I am trying to conceive of a way to abate the fear and the anger I know is prevailing upon many of you. The truth is…that kind of fear, that kind of anger cannot be abated. It cannot be subsumed into some pretense of false relief and cannot exist in the space of denial any more than a dead body can occupy an empty room for more than a few days without the wretched smell of decay seeping into the fabrics of the carpet.
I cannot provide a singular word to change the tides of loss of faith, in Dean, in his commitment to the mission set before him, in his love for his family – his love for Sam and for Cas and for Charlie…
But I will try.
Charlie’s death was the catalyst to Dean’s metaphorical death. In every way that we know and understand Dean Winchester… He is dead. He burned upon that pyre with Charlie’s body. He burned upon his choice to take on the Mark as his penitence. His penitence for the day he burned in the Hell of his own creation when he chose to place an angel inside of his own brother to save him. Dean has spent the majority of this season attempting to reconcile his will to die with his will to live. The Mark wants Dean to live so that it can consume him and use him and continue to deconstruct the facets of his existence that are hinged upon family and connectedness and love…upon the unspoken yearning for more…for so much more. The Mark wishes to tear him down to purity – to nothing but the fight, the survival, the fucking instinctual hunt to sate the bloodlust. The problem has always been that Dean was never committed to the hunt, to the desire to kill, to the bloodlust of skin giving away under the artful pressure of his blade. Dean has always, always been committed to his job, to his destiny, in the name of saving people. Dean draped himself in his father’s flag of righteous vengeance but he forged his own path that spelled the salvation of countless numbers of people because Dean’s commitment has always been to humanity. Family, love, complete and utter connectedness that allows him to exist as who he is…this is the kind of existence that Dean spoke about in that Confessional. It is the kind of life that holds consequences because being exactly who you are comes with the price of acceptance. And Dean would rather he be damned than give in to the craving for touch, to the consumption of spirit that becomes the definition of love because the people you love will consume and control as much as you allow them out of trust and faith in purity of soul to protect the sacredness of your heart. He would rather be damned than to giving in to that particular kind of fantasy… Dean knows that kind of life only ends in pain and loss and suffering and fucking heartache. And he can’t. And he won’t.
Dean would rather be damned than to live a life with the promise of love and faith in its perpetuity because the fear of the loss of that kind of commitment, that kind of love… it is paralyzing and it is absolute. And Death consumes everything.
What I truly wanted to say in this post is that all of the progress that Dean has made is not gone. It has been circumvented by the choices of others, by his own choices. Dean’s quest for vengeance for Charlie’s death was a choice, and not one she would have wanted. But shouldering the consequences of murder is favorable to carrying the weight of the death of your one and only sister, blood be damned.
In that laboratory, Dean flipped the switch. At the mention of Home and Family, Dean flipped the switch because his existence needed to be completely consumed by the job and by the Mark - removed from Charlie, from Cas, from Sam. Dean is existing in the reality of the job, of his own Purgatory by flipping a switch within him that has dominated the Mark of Cain time and time again – his heart. Dean removed his own heart so that he could finish a job. So that he could save what was left of his family and his home. Dean tore his own heart out of his chest because the two people he loves most in this whole goddamned world betrayed him, lied to him. The entire foundation of his capacity to believe in himself was predicated upon the belief that Sam and Cas believed in him and, in Dean’s eyes, it was never truly about saving him. It was about removing the Mark and making him into who he used to be – the self-loathing little blunt instrument he was raised to be - without regards to a lifetime of transgressions for which Dean has sought his penance. Without regard for his own choice in the matter, for his will to save the people he loves from the consequences of intervening in the Universal balance once again, for consequences that denote blood – the sacrifice of humanity. Dean would rather die than watch his brother or his angel fall into the rapacious hands of Hell once again. Dean wants to break the cycle and if that means removing his own heart finish a job and to finish himself, he will. He’ll do it. On his own. Because the pain within him, nudging at the back of his skull… it is immense and crippling and Dean isn’t ready for it to consume him. Not until he is done. Completely done. Because to Dean, he has lost everything and everyone. His will to live is a tiny spark that hope that Death can remove the Mark without consequences that he doesn’t wish to pay. Finally being removed entirely from existence and finding peace is far preferable to the consequences of intervention by Sam or by Cas. Because he loves them. Not matter what. Because he wants them to live on. Because he still believes in them.
