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Supernatural Gen Fanworks Exchange
Summer 2019
Brontide, for broken_cinders 
13th-Jul-2017 08:41 am
Mod2017
Title: Brontide
Recipient: broken_cinders
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1,700
Warnings: conceptual horror
Author's Notes: Thank you so much broken_cinders for this wonderful prompt that helped me write a story I've needed to write since I was four. <3 <3 I hope you like!

Summary: Brontide (n) - a low rumble like that of distant thunder

Sam was four years old the first time he heard it: a low, inexplicable rumble. He asked Dean what it was. Dean cocked his head, listening. “I don’t hear anything.”

When Sam had a nightmare, Dad let him sleep with him. Sam had lain there for an hour after the dream had turned from his reality to mere memory to formless dread, until the cause of the dread had shifted from the dream to the sound that he could always hear late at night, when it was still. “What’s that sound?” Sam asked Dad.

Dad perfunctorily rolled over to listen. “It’s the train,” he said, but Dad didn’t understand what Sam really meant to ask, which was why the sound was so frightening. A screech owl scared Dean once so bad he wet his pants. When Dad was mad, or Bobby, the sound of their voices was scary. Music in horror movies was scary. But no other sound had ever made him feel afraid like this, to the bone, past the bone, to the soul, past the soul, down to something so deep he wouldn’t know it existed, if he hadn’t felt it quake in terror at this sound.

Dad urged him to tell him about his dream. “Nightmares are like a tetigi,” Dad told him.

“What’s that?” Sam asked.

“It’s something that disappears when you speak of it. So if you tell me your dream, you won’t have it again.” But Dad fell back asleep as soon as Sam started telling him the dream, leaving Sam there listening to that sound. He listened and listened, as hard as he could. It didn’t seem like it was a train.

Dad was all wrapped around him, as he often was--whenever Sam was afraid or in danger and sometimes--the worst times--for no reason Sam could discern. When he was younger, it made him feel safe in the arms of the person who would protect him, but lying there, listening to that sound, Sam realized no one could protect him from whatever that sound represented, from whatever was coming for him.



“What’s that sound?” Sam asked Bobby. Dean got to go on his first hunt with Dad. Dad had left Sam at Bobby’s to keep him safe, but wherever he went, he could hear the sound, which meant it could not be the train.

Bobby took him seriously. He saw Sam’s fear and thought it meant something dangerous might have found its way into his house. When at first he couldn’t hear anything on his own, he put his head close to Sam’s and listened so they would hear exactly the same thing.

Presently Bobby stood back up, attention already on something else. “Cars on the highway,” he dismissed.

It was not cars on the highway.



Sam stopped asking, and he stopped trying to hear. It was like it was trying to tell him something in a language neither his mind nor his soul could understand, like it was whispering vital information into a part of him that had no ears. The inexpressible fear gave him the gist. He tried telling this dream to anyone who would listen, to make it disappear, but even after nightmares dissipated in the darkness, the sound remained.



When Sam started doing his own research on monsters, he discovered Dad was wrong: it was extremely difficult to make a tetigi disappear merely by speaking of it; generally it had to be touched. Tetigis persisted because they caused such fear in those they tormented that their victims ran and ran from them, ran themselves to death or straight into traffic, off cliffs--anything to escape the fear, never realizing simply to turn and touch it would bring it to its swift end. Likewise, hunters seldom effectively hunted tetigis because tetigis ran from anyone who sought to see or know them, hiding in darkness, perfectly still. But if one got a clear enough view of a tetigi, sufficient to describe it with such detail and accuracy that the listener would feel they truly knew that which was described, this would be enough.

Still, in all his long days researching cases, Sam never came across a description of a monster that terrorized its victim with a sound of such dread and forboding that the victim felt entirely changed by it, defined by it, as if who they were and their path in life had been delineated, engineered, and driven by it. Until he was fifteen, he was sure he would find out it was a monster, but after searching everywhere, in books and in the fonts of knowledge that were Dad and his hunter friends, out in the world and inside himself, one day he abruptly realized it was no monster, and there was no answer. This was not something on the outside. Feeling carefully along the edges of this fear, he discovered it was absolutely, inextricably, a part of who he had been for as long as he could remember.

