Shake, Rattle, and Roll
“I'm telling you, Dean. I know I heard something up ahead.”
“Fine. One more room and then I'm calling it. We've got at least a few fish crackers left in the kitchen.”
Sam sighed heavily, scuffling his feet on the ground.
Dean was right there with him. Awhile back, they'd managed to snag a few dozen goldfish crackers from the motel room that had a very messy teething baby in it, and the fish shaped crackers were all they've been eating for weeks now. Desperate for something different to eat. However, this was the motel's off season and there was nary a guest around.
Dean's head perked up suddenly and Sam took notice. Stopping in his tracks and waiting for his older brother to figure out which direction to go from here. The inside of the walls was always near pitch back to them, but after so many years living at just 4 inches tall and in the dark, they'd adapted to their surroundings. Developing their knacks, as they called them, to help them survive in a world that outsizes them every day in nearly every way.
Sam's knack was knowing when a human was looking at them, even if the humans weren't fully aware of where their eyes trailed, and even if Sam wasn't looking back at them. It helped them stay under the radar. The brothers would get a heads up if they should take cover or continue on their trek.
Dean's knack was being able to locate things that they needed. It came in handy a whole lot, but sometimes it wasn't always immediately or obviously useful. Half the time, it was far from his deepest desire at the moment. Like so many times before, they went out searching for food, but sometimes Dean's knack would lead them to just a few scraps of string. Useful, sure, but not exactly edible.
Sam waited for another moment but it appeared that after a long moment, Dean hadn't a clue where to go from here, his head on a swivel looking up and down the long hallway between the walls. Huffing in agitation. Dean turned to his slightly taller, younger brother. “I can't figure out what that sound is.”
Sam's brows rose, he thought that Dean was honing in on something with his gift, not listening to anything audible. He too, leaned forward to the room closest and held his breath. They heard a kind of shuffling but it was unlike normal mice movements. Sam turned to face Dean in the dark and mouthed the word, 'rat?' which Dean had to shrug at. It sounded bigger than a rat but not as large as a dog or cat. Knowing that those weren't allowed in the motel, unless they were licensed service animals of course, didn't stop every pet owner out there that stayed at the motel. Sneaking in Snookums inside luggage or under a blanket could have a deadly outcome for an unaware borrower.
The shuffling grew in volume and they pinpointed it to a place further down the hall they'd been traveling. Not inside any of the rooms beyond the walls, this thing was inside the walls with them. Cold fear dripped down their spines as that realization set in. Rats were always a threat to people as small as a finger, it would be like fighting a full grown brown bear! Even if they managed to escape injury from this encounter, they knew without having to discuss it, that they'd have to return to kill it or else the owners of the motel might call the exterminators. That would mean the possible deaths of not just the insects and rodents, but all of the smaller population of people that called this motel home.
The brothers were silently listening for any new clue as to what this thing is, because it did not sound like a rat at all. The thing chattered nonsensically to itself and it's body rubbed up against both sides of the walls at the same time. So, much larger than a rat. Sam swallowed hard, Dean put himself ahead of his younger brother on instinct.
A voice from the room ahead said something in another language and the shuffling grew in intensity. Both brothers started to back up, reaching for their blades and gripping them in sure hands. A snuffling squeak came out of whatever was ahead and they started to move faster away. Its mass and proximity causing them to panic a little.
“Where's the nearest exit?” Dean hissed, free hand bracing on the wall next to him so that he didn't loose his balance while quickly backing up. Never turn your back on an enemy. That goes for human, insect or otherwise. Sam had half turned around to take point to find a way out of this annoyingly straight wall that had no junctures for at least a dozen feet behind them.
When the sounds grew even louder they'd both abandoned their previous method of walking backwards to turn and run full out. Bolting down the corridor. Debris left behind during the construction of the motel threatened to trip them up but their feet found the bare ground between the chunks of plaster and wood bits and they stayed on their feet and moved with a purpose.
Lungs heaving air in and out as they tried to outrun whatever the hell was behind them.
