The first time 2038 texts him, Dean's sure it's some dumb prank Sammy and Brady are pulling.
He thinks this because of two reasons; firstly, 2038 is way too short to be an actual phone number, no matter what country on Earth it's from because Sofi at school raved to the whole class last term about her cool new phone and it's phone number (+1 994 279 383, coincidentally the cheat code for Prosperous Penneelucky which everyone was desperate for). She had adamantly insisted that all phone numbers need an area code and 9 digits following it. Dean hadn't really paid attention at the time; he had been too distracted watching Aaron in the row diagonally to his right and three seats in front.
Secondly, the message is just weird. There's not really any other way to put it. Dean knows that there are phishing scams everywhere, he should know because last year Benny had convinced him to send Ruby (this bitch Sammy was hanging out with at the time) a stupid scam text. Basically it had said hello there!! im a struggling art student at the local college, could you please donate some money to my paypal? it would mean so much to me!! follow the links on my website (www.bit.ly2829.com) Dean doesn't know if she actually did it or not, but if she did, then she doesn't deserve to be friends with Sammy anyway.
Anyway, the first message 2038 texted him had tripped a couple of alarms in Dean's mind: this is so fake, ignore it, probably trying to steal money. Not that Dean has any money for anybody to steal. Randy had fired him from the trash yard after Dean had nicked one too many spare parts for his very own Impala 67' Dad let him have if Dean fixes it up. (It's a thing of beauty - Sammy doesn't really get it, the way the soft plush seats provide a sense of deep abiding comfort for Dean. It feels familiar to Dean and Dean can't identify why exactly.) Dean's edging for Bobby to give him a gig at the Salvage Yard out of pity, if nothing else.
The first thing Dean had done when he got the text was show it to Sammy. Initially to chew him out for pranking Dean, but when Sam had bitched at Dean for jumping to conclusions that made Sam the villain (and honestly, had Dean been this much of a pain when he was 12?) Dean had reevaluated and realised Sam is too much of a dork to think of prank texting Dean. Sam would probably settle for prank callingDean. Dean wonders where he went wrong.
The second thing Dean had done was show the text to his mom, who simply ruffled Dean's hair - to which Dean weakly scowled and pretended to be annoyed by - and told Dean that it was probably a phishing scam.
Exactly what Dean thought.
But when a second text makes his phone vibrate excitedly the next day, Dean knows something has to be done.
He walks up to his dad, who's just returned from his day at the station, and presents him with the phone.
"I need to change my number," he announces, trying to sound sure.
His dad doesn't say anything. Upon closer observation, Dean realises his dad is sleeping. In the kitchen.
"Dad," Dean says nudging his dad's shoulder. "Dad, wake up."
His dad startles to lucidity and automatically reaches for his holster. Dean rolls his eyes and puts one hand on his dad's arm, stopping the movement.
"Oh," his dad says, and squints at Dean. He doesn't say anything for a couple of seconds and Dean starts to think he's fallen asleep again, this time with his eyes open. But then his dad shakes his head a little, as if to clear it, and smiles wryly at Dean. "Hey son. What's up?"
Dean struggles not to roll his eyes at his dad and instead repeats his earlier sentence. "I need to change my number," he announces, this time with more certainty.
His dad narrows his eyes a little (his left eye doesn't respond as much, and he says it's because of something that happened whilst he was stationed in 'Nam. Dean doesn't like to ask about it) and opens his mouth. It hangs there for a moment, and then twitches into action.
"Why? Is it because of a girl? Or a boy? Or Benny? Can't you just- why do you need to change it?"
Dean sighs and readies himself to say the lines he rehearsed earlier in front of the mirror. "Dad. No, it's not because- it's not a girl, or a boy, and why would it be Benny? Actually, wait, no, I don't wanna know." Dean heaves a sigh, and his dad eyes him. "I need to change it, because some asshat got my number and keeps sending me weird texts."
His dad still looks at him suspiciously, and Dean makes an exasperated face at him. His dad sets his jaw and holds out his hand.
"Really?" Dean asks reluctantly. His dad nods, faux serious.
"It's not that I think you're lying son," his dad reasons, "It's just that I haven't forgotten what happened last time you asked for something concerning your phone."
Shit. Dean had almost forgotten. A couple of months ago, Benny had jailbreaked - jailbroke? jailbrokened? - his phone and got all these cool things on it, so Dean had done it too but obviously it didn't work for him, and Dean had to beg his dad to get him a replacement phone. As punishment his dad had gone on Craigslist and found the cheapest usable phone available and made Dean use it. Only when Randy had fired Dean, Dean had collected his meagre savings and managed to get a marginally better phone. Now he reflects on it, he kinda gets why his parents don't exactly love Benny like Dean does.
