The Dying of The Light
The drive from Sunnydale to Los Angeles had been without incident, and she muttered a Thank God for that, although she had stopped believing in God over a year ago. It was difficult to hot-wire the old VW Bug with only one hand, but she had managed. She had to manage; it was the only car she could find on short notice with an automatic shift. Her right arm having been severed six months ago by a vampire that had been a potential boyfriend, a stick shift was out. And she had to get out of Sunnydale. Away from the demons and vampires that had finally conquered the city.
Not that she imagined anywhere else to be different. As far as she was aware, the free human population of planet Earth was one. Herself. Everyone else was a vampire, dead, or lobotomized cattle, bred only for their blood.
Halfway between Sunnydale and LA, she stopped the car, turned off the engine, and just sat there. The numbness had started to wear off, and once she felt the despair return, she knew that she had to stop driving. Once she stopped, she performed what had become her ritual. She opened her old school book bag, and went through its contents, making sure nothing had disappeared. Silver tipped throwing stars, crossbow with eleven wooden bolts still ready to fire, her favorite stake, Mr. Pointy, all present and accounted for.
In addition, she had a stash of canned foods and dried meats that she had managed to raid from an abandoned supermarket in the back seat. She looked over her shoulder to make sure it was still there. She had made several grocery runs in the last year, each one more hazardous than before. Since vampires had no need for what humans thought of as food, she had a wide assortment to choose from, although there had been no fresh meat, produce or dairy. She would have murdered for a hamburger right about now. Furthermore, some vampires had staked out most of the remaining markets, hoping to catch a surviving human. She once slew to protect others, now she had to slay to simply survive.
From the bagís bottom, she produced a small velvet drawstring pouch. Opening the pouch, she spilled its contents onto the empty passenger seat next to her, and started to sort through them. They were pictures, wallet sized photographs mostly, of those who had meant the most to her. The reasons that she kept patrolling, fighting the darkness that threatened to devour Sunnydale, spitting into the face of Hell.
Joyce. Her mother. A fine and strong woman, even if she didnít fully understand her daughter.
Rupert Giles. Her mentor and surrogate father. Stuffy, humorless, stiff as a starched collar, and the finest man she ever knew.
Angel. First love. Tragic loss.
Xander. The clown. Always ready with a jibe or a bad pun, and fiercely loyal.
Cordelia. The prom queen. A bit stuck-up, a bit self-possessed, but as brave as any.
Oz. The musician. The silent one who saw more deeply than most.
Riley. Handsome. Sweet. If only...
Willow. She always came to her photo last.
Willow. The computer hacker, the apprentice Wiccan, the roommate, the best friend she, or anyone, ever had. And more. So much more. If only...
Hot tears started to flow down her cheeks as she looked at her photo. The shoulder length red hair, the piercing green eyes, the sweet smile. She had memorized every expression Willowís face could produce, and there were many. Happy Face, Sad Face, Grossed-Out Face, Big-Puppy- Dog-Eyes Face, and the ever popular Resolve Face. Whenever she saw Willow wearing her Resolve Face, she knew that Willow would win whatever argument they were engaged in at the time.
God, she loved that look. God she loved her.
And now, out of that love, she had come to Los Angeles, leaving Sunnydale for the last time.
All of those people whose photos she carried were dead. They had been turned, shortly after the Hellmouth opened. They had become vampires.
And she had been slaying them. Her mother, Giles, the Scooby Gang, all of them.
Her battle had been lost, but she could not let them live as monsters. She owed it to the memory of her friends and loved ones to give their souls peace, to end their existence as vampires. So she slew them.
Now, there were two left. Two living in LA. Cordelia Chase and Willow Rosenberg.
And Elizabeth Anne "Buffy" Summers had to slay them.
One of the things that surprised Buffy about the new vampiric world order was the fact that many amenities of modern life were still maintained. Electric power, gas, radio and television broadcasts, even the Internet. I guess even vampires need to surf the web for cyberbabes, Buffy thought to herself. Naturally, the media had been slanted to fit the needs of vampires, but Buffy still found the information useful.
For instance, a news broadcast several months ago stated that vampires had taken control of most of the factories, foundries and mines around the world, and were stoking their furnaces full blast. Not that they were interested in producing anything but huge black clouds of sooty smoke. By pumping toxic smoke into the atmosphere at a constant rate, they had effectively blocked out the sun. Now the daylight was no obstacle to them. They could operate at any time, twenty-four/ seven. And since they didnít need to breathe like living beings, vampires had no problem with befouling the world which they now ruled.
