My dad didn't come back for my sixteenth, just like he said he might not. But he wasn't there for my seventeenth, or my eighteenth. I missed him on my birthday, but he'd never been a big part of my life. I figured either things were really bad, or that he'd decided not to come back anymore. Even Mom wasn't too bothered by it, or at least, she wasn't bothered anywhere I could see.
He missed out on a big achievement in my life. I'd already skipped a grade, way back, but the real milestone was being accepted to Wisconsin to study Pre-Med in 2009. It wasn't a major that was offered, so I ended up being a Folklore and Literature major, but I'd already decided what I wanted to do with my life. I'm still working on that plan, too. I'm gonna be a doctor, but I'm gonna make sure hunters know about me. They gotta have somewhere safe to go to get patched up - monsters and demons can always find them in hospitals.
I moved into the dorms at the university, got myself a job at a local diner to cover the cost of living, and my books and stuff. I was really happy, settled in and working hard. I really enjoyed the challenge of studying all this folklore and knowing that most of what I was reading was real, but the thing I worked hardest on was the pre-med. I had a point to make - Mom really didn't want me getting into medicine, not after her experience as a nurse. But things were good. I should have known it wasn't going to last.
Sophomore year, March 2010. I was visiting my mom on a weekend - all right, so I had laundry to do and I didn't want to pay for the machines - and everything was normal, you know? Well, not normal globally
, if you counted the freaky weather and mass suicides and earthquakes and stuff, but normal for home. We didn't know that the Apocalypse was coming. We certainly didn't know that we were about to get dragged into it ourselves.
Anyway, we're just sitting down together, about to have dinner, and suddenly there are three men in the kitchen with us. They just appeared out of nowhere, all crisp dark suits and this way of looking at us. They were so superior, so much better than us. And one of them spoke to me.
"So you're the Winchesters' baby sister," he said, like it was common knowledge. "Well, I can certainly see why they've been keeping you under wraps."
Knowing that my brothers knew nothing about me, I stuck to the party line, but I'm pretty sure the surprise showed in my face. Winchester isn't exactly a common name. "I don't know what you're talking about. What are you?"
The one who spoke began to pace backwards and forwards, this smarmy, patronising grin on his face. "Ah, an intelligent question - you must get that enquiring mind from your mother. Not who, but what. But I'll answer both." He paused, looking down at me, and I swear I felt about as big as an ant about to get stepped on. "Zachariah, Angel of the Lord, but that's not what I'm here to talk about. You
, Ayden, are going to say yes."
I remember looking at Mom as though she could make sense of this, but she looked about as befuddled as I felt. The assumption that I was going to do anything this smarmy smarta$$ said prickled along my spine, igniting the attitude I'd been developing for the last five years. "I don't think so," I refused, shaking my head with a smirk of my own. "I think you're gonna leave."
The smirk on Zachariah's face went cold as he stopped moving. Caught under his stare, I realised a little late that I might have just sassed something that could kill me without breaking a sweat. I wasn't going to apologise, though. They were in my
house, after all. Well, my mom's house, but the principle's the same.
"I see the problem here," Zachariah said, and for a moment, I thought he was going to be reasonable. "You think this is a subject up for discussion. You're getting ready to study medicine, aren't you? Let's see how enthusiastic you are for a debate when your mother is in the throes of, I don't know ... advanced cirrhosis of the liver."
I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't to see my mother suddenly pitch off her chair onto the linoleum, her skin turning yellow with jaundice and mottled with bruises from the slightest touch. She moaned in pain, her body inflating with what I now know was ascites, an accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity, and to my shock, there was a lot of fresh blood bubbling up from her mouth, pooling on the floor by her head.
I launched off my chair to land on the floor beside her, suddenly in a panic. "Stop it!" I remember yelling at Zachariah, frightened and shocked and totally bewildered. "What are you doing this for?"
And the bastard answered as though nothing had happened, as though he hadn't just handed my mom a death sentence. "As I said, Ayden, you are going to say yes." He sat down in the chair I'd vacated, watching me try to do something, anything, that would ease the pain my mother was in. "And you're going to say it now."
"Say yes to what?" I demanded, angry as much as frightened. The worst they could do, I thought, was to inflict massive amounts of pain on me and leave me to die. I didn't know about resurrection then. "How the hell can I say yes to something when I don't know what the question is?"
"I'm hearing a lot of this." He held his hand up, flapping his fingers and thumb like some kind of puppet mouth. "What I want to be hearing is this
My mom cried out suddenly, drawing my attention down to where she was curled up, the blood pouring from her mouth into my lap. I was horrified to see sores opening up all over her skin, and not just open wounds - these were pus-filled, necrotic. They must have hurt so much, and they were everywhere. I could see them beneath her clothes where the blood and pus were seeping through the cloth.
"I'm not allowed to do it to you yet, though," Zachariah continued, ignoring my crying, screaming pleas for him to stop what he was doing, to leave my mom alone. "Here's the thing, Ayden. Your family have a habit of not doing as they're told, even when they're in full possession of the facts. So you don't get the facts. You get persuasion."
I couldn't tear my eyes away from the disfigured agony that was my mom. Was she being put through all this because of me? Was I being asked something because of my dad, or one of my brothers? But Zachariah had given me a bit of information that made up my mind. Whichever Winchester he was after, they hadn't said yes to whatever it was. It had to be something real bad. So I made a decision that ultimately cost me everything.
I looked up at this so-called Angel of the Lord, smirking down at me from his seat, and despite the tears and the fright and the horror of what they had done and what I was about to do, I knew then and there that I wasn't going to do anything he wanted. "You can kiss my lily-white a$$ and go squeal for your yes, 'cos you're not getting it from me."
I think that was the second time I came close to dying. Zachariah was pissed, and I mean really pissed. So pissed he didn't have words for it at first. And then he just turned it around. He stood up and patted me on the head.
"We'll see if you still feel the same way after watching your mother die in excruciating agony. Call me."
And just like that, he was gone, taking his two goons with him. Leaving me to curl my mom up in my arms and sit with her, waiting for an ambulance that came too late. My mom, the healthiest woman you could ever want to meet, died in my arms on our kitchen floor of advanced cirrhotic liver disease and MRSA, all because some angel didn't get what he wanted. All because of me, and some misplaced loyalty to my absentee father.