What Could Have Been

Chapter 4

October, 1984

“Thank you for coming in, Mr and Mrs Winchester.”

Mary offered a smile she didn’t feel to the Kindergarten teacher. “Please, Miss Dawson, call us Mary and John.”

She shook their hands respectively. “Of course, Mary. I’m Hannah. Please, take a seat.”

John sat stiffly on the edge of his chair, his back ramrod straight, as though he had slipped back into his Marine persona in preparation for a fight. Mary could relate. Every protective instinct within her had awoken when Dean’s teacher had called them in for this meeting. School had started little over a month ago; they wouldn’t be sitting here unless something was wrong.

“What is this about, Hannah?” Mary asked.

The teacher put on a bright smile. “I would like to start off by saying that your son is a delight to teach. Dean is very clever and is always eager to learn new things. He also loves to share what he knows with his classmates – I heard him telling the other boys what the names of the different toy cars were during indoor play last week.”

“I’m a mechanic, so Dean has grown up around cars,” John explained. “He could probably tell you all the different parts of the engine, too, if you asked him. But that is not why you called us here. Please get to the point, Miss Dawson.”

“Well, I have a few… concerns that I would like to discuss with you, if that’s alright?”

Mary nodded wordlessly.

“I couldn’t help but notice that Dean always seems very tired when he comes to Kinder. He won’t sleep during relaxation time but his eyes droop and he tends to become lethargic by the end of the day. Five year olds should be getting between 8 and 12 hours of sleep every night…”

“He goes to bed at 7:30pm and usually gets up around 6 so he can spend some time with me in the garage,” John said. “That is ten and a half hours of sleep.”

“And he is sleeping through the night?”

“Well… not always,” Mary admitted. “He has nightmares.”

“How often?”

“I’m… not sure. We hear him cry out some times, but he doesn’t come into our room and he doesn’t seem to remember his dreams in the morning.”

“Are you sure about that?”

John bristled. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Hannah reached into her desk and pulled out a sheaf of papers. “Dean spends a lot of his time drawing. His pictures are quite advanced for his age, but some of the things he draws are – well, see for yourself.”

She handed over the stack of crayon drawings. Mary sifted through them and with each new page her heart climbed further into her throat.

Yellow eyes.

An arm dripping blood.

Fire.

Those she could understand, but the others…

A decapitated head with fangs instead of teeth.

A fire burning in a dug-up grave.

A black dog.

A werewolf.

A wendigo.

A rawhead.

Supernatural creatures drawn in eerily accurate detail that her child should not know anything about.

“Dean has an active imagination,” John said.

“Has he been exposed to scary books and movies that could be feeding his ‘imagination’?”

“No. He watches cartoons and Disney movies.” Mary had tried to keep her children away from monsters of any form, even fictional ones.

“I’m not trying to accuse you of anything,” Hannah said. “I’m just trying to understand. I’ve asked Dean about his drawings but he won’t say anything about them; he just keeps drawing these disturbing images. If it isn’t make-believe monsters or people with yellow eyes, it is fire.”

Mary looked down at the picture in her lap that had been sifted to the top of the pile. A man stood out on the street with a baby in his arms and a small boy at his side, staring at a house engulfed by flames. A woman with yellow hair was standing in the midst of the fire, burning.

Dean had drawn the night of the fire. But in this picture Mary had clearly not made it out in time. He had drawn her dying.

She remembered this actually. That night they had slept in a motel because they had nowhere else to go. They were all exhausted, but Dean had started screaming in his sleep at 4am. His first nightmare. Mary had woken him up and he burst into tears at the sight of her, throwing himself into her arms and gripping her tight like he was afraid that if he let go she would vanish. When she was finally able to get coherent words from him he had said he thought the bad man had burned her all up on the ceiling of Sammy’s nursery.

John had told him there was no bad man and Mary had assured him that she was fine. Dean calmed down eventually and never mentioned it again, but she always knew when he had a repeat of that nightmare because he would be especially clingy the next day, refusing to let her out of his sight.

He stopped coming to his parents for comfort from bad dreams, though. If she went in to check on him during the night he would turn over and pretend he was sleeping. John thought he was learning resilience. Mary feared he didn’t trust them anymore.

“Look, Miss Dawson,” John said, “I’ll have a word with Dean about his pictures, see if he can’t try drawing sunshine and rainbows instead.”

“That isn’t my point. I am just concerned for Dean’s emotional wellbeing.”

