Fading World by Absenteye


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Sharp cold reality surrounded her on the streets of Sunnydale, bright and dark all at once. Impenetrable and distant, yet so natural to everyone else. She’d been in peace for too long, now she couldn’t bare the endless horror of everyday life. How could they find meaning in this existence? She knew she had once, but she was young then. Buffy was twenty one years old. She felt a thousand lives press and burn behind her eyelids, and knew she was still young. And they expected her to be. She’d faced horrors most people couldn’t imagine, killed her first love and grown up in a moment of determination. And still she’d been young. Hopeful. Even happy at times. She had been forced to become strong, learnt how to find happiness and meaning. She had carried so much, but then it had all been lifted from her shoulders. Peace had filled her veins and for the first time content, she had rested. But then it came hurling back, urgency and pain, fear, longing…life. She had braced herself from the pain, even managed to block all of her feelings. And now she had to fight to have them back. Because nothing was worse than being empty. She would even welcome pain.

So she gave in to what could make her feel again. She felt. But she knew it wasn’t right. She should be strong and righteous, and he was so wrong…Evil. And she knew he loved her, no matter what her friends thought, she knew he did. And she was wrong for wanting to see his eyes shine with adoration, wrong to want him close. She wouldn’t return it. She couldn’t…? He was the bad guy. But she couldn’t keep using him. That was wrong too.

Buffy walked down the streets holding a piece of paper, labelled “New Rentals”. Her big scary enemy…was three dorks. Nothing seemed important anymore. How hard could they bring down the world? Why should she care? She was too detached. Buffy tried to pull together, find a reason. The streets were dark, everything perfectly surreal symmetry. The lawns were all mowed, lit by the warm glow of the lamp posts. Cubic white identical houses all seemed to fit in so well along the streets. Inside black gloves her hands squeezed the paper, a black knit cap braced her from the cold. Her leather jacket comforted her. Sighing, she glanced at the paper, frowning slightly and looking from the paper to a dark littered alley. Abandoned cars, litter bins and containers lined the street, as well as junk and bushes. Buffy started walking towards the alley, when she felt the presence of a vampire. Desperately trying to calm, she turned to face him. “Spike.” She hated the tiny tremor in her voice. He looks so…no. He looks evil. Evil is what he looks. Evil and bad. Bad and evil. Not irresistibly irresistible or oh-God-so-hot or I’d-jump-you-right-nowish or…crap. She couldn’t stand his gaze, so she stared down at her shoes.

“Why are you here?” she asked softly, wishing she had the strength to be rude. Wishing that for a moment she could be angry with him, wishing she wouldn’t feel this…

“Buffy, behind you!” Spike yelled.

She spun around blocking the punch from a bald waxy-looking demon. It’s eyes were glazed and reddish, it’s skin sickly white. It was covered in a leather coat, and it seemed to have tentacles around its neck. No, wait. That was the fashion mistake of a collar.

“Oh. Hi.” Buffy said, kicking the demon in the chest causing it to stumble backwards. “You didn’t by any chance happen to just eat a couple of nerds, did you?”

Growling, the demon advanced again. It took a swing at Buffy and she ducked, meanwhile Spike had moved around them facing the demons back. He threw his arms around the demon, which shot a thin bony stinger out of its knuckle and slid it into Spikes arm. The vampire groaned loudly, his arms lost their grip as he slid down on the ground with a soft thud. Buffy stood up and threw a punch at the demons face, but it anticipated her move and shoved its stinger through her shoulder. She gasped as the world suddenly lost focus.


***


He was strapped to a bed, thrashing from side to side, screaming and sobbing.

“Where’s that tranquilizer?” A white clad nurse yelled, desperately trying to hold down the struggling man in the bed. “Oh, come on William, don’t be such a bitch” she mumbled under her breath, reaching out for the syringe and pressing the needle into his arm. He writhed and moaned, back arching, until finally the medication calmed him into sleep. The nurse sighed and wiped a strand of hair off her face.

She turned to her co-worker, “Boy, if this guy gets any worse, we’ll run out of medication.”

The second nurse rolled her eyes, “Yeah. He’s a real nutcase, that one. Coffee?”

The two nurses started walking towards the diner, when a piercing scream echoed in the hospital. The women looked at each other, “Summers again huh? Weird that the two of ‘em always have attacks at the same time.”

***


Buffy opened her eyes. She was sitting, hugging her knees in the corner of a white room. Sharp white light almost blinded her. Buffy glanced down and saw loose white clothes covering her body. Her hair hung over her face, tussled and dishevelled. Her feet were bare against the cold floor. At her side was a bed, all white except for the leather restraints across it. Two male nurses held her arms firmly; a man in doctors clothes sat on his heels in front of her. His dark face seemed to be the only thing not shining with a bright painful light, the only thing soothing. He inspired a strangely familiar and safe feeling.

