Day 43: Light a Candle, Curse the Darkness
Part of Story Arc 1: Counterclockwise
A "The Ring/Ringu" Fanfic
by Laurel (Sailorhathor)
Chapters: 43 of 100
Rating: Overall Rating Sup13+ (adult theme; horror elements that might be too scary for children under 13; bad language)
Dates: Begun September 2006. Some material is based on previously written stories from 2003-2005. This chapter was written in August 2010.
Word Count: 4,322
Summary: Meredith asks Sam a few questions that he can't answer without telling her the strange truth of his past. Professor McNeal's runaway daughter might finally be located after all this time, but she could be walking right into a danger she could never fathom before he can find her. As my beta Sammie said, they can't phrog onto that lily pad! :D
Warning: Contains spoilers for the entire Ringu and The Ring series.
Beta Thanks: Thanks to Sammie for beta'ing this chapter!
Fanfic Challenges: Fits 50_darkfics Prompt #43 Candle and coclaim100 Prompt #43 Savage.
Author's Notes: I don't know if phrogging really exists or not. I saw a report on it on "Dateline" some time ago and they seemed to think it was real, but either way, I thought it would make a fascinating plot for my story.
X-over with the TV series Supernatural. Set pre-series, during Sam's years at Stanford. Brady/OFC, Sam/OFC.
When Meredith returned to the dorm room, Sam was sitting on the futon wearing the clothes he'd had on the night before. He looked up when she entered, concern all over his face. Tabby had come back at some point; she sat up on the top bunk, tearing pieces of a Fruit Roll-Up off its plastic backing and stuffing them in her mouth. She also looked at Meredith when she came in the door and asked, "Hey Mere, what's going on?"
"Are you okay?" Sam added.
She looked at both of them before replying. "I had another dream."
"What was it about?"
Meredith stared at Sam as she said, "Suzette and I had a little talk."
"What did she say?" he questioned.
For a second, Meredith almost asked Tabby to leave, but then decided not to, as Tabby already knew the whole story. What did it matter if she heard more? "Sam, why did Professor Keaner show you the film?"
The question obviously took him by surprise; Sam couldn't hide the way his eyes widened momentarily and then narrowed to an inquisitive squint as he tried to figure out why she was asking him such a thing. "Gosh, I don't know. I've asked myself that question several times and - "
"How do you know him again?"
Sam looked up at Tabby, hoping to see some sort of explanation for Meredith's defensive behavior in the reaction shown on her face, but even she could give him no more than a shrug. There was an edge to Meredith's voice that hadn't been there before, and the way she'd interrupted him, practically snapping at him... still, Sam continued with the lie. "He was my History professor last semester."
"What's on the film?"
The question Sam had dreaded since this whole thing began... "The film?"
"Describe what's on it."
Tabby watched the exchange back and forth like a tennis match.
At first, Sam almost tried to keep perpetuating the lies he'd told, but then his shoulders slumped with a sigh. "I can't. I haven't seen the film."
Tabby broke in with, "Then how do you know so much about it?"
"What I want to know is, why did you lie?"
Sam, looking as if he felt he was to blame for something, answered Meredith's question first. "I lied to gain your trust."
"So you're not even cursed."
His eyes drooping even more with guilt, Sam said, "No."
Meredith wasn't even sure what to say. "What the hell, Sam?"
"Why would you pretend to be cursed?" Tabby added.
He fidgeted with his arms draped over his knees, digging at a scab on his index finger from a run of the mill stapler injury, a far cry from the hunting injuries of his past. Trying to decide how much to tell her and how to put it. "These girls have been coming to me in my dreams and making threats against my family. My mother was killed by something like this, not these girls, but something else, and ever since then, my family has hunted evil things and taken them out. That's why they targeted me."
"Even Suzette?" Meredith asked.
"No, not Suzette. Just some of the others."
Tabby remembered their conversation from a few hours before. "Oh, like the other videotapes you were talking about."
"Yeah. There's more than one curse. So I started researching all these girls, and a friend of mine got involved. She heard there was a freshman in Branner Hall who was freaking out over a film she'd seen - it sounded like this cursed tape thing, so I came over here and started asking questions."
"And that's how you found me," Meredith said.
"Why? Why'd you come looking for me?"
Sam could just see Dean's face if he'd been there at that moment, all smug and satisfied. "Because I wanted to save you," he replied, in a tone that dared the memory of his brother to say one word.
Oh, so now you want to save people again? the memory of Dean said. Sam wanted to give him a shove.
"Why?" Meredith asked again. "You hear some crazy story about a chick you don't even know freaking out over a film, and you go looking for her; who does that?"