Truly, what it all comes down to is Faith.
Dean Winchester has never known faith beyond the confines of the walls of Bobby’s house, the walls between which Team Free Will planned their course of action for taking on the Devil and stopping the impending Apocalypse. Futile fucking attempts by mere children of the Universe to derail prophecy and Fate that ultimately succeeded because at the end of it all, love and faith conquer goddamned everything. Love and faith are everything, even if they aren’t words ever spoken aloud.
The point here is that faith and hope are not symbols to be represented by physical hosts in Supernatural. Faith is not the Creator, it is not an absent father. Faith is not Chuck or the Winchester Gospels. Faith, in its purest form, existed within Charlie…in her ability to love, to forgive, absolutely unconditionally. Charlie may have been referred to as simply another “Chucky” but the message there was that her version of the story was real and it was cherished and it could be followed or it could be changed as much as any Winchester Gospel fanfiction. Charlie could never truly be another Chuck because her entire existence was built upon breaking the rules and liberating the spirit, whereas Chuck just followed the visions he was given. Charlie carved her own path through her life and her legacy of faith in herself to prevail, to win, to be Queen – in her will carry on. Charlie’s faith, her magic, was within her. Faith in Supernatural isn’t a symbol, isn’t a God that stopped believing in the humanity He created. Faith… Faith is within. Faith is something that exists in our hearts. It is something that we can choose to believe in, or that we can choose to ignore out of fear of the loss of everything that we have gained. Charlie believed in herself absolutely. Her faith was a gift she wished to give to Dean, that she whispered to him between the lines of promises of love and forgiveness. Because love and forgiveness are promises of faith in another human being. Charlie trusted Dean to cherish the faith she placed in him to believe in her and to believe in himself and he thrived for it, even if it was only small sparks of acknowledgment because a guy like him doesn’t deserved to be saved. But she believed. Charlie believed in Dean as much as Cas did the moment his Grace embraced Dean’s broken, tormented soul and dragged it, kicking and screaming, out of Hell. These are the true symbols of faith that exist within and are shared through bonds of love. In Supernatural, faith originates from within. One just has to believe, to fight for it, to keep fighting for that tiny glimpse of light at the end of the goddamned tunnel because absolution is not something that can be truly offered in death. Absolution is a gift to oneself as much as the purity of faith in one’s ability to change.
Dean Winchester is lost because he tore his heart – his love and his faith – from his body as his penitence for his transgressions upon himself, upon his family, and upon the masses he devoted his life to saving. Dean Winchester’s salvation is the faith that Charlie gave him – absolute love and forgiveness. Dean Winchester’s absolution is believing in himself, in having faith that he can love and be loved, in having faith that his will to live for himself and for the people he loves – regardless of how fucking pissed off at them he might be – will prevail. Ultimately, Dean can only truly save himself by making the choice to reconcile with his heart and to believe in his ability to master himself, to master the Mark, and master his fears of losing everyone he has left, everyone he loves.
Truly, all of this is a lesson to us all. We can tear out our own hearts for fear of losing absolutely everyone and everything that we have. Because that kind of pain and numbness is far less than suffering the death of a loved one, than suffering their choice to leave you behind. But in the end, that kind of fear isolates us, makes monsters of us, siphons every ounce of faith we may have ever found within ourselves and obscures the light of hope in the future, in the ability to change our stars. But this is a choice. This is a choice to lose ourselves, to lose everything, out of fear and faithlessness in ourselves.
