The Badger's Den
Descending into the Shadows

Author: Badger Lord
Disclaimer: All characters of The Dead Zone are the property
of USA Network. The song is called "Sound the Bugle" by Bryan
Adams, which can be found on the Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron  soundtrack.
Spoilers: Descent




Sound the bugle now - play it just for me
As the seasons change - remember how I used to be
Now I can't go on - I can't even start
I've got nothing left - just an empty heart



        Johnny would never forget what his mother told him every night that his grandfather came over for dinner. "Never mention the mine," she had said, as she knelt down eye to eye with the young boy, smoothing down his ruffled hair. Nodding silently and obediently, Johnny never questioned his mother's edict. It was always worth it, spending cozy autumn evenings curled up in his grizzled grandfather's lap as they all finished home made peach cobbler. He would never forget watching the smoky curls wreathing his grandfather's face as he puffed on his spicy-smelling pipe and  told the family stories in his thick Irish brogue. The dying fire flickered over his family's faces, casting an angelic glow over them as they sat enraptured by his grandfather's latest tale. He had never questioned.


      The blue and crimson lights from the paramedics' van flickered over the faces of all present in a macabre imitation of those long ago days by the fireside. Shadow and dull light played on the faces of the Tyner family, who wept as they held their daughter tight and refused to let go of her ever again. They played on the stunned faces of the rescue workers and on the ever neutral face of Dana Bright. For a moment, Johnny caught the stunned and somber eyes of Reverend Purdy. The energetic man now appeared old and broken, for once appearing even older than he actually was. Johnny held his gaze steadily until Purdy was forced to look away, unable to stand the pain in those cerulean eyes that had now turned black in the flashing light.

I'm a soldier - wounded so I must give up the fight
There's nothing more for me - lead me away...
Or leave me lying here


      Weeping. Desperate sobbing as families held their loved ones even tighter, and as one family refused to let go. It was all around him, but all he heard was the vacuum of Sarah's howling lamentations as she fell to her knees, unable to support her profound grief. The flickering lights began to fade away as Sarah stretched out a grasping hand towards the van that held her life, her love, her husband.


      Johnny was unable to look away. He felt a dull throbbing in his back and unsteady legs, where Sarah had unwittingly pushed him against the car, desperate to get to Walt. He vaguely remembered the effort it took to search for the lost teens in the mines, and the toll it had taken on his already weakened body. Finally, his knees gave out, unable to stand more abuse. Johnny tumbled to the hard, unforgiving ground, not trying to end his fall, keeping his eyes on Sarah. He welcomed the pain into his body, coursing like fire through his veins and washing away the numbness he had first felt when he witnessed Walt fall during the cave in. Sarah had finally made her decision.


Sound the bugle now - tell them I don't care
There's not a road I know - that leads to anywhere
Without a light feel that I will - stumble in the dark
Lay right down - decide not to go on


      He had known it would happen eventually. Why should Sarah want him? He was poison, tearing the hapless woman's heart asunder as she was forced to choose between her loving husband and a lame man who was no longer truly a part of her life. He had never really fit in.


      Johnny could feel Dana's gaze on his back, however she remained unmoving. He thanked her for that, giving him a moment to collect his thoughts as he watched the silver tears that coursed down Sarah's face. He was the cause for each one. For leaving her pregnant and alone. For his inability to be a father to his son. For forcing her to choose. For bringing Walt down into the mines in the first place dammit, the same dark, unforgiving mines that had gotten his family into trouble more times than he could count. The mines tortured him, their ghosts easing their way into his consciousness.


      He had been warned. By his mother, by his friends, by the ghostly hand that called for destruction of the Smith family. Johnny guiltily remembered Walt's refusal to go into the mines before he had shown the sheriff the map. He remembered the trust in Walt's eyes as Johnny led him down into the darkness and probably to his doom. He was responsible. Not the mines. It was he who had led Walt Bannerman into the shadowy depths of the mine, knowing what was in store for them. It was he who should be lying in the van, pale and lifeless as the paramedics worked frantically to sustain life in him as it careened towards the local hospital.


He wondered if Sarah would cry.


      Would she shed a single tear for him? Would anyone? He caused pain to all who encountered him. Johnny closed his eyes and fervently wished that he still slept on in his interminable sleep, giving Sarah a chance to forget, to only remember the love of a sheriff who could truly provide stability for her, the true father of little Johnny, regardless of what the tests said.

Then from on high - somewhere in the distance
There's a voice that calls - remember who your are
If you lose yourself - your courage soon will follow


      Johnny briefly felt the warm touch of a hand on his shoulder, bringing him back to this reality. The one he never should have been a part of. He didn't need to turn around to know that the hand belonged to Dana.


      "It's time to go," she said, her normally cool and sardonic voice surprisingly gentle.


      Yes, he should leave. He never really belonged. Johnny found the energy to raise himself to his feet and slowly turn around, his back and legs sending fiery protests every step of the way. Although his back was turned to Sarah he continued to hear her heart wrenching wails, each sob a dagger to his heart. He turned his eyes downward, ashamed.


      Dana took his face into her hands, forcing him to lock eyes with her. She said nothing for a few moments, just calmly gazing into his eyes, letting some of her fiery strength seep into Johnny.  "Sarah needs a ride to the hospital," she said softly, nodding her head towards the distraught woman. She took his hand and began to lead him away from the scene, passing an elderly man whose face seemed vaguely familiar. For a moment Johnny was too lost in his own pain to remember. The ghosts of the past continued to rail at the edge of his consciousness, although tempered by the contact with Dana.


He began to remember.


      Gently separating his hand from Dana, he turned away from her quizzical gaze. Slowly walking towards the solitary man, he asked, "Mr. Strengel?" The man turned towards him, and his eyes were reminiscent of Johnnys own. Haunted . . .


      "How do you know my name?" Strengel asked curiously, with a bit of ire in his voice. Probably used to annoying reporters, Johnny thought, casting an amused glance toward Dana. For once, his own ghosts had faded to the background.


      "My name is Johnny Smith," he said, getting the same look thrown at him that he did every time someone recognized his name, a mix of suspicion and wonder.  "You used to work for my grandfather." Johnny watched as Strengel turned away for a moment, staring towards the mine. "I wonder if you could help me find some of the families of the men who worked here . . ."


      Finally finding a reason to fight his own ghosts, Johnny hoped that he would be allowed to help others fight theirs. As Johnny turned away from Strengel he was once more reassured by the hand of Dana grasping his, as the pair headed towards Sarah, bringing comfort and hope.


So be strong tonight - remember who you are
Yeah you're a soldier now - fighting in a battle
To be free once more -Yeah that's worth fighting for.

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