Mary sighed. “Hannah… you should probably know that our house burned down last year. We don’t know what happened, exactly, but it started in our baby’s nursery and Dean was the one to carry Sammy out of there. He saved his little brother – us, too, actually – but it was still a very upsetting experience for him as you can imagine.”

“I see,” Hannah said softly. “Poor thing.”

“He’s doing fine, though,” John said. “He’s tough for a little tyke.”

“I think the trauma is affecting him more than you realise. Have you considered counselling?”

“My son does not need a shrink digging around in his head.”

Hannah’s lips drew into a thin line. “Of course, Mr Winchester, you know what is best for your child. But the nightmares, the pre-occupation with monsters, and his clear fixation with what happened that night… they are not the only signs that Dean is struggling. He is frequently anxious and withdrawn, he complains often of stomach pain, he plays with his imaginary friend more than his classmates, and he even got into a fight with a few of the other children yesterday.”

“Dean is fighting?” Mary asked. “That doesn’t seem like him. He is so gentle with Sammy at home.”

“He is usually very sweet, if a little shy with his classmates. But yesterday, without any provocation I could see, he suddenly became hysterical. He started screaming at three of the boys he normally gets along with to get away from him and leave him alone. He called them ‘black-eyed monsters’ and punched one of them in the face before I was able to intervene.”

Mary’s breath caught. “Black eyes?”

“I don’t pretend to understand it. But I am worried about Dean, and to be honest I feel a little out of my depth, especially now that I know about the trauma he experienced last year. I really would like to refer you to a child psychologist, if you would be willing to-”

“No. Thank you, Miss Dawson, for bringing this to our attention, but we will deal with our son’s behaviour in our own way.”

“I am just trying to help, Mr Winchester.”

“We understand that, Hannah, thank you,” Mary said gently.

“Is there anything else?” John asked.

“Not at the moment, sir, no.”

“Okay, then. Come on, Mary.”

Mary picked up the pile of drawings. “Do you mind if I keep these, Hannah?”

“Go ahead.”

The car ride back home was tense and quiet. Mary flipped slowly through the drawings again, frightened by the accuracy with which Dean had drawn monsters that only hunters should know about.

“We’re not taking Dean to a shrink,” John said stiffly.

Mary agreed with him. It wasn’t a psychologist they needed – they knew as little about the supernatural as John did.

No. What they needed was a psychic.

The next day, Mary did not take Dean to Kinder as she normally would. Instead, she loaded her children into the car and drove to the address of a psychic she had found in the local directory. Eleven years on, she had lost all of her father's hunting contacts so she had to hope that this 'Missouri Moseley' had at least a trace of genuine talent, unlike most of the phoneys out there.

The waiting room did not look promising. It was filled with glittering beads, glitzy fabric and magazines with titles such as 'Your Daily Horoscope' and 'Unveiling the Future'. The woman herself looked like the embodiment of the stereotype as well, with the gypsy-style dress and necklaces, and when Mary heard the parting advice she gave to her previous client - "The man of your dreams is waiting just around the corner, honey, wait and see" - Mary nearly walked out then and there.

"I wondered when I would be seeing you here, Mary," the woman said. "Come on through, honey. Sam and Dean too."

Mary hesitated. "How do you know our names?"

"Same way I know you didn't tell your husband you were coming here, and the same way I know you're worried about your family. I put on a show for the civilians but I am the real deal, honey. So are you coming through or not?"

Mary stood, settling Sam on her hip and taking Dean's hand. "Come on, boys."

They got settled on the couch and suddenly Mary didn't know what to say.

"Yes, you can trust me, Dean," Missouri opened, as if answering a question that Dean had never voiced aloud. "I will listen to anything you want to tell me, and I'll believe you no matter how crazy it sounds."

"No one ever believes me," Dean said in a small voice, and Mary's heart broke.

Missouri glanced at Mary, a knowing look in her eyes, before she turned her attention back to Dean. "Maybe they are afraid to. You have seen some scary things, haven't you, honey?"

Dean nodded.

"Why don't you tell me about them?"

"I don't want to scare Sammy."

"Well, why don't we let Sammy play with the toys in the corner while we chat?"

Mary set her youngest on the floor and gave him a little nudge towards the toys. He crawled over and within a minute was happily absorbed in exploring a texture book.

"Okay, Dean?"

