Dean turned one of the papers with his fingertips, a map of America with Xs suturing the west and curving toward Mexico. "I think you made more than one," he said, the after-image of Sam's re-shaping the earth still fresh in his mind, "But why make everyone forget? I mean, okay, crowd control for the civilians, but why us as well?"
Dean put a hand on Sam's shoulder, leaning over to squint at the computer. "What's 'Heaven's Gate'?"
Sam opened the file, and a grainy security video showed four individuals in a sumptuous office with heavy gold curtains and a bald eagle on the carpet---George W. Bush by the bar, Dick Cheney in a wheelchair, Sarah Palin behind the desk, and a well-dressed older man with his back to the camera. The other three stared at him like they might puke on their shoes.
"Sign it!" the old man barked, and Palin jumped, eyes unfocused on the document before her. Bush filled a glass with something expensive, downed the whole thing in one go, then went for seconds.
Cheney was the first to speak. "What kind of numbers are we talking about?"
"If this thing gets loose? You're all toast. You follow the plan? You might slide with a few million casualties." said the old man.
Palin's eyes watered. "This isn't real...oh why did it have to be me..."
The old man's hands slapped the table and she snapped to attention. "You've seen this coming!"
"He's right Sarah," said Cheney, wheelchair turning, "CIA's been all over this for a while. Army's got underground computer banks storing the memories and genetic data of millions of U.S. citizens for the purposes of cloning and memory modification, in case of a planetary extinction event. We even got robots for civic reconstruction, fixing up the roads and buildings. Someone dies, we grow a copy, program it to think they survived a natural disaster instead of Godzilla's evil stepmother, and no one's the wiser."
Bush set down his drink, hand trembling. "Dear lord, how can we trust our own minds? How do we know this hasn't happened to us before?!"
Cheney gave him a small enigmatic smile. "You ask that every time."
Palin sniffed hard. "I won't sign it."
The old man grabbed her by the hair and bounced her head off the desk for emphasis. "You will sign it. You will do this. I got you elected, I make the decisions around here, and no way is some punk...stealing...my...apocalypse!
She grabbed his wrist, manicured nails digging in until she drew blood. "Go screw yourself."
BANG. Her brains splattered across the bald eagle, and Bush stood there with smoke coiling from the barrel of a gun. "I-I-I exercise the right of a-a-article II, Section 1, Clause 5 and, oh lord," he paused to vomit up his martini and wiped his mouth, "Somebody get me a damn pen."
The old man clapped him on the shoulder, now turned in profile to the camera.
"I assure you, Mister President," said Zachariah, "You're doing the right thing."
The video ended.
Sam was speechless for a moment, shock layering upon shock. In his head, things fell rapidly into place.
Who would have the power to do this? they’d wondered.
“They wiped… the entire country’s memories,” he said slowly. “Just so they could have their own apocalypse."
Dean touched his own face absently. Was he a copy? How would he tell the difference? He fought the urge to shave both their heads to check for bar codes and picked up a folder entitled ARKHAM with Sam's cramped handwriting in the margins of the title page. Surveillance images of a dark-haired woman walking out of a church lay within. "I know her. Or at least, I've forgotten her," said Dean, looking up, "Think she's in that last recording?"
Sam stood beside Dean, studying the photos. Frowning, he ran his finger over the image of her, dark visions stirring deep in his mind.
“I know her too,” he said quietly, caught up in images of flowing hair, pale skin in the moonlight, her cold, clammy hands on his face. “She was there, she was a part of it. I can’t… I can’t remember much of it. But she wanted me for something.”
He picked up the photo. “The church. Dean, this is the church from Lovecraft’s drawing. I wonder if… did we fight her? Did we defeat her?”
The throb of his headache made it hard to think, and as he looked at the woman, alien words stirred in his mind, making him dizzy. He closed the folder and dropped it on the table, then took a few deep breaths to clear his mind. He suppressed the urge to reach out for Dean, to feel human warmth to combat the alien chill in his bones.
“I don’t know if she’s in the recording. But I think we should be careful. What if it’s another mind worm?”
"Dang I hadn't even thought of that," said Dean, noting Sam's pinched expression, "I'll take this one. Gotta be some extension cables in here, you can tie me to a chair and cover your ears."
Sam nodded and did so, waiting for Dean's signal and then hitting ENTER before covering his ears and counting backwards from one hundred. Dean held his breath, hands braced on the chair arms.
The sound was low, and Dean had to lean forward to hear it. At first there was just labored breathing, then Dean heard his own voice.
"Sammy, you're okay," he said.
"Dean, I feel like I'm gonna... I feel... " Sam's voice was strained, agonized. "I'm not myself anymore."
There was a rustle of movement, and then Dean said quietly, "You are. You're still Sammy. You're still my little brother."
"Dean," Sam pleaded, sounding much younger than his years.
"Come here," Dean said, his voice low and intimate.
There was another rustle, and then soft, wet sounds, barely audible through the speakers. A sigh, and Sam whispered Dean’s name.
"Sammy, Sammy," Dean whispered back, then more wet noises, and the swish of fabric moving, and Sam moaned quietly. "You're still my brother. You're still mine."