"Fine." Dean drops his phone onto his dad's palm. His dad easily brings up the text from 2038 (Dean hypothesises it's because his current phone is the same his father used when he was Dean's age - which just shows the overall shittiness of the device) and furrows his brow. "What?" Dean asks, his hopes of changing his number increasing. If his dad is genuinely concerned there's more of a chance.
"It will kill us all, I am sure of it, but not you if you follow my instruction," his dad quotes, and looks up at Dean for a response.
"Uh," Dean says, letting his shoulders sag a little, "Yeah, that was the first message, yesterday, but read the one from today. You'll change your mind."
His dad scrolls down and his eyes widen fractionally. There's not much that can phase him. "We have lost too many soldiers already in this war. Children, women...it needs to end. With you. Son..." his dad shakes his head a little, "This sounds like a threat to me."
Dean blinks and inhales for too long. His dad is watching him worriedly and Dean didn't realise he would take this that seriously. Then again, his dad is a cop, so he probably deals with this stuff on a daily basis.
"Chill dad, it's not that bad," he tries to laugh a little, lighten the mood, but his dad retains his expression. "All I need to do is change my number and it'll be fine. Probably some loser with too much spare time."
His dad continues to survey him, but then appears to ultimately decide to listen to Dean. "Okay. I'll take it to Ash on 44th tomorrow, see if he can get it done for cheap."
Dean brightens and smiles widely. "Thanks dad!" He grabs his phone out of his dad's open hand and rushes out of the kitchen.
His dad calls after him, an amused tone backlighting his words, "You're paying for half of it!"
Dean clutches his phone two days later, when his dad hands if back to him. Ash put a new protective screen on it (which Dean is beyondgrateful for, grease marks don't look very hygienic) and polishes the corners too.
"Now son, listen to me carefully," his dad says, and Dean rolls his eyes but pauses in his reunion, "If that number, 2078-"
"-2038," Dean mutters.
"-texts you again, you tell me straight away okay? No matter what it says." His dad looks pretty uptight about it so Dean nods obediently. His dad looks vilified enough so Dean trots out of the room and tousles Sammy's hair on the way past. He's on mom's side about cutting it in Sam's sleep. Dean wouldn't mind it as much if it didn't constantly fall into Sam's food at dinner time. As the person who sits across from Sam, Dean can confirm that it is wholly disgusting.
Late that night, maybe around twelve thirty, Benny's texting Dean in a panic because he forgot to do his research assignment which is due the next day. This happens on a weekly basis so Dean isn't too worried for his friend.
bennyboo: dean bro, u gotta help me, can u pls look up the effects of high salinity levels in soil within a lake's ecosystem ?
captdean: oh my god i hate you. fine.
bennyboo: aw dont be like that honey
The nickname Capt. Dean arose from when Benny, Dean and their mutual friend Charlie were hanging out two years ago. They had been trying to decide on a movie when Charlie suggested Star Trek, and Benny admitted he'd never seen it. Dean had agreed with him (for solidarity). But halfway through when Charlie caught Dean whispering the dialogue along with Capt. Kirk, she exposed him. The name stuck ever since. Dean lives with it, secretly loving it because he's more of a (closet) geek than his little brother.
So it happens while Dean is reading through the Wikipedia article about salinity and what salinity poisoning means. He hasn't even gotten to combine this information with a lake's ecosystem. He honestly hates Benny.
The message comes through as Dean's skimming over the sentence; high salinity levels in water can clog gills in fish, and other aquatic animals, thereby rendering them unable to breathe. So when he reads the notification at the top of the screen he assumes the text is referring to fish dying. But then he sees the sender is Unknown and Dean immediately knows.
He clicks through to it and squints against the glare of his phone. This message is possibly the weirdest yet.
Unknown: The others didn't listen to me, and so they perished. You are the only one who can save us. Please, you have to listen to me.
Dean glances at the time and decides it's too late to wake his dad up and alert him. Instead, Dean creates a contact and names Unknown 2038. And then he replies.
captdean: save you from what??
Dean waits a couple of seconds, in case 2038 responds fast, but then returns to the wiki article. He copies the URL and opens up his chat with Benny.
captdean: got a bunch of links im about to send thru.
He double taps and is about to tap paste when his phone vibrates with a text from 2038.
2038: I am sorry. I thought you had been told.
captdean: told what?? who are you??
2038: I am not able to disclose that right now.
Dean doesn't know which question 2038 is referring to. Maybe both.
captdean: do you have a name then? because right now im calling you 2038. also what kinda phone number is that?
2038: You can call me Castiel.
