Prologue

Breathe.

The air is thick, clotted with pollution that she didn't know the last time it was her choice whether to breathe or not. Her lips are cracked. She can feel every whisper of air pass them with an intensity that only those who have spent time as an observer within their own body will ever understand. Just this small act of choosing to draw a single breath would be enough to make the girl's lips turn in a smile if she could remember how.

Breathe again. Another breath, drawn so close to the first that they may have been mistaken as the same, yet her sensitivity tells her that it is the second free breath she has drawn. For a moment, she is content. The mere act of choosing to breathe fills her with satisfaction that she never thought she would know. She could have lain in perfect bliss, breathing, or not breathing, by her own choice for days and never grown tired of that simple freedom.

She might have, but something more powerful than breath comes to her. A twitch in her closed eyes, a tingle and then they are open. They open because she wills it, and then close again because the colors are painful. Painful but oh so glorious as her eyelids flicker open once more, remaining this time. A white ceiling. A beautiful, amazing white ceiling. There is angelic purity in the color, and she finally understands why her mother insisted on a white dress for her wedding.

Her breath comes again in a sudden gasp as she remembers to take it. Then her body takes over and slowly her chest rises and then falls as her eyes remain riveted to this simple white ceiling as though Michelangelo himself had painted his masterwork upon its surface.

Her eyes water, and she closes them reluctantly, afraid that with the next blink her freedom will vanish and she will be a slave within herself once more. She fears that this glimpse of the world will be taken from her. But the darkness does not linger. It is gone once more, vanquished by the light as her eyes open by her own choice. She blinks again, taking almost as much pleasure from this act as she did from her first breath.

She could blink. A thought comes to the girl then, but for a long moment she is afraid to try it. She fears that with each advantage of freedom she takes, her time will end and she will once more be thrust into the inescapable prison that is her own mind. Finally, after she can bear to wait no longer, her eyes move to the left. She might have closed them again in reflexive fear of her own impending enslavement, but refuses to lose even a second of the miraculous gift of sight.

There was a dresser. The color was... She has to think. She knows the color but her mind was slow, unable to process even such simple things without effort. Brown. The dresser was brown. This time, her lips remember how to smile. White ceiling and brown dresser. How could two such beautiful things exist in this world?

Slowly, she turns her eyes away from the dresser, to the right. Blood. There is blood on the wooden floor. The copper scent comes to her then, and she realizes that it had been there all along, unrecognized, as though the sense of smell had only returned once her vision reminded it of its duty. The girl takes the scent of the blood and cherishes it. Not because it is blood, but because it is a scent, any scent. There is another scent in the air, one she knows but refuses to let herself contemplate. This smell, unlike every other sensation since her first breath, she ignores.

Beyond the blood there is a table, and if she moves her eyes as far up as they would go, she can barely glimpse the door. Would it be possible? Could it be? With slightly mounting confidence but also the unshakable fear known to all who have lost their freedom so completely, the girl turns her head. The motion is painful, though she doesn't know if this is because of her inexperience or from an injury she was not present for.

Despite the initial stiffness, her head turns and she nearly weeps from joy. It is her first overt body movement and yet she remains both aware and in control. She can see the door more clearly now, s well as the blood near her. It reminds her of what happened, at least what little she is aware of. But the thought is painful, and the day is too wonderful to spend on pain. So she looks away from the blood to the door. It stands open, inviting her departure from this room. How could she though? She isn't capable of rising from this spot on the floor, is she? For a moment, the girl refuses to consider the possibility, because she is content here with this indescribable freedom of breath, of scent, and of sight. Any more and she feared that whoever was responsible for this gift would think she was greedy and snatch it away.

And yet, it is human nature to reach for what is perceived to be unattainable. The girl turns her head and sees her hand. Her fingers are half closed, palm up. She sees her index finger and with the trembling anticipation that must come to every person who has accomplished the impossible, she wills it to move. At first there is nothing, and she nearly succumbs to despair. But she breathes, reminding herself of her own freedom in doing so, and tries once again. This time, the finger twitches. It unclenches, rising, and if the girl remembered how to cry, she would weep in joy.

She curls the finger tightly against her palm and then straightens it out. A cracked, unknowable noise passes her lips that might have been a laugh if she remembered how. She twitches her other fingers then, slowly wiggling them with the delight of a newborn who has just noticed her own hand. Slowly, she clenches her hand into a fist before opening it once more. She repeats this motion several times, the simple act never seeming to grow old.

It is with an almost amusing suddenness that she remembers she has two such hands, and the girl turns her head to find the other waiting. Soon she is clenching and unclenching both hands, and her body shudders in silent, dry sobbing from the feeling of such a simple act.

She turns her palms down then, resting her hands against the floor. She feels as Armstrong must have before setting foot on the moon. Does she dare be so arrogant as to assume that she may move the rest of her body as well as her fingers? She is tense in the grip of anticipation, held between the simultaneous feelings of fear and tentative optimism for an unknowable length of time. Then hope wins out, and she presses down on the floor, lifting her head. Her shoulders come afterward and in a startlingly short time, she is sitting up.

She might have sat for as long as she laid on that hard wooden floor, but optimism breeds momentum and in mere seconds she is reaching to the dresser next to her. She lifts her arms, taking a moment to enjoy the act of doing so, and then her fingers clutch at the top, weakly at first and then with more strength. Slowly, but with growing pleasure, the girl pulls herself to a nearly standing position, leaning on the dresser for support because she has little trust in her own untested legs.

Warily, she eases her weight away from the dresser until she is standing. She has to repeat that thought to herself a few times before it ceases to be a dream. She is standing. Her legs are weak, not from disuse but from her own inexperience. She wobbles slightly, but does not fall. She realizes that she is still clenching and unclenching her hands, and stops as another sensation comes to her.

This time it is sound. She hears a noise, but cannot process what it is for several moments. Finally it comes to her, as she stands motionless in this beautiful room. Sirens. She is hearing sirens. Instinctively, as she remembers the blood as well as what happened here, she knows that she must flee. Yet she is reluctant. This room, this place of her rebirth, has become astonishingly special to her in a such a short time.

As much as the room means to her however, her freedom means more. And she knows that if she remains here, that freedom will be taken away, through one means or another. So she moves, first sliding one foot forward and jerking the other in a strange half step, half stagger that might conjure the memory of a certain Quasimodo or Igor in the mind of an observer.

A second step follows the first, this less twisted and awkward than the other. Then she nearly falls but catches herself on the doorway, amazed by her own hands quickness as it grips the wall to steady her.

The sirens are closer now, and she knows she must hurry. Yet, her eyes catch glimpse of an unnoticed mirror, and she stops. The girl she sees is herself, yet the body has not been hers in so long that she had forgotten what she looked like. Now, she sees herself, and her weak smile grows despite the impending danger.

She remembers who the blood belongs to then, having been vaguely aware of the man and the other during her occasional rises from the pit of her mind to active observation, never in control but sometimes able to watch and listen.

But she is a prisoner no longer, and if she wishes to remain that way she must move as quickly as her still stumbling body will allow. So the girl turns from the mirror.

Dean Winchester is dead, but she is alive. She is free. Ruby is gone, and so is Lilith. All that remains is the girl, the one they left behind. Her name is Alison, and she is free.