Summary: Be careful what you wish for
Written as a back-up story for IWRY 2013. Thank you, Dark Star, for keeping IWRY alive.
Four legs. A seat. It’s a stool. Humans sit on them. Stool. Stoolstoolstoolstoolstool
The word ricochets around his head, catching briefly in places, like hooks on a burr, but failing to connect. Has he ever sat on a stool? Maybe, a long time ago.
He stares intently into the shop window, looking for other things to recognize.
Chair. Chairchairchair. Table. Tabletabletabletable...cup, saucer, teapot, fruit bowl, making love. Nothing.
He shakes his head as though to clear it. That can’t be right. And yet... The thought slips away, leaving nothing in its place.
He looks again. Is there anything else?
Coffee pot. Coffeecoffeecoffeecoffee... bean, black, blood... bloodbloodblood. Nothing.
The coffee pot stares blankly back at him. It’s empty. It’s empty like him. He thinks there used to be something inside him, but if there was, it’s all gone now. Everything.
He puts his hand flat against his the window glass. It’s cold against his skin. Has it always been so?
He turns away from the shop window, his shoe catching against a raised paving stone, and he staggers a little, putting out his hand to steady himself, finding the trunk of a tree. He thinks he ought to feel some life in it, the rustle of small creatures, hiss of flowing sap, but there’s nothing. The leaves have turned red for autumn.
Autumn. Autumn... Fall. FallFallFallFall. Fallen. Hell. Angel. Demon. Nothing.
He’s still leaning against the tree, and he feels emptier than ever. Around him, the night, too, is empty. He can sense no one. Night. He thinks he’s more comfortable in the night. It seems more familiar than... the other... as though he’s spent his life in the darkness.
Night. Nightnightnight... Stars. Moon. Sun... Sunsunsunsunsonsonsonson. Nothing.
He sets off down the road. He’s come outside for a walk, sneaking out so that no one would see. He needed some time alone. He often needs time alone, as though that’s his normal state of being. He hunches his shoulders, and he walks.
Leftleftleftleft. Must go left. Mustn’t make a mistake and go right, or he’ll be lost and damned and lost again. So, he walks, and he stays left.
Above him, on the rooftops, Buffy watches Angel as he walks determinedly left. She will make sure that no harm comes to him. He doesn’t know she’s there. He thinks he left with no one to notice, but he’s always under her eye. She understands his need for silence and aloneness, so she won’t disturb him. She’s glad to see that he’s remembering her instruction to walk round the block, so that he doesn’t get lost.
She grips her stake tightly and moves quietly on, watching.
Angel pulls his coat tighter around him. A stray catspaw of breeze wraps around his ankles and he shivers. It seems odd to him, being cold. He passes a restaurant. The smell of cooking meat assails him, charred, seared, barbecued, and he’s ravenous.
Steaksteaksteaksteak... stakestakestakestake... Sword. Hell. Hellfire. Nothing.
The words are like him, empty. Without substance or purpose or meaning. He stops. He stands motionless as his thoughts try to find something to hold on to, but everything just slips away. The more he thinks, the more everything slips away, never to be thought again.
Buffy crouches in the shadow of a chimney stack, watching. He does this sometimes, simply stands as though waiting for something. Waiting to remember, perhaps. A tear shines bright on her lashes. He doesn’t know her any more. A week ago, he said ‘Buffy’ to her, as he’s always said her name, making it a caress. Then, his eyes clouded, and his brow furrowed, and he hasn’t said her name since. Now, she’s just one of the faces of those around him. She doesn’t know how long she can bear it.
She pushes the thought away, and tries to make her mind as blank to the past as his is.
The silken slip continues, words sliding softly into an abyss, taking himself with them.
Road... Street... Alleyalleyalley... I didn’t say I was yours... Crosscrosscross...Fire. Pain. Nothing.
His expression clears, becomes blank, and he walks on, turning left at the corner.
They’ve tried everything to stop what’s happening to Angel. They’ve brought him here, to the mountains in the north. They’d hoped that leaving California altogether might put an end to whatever magic is moving within him, but with no success. It’s a god-given gift, it seems.
She’s seen so many things in her life, so much from dreams and nightmares and the deepest darkest parts of the human psyche, but somehow she’s always retained a very small particle of faith in the Powers That Be. And Angel held on to one hope in even his darkest night of the soul – that one day, in the end, he might be granted humanity. There was another hope, too. More of a wish. Something he never expected to be possible. That he might be a normal man, without all those centuries of psychic baggage, with no memory of torture and killing, of blood and slaughter, of the enjoyment he had taken in it all.
The Powers had granted him humanity, and they had granted him the other wish too, in what could only be a fit of malevolence. In taking away his memories, they had left nothing that could be filled with new memories. He was being emptied of everything that made him Angel. Of everything that made him human. If she can find the ones who did that, she’ll kill them.
She prowls along the rooftops, watching him, making sure he’s safe, until he turns left again and then left into the door from which he came. He’s getting worse, day by day. And he knows it. He doesn’t know her. She’s just part of his psychic baggage, now, disappeared and gone, no past, no future.
But she thinks that it’s even worse than that. He’s lived so long that his psychic baggage was him, was inextricably entwined with everything in his memories, everything that he was. Without that, his mind will be gone completely. For Angel there seems to be no way back. How long before everything that makes him function at all has gone? She’s afraid it won’t be long now.
She hopes that she’ll never have to use a final association of words. Angel. Buffy. Slayer. Death. But she will if she has to.