The message is that faith shines brightly within all of us. The question is whether you will allow the world to suppress it.
So, literally like a ten minute walk up my road is the moor.
And pretty deep into the moor, like I’m talking an hour’s hike into the moors, past ditches, cliffs into a pit in the ground, and a literal lake, is a rock on the edge of a cliff facing the road right at the edge of the cliff.
Nothing special on first glance, but if you get closer, there are hundreds of names and dates carved into it.
Some with obvious skill and care, some made by shaking hands with rudimentary tools.
“Kitty + Charlie, 1934”
“Julia and Matthew, 1968”
Hundreds and hundreds of names and dates and proclamations of “so-and-so together forever!!” With no clue as to if they married and stayed together or broke up a week later
On a random rock, deep into the Yorkshire moors, which inspired ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Jane Eyre’, and so many of the beautiful tales written by the Brontë sisters of Howarth, is a written history and tangible reminder of my village’s past and the people who lived there.
Their loves, and lives, and trips with family across the moor, or with friends, giggling in the dead of night, which a chisel and a lantern, to carve their names and years into a rock on the edge of a cliff.
Things like this remind me, that even though England can be a horrible place to live, and even though those in power can make horrible decisions, and there’s still prejudice, and hate, there is love, and laughter, and people live on through the ages, and so do our legacies.
Although we tend to see the past as this almost barbaric place with so many suffering for the lack of the rights which so many of us take for granted, they still lived through it. They had families, and friends, and memories, and lives.
Even though so many had barely any rights, they loved enough to carve their names and those of the people they loved into stone for all eternity.
The names tell us nothing of the people they were.
They could have been carved by teenagers, giddy and infatuated, or by old couples laughing as their hands shook.
They could have been carved by people writing their own names, or those of the people they loved.
Perhaps by a young man, knowing that he could never have the life he so desperately wanted with his lover, so he hiked the moors in the dead of night and carved the name “James, 1765” into the stone, if only to let people of future generations know that he existed and he was loved.
Perhaps by a young woman, facing her husband’s funeral the next day, knowing she would have to bury and empty coffin, and carving “kitty + Charlie, 1934" and crying.
Things like this are why, despite all the horrible things history tells us we are responsible for as a country, or that the news says are our fault, I adore this country with every fibre of my being.
Not All Dreams are Nightmares... But All Nightmares Dreams
Another submission. You can’t just leave me hanging like this!
When her blades hit the ice, she presses deeply, feeling the edges melt into the familiar patterns she and Charlie have carved into all kinds of ice for seventeen years. As she leans into his arms, the comfort she finds there distracts her. For the past weeks, they have been off the ice. Maybe it is all just inevitable but this separation is the longest they have ever been apart. Everything that has transpired has been momentous enough to stagger any normal person. She had made love with Maks. She had cried to the point of oblivion. They had… Eloped! Now, back in the familiarity of Charlie’s holds, she senses that his absence is at least partly why it has been so difficult to understand what she is doing.
It takes her longer than usual to shower and change after their early morning practice. She is too lost in thought, her mind searching for a truth that is escaping her. With the water beating down she sees their teenage selves. Of course they had been each other’s first loves… Or at least they had tried to be. The line between performance and reality had been blurred by teenage curiosity and hormones and, yes, preternatural chemistry. She smiles remembering their clandestine meetings, awkward and beautiful kisses in stairwells while their mothers waited for them. They both learned the lesson of privacy from their brief romance. In the end, it had proven to be too much to hide. When commentators began to notice how they seemed detached from each other, sometimes unable to even look at each other while they skated, they had realized they couldn’t hide their feelings. And so they had simply, without discussion, gone back to performing, walked away from reality. They told no one of all this, having no words for it. Although if they had, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone. More likely, she muses, it would have been nurtured. This… Is this the thought that has been eluding her? Sometimes happiness can be shared. Should be. Must be shared for it to exist. ‘If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?…’ She laughs out loud at the banality of the philosophical question.