As Sam closed the tetigi chapter in the lore book, he determined never to let fear decide anything for him.



As a teenager, he concluded all it would require to overcome this overpowering fear was courage.

When lore failed him, he turned to spirituality: Christianity, Buddhism, some more esoteric sects, even knowledge lost to time in all but a single codex that might be found on Bobby’s shelf in a dusty back room. To know oneself, to face one’s greatest fears ... in these ways one might be liberated from the bonds that trapped and terrorized man, they said.

At Stanford, Sam took a meditation class and started a meditation practice. Once he had a single room starting his sophomore year, when he was alone, sometimes he prayed. While his fellow students prayed for help passing their math class or attracting the eye of a good-looking classmate, Sam prayed for Dad and Dean’s safety, for his own, for meaning, for answers ... for salvation.

There was nothing to fear but fear itself. Fear was a mirage that lost its power when confronted. Fear was an animal response, mind over matter ... in psychology class, philosophy class, the subject was addressed from intellectual angles even as his spiritual quest addressed it from metaphysical ones. He found much wisdom to mine in all these disciplines. He developed a logical, incisive approach to problems, he grew more confident. Long-held fears and insecurities fell away from him. The meditation and prayer and learning helped. He was growing into the man he’d always wanted to be.

Only when it was silent, late at night, did he become aware of a part of him unchanged, a child as ever, petrified, perfectly still, watching and waiting, for whatever horror the sound portended to arrive.

Sam didn’t hear it anymore, not exactly. Trying not to hear it had become such habit, he wouldn’t have been able to say for sure, but when he touched on it, listened for it for a split second just to see, there was nothing there. Instead, daily life had grown loud enough to at first seem to drown it out ... and then to become it. There was always noise. Even when it was perfectly quiet, there was the noise, his bones and his skin, screaming.



It was a train, coming for him. It had once been a low rumble he could only hear, ever so distantly, when his ear was to the track. Now, though still out of view, it was near enough that it shrieked, metal against metal.

The answer was simple: get off the track. Sometimes he seemed to succeed, the terrible sense of the sound fading, only to return with all the same horror a few weeks or months later, as if like Oedipus he did everything in his power to escape the path destiny had laid out for him only to find fate had found a way, as if all his efforts to outwit it had been his downfall in and of themselves.

So the answer was to run, as fast as he could, away from Dad and Dean, away from hunting, away from everything. Away from himself, from everything he knew and had ever been.

When Dean drove him back to the place he shared with Jess after hunting the woman in white, just before they turned the corner, Sam heard the sound again, for a split second, just as he used to long ago. Then he saw the flames.

After that, Sam no longer tried to run.



The apocalypse didn’t really sound any different. Many sounds hearkened back to it for Sam: the sound of the door that kept Dean back when Sam was killing Lilith, the sound when the portal opened and the devil was released into the world once again. The sound of out-of-season thunderstorms and tornadoes where tornadoes had never been before. It all sounded like an up-close version of that sound he heard at such a great distance late at night when he was a little boy.

Dean never quite understood why Sam decided to say yes to the devil and take him into the pit, but by now it was simple to Sam. He could tell by the way that deepest part of him quaked to learn he was the devil’s true vessel, how it quaked when he started the apocalypse, and when the idea that he could say yes and take control first occurred to him. This was a monster that would not disappear once seen. It was a nightmare that could never be told vividly enough to make it go away. Seen or not seen, spoken of or not spoken of, touched or not touched, it was emerging inexorably into the world. Soon it would touch everyone, awaken that deepest part in them, too, and they would also be afraid.