“Ahead!” Sam tried to stay quiet but the fear was getting to him and he hoped that no human heard his call. His throat was aching from breathing hard in this dusty passageway. He'd forgotten to replenish their water this morning and they were both parched. It was Sam's turn that morning to go get the water and he was cursing himself out for forgetting something as simple as that. The sudden sprint taking it out of them.
Sam gasped out, “I see an opening that's just ahead. It's not one of our normal rooms.”
Dean huffed a silent laugh, “I don't give a crap if it's one of ours or if it leads to Narnia! It's gonna save us from that thing that's chasing us!” Spotting the opening his brother was talking about and putting on an extra burst of speed to reach it at the same time. Dean was convinced that Sam shouldn't have to enter the unknown room alone. They'd traveled further than usual for food today since the motel was far from full of guests and their stomachs rumbled for something besides fish crackers.
Deep ground shaking rumbles echoed next to them and they realized instantly that there was a human in the room they were just getting ready to dart into. Hands on the wallpaper and at the ready.
The shuffling and clawing sounds grew in intensity and they knew that they wouldn't stand a chance against whatever huge animal was barreling down the hall, heading straight towards them. Excited sounds coming from it as if it had won a prize. Finally, they saw it approaching. Coming into a shaft of narrow light that entered the inside of the walls from a curled seam in the wallpaper. A furred head that is over half as wide as they were tall was now visible as the animal was leaping and running towards them in a strange manner. It was almost like a squirrel's gallop but it's gait was shortened, not elongated for its longer body. It's head resembled a dog's more than a rat's, maybe a teddy bear oddly enough. Black markings wrapped around it's eyes and down it's nose and continued along its back from what they could see of it.
The thing paused at the place where they'd stopped and it started sniffing eagerly at the ground, snuffling its nose into the dust which billowed about around it's feet and excited head. When it cried out, they saw many long sharp teeth and knew that it was a carnivore, and distinctly saw them as prey.
“What? What the hell is that?” Dean hissed, knife brandished in front. Hoping against hope that it didn't see them there in the nearly nonexistent light. Both were out of breath and trying desperately to keep their wits about them when facing this cross between a squirrel and a rat that was larger than both animals. They pressed their backs against the wall and prepared themselves for a fight to the death when they heard the human finally move farther away from the wall.
They could try their luck running down to the next room along the way, but the animal returned to it's hunched backed gallop and was gaining on them too fast and was nearly there. The vent to their right was too small for it to squeeze through but not for them so they took a chance and left the walls through the vent slats.
This entrance into the room was thankfully underneath the long dresser so there was little chance of the occupant spotting them right away. Dean turned and push-pulled Sam away from the vent just as the animal reached it and started to squeak loudly and insistently through the slats. Paws that were as long as their legs sneaking through and scrabbling around. Its head started to butt against it and it squeaked louder in dismay and excitement.
The rooms occupant huffed a heavy sigh and said something in another language. It sounded like someone berating a dog and their hearts stopped for a second at the implications.
Feet that could crush a car to them stomped straight towards the dresser and the floor creaked under them from the sheer weight of the gigantic human. Socked feet pushed into the carpet just a few feet in front of them and they could see every toe curl down and adjusting to help the human keep his balance.
More words spoken overhead with a tsking sound and the animal squeaked in joy. Claws scrabbling at the metal of the vent and dust was wafting past the vent slats into the room.
“Oh no.” Dean's eyes went wide as they heard hands being placed on the dresser above. Their only protection here in this room from the human's grasp was about to be removed. The dresser's thick feet start to shift up and out of the deep indents that it had made after years of being in the same spot in the motel room. A show of power that was overwhelming and terrifying to the small people that stood rooted to the spot, witnessing the impressive feat. Even if they'd gotten every little person in the motel together, they wouldn't have been able to budge the dresser a millimeter. This one human was doing it with barely a grunt heard overhead.
A deafening groaning sound of wood ended with a high pitched squeak from the dresser's joints caused partly by nails rubbing up against the old wood. The dresser shifted again, much faster this time now that it had been moved out of it's imprints, and it took the brothers a few seconds to fully comprehend the actions all around them. A pair of hands shifted their grip far above their heads and then the dresser was moving far enough away from the wall to let light pour down on them from the lamp that wiggled around above before it settled again. They blinked in the near blinding light like deer caught in headlights. This wasn't supposed to happen.