She will tell Charlie about everything. It makes sense it would be to him that she breaks her silence.
Charlie is waiting in the hallway for her. He looks up, first with concern and then, after studying her face, with curiosity.
“Sorry… I’m ready. Let’s go.”
He walks in front of her, reaching back for her arm. When she slides into his grasp, he turns.
“….?” He asks silently.
It is a new way of skating for them. Of course there had always been exhibitions following major competitions but those were almost mindless flourishes, tiny punctuation marks at the end of months of grueling preparation. This tour, and the Stars on Ice before it, was skating for the pleasure of their audiences. No judges, no required elements. There were their own expectations, of course, and neither had yet lost the need to achieve a level that still came close to their competitive level. Even during these performances, videos are recorded and studied. Always striving for perfection.
She and Charlie don’t perform their most difficult lifts during shows, but as she replays the videos, she unexpectedly marvels at Charlie’s strength and balance, the deep angles he creates as his blades seem to push them to defy the limits of gravity. His unassuming power is the foundation on which their success has been built. She’s watched film before, studied it in aid of perfecting their technique. But now as she watches, they seem more like poignant little movies. She is wrapped up in the stories being told, freed by what she sees. Meryl is surprised at the synchronicity that still exists in their skating… Even though they are not in competition mode. She watches their speed across the ice, trying not to blink.
They almost never consider the risks they take on the ice. Charlie has lifted her and spun her for so many years. Their faith in each other is absolute.
7.00 am Osaka, Japan
4.30 am Mumbai, India
1.00 am Okavango Delta, Botswana
He will never forget the feeling of slipping, of pitching forward, of losing his hold on her. He will never forget the sound of Meryl’s head cracking into the ice. He will never forget the sight of her slim body, made so much more fragile because of unconsciousness, lying on the ice.
Charlie’s mind screams with fear and anguish.
5.11 am Mumbai, India
His phone is exploding. The dinging and chimes and ringing snap him into awareness. Maks grabs for the source of all the noise. Scores of missed calls, texts that begin with, “oh my god…” “Meryl?!” He swipes through his phone with a rising sense of panic.
8.41 am Tokyo, Japan
When his phone buzzes and his brother’s name is registered, Val already knows that Meryl has been injured. The internet is ablaze with the news out of Osaka. CNN International has been reporting sketchy details for almost an hour. Still he feels a freezing fear as he answers the call.
Val can barely think when he hears his brother’s measured voice. But the tone and cadence of Maks’ words, snap him to full alertness. “Вы должны получить в Осаку сразу.”
“Валентин , ты понимаешь меня!”
“да,” Val says.
“Is Alex there? Put him on.” Maks repeats his instructions: get to Osaka immediately.
Information is relayed quickly. Alex scrawls down Charlie’s cell phone number, partially transcribes Cheryl’s …Click. The line goes dead.
8.03 am Osaka, Japan
Inside the ambulance, Charlie sits in the passenger seat. His mind is casting about in search of something that would be different than Meryl lying on a stretcher in the back of this lurching vehicle. His breathing becomes shallow and rapid. The driver reaches over and grabs Charlie’s knee.
“Put your head between your legs,” he instructs in flawless English.
The commotion in the back of the ambulance escalates. Charlie doesn’t comprehend the rapid foreign words. Even if they were in English, he was beyond understanding. He watches a ball point pen roll back and forth across the floor between his feet.
By the time everyone is racing through the emergency room, Meryl is in a drug induced coma. She is whisked past him. In the blur of movement he sees something round taped to her mouth, rythmically compressed by other hands.
Someone comes to talk to Charlie. The doctors hope this will buy her brain time to recover without surgery, time for the swelling to go down. She is… They are taking her to… He cannot focus on anything. He slipped and she had fallen into the ice.
“Can we call anyone for you?” the someone asks.