They also broadcast the live execution of one who had been an enemy of the vampire community, one of their own. Angel. A firing squad of vampires drew their crossbows and impaled him through the heart. On live TV. The night after she slew the vampire that had been Oz(a vampire/ werewolf hybrid, most vicious), Buffy slipped into the blood bar that had been her favorite hangout in Sunnydale, The Bronze, and saw the broadcast. She had to fight back the tears as never before upon seeing her first love gunned down without mercy, while the crowd of vampires that surrounded her laughed and cheered as he died. From that moment on, Buffy knew that it was over. The world no longer belonged to homo sapiens, it belonged to homo sanguinivore. The vampire.
And Buffy had to fight one of the strongest concentrations of vampires in the world, the formerly sunny LA, to ensure her beloved Willowís final rest.
Driving through the city limits of LA, Buffy met with zero resistance. Not so much as a fanged smile. A lot of abandoned cars littered the streets. Buffy was surprised at this development. Whatís the matter? Donít vampires drive anywhere? She remembered how Spike, once the newly vamped Giles removed the implant that the Initiative gave him, went back to cruising for new blood in a stolen Ford Thunderbird. He nearly knocked her down in that old beater, distracting her enough for Riley to deliver the coup-de-grace with a heavy ax. Her right shoulder socket still twinged in remembered pain from losing the arm. She stopped her car, and stepped out, extending her slayer senses to cover as much ground as possible.
The feedback smashing into her brain reminded her of what it must be like to be strapped to the amplifier at a Marilyn Manson concert. Over a million vampires, along with assorted demons, and other nasties, within a one-mile radius of her location. The resulting white noise made it nearly impossible to locate a single vampire. This wasnít trying to find a needle in a haystack, this was trying to find a needle in Nebraska.
"Where are you, Willow?" Buffy whispered to herself.
"Bu-ffy." She turned, startled, at the voice.
The voice whispered on the wind around her. It was sing-song, spooky, eerie. It reminded Buffy of that jump-rope rhyme that echoed throughout the Nightmare on Elm Street movies; One Two, Freddyís after you, Three Four, better shut the door, Five Six, grab your crucifix...
Buffy stood, Mr. Pointy in her hand, ready for anything. "Show yourself, bloodsucker, I havenít got all day!"
"Bu-ffy." The voice was clearer, more distinct. It was an octave higher than Buffyís voice, soft, light, sweet, almost like...
"Willow?" Buffy asked the air around her. "Where are you?"
"Where I always am, Buffy," the voice came from right behind her. Buffy spun on her heel, and her eyes locked onto the monster that had once been her best friend in all the world.
Willow was dressed in a black halter top, with a familiar duster jacket draped over her shoulders. "You like it, Buffy?" she asked, modeling her jacket. "I got it from an old friend. After I had him turned into a pile of ashes." She smiled, baring her fangs as she did so, and Buffy blanched in horror, the implications of her statement becoming clear as an unmuddied lake.
"Angel," her voice was a whispered agony. "You set up Angel! You sent him to the firing squad!"
"Duh. Souls are out this year, didnít you know?" As she walked toward Buffy, her eyes, once a bright jade green, now a murky olive color with streaks of blood red, never wavered in their gazing at her one-time friend. Buffy knew that the former wiccan was trying to entrance her, and she had to fight it. Címon, Buff, just plunge Mr. Pointy into her heart. Let Willow rest. Do it!
But she looked at her friendís eyes, her hair, her face. Forgetting that she was a vampire, Willow was still as beautiful as she ever was. Buffy felt her resolve weaken. She couldnít kill her best friend. And the vampire knew it.
Willowís smile grew larger, more sinister. She slowly strode toward the uncertain slayer. "Iíll let you in on a little secret, Buffy. Iíve always loved you. Not in a best-friends, come-on- over-and- weíll-do-each-otherís-hair way, but in a letís-get-naked-and-do-it-on-the-kitchen- floor way. And all this time, I held back, because it seemed so skanky. But you know, itís not skanky at all." Her voice was so soft, so seductive. Buffy found herself loosening her grip on Mr. Pointy. She couldnít do it; Willow was in there. The one she loved more than life itself.