Dean recovered from the shock first and grabbed hold of Sam's coat and pulled him along the dresser's path. Trying to guess where it would end up but also trying not to get crushed underneath the center supports for it. They saw the overhead light illuminate the path they had just taken as well and knew that they'd have been spotted in an instant.
Sam noticed that the lamp cord was still plugged into the wall but was stretched out. The lowest part was about 8 inches off the ground now and kept it's bend and twists. The wiring refusing to give up the shape it had been in for the past 30 years without a fight. The wallpaper that had been blocked by the dresser was both new looking in how vibrant the colors were, and dirty from years and years of cobwebs and debris that fell down behind it and accumulated in the narrow space.
Now that the dresser was finally stationary, they turned their attention back to the socked feet and the animal that was still chittering and grunting behind the vent. They could see the claws extend out and scratch along the vent's slats. The human tutted at it in a fond way, speaking to it in that other language. Even if they didn't know that language, they could hear the meaning behind it. It was telling the creature to wait just one more moment. It was pretty obvious that the human was intending to release the animal from the walls in seconds, and they're still stuck on the ground.
Sam was the one to pull Dean towards the lamp's dangling cord, and with one adrenaline powered move, Sam practically threw his brother up towards it. Dean bit back a yelp at the sudden and brief flight before his hands grabbed hold of it and he clung to it with a white knuckled grip. Gasping for breath before turning a very short glare at Sam for the lack of warning. Dean slid down enough for Sam to grab his calf and foot and use it to help him reach the cord next. Together they started to climb frantically upwards. They were somewhat exposed here and it would have taken them too long to get their fish hooks ready to go on a safer side of the dresser, if there even was one anymore now that the whole dresser is cocked at an angle away from the wall and into the room. All they knew is that they'd live longer than five seconds up on the dresser than if they'd stayed on the ground any longer with that thing that was about to burst into the room.
The human softly spoke some more to the creature, and Sam could clearly see the huge hands fumble with the vent. Fingernails picking at the screw tops to loosen them up to remove the vent cover. The human retreated, all the while cooing something in that language at the animal. Likely telling it to be patient. Sam shoved Dean up when his brother was starting to freeze up.
The human didn't have his head at the right angle to see the brothers, but they had clear view of those hands that worked away at the stubborn vent cover.
This was literally their worst nightmare coming true. At the top of the dresser, they didn't know if there would be any cover for them to hide behind. Some people like to put all their stuff inside the dressers, other's left their fully loaded bags on top. Dean got to within a few inches of the rim and stopped. Sam knew why and waited with bated breath as they both watched the human's hands come back with a pocket knife to unscrew the vent's cover.
The fingers toyed with the elongated paws of the animal, pushing them back through the slats as the cover was finally shifted and removed from the wall. They'd only got a few seconds to see a dirty brown and black thing burst from the wall before it left their line of sight.
Sam looked up at Dean and Dean, Sam. Neither knew what the hell that was, even in the light of the room. It was much longer than a rat, slightly larger width wise, but it's head really resembled a large dog, like a husky in its markings, and a teddy bear but with thin sharp teeth. It came into view a couple of times but wasn't paying them any attention as they hung on the cord a few inches from the top of the dresser.
It leaped and tumbled around the floor, hiding underneath the dresser and baring needle sharp fangs at the hand that reached under and pulled it back into the light again.
The spine on it seemed to be made out of a length of bungy cord as it bent unnaturally around. It must be over a foot long. A tuft of a tail about three inches after the rump suggested that it was not a mutated rat, nor a strange elongated squirrel. Whatever it was, it stunk. A unique smell that had Dean's eyes watering. Sam grunted in agreement the longer the thing played around in their area.