As they drove to Detroit, everything Sam saw filled him with sick dread: the cars on the highway, the lakes and the rivers, the clouds, the rain, the broken asphalt, the trains stopped on their tracks. Just before they got out of the car to find Lucifer, as if in a dream, he suddenly understood the whisper, what it had been trying to tell him all this time:

Look around, Sam Winchester, it said. He looked, and he saw the world laid to waste. This is you.
Comments 
13th-Jul-2017 01:10 pm (UTC)
oh this is so chilling and so good. The sense of Sam's utter loneliness is heartbreaking yet fascinating... Love it!
13th-Jul-2017 01:54 pm (UTC)
Amazing. I love the premise of Sam always knowing, somehow before he really knew, that he was different.

My heart breaks for this Sam - the only person who could make him understand it was Lucifer.
13th-Jul-2017 02:17 pm (UTC)
The sense of dread in this, impending and inevitable, is amazing. And small Sam asking everyone about it - heart crack.

Also, I love the detail about the tetigi. What a perfect analogy for this.
13th-Jul-2017 02:40 pm (UTC)
Such a chilling but gripping read! I loved the premise of Sam knowing something dark about himself before he even knew what it was was; that sense of foreboding and not quite feeling that he belonged, always on the perimeter.

And then the ending, with that killer last line as Lucifer makes it all clear for Sam *shiver*

Wonderfully written! Thank you for sharing :)
13th-Jul-2017 02:48 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is marvelously creepy and full of despair. In a good way. ;)
13th-Jul-2017 02:58 pm (UTC)
Gave me goosebumps
13th-Jul-2017 07:57 pm (UTC)
Urrrrgh, this was so ominous and full of delicate details. I LOVED IT!
13th-Jul-2017 10:45 pm (UTC)
Gorgeously written and beautifully creepy. This is a story that's going to sit with me for a while.
14th-Jul-2017 03:45 am (UTC)
Very powerful and incredibly chilling...very effective insight into what makes Sam Winchester tick...
14th-Jul-2017 09:41 am (UTC)
Oooh this was good. A strong sense of dread and foreboding throughout the whole SPN timeline. Poor Sam. Well done!
14th-Jul-2017 06:46 pm (UTC)
Ohh, this is so wonderfully scary and sad, and absolutely spot on to the way Sam sometimes thinks of himself. Riveting.
15th-Jul-2017 06:39 am (UTC)
This is truly chilling and heartbreaking. Poor Sam!
15th-Jul-2017 02:45 pm (UTC)
This is so fantastic. Ambient horror (or I guess, to be terminologically specific, it'd be terror?) is my absolute favorite kind of horror, and this fic does it incredibly well. My absolute favorite part was a young Sam trying to figure out what makes that horror tick: Music in horror movies was scary. But no other sound had ever made him feel afraid like this, to the bone, past the bone, to the soul, past the soul, down to something so deep he wouldn’t know it existed, if he hadn’t felt it quake in terror at this sound. Because that feeling is so indescribable. I remember feeling that some nights, as a child, even though it was sourceless as far as I knew. I don't think there's any way to describe it except in approximation, but in this fic the essence of it comes across loud and clear--even when there aren't even words for it.

And I love how that progresses through Sam's hold on things as time marches on. The imagery of the train--at once a red herring/wrong suggestion and later, a ready metaphor--is powerful, and I love the harsh, full-stop of this sentence especially: The answer was simple: get off the track.

I feel like this is the kind of story that you can only write after it's sat with you for a long, long time. I'm so glad that it was finally ready to come out. Just gorgeous. <3333
16th-Jul-2017 09:32 am (UTC)
This was delicately ominous, full of chilling moments and insights into what makes Sam Winchester work!
16th-Jul-2017 04:00 pm (UTC)
Wow. This ties beautifully into the theme of fate and Sam's spiritual searchings over the course of the story, and ultimately to his confession of feeling "unclean".
17th-Jul-2017 02:03 pm (UTC)
Poor Sam, to think he'd had this ominous presence haunting him throughout is life is so sad. And that he couldn't share it with anyone, not even Dean, was just tragic. This was beautifully written.
23rd-Jul-2017 04:26 pm (UTC)

Finally reading this gave me chills. It's my new head canon for Sam's life -- I like thinking about how deeply he felt something coming for him from the beginning, how no one else understood, how desperately and terribly alone he was, yet how much more brave for doing what he did in the end. Thank you!

