it with a steaming cloth.

Florabel shrugged. "I reckon so, Mama. But it ain't right for God to put us down here just so's we can go runnin' off to Heaven first chance we git." She dipped the cloth in cold water and continued her task. "But Heaven sure does sound purty, that's for sure."

"It sure does," Emma said as she pulled on the nape of her tired neck.

Jeb turned his attention to the young woman. "I brought some jackrabbits, Em. Florabel is fixin' to disappear if'n she don't git something to stick to her bones better 'n what little cornbread we got. Thought I'd clean 'em good and make some stew for us and some broth for the patient if'n he can swaller it," he said. "Slaid went off to town to play cards, but I expect he'll be back before supper tonight."

"Thank you, Jeb. I'll be out in just a moment to help."

"No you won't. You need a good, long rest. Me and Florabel can hold the fort and keep this feller cooled off for a few hours. By the time you wake up we'll have a good supper ready."

Emma smiled and yawned. "All right, Jeb. Wake me if anything changes." She left the old man and Florabel together.

Florabel watched close to see if the man's eyes moved or showed a spark of thought. Discouraged, she set the cloth aside, put her chin in her hands with a sigh.

Jeb gave her a fond smile. "Cheer up, Florabel. This boy is gonna be all right one way or t'other. He'll either be with God and Jesus or he'll be with us. I count him a lucky feller either way." Florabel nodded but didn't appear convinced. "He'll be all right," Jeb said again. "Don't you worry. No need to be walkin' around as though you got a dark, black cloud hangin' over your head."


February 12, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

His first thought was that something was different. He couldn't define the difference or compare it to anything else, because the black, gyrating mass with its monotonous, purling whispers and incessant discharge of energy whiffling through him was all he'd ever known. How long that had been didn't matter, because he had no sense of time or space. There was no way to define it or quantify it, because he could neither define nor quantify himself. Not yet.

There came a point, however, when he began to measure things. A gust of wind switched directions and beat on him from another angle. The murmurs incanted in a different pitch and then lapsed back to their original tenor. The pulse of blue-white electricity that ran up and down his body or mass fluctuated and moved from top to bottom instead of bottom to top. And for a long while that was all he knew, and it was the only difference he could perceive. But this something—this was definitely not a mere variation. This was new data, raw and harsh, and he didn't know what to make of it. The black vortex that'd been his sole base of experience gave way and another aspect of existence assaulted him.


He shrunk away from it, because it was unknown. It frightened him, but it was unavoidable. As he experienced this new information he began to discern one shape from another, and slowly, ever so slowly, he made some lost connections. That's a ceiling. A window. A person. Synapses fired and he was able to discern even more information. That's a woman. That's a man. He has a beard. I'm a man. The woman is caressing me—comforting me. The man is speaking, but I can't understand a word. Words. Words are used to communicate. Nouns, verbs, prepositions are meaningful. More networks fired, and he was able to listen to the words and translate them into meaningful thought.

"That's it, Sam. Keep looking at me. Can you hear me, kid?"

That's a question. I can hear, but I don't know how to speak. His jaw moved and even more connections stirred, and he knew he'd once done this often and without much effort. He took a breath and forced air through his voice box. The result was a strange, guttural surge. You just moaned. Moaning does not equal speaking, geek boy. Who is it that always calls me that? Move your mouth and force a thought out along with the air. He tried again.

"Guhh," he said. "Gggeek boy." The man and woman simultaneously raised a thing…an eyebrow…and looked at each other.

"You callin' me or yourself that?" the man asked, his mouth crinkling into a…thing...a smile. "Do you remember your name, son? Can you tell us?"

He waited for more connections so that he could deliver what was asked of him. At first he didn't know what a name was, but after a few internal adjustments he recalled that people had names. He looked from the man to the woman and back, blowing more air through his voice box in anticipation of an answer firing in his head.

"I am…" he said.


To Be Continued…