"Me," Sam said, and instantly added, "Me and my family."
The Dean in his mind's eye looked at him smugly again. Yes, that was an ironic thing for him to say, after the way he'd left. Sam knew it, but he was saying it anyway.
Meredith wasn't used to people going to such trouble to help her and not wanting something in return. He seemed so sincere, so earnest... did people like that exist anymore?... and it wasn't like anyone was going to pretend to be cursed to get in her pants. She almost laughed at how ludicrous a pick-up line that would be. Hey baby, you gonna die in seven days? Me too! Small world. Maybe his crazy story was completely on the level. "So you pretended you saw the same film to gain my trust."
"Well, to be fair, you assumed I had seen it," Sam pointed out, half joking, with a small smile on his face. "But yeah, that's the long and the short of it. How did you figure it out?"
After rolling her eyes at his first comment, Meredith replied, "Suzette told me, in the dream."
Meredith, with a laugh, said, "Looks like she is sweet on you, Sam."
"The ghost?!" Tabby exclaimed.
Sam had to sigh. "Yeah, the ghost."
"You already knew."
This was embarrassing. "Yes. Last night, I told you she was flirting with me. Well, after she mentioned Matthias, she, uh... she kissed me."
"Ah ha. Well..." Meredith walked across the room and sat down on the futon next to him. "...seems Matthias was her husband. And you're his reincarnation."
Jerking in surprise, Sam blurted, "Reincarnation?!"
"That's what she claims. Didn't like the fact that we had... gotten to know each other better... and said you'd be hers, because you already were."
Sam scoffed, his anger growing. "Even if I am the reincarnation of this Matthias guy, that doesn't mean I want some dead bitch who thinks it's okay to curse people just because they watched her film."
"Well, that's something you'll have to tell her, then. She said her husband's picture is in the books you have, the ones about the Metternichs and all the other girls, and that you should look at it."
"Great," Sam replied sarcastically. Would it turn out Matthias Christaller looked like him, or rather, that he resembled Matthias Christaller? He briefly wondered if that had anything to do with the Baptiste painting that seemed to be of himself and Dean. Maybe... "Jesus, this is all so crazy."
"Tell me about it," Meredith said, putting a hand on his knee and squeezing it.
Apparently, the fact that he had lied to gain her trust wasn't putting her off anymore. Sam gave her a little smile in return. "What else did Suzette tell you?"
"She doesn't seem to think that I'm saved," she replied, giving him a serious look. "Suzette was gnashing her teeth at me over you, and she said, 'I don't think you'll get anywhere. I think you are just going to die.'"
"Shit," Tabby said under her breath.
They had almost forgotten she was there. Sam stole a brief glance at her before turning back to Meredith with a tired sigh. "I think she was just trying to scare you," he began, running a hand through his hair. "But we can do some more research today just to make sure we didn't miss anything. Would that make you feel better?"
Nodding, Meredith intertwined her hand with the one he had resting on his right knee, and leaned her head on his shoulder.
Sam returned the show of affection by giving her hand a light squeeze. She was still scared, and who wouldn't be, with time left still to go on their 'death curse'? "It'll be okay," he said. "Wait and see."
Suddenly, Meredith whispered, "I'm sorry about your mom."
It took him completely by surprise; it had been so many years, and he hadn't even known his mother. There had been many times when Sam wondered if it was worse to never have met her or if he'd miss her more if he had known her and then she'd died. He would never know. "It's okay," was all he spoke in reply, because he didn't know what else to say when people said such things to him.
Tabby unexpectedly broke the silence that followed. "Hey Sam, your friend Brady? He's an animal," she laughed, and then roared like a wild beast. "I'm definitely seeing him again."
The moment gone, Meredith leaned forward and let go of Sam's hand. "So you had a good time?"
"I'll say. Gives it just the way I like it, hair-pulling and rough and everything."
"Ew," Sam groaned. "TMI."
"What, is it like hearing about when your brother has sex or something?"
Sam had to think about that for a second. Comparing Brady to Dean in terms of how close he felt to him, how much he knew about each guy's sexual habits... No, it was world's different, but still not something he wanted to hear about in great detail. "Kind of."
Tabby just laughed, stuffing the last of her Fruit Roll-Up into her mouth.
Sam noticed a poster on the wall, a picture of a lit candle with a quote next to it. It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness, it said, and the quote was attributed to Emily Dickinson. "You know, that's not really something Emily Dickinson said. It's an ancient Chinese proverb, most often credited to Confucius."
"Yeah. Poster company needs to check its facts."
Tabby laughed again. "What'd I tell you, Mere? Stick with this one. He knows just enough about everything to make him dangerous."
