Four months later
Dean had felt nothing but pain for a long time.
That's all Hell was- pain and suffering that went on forever. He was tortured, he tortured others. He was in pain, and he brought pain to other trapped souls.
Hell was excruciating pain, the smell of seared flesh, the sounds of tortured screams, the feeling of hopelessness.
That was all he had felt, and all he had known for forty years in the pit. So when that beam of bright white light appeared, his soul couldn't even begin to understand what it made him feel.
Love. Family. Hope.
At first he didn't want to go into the light. He liked torturing souls. After decades of being torn into and carved up, it was enjoyable being able to have that control for once.
And besides, he was Alistair's best student. He told him all the time, how proud he was of his improvements... it wasn't much of an accomplishment, a demon being proud of you, but he'd take it. He had nothing else in this pit of despair.
But then came the light. The soft, warm light- it's warmth felt different than the heat of Hell. It felt welcoming. He could feel the light beckoning to him, calling for him. It promised a way out of this place. It promised home, Earth, Sam...
Yet Dean hesitated. He would regret it for the rest of his life, but for a moment, he didn't want to go back to all that. To all that fruitless responsibility.
But in the end, Dean went into the light. He trusted it because it had been such a long time since he could trust anyone.
He felt something grasp his arm, and he felt a searing pain. He barely flinched. It was nothing in comparison.
He closed his eyes and felt his soul rising up above the racks, and he heard the constant screams of agony get farther and farther away.
Soon all around him he felt... nothing. Nothing but the light.
He couldn't keep track of time- Earth time and Hell time were different, and they were somewhere in between right now. But it couldn't have been too long before they made it to Earth.
For the first time in forty years, Dean could smell the cool air and feel it against his skin. He opened his eyes and saw the trees and the grass. He heard birds and insects all around. It felt like a dream. A dream he was terrified to wake up from.
Suddenly, the light surrounded him once more, and he couldn't see, hear, or feel anything until...
With a sudden jolt, Dean woke up. He felt wood against his skin, and he could barely breathe. It was dark, and he couldn't see anything. He could feel his body: his real one, not the soul that he just saw while in Hell. It was real. It was flesh and bones. He couldn't remember what had happened, or where he was. In an act of panic, he reached into his pocket and fumbled around for his lighter.
He brought it out, holding it close to his chest because there was no room for anything else, and lit it.
The small space was illuminated by the low light, and he could finally see where he was.
The nailed wooden box wasn't exactly a coffin, but it was certainly acting as one. He pushed up on the top, feeling the weakness in his arms. It didn't budge, but some dirt fell through the cracks. I'm underground...
He knew he was running out of time and of precious air. He had to move quickly.
Years ago, his Dad took him out and taught him what to do in this situation; when you were buried alive. He had been terrified then. He was just a kid. He wasn't a kid anymore- but he could still feel that same fear.
First he put out the light, shoving it back in his pocket. He tried his best to slow his breathing, knowing panicking would only make it worse. Then he pulled his shirt up, wrapping it around only his face. That would protect him from the dirt. Finally, he tried using his legs, kicking at the frail lining of the box. He could feel it weakening. Come on...
Finally, the box gave in, collapsing on top of him. He felt dirt falling onto his chest and legs, and he quickly squirmed to get out. He pushed himself up, shoving dirt back into the coffin as he went. He reached up as far as he could, and suddenly he felt his fingers breach the surface.
He managed to pull his head out of the dirt, pulling his shirt back down, and finally able to breath air again.
He took a moment to enjoy the easy breathing before pulling himself out completely. He lied down on the grass, trying to understand what was happening.
He remembered Hell- every moment of it. But why was he here, now? A light... He faintly remembered a light, but it was not clear.
He closed his eyes, feeling exhausted. He didn't even hear the girl until it was too late.
Dean felt hands on his shirt, his eyes flew open and were met by the cold dead eyes of a zombie. He pushed her away, and crawled backwards.
The zombie snarled, picking itself up and going after him again. He had nothing on him to defend himself with.
He sat up, scanning his surroundings. He seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but then he saw the trees. Trees, everywhere, knocked over within his radius. That was not a good sign. Not at all.
He tried to stand up, but everything ached. The girl was on him again, and all he could think was that he just got out of Hell. He didn't want to go back so soon.
He pushed her back and held her down. She struggled against him, and Dean could tell just how strong she was. She was snapping at his hands, and finally he had to let her go. He considered going for his lighter, which was all he had with him, but he wasn't sure that would do him any good.
The zombie got up a third time. Jeez, these bastards are resilient!
Suddenly, hands grabbed at the girl, spinning her around and pressing on her forehead. Her snarl turned to a scream as her whole body began to glow. Dean had to shield his eyes until he felt her slump onto his leg.
He looked up to see who the hands belonged to. A man with an unstraightened tie and a trench coat stood before him. "Hello, Dean."
Dean pushed the zombies dead(er) body off of him, and stood to face him. He stood taller than the man, and he was a bit larger than him- yet there was something about the guy that made him seem much more menacing. "Who the hell are you?" He cleared his throat, hating the hoarse sound of his own voice.
"I am Castiel. I am an Angel of the Lord."
"An Angel? You really expect me to believe that, buddy?" Dean stayed a comfortable distance from Castiel. Whoever this guy was, he could almost only be trouble.
Castiel eyed him, his gaze never leaving Dean. "Yes, I do. Who else could have had the power to rescue you from the pit and restore your body?"
Dean's eyes widened. "What the hell are you t-" And then it hit him. "You- You're that... that beam of light? That was you?" Castiel nodded. "But you look... human."
Castiel looked down at his body. "Yes, well, this is only a vessel. But none of that matters, Dean. I saved you from the pit because I needed you."
"You need my help?" Dean looked at him, bewildered. "What could an Angel possibly need my help for?"
"I need your help to end it." Castiel answered, cryptically.
"To end what?"
Castiel looked down at the dead girl, and then back at Dean. Dean stared at her, still not understanding. "Wait... you mean the zombies? You want me to stop the zombies?"
"I want you to bring an end to the End of the World, Dean Winchester. Will you help me?"