“Buffy?” he said, “Buffy, can you hear me?”

“What is this?” She whispered, fear evident in her eyes.

The doctor watched her closely, “do you know where you are, Buffy?”

She stared at him in confusion, what was going on? “Sunnydale” she whispered. Something was wrong. She knew it even before he spoke. Her body tensed as to shut out the blow she knew was inevitable.

The doctor shook his head in compassion, “No, none of that’s real, none of it. You’re in a mental institution. You’ve been with us now for six years. Do you remember?”

Buffy looked at him with confusion…six years? But that couldn’t…she…but…she was in a mental institution? She wasn’t in Sunnydale? How? She stared at the doctor who started to reach out for her. Flinching, she tried to crawl deeper into the corner. Her life wasn’t real? She turned away form the doctor and started banging her forehead against the wall. Go away, go away, go away…I’m real! …I’m real? Please…? I’m real…


***


Spike slowly opened his eyes. He was lying on something soft, a bed, he realized. He tried to move his arms, but they were stuck at his sides. He glanced down and saw that his arms and legs were restrained to the bed. Where am I? Why am tied to a bed? His head felt light, and little black dots danced in a very annoying way just in front of him. He felt a warmth spreading across his face and chest; with a sharp intake of breath he realized it was the sun. Spike started panicking and writhing, trying to get away from the sunrays. He couldn’t move, but suddenly he noticed there was no pain, no smoke, no bursting into flames. Awed, he stared at his hands, and suddenly felt the urge to check for a pulse. He kept silent and tried to hear a heartbeat, but couldn’t decide if what he heard was just wishful thinking or something else. He sighed, and got an idea from the sound it had caused. He held his breath, but at a certain point he just couldn’t hold it anymore. He had to breathe. He could feel his heart thumping faster. He was alive.


***


Warm tears trailed down her cheeks. Her hair hung loose over her face, closing out the clinically white walls. The hospital smell reminded her of death, made her nauseous and tense. If this was a dream, or a hallucination, or whatever…why didn’t she wake up? Why hadn’t anyone shaken her out of her sleep? Was it really true? Was she insane? So messed up she had created her own world, where she was a hero who saved the world at a regular basis. It didn’t make sense. Not the life she’d lived…but this? Insane Buffy in a mental institution? She couldn’t understand…

“Miss Summers?” A woman cut off Buffy’s thoughts. She extended a smooth well manicured hand, and tilted her head when she spoke again. “I’m Doctor Hill, do you remember me?”

Buffy frowned. “Not really…” she whispered. She wondered why she suddenly felt so shy. This wasn’t even real…?

“I’ve been your doctor for three years, and you and I will be meeting a lot from now on.” Dr. Hill’s blue eyes were warm and friendly, and reminded Buffy of the expression her mom used to save for the times when she’d been in need of comfort.

Buffy closed her eyes and tried to fight back the tears. She felt so insecure, so weak…Everything she’d been sure of was gone. And this wasn’t a dream? Only one way to find out. Trembling, she pinched her left arm hard. “Ow.”

***


“William?” The doctor asked, careful to keep his voice low and soothing as to calm the shivering man who sat staring at the wall, “William, do you know where you are?”.

The man turned his head with a snap, his blue eyes expressing pure confusion. “Sunnyhe--uh, dale. Sunnydale.”

The doctor sighed patiently. “William?”

Spike stared at the doctor. “How do you…? My name, I…The slayer put you up to this?” His eyes glazed with hope and desperation, Spike tried to cling to what he’d been relying on for a century. I’m dead. I’m a vampire. Right. Vampire with a pulse.

“William? You’re in a mental institution. You’re not a vampire, and neither Sunnydale nor the slayer is real. They exist merely in your imagination.”

“No. I--But… Buffy?” He pleaded. His heart thumped loudly, the unusual sound making him shiver with distress. His world was shaking around him, coming undone even faster as he tried to hold on.

“I’m sorry. She is a part of your illusion.”

Sobs overtook his body as the words started sinking in. This was worse then when she died. At least, then he had the memories. But now…Now this doctor told him she had never existed? Spike stood up shakily. “I want to go back. Don’t care if she’s real or not. Just take me back.”

***


Spike stared at the white ceiling. He felt numb. The restraints itched from the sweat caught under them; his arm ached slightly where the syringe had pierced his skin. The tears had dried on his face, he felt as though his life had left with them. The thoughts overwhelmed him, he didn’t know which memories were real and which were pure insanity. Each one of them felt so real…Technicolor and raw hurt, loneliness, fear and ecstasy. He wondered how he had been able to fit in more then a century in less than six years. He must have a bloody huge imagination.


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