Dean's hands started to ache from holding on so tightly to the cord that was too wide to comfortably wrap his hands around, so when it looked like the animal was going to stay in the other side of the room next to it's owner, Dean tentatively reached up and peered over the top of the dresser. He saw a very large cage not two inches away that had been cleaned recently. Going by the smell of disinfectant surrounding it. Lingering odors from the animal in the fabric bedding. But, nothing was inside at the moment from his low viewpoint. He reluctantly scaled the rest of the way on top, his hands shaking from the stress of holding on so long, and the situation in general. Dean reached down to help Sam up as well. Hoisting his brother up silently and leaving his hand on Sam's shoulder for support.
Both crouched low behind the three inch tall plastic and metal base of the cage that kept in the shaved wood chips. They let their hands rest from their cramped up state as they surveyed their options. With that animal still running around on the floor, there was no chance in hell that they'd be able to escape just yet. They might have to wait here for the guy to put his furred menace back before they can make a break for it.
Sam uncoiled his hook and line, letting it fall to the ground for that hasty get away. They may have used the lamp cord to get up, but the thick width of it meant that they couldn't really slide down it as easily as their usual hook and lines. One wrong hand hold and they'd break a bone falling that far to the ground. They needed the familiarity of their fish lines for better speed. As much as they hated the idea, they might even have to abandon the fish hook and line to get those few extra seconds to escape back into the walls. They couldn't risk their lives for the time it would take in getting the hook and line pulled from the dresser and coiled up before leaving. They could always return for it much later, if the human didn't notice it sticking out from the back of the wooden dresser. Long after the danger's gone.
A few minutes passed and they watched and waited. The human lifted the creature up into his arms and it tumbled around his hands and up his shoulders like the human was its own personal jungle gym. A few steps brought the man back to the queen sized bed and he laid back against the pillowed headboard with a deep satisfied sigh. Fingers petting and tugging at the creature while he cooed nonsense at it.
Apparently the human was settling in for a movie marathon. The critter biting at the man's sleeves. Tugging and tearing at them without being berated at all. Dean shuddered at the sight. Those teeth looked to be longer then their hands. The head was definitely large enough to take them out with ease. It was probably a meat eater, which made their situation just that much more dangerous.
Dean peered over the cloudy white plastic base of the cage and reached an arm in. His hand fumbled about before pulling out a lump of brown and holding it out for Sam. “You wanted something different to eat? How about some monster kibble?”
Sam shot a scathing bitchface at Dean and folded his arms over his knees that were brought to his chest. This was far from funny. He rested his chin on his arms, watching the human anxiously.
“Hey, it's gonna be ok.” Dean whispered back, dropping the bit of dried kibble to the table.
“Don't see how.” Sam muttered. Knowing that humans usually can't hear them from so far away with the TV volume up so high.
Dean shrugged. Returning to watch the tv and the human for entertainment. Since it looks as though they're going to be sitting there for awhile. It didn't take more than a cursory glance to know that the vent was in full view of the human where he lay, and any movement in that direction would attract not just the human's attention, but that beast as well.
Half an hour later, Sam was too restless to keep still so he got up and inspected the rest of the dresser from behind the cage, not willing to venture beyond it and risk being seen. There wasn't much on top besides a huge bag of that kibbled food. Sam leaned over to read the label.
“What the hell is a ferret?” he muttered to himself. Looking at the picture of a similar animal on the front but that one was white with black markings. He recognized the rabbit in the picture and a guinea pig so by process of elimination, that meant that this thing was a ferret. Sam couldn't feel any tingling on his neck so he knew the human wasn't looking his way. He darted the small two inch gap between the cage and the bag to read more information on the back label.
There was practically a how-to guide for taking care of ferrets. What their diet should be and that this kibble is a great part of it, but it shouldn't be the sole part. Usually nocturnal, needs plenty of exercise. Needs chew toys that are also available through the makers of the kibble along with other useful ferret things. Another addendum is that it's best to keep them in pairs.
Sam frowned at that last part, something nagging at the back of his mind. He turned to return to Dean's side to tell him about their enemy but found his brother staring straight up at a hanging hammock that was at the uppermost level of the cage. Sam's eyes followed his brothers and he gasped in horror. There was another one of those beasts, and it was staring directly down at Dean. Apparently it had been sleeping soundly that whole time, but just woke up.