Willow was now inches away from Buffy, her breath hot on the slayerís cheek. "You want me, donít you. Well now you donít have to hold back. It was a good fight, like I said a lifetime ago, but the fightís over. And you want me, as much as I want you." She reached behind Buffyís neck, and took the back of her head in a gentle yet strong hold. She purred as she leaned in for a kiss, a kiss the slayer wanted desperately to happen. Their lips joined in a torturously slow movement, and Buffyís knees turned to water. She knew that she belonged to Willow now.
"Faith was right all along, Buffy," Willow whispered. "Want." Her hand found her way to a responsive breast, and Buffy moaned at the contact. "Take." The aroused slayer didnít notice that the vampire had bared her fangs, and was about to sink them into her carotid artery. "Have."
"Have some of this!" A splash of water doused the vampire and her prey. Willow shrieked as though her face was hit by acid. Buffy blinked, the seductive effect of the vampireís mental control suddenly broken, and her mind was her own again. She looked around her, trying to find her unknown benefactor. A lithe figure emerged from the shadows, holding a bucket of water. Holy water, Buffy correctly guessed from Willowís demonic reaction. Buffy looked again at the bucket carrier; long stringy black hair, matted against a battered, beaten yet familiar face.
"Cordelia?" She shouted. "Youíre not a vamp!" Indeed, the very visible crucifix at Cordyís neck gave silent testimony to her humanity. No vampire could wear such a thing.
"What are you waiting for, Slay-girl?" Cordelia shouted. "Stake her!"
Buffy firmed her grip on Mr. Pointy, and charged toward the enraged vampire. The thingís face now wore the bestial contours of a true vampire, gone forever was its human facade. Looking at this fiend, Buffy could think and act more clearly. The vampire screamed, and lunged at Buffy. Buffy ducked, and then charged upward, knocking the monster out at mid- flight. The vampire tumbled, and Buffy jumped on top of her. Pinning the beast with her knees, Buffy rammed the business end of Mr. Pointy into the vampireís festering heart. In a twinkling, it was over. The fiend that at one time been Willow Rosenburg, computer hacker, self-proclaimed Ďbad-ass wiccaní, and best friend, had instantly been transformed into a pile of ash.
Buffy kneeled over the ashes of her one-time friend. She felt barren as the airless wastes of the moon. Not having the strength left to do more than cry for her best friend, thatís exactly what she did. Cordelia took Buffy by the shoulders, saying, "Look, Buffy, not to interrupt your moment of grief, but we gotta hightail it."
"Where, Cordy?" Buffy wailed as she turned her tear-streaked face away in despair. "Itís over! The good guys lost!"
"Maybe not," Cordy lifted Buffy off of her knees, and forced her to stand. "I knew that youíd be here. I was sent to find you."
"Sent? By who?"
"By the Powers That Be," Cordy tried to explain. "Címon, thereís a church two blocks away from here. If we keep low, we can make it. Iíll give you the skinny there." The two women ducked their heads as they made their way across the street. Bloodcurdling howls could be heard around them, which made them quicken their pace. Within a minute, they made it to the front door of the dilapidated church, and Cordy opened the heavy oak door, beckoning Buffy inside.
Once inside, Cordy barred the door with a four-by-four. "They wonít come in here, Buffy. Iíve got the place mined with holy water traps." She pointed to several windows, on which buckets of water were propped. "Besides, thereís enough crosses and such to keep them far away from here."
"Good thinking, Cordy," Buffy acknowledged. "But why are you doing this? What do you mean by the Powers that Be?"
"They sent me here," Cordy sat down on a pew, motioning for Buffy to join her. "Itís a long story, Iíll give you the highlights." As Buffy wearily sat down, Cordelia explained. "Just after Angel left Sunnydale for LA., he hooked up with a half-demon Irishman named Doyle. Doyle, it seems, had been in contact with an otherworldly group called the Powers That Be, and the PTB wanted him to recruit Angel into their cause. Apparently, if Angel did a certain amount of good, the PTB could give him his soul forever, and free him of being a vampire. Doyle helped him, because he could get flashes into the future.
"Shortly after I came to work for Angel, Doyle died. I kinda got close to him, so he gave me his gift to see the future before he died. And let me tell you, Buffy, itís a pain in the rump roast. Anyway, just after that happened, I guess the Hellmouth spilled over or something, because suddenly itís raining vampires."
"Hallelujah," Buffy quipped.
