Crazy Days of Childhood

John is sitting at the table, newspaper spread out in front of him, holding up the edge with one hand. The other hand is tucked around the three year old sitting on his lap, trying to counter the squirming and make sure nobody ends up taking a tumble. It's been quiet for half an hour and John dearly does not want to deal with a toddler screaming because he'd bumped his head.

He's trying to focus on the newspaper, scanning articles for anything that could be of any use. He has the papers for the entire last two weeks sitting on the next chair, just barely within reach. So far he hasn't discovered anything that can tell him what's been laying curses around town.

Beside him the soft clatter of keys draws his attention. He glances up and is caught at the studious, intent expression on his son's face. Seven years old and he looks so much like a young man -- despite the softness of his face, the slight roundness that speaks more of baby fat than the lean lines of a grown man. But the dark look in his eyes and the way his mouth is set makes John think of a grown adult who has seen and done too much.

He sighs and wants for a moment to tell his boys to run along and play, forget all about the monsters and the darkness and the evil. He wants to tell them it was all make-believe and now the game's over and they can go back to pretending to build spaceships to Mars and tracking dinosaurs and whatever other games he thinks they might have played.

But no matter what he wants, there is a job to do. The whole town is in chaos and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight. What's worse is that there doesn't seem to be any purpose to it. People find themselves halfway across town with no memory of how they got there. Men with forty years on the job get up and walk out and apply to work at Burger King; bankers stand on the street corners begging for change. Ladies of the night have been seen sipping champagne and carrying expensive purses and having doors held open for them as they walk into the most exclusive restaurants in town.

John considered it could simply be the work of a Trickster, harmless and sometimes annoying. Except that two weeks ago people started turning up dead -- high school students and librarians and police officers and bakers and retail clerks and there is no pattern anywhere that anyone can find.

There is no reason to think that he will find a pattern either, but he has to keep looking. He's been searching all day, asking questions and -- for once -- openly telling people he is trying to stop this thing and can they help. Do they know anything, does anyone have any idea how or when or why it started.

He has a horrible feeling that he won't find it, or won't find it until it's too late. Maybe the whole town will vanish. Maybe everyone will eventually die, or go crazy. He looks down, sees the green crayon has already been broken even though he bought the crayons only two hours ago. The pad of paper is still in decent shape -- there's hope it will last the evening, possibly into tomorrow.

He watches as something big and blue takes shape in crayon smudges, green tentacles already everywhere and tiny yellow dots that might be eyes or might be flowers. It's kind of hard to tell. He has to adjust his grip again; three year olds have a magical ability to wriggle out of reach the second your attention wanders. Sometimes even when you think you're paying attention. His son has always been particularly good at the squirm-wriggle-run game, and John really is in no mood to play it for the fifth time since dinner.

"Daddy."

He looks up fast at the note of excitement in his son's voice. "Did you find something?"

"I think so. Look at this." Sam turns the laptop towards him, pointing at the article he's found online. John reads, quickly scanning as he adjusts his grip yet again on Dean.

It's a report about bringing in water to supply the town, from a new source in the mountains. The locals had protested, saying the spring shouldn't be disturbed, but the townspeople had bought up land and piped the water down. "Then this...."

"It really is something in the water," Sam says, his seven year old voice high pitched like a boy's, but quietly serious as the man he was yesterday. John figured out quickly enough that his youngest son was still himself, only turning physically into a child.

Dean, on the other hand... well, as long as they give him a cookie and paper to draw on, it hasn't really mattered.

Although when he gets this curse fixed, John plans on asking Dean just what the hell he was thinking, drawing smiley faces on all the shotguns.