It made a few grunting sounds and its nose twitched. Then twitched some more. Eyes fluttering wider and it's heavy body shifted around in the hammock, making the metal attachments clink around against the bars of the cage and the toys that hung from overhead. They could follow the movements of the forelegs from underneath the rectangular cloth hammock, and eventually differentiated the fore from the hind legs as it shifted around onto its belly, dipping a head down between the hammock and the bars of the cage to get a closer sniff. Tail thumping on the side of the hammock.
Dean was petrified.
Their only hope was that it didn't realize that it's cage door was wide open on the side that faced the room.
Two long paws curled around the hammock edge and the claws caught on the fluffy bedding. Flexing in and out as its eyes narrowed in on Dean far below. Its sleepy mind becoming more alert as it's nose twitched and sniffed the air.
It grunted out a few more times, a kind of strange churrip before it lurched down from the hammock the the floor below. It spun around and angled its body sideways to show off how huge it was in the same way that cats do. It hopped up onto its tip toes and chirruped some more. This one was much larger than the other, belly hanging lower and teets poking out past the fur.
It was pregnant. The brothers were very familiar with the wrath that comes from pregnant animals. Sam had almost been killed by a rat that didn't want to leave their hotel without a fight. That fight lasted several minutes and in the end, they were lucky they didn't loose their lives. Right now? This animal was over twice the size of that rat and its behavior was unpredictable.
She started to growl louder and lunged at the bars, directly towards Dean as he sat frozen in place. Finally spurred into action when he saw Sam racing closer. Knife held up and ready.
The other ferret heard the commotion and Sam only got to see it leap headlong off of its owner to leap to its mate's rescue. That took away their plan of sliding down the line and running towards the vent. Now they had no options left besides fighting not just one of them, but both huge animals to the death. Injured animals are just as dangerous when fighting for their lives, even more so than fighting for a meal.
The female hissed at Dean again, hopping around the cage sideways like she had springs in her feet.
The first ferret was heard scrambling up the front side of the dresser, probably using the drawer handles and it made it up top, entering the cage to rub up against the other. Chattering noisily at the fuss the female was making. It caught on what she was upset about and came sniffing closer to the brothers who were going back to Plan A for escape. It was either the vent or wait for the ferrets to figure out how to reach them as they stood hunched between the cage and the dresser's edge. Save for climbing up and over the cage, the other ways the ferrets could get to them is up from underneath the dresser in the same path the Winchesters took, which was unlikely that they'd be smart enough to figure that out on their own, or circling around the cage and pushing the bag of kibble out of the way first. If they were strong enough that is. Which, they might be. The brothers had no idea how strong or smart these things were. In any case, it would take a few precious seconds to reach their prey, and that's time the brothers needed for their escape.
Right now, the ferrets were hissing and hopping around on the other side of the bars. Spittle flinging out from their snapping jaws. Sam's knife at the ready to cut any part of them that comes past those bars. Dean's right hand on his own knife, left on his brother's shoulder, ready to pull him back towards the hook and line when the ferrets make their move. If they go now, they wont know which way to expect them coming. Above the dresser, around, or underneath once they reach the floor.
The human was thankfully still engrossed in the TV. Probably used to the sounds of his pets running amok and tuning it out. Sam had an idea and knew that Dean would hate it but at this point it was the best option they had. He leaned back and whispered it into Dean's ear and then bolted to the back corner of the cage, furthest from the cage's open door.
“Hey! Ferrets! Over here!” he said in a volume that he hoped the human wasn't able to hear, but enticing enough to keep the animal's attention. The male went readily but the female hissed where she was. Fur bristling high. Attention split between them before facing Sam and growling.
Dean cursed under his breath but Sam's idea might work. He quietly sank below their line of sight behind the cage's base, and ran to the corner of the cage and just beyond it on the other side. Now able to see the human in full unobstructed view, he swallowed thickly and ran to the next corner towards the front. He took a deep breath and crept closer to the open door. It was held open about 10 inches overhead by a simple hook in a cross bar. Dean had to climb up the vertical bars to reach it and let it fall down to close. That meant that he'd be in full fucking view of the human. Making a noise that's sure to attract the massive human's attention.
