There's hope, somewhere.
But not here.
She does everything by rote, salting the bodies and burning the building down around them. She can't let them linger—not like this. It sears deep into her soul; no mother should have to outlive her children.
Surely, there's hope out there. Other hunters had to escape the massacre. Had to survive.
She always fussed at John for his quest. Now she has her own.
And it aches, just like she'd always suspected it would.
Bobby's gone. And Missouri. Joshua and Nathaniel, Megana—everyone. Even Gregory, high up in the mountains.
She's the only one left.
There is nothing to do but head west, towards the sinking sun. She passes through shells of towns, through blackened buildings and rotting corpses; nothing escapes them. Not children and newborns, not crones and grandmothers.
Dogs do, and cats. Horses. Serpents. Ravens and crows are everywhere, darkening the sky. She watches their flocks block out the clouds and whispers, "Murders and funerals." It's bitter, maddened laughter that tumbles from her lips.
They kill what used to be their kind and leave everything else alive. They killed her baby girl and her foundling boy, and all her friends. But they let kittens prowl and puppies frolic, and they embrace wrapped in a snake's coils.
She used to love those boys, John's sons. They were her hope, once.
But now she sees them for what they are. For what they've always been. And it's too late.
It's too late.
She hits the ocean and stops, stares out over the water. The sun is setting and a cool wind blows from the waves.
She still hears the screams. They blend with the roar of the ocean, the slap of the rolling waves on the sand. The salt scent mingles with the salt she used to set her children free.
Tears prick at her eyes and she slaps them away. Now is not the time to break, to mourn. Now is the time for vengeance.
Now is the time to hunt them boys down.
The crows caw overhead. Dogs roam the streets, gnawing on what used to be humans. Families. She barely keeps herself from retching as she sees a little girl's corpse being tugged between two collies.
She doesn't have the time to stop and bury them all, to say the rites that'll let them move on. She has to keep going, following the destruction. After it's done, she'll come back.
After it's done.
She follows them to the Gulf of Mexico and they let her see them on the beach, naked as newborns, cavorting in the waves without a care in the world.
There's a cougar stretched out, sunning, and a small pack of wolves playing chase with the water. There're crows and ravens, and even a golden eagle, flying above them. Dean has a cobra wrapped around his left arm and Sam has a black mamba coiled about his torso, its head resting on his shoulder.
She's going to be sick.
She has the Colt and one bullet, and that's not enough. Not nearly enough. She wants to sob, to fall to her knees and ask why they didn't kill her, too, why they let her see the bodies of her babies, of her friends, of all those people between Nebraska and here.
"Shh," Dean says, lightly touching her cheek, taking the Colt from her slack grip. She's come this far, and she's going to fail, and she hates him so much she can't see.
Sam reaches out to trace her jaw and leans down, presses a soft kiss to her forehead. "There was always a reason, Ellen," he whispers, his right hand tightening on her shoulder. "Even when I couldn't see it."
She jerks back but doesn't go far, and the mamba slithers over to her. "And what's that?" she asks, voice barely a shade of what it used to be.
His smile is dark and dangerous, his green eyes fathomless.
Dean kisses her lips and a cold breeze blows off the Gulf.