Sam and Meredith looked at each other and then chuckled. As big as Sam was, Meredith couldn't think of him as 'dangerous' with that boyish, gentle face and its innocent puppy dog expression. "Why don't we both get cleaned up and meet in the library in an hour?" he suggested.
She nodded. "See what else we can scare up about the Metternichs." Then she added with a grin, "Light us a candle, Confucius."
Lassiter had thought that he would only cry in front of the policeman and the coroner if the teenage girl on the cold slab had turned out to be Adrianna. But as it went, he cried anyway.
They had warned him about the girl's condition, how she had been found in a dumpster several days past her death, badly decomposed, with savage slash marks all over her body. "Whoever killed Crystal Stern and her companion was an animal," the coroner had said. "He nearly severed her head from her body. There are deep lacerations from head to toe, and ligature marks on her wrists and ankles, indicating that she was probably tied up and tortured before her death." The man had paused before continuing. "I just want you to be prepared."
Sure, to be prepared. To be prepared to see his baby girl in such condition, if this Jane Doe was his baby girl. These men were just doing their jobs, but how could anyone ever be prepared for...? Still, Lassiter took a deep breath before they opened the drawer and pulled the metal slab out for him to view this body.
The smell could have been the worst thing, that sickly sweet, awful smell of decay, until he saw how the girl's head was positioned in relation to her neck. God, help us. It was horrible. There were no words. He could see how they might've thought this girl was his daughter, but he knew as soon as he saw her dead eyes, the shape of her face, the size of her hands... still, he had to be sure; they had told him that decomposition could change the way a person looked enough to fool even the most careful eye. "My, uh... my daughter has a tattoo..." Lassiter began, putting the back of his hand over his mouth to block some of that smell of decay and medical products. "She went with her friends and used a fake ID. I was furious when I found out."
"Where is it?" the coroner asked.
"Her right shoulder."
Because the coroner was wearing gloves, he was the one to lift the right shoulder ever so carefully, keeping one hand on the girl's head so it wouldn't move too much. Lassiter crouched down slightly and peered at the shoulderblade, and that's when he burst into grateful tears.
No rainbow that ended in a pot of gold, with a winking leprechaun. It wasn't Adrianna.
"There's no tattoo," he said, almost laughing. "No. No, that's not my daughter."
"I didn't think it was," the man confessed. He covered the Jane Doe back up and slid her back into her drawer. "Why don't you come with me, Mr. McNeal? I'll get you some coffee and we can talk in my office." The coroner patted Lassiter on the back.
His name turned out to be Martin Patterson. After he'd given Lassiter some tissues and a cup of black coffee, he began telling him about a theory he'd arrived at upon searching for missing kids on the internet. "I never thought YouTube would be such a help, Mr. McNeal. Never thought so in a million years. But kids are brazen, aren't they?"
"Yes," Lassiter agreed immediately. "Especially the girls."
"That's been my experience as well." Mr. Patterson turned a framed photo around so Lassiter could see it. "Those are my three girls. The oldest will graduate this year. The boy you see in that photo is my long-suffering son who's had to share a bathroom with two of them all his life," he explained with a grin. "Thirteen years of fighting for mirror space and shower time. And the make-up! It takes up so much room." Mr. Patterson sat back with his hands folded over his stomach. "My son's always been very quiet. Into sports and the like. But the girls! The girls are always into something, wearing whatever crazy clothes I'll let them get away with, trying to style their hair and their makeup like someone twice their age... it keeps me up at night, worrying about them."
Grinning at a memory of Adrianna, Lassiter offered, "Tums often help with that."
Mr. Patterson let out a laugh. "Rolaids too. The girls are always trying to make a statement about who they are. Showing off. My oldest has twenty-six pairs of shoes, some the same style, just in four different colors." He leaned forward. "Do you take cream?"
Lassiter shook his head, looking at the coffee cup. "This is okay for now."
"Good enough." The coroner began looking for something on his computer. "This morning, I found a clip on YouTube that made me think that the Jane Doe we have in there might not be your daughter."
Now Lassiter leaned forward. "Oh? What did you find?"
"Let me ask you a question. Have you ever heard of phrogging?"
"Phrogging? No." He leaned back a bit. "Sounds like something a kid made up."
"Well, it's definitely a young person's sport, as it were; there aren't many older, smarter people who would try such a thing. Pardon my ageism."
Lassiter put up a hand. "No need to explain to me. I'm a father too."
"Right. Let me explain what phrogging is, then." Mr. Patterson typed in some words, then clicked a button on the screen. "Phrogging is the practice of trying to stay in an occupied house for free, without the knowledge of the home owners."