He couldn't worry about that right now. He's just going to have to do his best to keep the cage door quiet as it fell. Somehow. No time to waste, he had a job to do. Sam's counting on him. Once the ferrets were trapped, he and his brother will have to run their asses back around towards the hook and line, zip on down the line, cut hands and blisters be damned, and run like hell to make it to the vent and the safe darkness inside the walls.
Any plan after that dealing with that room would have to wait for Dean's heart to settle down and his head to stop spinning. It was already playing a samba inside his chest at the mere sight of the human on the other side of the room, and the huge animals that were lunging against the bars, trying to reach Sam to tear him to shreds.
The dangers in this one scenario alone were staggering. How did things get this messed up so fast? Dean hefted his bag over his head to rest on his other shoulder and reached up high towards the center bar that went side to side while all the others went up and down. His feet slid on the bars more than once before he got a better grip on them. Reaching up and actually using the door itself to help him climb higher. It rattled against the bars before his feet found better purchase elsewhere.
He got his foot propped onto the horizontal bar and ignored the 16 inch drop below him from his precarious position. Sam was doing a good job distracting the furred monsters Dean worried he was getting them too riled up. Sam should have done just enough to keep their attention, but not enough to attract the human's gaze.
Dean literally couldn't say so, because then the ferrets would come after him next, and he's a sitting duck right now. Dean hooked an arm through the bars and then reached over with both hands to grab the door. He tried to shake it free, trying to dislodge the hook but it stayed put. It weighed a ton to him but he had adrenaline on his side so he gripped the bars of the door tight in his fists, and lifted up sharply, pulling it out far enough in the next split second to keep it from hooking again. The hook was unlatched from the horizontal bar far above him, flipping outwards instead of inwards, and rattled against the main part of the door now that it was free. The door rolled down faster than Dean wanted and his foot closest to the door was clipped and tugged down a half inch by a bent wire that held the door's base secure along the bars of the cage. He lost his footing because of that sudden mistake. His hands were jarred from their grip on the bars and he was falling backwards, hands reaching up and grasping at nothing on the way down.
His foot and ankle twisted painfully outwards when it hit the lower cage boarder while the rest of him was falling through open air. Dean landed on his back, all the air knocked out of him instantly and he saw stars. His leg hurt like a fucking bitch. The rest of him ached but the lower part of his leg felt like it had been chopped off from the plastic edge of the boarder. The rational part of his brain firing up to oh so helpfully inform him that he broke something just before the pain hit him in full force.
Sam cried out in panic as he raced around the cage towards his older brother. Hand flung out to catch the cage bars and help him swing around the corner towards the front side. The cage itself was just over three feet wide and two feet deep, and took up most of the dresser's top, so Sam's sprint from the rear to the front middle took ages for his two inch tall legs. Knowing that a fall like that had to have hurt Dean really badly, he pushed himself faster to get there that much sooner. Sam knew that his brother couldn't be up and ready to slide down the fishing line if he can't even stand up into view after that fall. Dean had been 16 inches in the air, and to someone just under four inches in height, that was like falling from 24 feet up.
As he ran, Sam chanted to himself, “Please be ok, please be ok.” Tears started to prick his eyes and blur his vision. He ran harder.
Sam swallowed hard to compartmentalize the situation and new problems, knowing that Dean wouldn't likely be walking away from it on his own. He came up with a plan to either carry Dean over his shoulder as he slid down the line, or, bring the line up, tie Dean to it somehow without injuring him even more, and lowering him to the floor. Neither option sounded promising but he struggled to come up with something better.
The sight of his brother laying sprawled out and in unbearable pain made Sam fall to his knees next to him, hands hovering just over the heaving chest. Not daring to touch and make things worse. A million things on his tongue, none making it out loud enough to hear beyond helpless breaths. Sam didn't know what to do.
Dean was gasping like a fish, hands still grasping at the air above him from the pain. Tears streaming down his cheeks as his eyes rolled around, trying to figure out what just happened, and why everything hurt so fucking bad.
Then, as if things couldn't get any worse. They heard the human stir with a mutter in that other language something that sounded like a universal phrase, 'What the hell?' from across the room.