Nothing makes sense. Is she dying? He buries his face in his hands. “No one,” is the answer to the question. All their family is in fucking Africa. His fists pull at his hair as he starts to sob.
“I need to see her,” he finally says, trying to stand up.
12.05 pm Tokyo:
Val and Alex maintain a slim hold on sanity by focusing on the logistics of getting to Osaka. They study the Shinkansen maps in Tokyo Station. They race to catch the next train. As they cram in to the carriage, they are relieved to have boarded with minutes to spare. Alex studies the map above the pneumatic doors.
“Fuck…Wrong train, wrong train,” Alex yells at Val.
Val frantically scans the map. “What? WHAT? We’re on the yellow line? Shit. We need the orange, no… red line, right?!”
Alex is already out of the car, gesturing as he tries to ask a young man where the platform is.
“I got it. Hurry.” He motions to Val as he breaks into a run.
The express train races through the brilliant, flashing, Japanese sunlight. The Nozomi line stops at only four stations. They should be in Osaka in two and a half hours. Val and Alex ride this bullet train as if it was a figment of their imagination. It spits them out into Osaka Station. Flailing at the next taxi in the queue, “Osaka General Medical Center,” they say in unison as they collapse into back seat.
Striding into the ER entrance. Claiming family status when asked. As they ride the lift to the ICU, they are silent, steeling themselves against the full realization of why they are where they are, that they are here. As they wander out of the elevator, they enter a kind of dim twilight that slows their progress. It is a foreign world and they navigate it tentatively. The nurses barely raise their eyes to them. Searching for the number of her room they finally see an open door leading to blackness.
Val glances at Alex. He doesn’t want their uncertainty to alert the staff to intruders. With deliberate movements he walks through. As his eyes adjust to the ever deepening darkness, he hears the metronome of her heart beat. Then he can see her. So very small, shrouded in white, eyes closed. He recognizes her face but his mind does not identify her. And Charlie sits in a chair by her side, his forehead pressed into the sheets, his hand holding hers.
The scene propels Alex backwards out into the corridor but Val stands witness in shock…
4.07 pm Osaka, Japan
Charlie slumps in a half stupor in the chair next to her bed. His hand grips hers as she sleeps. Sometime in the dark hours of this never ending nightmare, he stirs. She is still there. Her heart beeping rhythmically through the monitors. His head tilts back with relief and then despair. His peripheral vision catches on the figure sitting in the corner of the room. With a start he stands… Adrenaline rushes into his body. He begins to gulp deeply. His breaths hook together until he is lost trying to inhale. Val walks quickly, grabs his hands, his head… Forcibly making contact with his eyes. He touches Charlie’s face firmly. Charlie fights, sucking in air.
“Charlie, it’s me, it’s … Val…it’s me… Val.” It takes long minutes before Charlie’s ‘fight’ instinct subsides. When the two of them break away, Charlie exhales slowly. “Val?”
Then so many things happen at once. Charlie falls into Val’s embrace. The story of the accident cascades from his mouth. Val braces as he listens, feeling the guilt and anguish pouring from his friend. There is little break for comforting words. In any case, any reassurance Val could offer would be little more than noise.
2.34 pm Mumbai, India
The news about Meryl is being broadcast on all the networks but the details are vague. The producers of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa understand the urgency. If the show goes on, Maks has no thought or care for it. A limousine speeds him to the airport.
4.01 am, Osaka Japan
Val watches as Meryl sleeps. Charlie sleeps as Val watches.
7.15 am Osaka, Japan
4.04 am Mumbai, India
1.15 am Okavango Delta, Botswana
When the neurosurgeon draws the curtain back after examining Meryl and studying her latest scans, he asks to speak with the consenting party, he looks from Charlie to Val. They need consent to drill into her skull to relieve the pressure. The internal bleeding has not stopped. He needs permission to take her into surgery. Charlie is her family here… but even though he is awake, it’s as if he is sleepwalking. Val pulls him aside and speaks quietly and urgently. Charlie’s signature is barely legible on the form. As the medical team enters and wheels her bed away, they follow blindly, their hands clinging to hers until the last doors swing shut, barring them from her side.