"What? How the hell does anyone do that?"
"It seems they have a system. Phroggers choose houses that are large, where the home owners are hardly ever home. Maybe they travel a lot for work or leisure. The phroggers sleep in their beds, eat their food, use their water and their electricity, and hide out from detection as long as they can. Once their welcome wears thin, they 'phrog' to the next house."
Lassiter could hardly believe what he was hearing. "And this actually works?"
"Until they get caught somehow. But that's not the craziest thing about it."
"Then what is?"
The coroner turned his computer screen around for Lassiter to see. "They're proud of it." He leaned over so he could see the screen too while moving the mouse around. "Many phroggers say Hey, look what I can do! I live in someone's house for free! What a sucker. This is how they prove it." Mr. Patterson pointed to the screen.
Lassiter could see that he was indicating a YouTube video as this proof. It dawned on him what this meant. "The kids who do this post videos about it?"
"But couldn't that be used as evidence against them for breaking and entering?"
The coroner shrugged. "Kids. Remember, they're brazen."
Shaking his head, Lassiter added, "And apparently, stupid."
Mr. Patterson had to nod to that. "Sometimes. In this case, all the time." He pointed to the computer screen again. "Phrogging. It sounds like something a teen runaway might do, doesn't it?"
Making the connection, Lassiter's face lit up. "Did you see Adrianna in one of those videos?!"
"I think so. I found this one this morning. We had to have you come in and view the Jane Doe anyway, but I also want you to see this video. The person who uploaded it titled it 'Jamie, C.J., and Adri, West Coast Phroggers'." The coroner queued up a video that had been uploaded to YouTube, and began to play it.
Lassiter couldn't help but start to cry again when he saw his daughter on the screen. In only a year, how she'd grown... how much he'd missed out on... but it was Adrianna, crouched in a tent with her friends Jamie and C.J., talking about an awesome house they were staking out. Jamie's speech was slurred like she was drunk, and she was doing most of the talking, with the other kids responding to her statements.
"Does this look like a primo spot to you?" she asked.
"Sure does!" the other kids said.
"Are we going to get in there tomorrow?"
"Fuck yeah," Adrianna replied, giggling.
Jamie turned the camera around and pointed it outside the zippered opening that served as the tent's door. It was raining outside. A big white house could be seen through some closely-clustered trees. "That's the spot," Jamie announced. The other kids giggled again. "I bet they got lotsa food in there. That guy look like a steak eater to you?"
"Fuck yeah," Adrianna said once more. In the background, C.J. laughed.
"I can't wait to eat his big, juicy steak," said Jamie, and they all guffawed like this was the funniest joke they'd ever heard. She turned the camera back around so her face was the only thing in frame. "Mmmm, I love a man's big, juicy meat inside me," Jamie said to the camera.
The kids laughed uproariously.
Grabbing Adrianna around the neck, Jamie pulled her in frame. Both of their faces now filled the video screen. "This is my best friend. This is my Adreeee. She's mine now." Jamie made kissey faces at Adrianna. Adrianna puckered back. "This is what you gave up, Crystal. You stupid bitch. Mine, mine." The two girls turned their faces to each other and planted a wet kiss on each other's lips.
Lassiter cringed at the sight of that.
"Wooooo!" C.J. cried off screen. "Damn, why does it have to be my sister involved in that nice, hot kiss? Gross! It's gross." His hand forced its way on screen and tried to block the view of Jamie's face. Adrianna started to laugh. There followed a tussle where Jamie still attempted to hold the camera and pound her brother in the arm at the same time; the picture shook and moved all over the tent as the kids made a lot of noise, giggling constantly.
"Fuck you, C.J.. Did you hear what I said?" She pounded his arm several more times. "You're gross. Got a face like a truck."
"What does that even mean?" he laughed, cowering from her punches and laughing.
"Candy is dandy, but incest is best," Adrianna joked, quoting a line she'd heard at Rocky Horror. "Put your sister to the test!"
With a mock gasp, Jamie leapt on her and held her chin tightly in her hands, displaying Adrianna's giggling face to the camera. "Disgusting. That's disgusting. This one is so disgusting." She turned Adrianna's face toward her. "You're lucky it turns me on," she said, and rolled over on top of the other girl, who laughed without reserve from underneath her.
C.J. rescued the camera. "No one wants to see my sister make out with anyone," he declared.
Before he could turn it off, Jamie grabbed it and turned it back toward her. They fought over the camera as she said, "Even if that guy has an alarm, we is still going to get in. We is the champion phroggers. West Coast phroggers, yeeeeeah baby!" She took hold of Adrianna's chin again. "This is my girl. Gonna fuck her in yo bed, house-owning guy. Put yo big steak in her!"