"Yeah. Well, just after Vamp-Willow betrayed Angel, I tried to take a shot at her, but then I got me one of those flashes. I saw you, Buffy. You came to LA And I was to meet you when you got here. So I got away from Wills, and holed up in here. Since then, two people, I guess they were with the PTB, a man and a woman in some weird-ass togas, they came here. They gave me something, and told me to give it to you." She reached behind the pew, and pulled out an object. It was a brass rod, eight inches long, with two copper snakes spiraling around it. "All they told me was that I had to give this to you, and you would know what to do with it once you held it. And I thought Giles could be vague."
Cordy handed Buffy the scepter, and when Buffy held it in her hand, she felt a surge of otherworldly power and knowledge. Images flooded her mind, faces, feelings, objects. The site of Sunnydale High School, after it was destroyed during the Mayorís ascension scheme. Faces of people she loved, and people she hated with a black vengeance. Giles, Xander, Willow, her mom, and...Principal Snyder? And Quentin Travers? The Watcher that forced Giles to betray her during her eighteenth birthday?
And one last vision, of her and Willow. Before she became a vampire, when they were best friends. Studying together, laughing, hanging at the Bronze, holding hands, kissing...Kissing? Buffy blinked at the sight. She never kissed Willow, not that passionately. But as she saw herself surrendering in her friendís arms, something seemed natural about it. It seemed so right, so perfect. Why didnít she see it before? What was that line from ĎA Christmas Carolí, ĎAre these the shadows of things that will be, or things that may be only?í If this was the ĎMay Beí, then Buffy felt the need to jack it up to the ĎWill Beí column.
With these visions, she felt a great calm. For the first time in years, a peacefulness, a sense of purpose and well-being filled her soul, and she knew what she had to do.
"Itís a time-spell, Cordy," Buffy explained. "Donít ask me how, but I know. Itís designed to send me back. To the day it happened, to try and change it. I have to do it. I have to go back, I..."
"Stop, Buffy," Cordy interrupted, her nose twitching. "Something smells like..Omigod! Smoke!" Bilious clouds of sooty smoke poured into the windows from outside. Buffy clambered to one relatively clear window, and peered out. "Twenty to thirty vamps," she reported. "All lobbing Molotov cocktails. And these timbers donít look up to regulation. This powder magazineís about to blow! We gotta get out of here"
"Ixnay, Buff," Cordy shouted. "You gotta get out. Iíll hold Ďem off for as long as I can. You have the time spell thingy, use it. Go back, change all this. Itís the only way!"
Buffy looked long and hard at her friend. The old Queen C was still in there, still fighting in her own way. "All right, Cordy," Buffy said. She wrapped her arm around Cordyís right shoulder. She then handed her crossbow. "You only got eleven shots in here, make them count."
"Good luck, Slay-girl," Cordy choked back a sob as her friend sought a clear space on the floor, near the altar.
At that moment, the windows crashed, as the vampires and demons poured in. Newbie vamps came in first, taking the brunt of the holy water traps. The more experienced vampires climbed over their suffering bodies, intent on these last two humans in LA. Cordy fired the crossbow, taking out two vamps with three shots, shouting, "Thatís for Angel!"
Buffy watched this display for a second, knowing that the vampires would soon overwhelm Cordy, there were simply too many of them for her to handle. Shaking her head to concentrate on the task at hand, she closed her eyes, and raised the scepter high above her head as she innately knew she had to do. "Tempus Fugit," she shouted, "Tempus Fragnat!" And she slammed the scepter onto the floor in front of her. At the very moment the scepter made contact with the floor, she saw a vamp sink his fangs into Cordyís neck. She prayed that what she saw would be undone.
Ripples of pure white light flashed from the tip of the scepter as she lifted it off of the floor, engulfing the Slayer rapidly until all she could see was the light. The light didnít blind, instead it seemed to clarify her vision, yet she instinctively shut her eyes against the brightness. When she opened them again, she found herself sprawled out on the street. She looked around her, amazed at what she saw.
She stood outside of Wetherly Park, Sunnydaleís favorite vampire trolling ground. It was mid-afternoon, judging by the position of the sun. And there was a sun, which she hadnít seen since the vamps blotted it out with their gray smoke clouds. Buffy felt as though she had run a marathon wearing heavy armor, and her legs protested even the act of standing, but she had to find out when and where she really was. There was only one place she could think to find the answers. Her old home. She ran to the old house, praying that her mother would be there.
Praying that she could undo the hellish future from which she had escaped.
And above all else, praying that she would see her Willow again, save her from this terrible fate, and bring her the happiness she so richly deserved.