As they sit in the surgical waiting room, Val fumbles with his phone. It slips from his numb fingers and crashes to the floor, its face shattering on impact. The sound doesn’t rouse Charlie from his silent reverie. Val leaves the phone lying on the floor, staring at the crackling spider lines. Finally grabbing it, he is relieved that it works… his fingers call up the number he needs. Maks’ number goes straight to voicemail. He texts his brother “call me.”
Where the fuck is Alex? He leaves Charlie, searches for a stairwell. Finally under bright fluorescent lights, he crouches on the landing and dials Alex’s number, speaks briefly… And then finds him at a rendezvous place. Alex stands still, his hand covering his mouth, as Val studies him.
“I need you to try to find Meryl’s parents. I don’t know how. They’re in Africa. Botswana. Maybe through Tanith? I don’t know if Charlie has talked to her yet. He’s… In trouble. I can’t find his phone and he’s… But obviously she knows what’s happened… And I need you to talk to the skating people. I don’t know who, but… ALEX!”
Alex nods. “I’ll find them. I’ll find everyone. I’ll be in the first waiting room.” He turns on his heels.
12.23 pm Osaka, Japan
And there she is. Wheeled from postop to the ICU. Her head is wrapped but he knows… her beautiful hair … Gone. The white gauze hides the trauma but he knows… they have drilled a hole in her skull. All her life in jeopardy.
Charlie cannot face her. He sinks into a chair in the far corner.
11.07 pm. Osaka, Japan
Val stays next to her bed. She is like a crushed bird. Lying so still and… And so beautiful…. Charlie in the corner, eyes cloudy with exhaustion and a personal guilt so profound it is breaking him. Val wants to stop everything. His gaze falls along her body trying to will life into her. He sits over her silently for hours. He doesn’t know when the thought overcomes him. To hold her in her deep slumber. To give her all his energy, to heal her shattered brain. Val smoothes the sheets around her, and then, almost effortlessly, he climbs in next to her, slides under the white linen. He stretches his length along her still frame. Somehow, so naturally, he slips past the tubes and catheters, wraps his arms carefully around her. He will hold all her molecules together. He will not let her escape his world. After hours of pacing his breathing to hers he falls asleep.
During the night, her nurses do not separate them as they attend to their patient.
A very old Japanese woman has been watching one of the Kōmō. He is full of anxiety and has been making many calls on his phone. She knows he came to see the dreaming woman but he doesn’t go to her. It is because he is too afraid. In the dark of early morning she returns to find him. He is awake. In her hand are three small pieces of silk inked with the image of a frightening chimera. It has the body of a bear, trunk like an elephant, claws of a tiger, tail of a wild ox.
“Baku-san,” she whispers three times as she presses each piece of silk into his hands. She makes a gesture from her head to her mouth and then cradles her head, miming a person in sleep.
One of the Kōmō stares at her.
She motions for him. Leads him to the room where now three are sleeping. He follows, unable to retreat.
She stands looking at the woman.
“Baku-San.” She takes two gold pins from her pocket and pierces the silk to the wall above Meryl. Gesturing, she hands him the silk, her outstretched palm cups four small pins. She gestures at Val and Charlie.
“Baku-san… Baku-san,” he repeats, pinning the monster above them both.
Alex suddenly feels a weariness so shattering his knees buckle. He stumbles backward, reaching for the woman but she is gone.
9.43 am Osaka, Japan
Maks has flown through a million nights to come for her…
[According to Japanese legend, baku eat nightmares. Summoning baku is not without risk…not all dreams are nightmares but all nightmares are dreams… if the nightmare does not satisfy the ‘dream-eater’ it may continue to eat other dreams, including those of the future and of hope.]