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The Monster at the End of This Link

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"Becky sent me an email," Sam said.

"Lie to her," Dean said.


"No woman needs to know you're wearing two tee shirts and a flannel with a mustard stain on the back."

"Wha—Dean, I don't—" Sam struggled out of the shirt and found the golden smear easily enough. "How the hell? Dean!"

Dean smirked at him, and Sam hit the target dead on. Dean had been hit in the mouth by way worse things, so he just tossed the shirt onto his own laundry pile. He knew how to get mustard stains out, and the thing was too small for Sam anyway.

Sam sighed and rolled his shoulders. It was tough being Sam. Dean smirked at him a little harder.

"She said there's this website that's influencing people to do strange things. Changing their behaviour."

"Kama Sutra Online. There's pictures and everything."


"So, what? Is she talking about violence? People are going all spree killer all of a sudden?"

"Not really. I'm—this is Becky right, she knows about this stuff, I guess—"

"But she dumped you for Chuck, so we question her judgement," Dean said.

"No—that's. Dean, she didn't dump me. She never had me."

"I don't know, she had a pretty good grip on you there for a minute."

Sam sighed again, the one that said he was going to just ignore Dean's bullshit now and get to the point. It was about time. "No actual real world violence that she knows of, but she says that readers of the site show a tendency towards aggressive actions online. She, um, sent me a couple of graphs and a spreadsheet. It looks like the effect is real on the surface, but—"

"Correlation is not causation," Dean said.

Sam froze with his hand about three inches over his trackpad. "What?" he said looking like the kid who'd had to repeat grade 2, not the guy who aced the LSAT.

"You said that like sixty times last week when we were driving to Iowa. I listen."

"Illinois. And you were not listening, you were claiming that drinking Red Bull makes your nuts shrivel up."

"Idaho. And you stopped drinking it."

"Illinois. And it was warm. I can't drink that stuff warm." Sam slapped his hand down onto the computer and fiddled with it. "I think we should look into this," he said stubbornly.

"So look," Dean said and gathered up his laundry, shoving it into his duffel. "You can't actually drive to a website, right, so you can look into it sitting right there."


"You want anything? Chips? Pizza? Six pack of Red Bull?"

"Nothing for me, Dean, but feel free to pick yourself up a ball gag."

"Kinky, Sammy. I always say it's the quiet ones you have to watch out for."

Dean brought Sam back a six pack of Sam Adams, chips and a pizza. He was nice like that. "So? Is the evil website evil?"

"Well, when I read through her stats again, I noticed there's nothing showing the level of what you might call neutral or positive behaviour from users of the site, or anything to show whether the total number of users has increased. But, I checked the site itself, looked over the source code, ran it through a couple of security programs I've got—the sort of thing that can find malware and viruses. I was thinking maybe there could be something on there, a curse or something, in subliminal text or embedded in an image somehow."

"Subliminal, like secret messages in rock songs?"

"No, not exactly. Or, maybe, yeah, but there wasn't anything. There aren't even any images on the site, so..."

"So Becky was being Becky and we can hit the road for Arkansas." Dean grabbed another slice of pizza and chewed on it while he gathered up his gear.


"What? No—that ghost you found is in Arkansas."

"It's not a ghost and it's in Alabama."

"It's a ghost and it's in Enterprise, Arkansas."

"It's not a ghost, witnesses reports all make it more than one creature, and Enterprise is in Alabama."

"Don't be stupid, Sam, the Enterprise is in space."

Sam tried to glare him down. Dean just grinned at him, making sure to show some half-chewed pizza while he did it.

"So, then I hacked the site itself," Sam said, slowly and patiently. "There's five or six different people with access to the page, and they've changed over time, some leaving, new ones coming on board. The server is clean, the current people involved all check out, near as I can tell. They're not paragons of perfection, but they're not evil either."

"So Becky is imagining things."

"Not—look, the stats she sent check out, such as they are, and there is a correlation between use of the site and what I guess you could call obnoxious behaviour. But—"

"But people don't need help being obnoxious."

Sam looked pointedly at Dean and said, all deadpan, "Yeah, I've noticed."

The devil made me do it was not an excuse Dean would except for his own sins, or for Sam's. He sure as hell wasn't going to apply it to jerks on the internet. "So it's a natural phenomenon, courtesy of the human ability to make even fun things shitty, and we can hit the road for Arkansas?"

"Alabama. And just let me finish my reply to Becky, and I'll grab my stuff."

Dean went ahead and started the car, revved the engine a little, so Sam would get all flustered and come out with his clothes trailing out of his bag, and the last of the pizza stuffed in his face. He tossed the bag in the trunk and slammed the lid down hard. "Hey!" Dean hollered out the window.

"It sticks, Dean."

"It does not."

"It sticks because there's a dent in the lid."

"This dent is in your mind, Sam. My baby is mint."

"The mint is an illusion only you can see, Dean."

Sam climbed in and slumped up against the passenger window where he'd fog the glass and snore like a bandsaw while Dean tried to remember which fucking highway south had the speed trap. "If I wake up half way to Alaska, I'm kicking your ass," Sam mumbled into the glass.

"Yeah, yeah. I wonder if there's a correlation between road trips and fratricide, Sammy, maybe you should look into that."

"Look into this, Dean." Sam flashed him the finger, right under his nose, and Dean resisted the urge to bite it. The last time he'd done that, Sam had popped him one. Then Dad had pulled over and proved why they didn't want to ever make him come back there again.

Dean tossed a mental coin, picked his highway, and hit the gas. He waited for the fog to start to form and the first little snores to sound. "You never actually said what that website was," he said, a bit too loud, and he smirked when Sam knocked his head against the glass.


"The website, the one that isn't evil and proves that people are just human?"

"Oh," Sam said, and settled back against the window again. "It's called Metafandom."

"So not porn then?"

"Not everything on the internet is porn, Dean. Shut up and drive—to Alabama, remember. I'm looking forward to proving these nonnies aren't ghosts."