24th-Jul-2017 01:08 am (UTC)
Whew. Poor Sam!
27th-Jul-2017 02:03 am (UTC)
Wow! This is just so hauntingly lovely. I have always loved the word brontide and I kinda threw it out just for kicks. Now I'm really glad I did. I love this so much!!

I love the way you dive into Sam's psyche and the recurring thought that something calamitous is coming. Also Sam knowing something is different about him, dark even, is so vivid and so Sam.

"Only when it was silent, late at night, did he become aware of a part of him unchanged, a child as ever, petrified, perfectly still, watching and waiting, for whatever horror the sound portended to arrive."

This was my favorite line. Simple and Ominous. Beautiful. You capture this all so stunningly with the simplest language. It's so poetic, it gave me chills! Thank you!!!
6th-Aug-2017 08:54 am (UTC)
What really sticks with me about this is that looming sense of the inexplicable, because somehow it’s familiar, and all the more unnerving for it. It’s like that gut-deep instinct that something’s wrong, or like a feeling from a bad dream that you can’t shake even if you don’t remember the dream itself. And the persistent presence of that wrongness, as an inexorable undercurrent to Sam’s life, is haunting. The bit with Bobby was my favourite: there’s barely a word in there about Sam’s emotional experiences, and yet I felt the whole scene along with him viscerally. (That childish belief that someone, especially an adult, can perhaps explain the unexplainable. That hope when that adult listens to concerns, and that stomach-drop when they dismiss them; and then that vague conviction—once again childish, but perhaps also wise—that something exists beyond what grown-ups understand.)

I actually once had a nightmare in which I was terrorized by a sense of doom that came from an enigmatic sound/feeling that only I, and not my family, could sense. (I say "nightmare" but, in retrospect, it's one of my favourite dreams. So I am rather delighted by this fic because there are certain tenors here that resonate strongly with something that is not just a personal experience of mine but a subconsciously imagined personal experience, which is weird and wonderful and special and I may or may not have a tiny fascination with dreams that makes me particularly excited about this.)

Also: the way this title interacts with the story is top-notch. Because the word itself is atmospheric and mysterious and describes something of uncertain origin, and so by its very nature is descriptive of the content. I love that.
13th-Aug-2017 04:39 pm (UTC)
The last line seriously broke my heart. :( Such a glorious insight of Sam and what drives him... great story!!
4th-Sep-2017 02:00 am (UTC)
Holy WOW. THIS gave me such chills. I wasn't sure where it was going to end up - what the sound was pulsing Sam - and WOW. This was so intriguing and brilliantly done. I NEED TO GIVE SAM A HUG.

It was a train, coming for him. It had once been a low rumble he could only hear, ever so distantly, when his ear was to the track. Now, though still out of view, it was near enough that it shrieked, metal against metal.

The answer was simple: get off the track. Sometimes he seemed to succeed, the terrible sense of the sound fading, only to return with all the same horror a few weeks or months later, as if like Oedipus he did everything in his power to escape the path destiny had laid out for him only to find fate had found a way, as if all his efforts to outwit it had been his downfall in and of themselves.

So the answer was to run, as fast as he could, away from Dad and Dean, away from hunting, away from everything. Away from himself, from everything he knew and had ever been.


I LOVE THIS. LOVE.

Dad was all wrapped around him, as he often was--whenever Sam was afraid or in danger and sometimes--the worst times--for no reason Sam could discern.

RIGHT IN THE FEELS. <3
5th-Sep-2017 12:44 pm (UTC)
This was fantastic - so creepy with some really shiver-inducing lines. 'Even when it was perfectly quiet, there was the noise, his bones and his skin, screaming.' Horrible! I love the premise of it, and the fact that I didn't realise until nearly the end of the fic where it was going to end up. I feel like this is the kind of fic that will stay with me.
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