He nodded and launched into the story of what had happened in Sammy's nursery that night. Mary noticed that he didn't change or embellish any of the details from the first time he had told this tale, which was a strong indication that he was telling the truth. Not that she had ever doubted.

Missouri listened attentively, not appearing at all surprised by anything she was hearing.

"Okay, Dean. What about the nightmares?"

Dean’s face screwed up in bemusement. "They're not real. But they feel real, like I'm 'membering stuff that didn't happen."

This. This is why Mary was here. This is what she was worried about. She knew what was out there in the dark, but how could her little boy possibly know? Unless he was somehow - different.

"Like what?" Missouri asked.

"Like the bad man burning Mommy and Daddy being very sad and drinking lots and practicing with guns and reading smelly old books with scary pictures in them and leaving me with Sammy to go hunting and coming back all hurted and getting better just so he can go hunting again."

"Hunting what, Dean?"

Dean glanced over to his little brother. "Monsters," he whispered.

"Alright, honey, thanks for telling me. Do you want to go and play with Sammy?"

He nodded and scrambled off the couch to join his little brother in play corner. Sammy squealed a greeting and thrust a teddy bear in Dean's face. Dean took it, smiling, and moved the bear's arms to give Sammy a cuddle. Sam beamed and passed Dean the next toy, then the next, piling them all in Dean's lap and watching eagerly as Dean showed him new ways to play with them.

"They're good together," Missouri observed. "Dean seems to take his job as big brother very seriously."

"Yes, he does," Mary agreed. Ever since the night of the fire, Dean had taken it upon himself to be Sammy's protector, teacher and best friend. He was always very gentle and patient with him; more patient than Mary herself was sometimes. She was so proud of him.

"Considering everything he has seen, Dean seems to be coping quite well."

"But why is he seeing such horrible things in the first place?"

"Well, I don't think I have to tell you that your son is telling the truth about what happened that night, or that the monsters in his dreams are very real. You already know."

"What are you talking about?"

"I know a hunter when I see one."

"I'm not-"

"You may have stopped hunting, honey, but you will always be a hunter. It is in your blood." She glanced meaningfully towards Dean. "It is in his blood."

"No. No. My son will not be a hunter. I won't let him go through what I did."

"Dean has already seen pure evil. He doesn't understand his dreams, but deep down he knows that monsters are real and he is scared, Mary. If you trained him to be a hunter he wouldn't feel so helpless, the way he did that night and still does."

"No. Hunters die young and they die bloody. I’m not going to lose him to the same bastards that killed my parents." And she was not going to turn into her father.

"If you keep lying to him you will lose him for sure."

"I did not come here for parenting advice," Mary snapped, refusing to acknowledge that the woman's words had hit a little too close to home. "I want to know why my son is having these dreams. Is he psychic? Is he seeing the future?"

"No."

Mary sighed in relief. Dean’s description of his dreams had scared her; she didn't want to die, and she didn't want John to become a hunter to get revenge. She just wanted her family to be safe.

"I can't put my finger on exactly what it is," Missouri continued, "But if I had to guess I would say that Dean is experiencing an alternate version of events - what could have been if that night had turned out differently."

"You mean if I had gone into Sammy's nursery, and the demon had killed me."

"Yes."

So that mysterious hunter, whoever he had been, really had saved her life with the warning he gave her all those years ago. She wished she could thank him.

"I still don’t understand, though. Why would Dean dream about things that could have happened but didn’t?"

"I am afraid I don’t have an answer for that. I have never heard of anything like this. I just know that Dean’s energy feels like...a focal point, or an axis at the centre of a myriad of important events that could change the course of history. But I don't know why, or what that means for his future."

That did not bode well. "How do I stop it?"

"I don't think you can."

"I don't want to hear that. This is my son we are talking about!"

"I'm sorry, Mary. All you can do is try to prepare him for whatever is coming.”

As far as Mary was concerned, that was not an option. She had sworn to herself that she would not raise her children to be hunters, and she intended to keep that promise no matter what.

"Thank you for your time," Mary said curtly as she stood. "Dean, Sam, come on, we're leaving." She scooped up her youngest and took Dean's hand.

Dean hung back. "Mommy, what did she say?"

"She said that you have an over active imagination and that monsters don't exist. You don't have to be scared, Dean."

Mary pretended not to see the disappointment on Missouri's face, or the hurt in Dean's eyes. She just had to hope this would finally convince him he was wrong about the monsters so he would stay far, far away from hunting.

She was doing this for his own good.


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