Adrianna could hardly breathe with how hard she was laughing now.
"That doesn't even make sense." C.J. pulled the camera away and filled the screen with his face now. "You a drunk bitch. Night night."
And the video ended.
Before Lassiter could speak, Mr. Patterson explained, "I'm sorry you had to see all the sexual things. I thought it was important for you to witness everything because you know more about these kids than I do. You might see something that I wouldn't."
"No, it's alright." Lassiter let out a breath he'd been holding. "It's amazing how much they grow at that age."
The coroner handed him a tissue. "I understand. You haven't seen your daughter in a year. It's hard."
Once he'd gotten a handle on his emotions, Lassiter asked, "When was that video uploaded?"
"Three weeks ago, from a public computer in a San Francisco library. That's why I thought the Jane Doe might not be your daughter. The things the kids said on the video indicate that they may have had a falling out with Crystal Stern. They must've separated in Los Angeles."
Lassiter nodded. "Your theory makes sense. So the Jane Doe..."
"...could be some other juvenile Crystal met."
He nodded again. "Is it likely my daughter is still in San Francisco? Has anyone in that area reported being home invaded by a bunch of teenagers?" Lassiter asked with a small, hopeful laugh.
"It's possible. The police are checking right now."
"Should I stay in Los Angeles until the records are searched?"
"It would be the easiest way for us to find you." Leaning across the desk, the coroner grasped Lassiter's hand to give it a comforting squeeze. "We're closing in on these kids. As long as they keep uploading the videos, it should only be a matter of time until we find them."
For the first time in months, Lassiter's chest filled with the hope that his daughter would be found alive. "Thank you," he said, and dabbed at his eyes with the tissue. "I've got some good news to deliver to my son now."
The tent that Lassiter had seen on the video had been erected against the light snow of the Sierra Nevada mountains in March, an area on the outskirts of the mountain range opposite of Yosemite National Park, in a city called Marigold Springs, not far outside of Mariposa. Adrianna McNeal sat cross-legged in the tent's opening in her loveworn coat, a pair of binoculars held up to her eyes. She peered at a sprawling mansion among the trees, far enough away to need the binoculars to see the activity beyond the stone wall surrounding the property, but close enough to hope it could be their next conquest.
Jamie crawled up next to her. "C.J.'s worse," she said, concern in her voice. "I'm pretty sure he has a fever now."
"It's okay. I think this one will be a go," Adrianna announced. She brought the binoculars down into her lap. "It's a really big house. We could be on one side and anyone on the other side wouldn't even know we were there. The house has, like, wings."
Grinning, Jamie speculated on what could be inside that massive, gorgeous house. "I bet they got tons of food in there. Jewels. Fine clothes." She looked back at her brother, who was bundled up in a blanket and several layers of clothing, obviously cold and in pain. "Medicine."
"Yeah. All that stuff." Bringing the binoculars back up, Adrianna peered through them once more. "I'll watch the place a while longer, try to get a sense of their habits. We should be able to make a move soon."
"Good." Jamie started to go back into the tent, but a devilish smile came to her face, and she reached outside the tent to her left. When her hand came back, it was full of snow, which she dumped down the front of Adrianna's shirt.
Adrianna screamed so loud, it echoed off the trees. "You bitch!" she laughed, shaking the snow out of her shirt.
Jamie just chuckled before going back to tend to her sick brother.
With a few more squeals of discomfort, Adrianna worked all of the snow out of her clothes and was able to go back to spying on the house. "Man, these people are so loaded. They've even got one of those big iron gates out front with their name on it."
"Oh? Whose place are we phrogging, then? Good to know a thing like that; it could come in handy."
"Yeah. Looks like..." Adrianna read the name emblazoned on the front gate. "...Bloodworth."
The Ringu series is (c) 1998 The Ring/The Spiral Production Group. It is based on the novels by Koji Suzuki. My fanfic is more based on ideas presented in the films, which were created by director Hideo Nakata and screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi.
The motion picture The Ring is (c) 2002 DreamWorks Pictures. The title "She Just Wanted to Be Heard" comes from a line of dialogue spoken by Rachel Keller in this movie. The motion picture The Ring Two is (c) 2005 DreamWorks Pictures. This fanfic is heavily inspired by ideas presented in the American movies, which were directed by Gore Verbinski and Hideo Nakata and written by Ehren Kruger.
I do not know if the prequel, The Ring 3, will have any bearing on this story or not until I see it.
Supernatural is (c) 2005 Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland, & Warner Brothers/The CW Television.
Everything else is (c) Demented Stuff.
it won't stop