Dean is typing up his next message (my name's dean) when Castiel texts him again.
2038: I must go.
Dean deletes what he was about to send, and instead edits Castiel's contact name. Before he can do anything else, his phone vibrates again. Dean gets excited for a moment before realising it's just Benny. Who apparently had texted him six times whilst Dean was texting Castiel.
bennyboo: are you gonna send them then?????
bennyboo: DEAN I WILL BLAME YOU IF I FAIL THIS
bennyboo: IM SERIOUS
bennyboo: DEAN WINCHESTER......U R DEAD 2 ME.
Dean quickly pastes the URLs he had open. He doesn't place too much stock in Benny's threats. Benny threatens to unfriend Dean at least three times a week.
He then falls asleep, his phone on the corner of his pillow.
Dean goes several days with no more texts from Castiel. He goes to school and tells his friends about it. Benny's reaction is predictable, he suggests that Castiel is a stoner who's trying to recruit Dean into his pimping business. Dean ignores him.
Charlie reckons it's some mysterious secret agent from the future. Specifically, the year 2038. Who is trying to communicate with the past to warn them about an imposing doom. Dean stares at her blankly while she beams at him. At best, it's more likely than Benny's theory,which is saying something.
It's fifteen minutes into his history class when his phone vibrates in his pocket. Dean knows it isn't Charlie because she's sitting two seats away from him. Dean also knows it isn't Benny because his home room teacher confiscated his phone that morning. So it must be Castiel (because no one else texts Dean).
He edges his phone out, and sneaks a look at it.
2038: We don't have too much time. You need to act now, before it too late for your generation.
What? Generation? What's he talking about?
Dean tries to type inconspicuously but a nudge from the girl next to him, Lisa, changes his mind. His phone vibrates again, but thankfully Mr Luyin is still chattering away about some crap called the Magna Carta.
2038: Dean, you need to act NOW. Or more people will die.
Dean drops his phone in shock. It clatters to the floor and draws the attention of the teacher, which means the entire class too. Dean tries to subtly cover his phone with his shoe. Mr Luyin eyes him suspiciously.
"Something wrong Dean?" He asks. Dean grips the edges of his desk. He can feel Lisa staring at him incredulously.
"No, nothing Mr Luyin," he assures the teacher, "I'm fine."
Mr Luyin appears to be satisfied and turns back to his intricate diagram of---something, Dean hasn't been fucking paying attention. Lisa smiles sympathetically at him and he tries to grin back, but Castiel's text is still rattling him.
He watches Mr Luyin for a moment. Then he raises his hand and clears his throat.
"Uh, sir?" He asks, and then louder, "Sir can I please go the bathroom?"
Mr Luyin stops mid sentence and stares Dean down. Dean squirms in his seat and he can feel Charlie looking at him weird.
"If you must," My Luyin finally says, and Dean more or less shoots out of his seat and slams the door on his way out.
As soon as he reaches a few lockers away from the classroom he gets his phone out again. Castiel's text glares at him daringly. It's a warm day at school today but Dean feels chills nonetheless.
captdean: how did you know my name is dean?
But before he sends it, he pauses. And deletes it. He's got to be careful about this. Castiel is starting to scare him. All this talk of people dying--- children, women, it's serious stuff. You don't just joke about that.
captdean: why did you call me dean?
2038: Not important right now. What you NEED to do is ACT. And quickly.
A prickly feeling creeps down Dean's spine. What is Castiel not telling him? Actually, is Castiel even real? And why is he telling Dean he "needs to act"? What did he mean by Dean's generation? Castiel's tone has changed significantly since his first text, the messages becoming more hurried and anxious. Dean swallows.
captdean: first...what did you mean by my generation
There's a lengthy pause before Castiel replies. Like he thought of something to say but chose to say something else rather than his instinctual response. Dean feels uneasy.
Castiel: I do not have time for this, but I will tell you one thing. Dean, you have the power to stop this all, to save us, to end this. But only you know how to do it. Not even I do.
Dean feels a strange kind of fear wash over him. It's not that he believes Castiel--- first, why should he? But they sound awfully serious and Dean can't bring himself to call bluff on Castiel's claim.
captdean: ok where are you? maybe i can call the cops for you?
The reply is immediate.
captdean: ok....so what do i do then?
Castiel: If you have not been told....then nothing. You can't help us. We will die.
Dean frowns and his anxiety spikes.
captdean: what?? what do you mean???
Dean doesn't know why but he feels an unspeakable fear writhing inside him, like he's on death row and has the perfect view of the electric chair. His palms are slick with sweat.
captdean: there must be smth you can do!!
captdean: cas?? cas!!
captdean: castiel r u there????