That said, I greatly appreciate you taking the time to read my story, and I hope I can bother you just a little longer for some feedback. *puppy dog eyes* I'm a total feedback 'ho, and I know it. At least my poor mother is still in the dark. ^_~
And, without further ado-do....
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory (garnettrees)
"I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blossoming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain. I paused, examining and analyzing all the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death, and death to life..."*
Xander lies awake-- or believes he does-- listening to the somber, bronzed-soprano notes of Willow's voice, drawing him ever further into a flickering, apprehensive landscape. It is past midnight, and they are both twelve; they lie together, knees and elbows touching as easily as if it is their own flesh, on her narrow wicker bed. He's on his back, staring at the ceiling and the faint light-and-shadows thrown by Willow's flashlight. Outside, it's raining in a muddled, thick way that seems to have dragged on for days-- he's uncertain if the occasional distant thunder he hears is real, or merely some imagined counterpart to his best friend's voice. Willow loves to read to him, loves to share the worlds and wide images thrown open to her on the page and-- in his own, awed and boyish way-- he is grateful to her. Books don't hold the same allure for him and he honestly believes that, without her pale, tiny hand to guide him, he'd never find his way into these amazing, echoing caverns. He doesn't pretend to understand a lot of her more ambitious choices, but she's patient and helpful, gray-green eyes occasionally lifting from the page to gauge his reaction, to illustrate a point that seems lost on him.
Tonight, it's Frankenstein, as it has been for the last two weeks. Her voice is hushed, growing more urgent as the mad doctor approaches his goal. It's not at all like the movie, black-and-white, creature-feature frames flickering across the late night television screen; the cries of terrified villagers occasionally punctuated by his father's blustery snores. Instead, it's like a long journey up narrow attic stairs. Like venturing, one careful footstep at a time, into one of the many abandoned houses of Sunnydale. There's the same breathlessness there, and he can almost feel Jesse's hand, a reassuring weight on his shoulder. Now Xander looks up, to see if Willow has caught his thought, as she sometimes can. Jesse is away, visiting family in New Mexico during this Thanksgiving Break, and the missing member of their trio feels to Xander rather like having one arm tied behind his back. Sure enough, Willow's piercing gaze squints at him over the tattered paperback, the beam of the flashlight catching motes of dust in the air. She smiles at him, a little sheepish, and returns to her narration, kicking her bare feet a little as she shifts her weight to her stomach. She's a tiny thing in her blue-flowered pajamas and neat pigtail braids, but one stray lock of hair dangles before her face, illuminated, red as blood.
For a moment, he stares at it, at the deep crimson shot through with gold, and is almost aware that, yes, he is dreaming. That color stirs the future in him, reminds of monsters that have form and shape outside the covers of a book. Jesse's absence becomes more than a handicap-- it becomes an old ache, that of the veteran who wakes at night, having to remember how he has adapted to the loss. In this dream, which is also a memory, Xander fights through layers, through time cruel and elastic, while Willow's measured voice intones; "Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil as I dabbled amongst the unhallowed damps of the grave..."*
(Spike, a creature of preternatural beauty in the full bath of the moon's glow, smirking, strutting devil-may-care amongst the graves. Nothing but the sound of the vampire's boots on the dewy grass, and his own heart pounding 'where is buffy' as the bright shadows circle in. Hands on him, so much gentler than expected, and Xander-- never with much experience as the cradler-- suddenly knows what it is to be held. Brush of cool, firm-soft lips against his ear.
"Been looking for you, love.")
There's a loud creak, boards and hinges protesting-- reality, dream and memory overlap. They jump, the two children crammed into the virginal wicker bed, and the flashlight falls from Willow's fingers.
"It's my dad-- late night snack," his friend says, breathless, and he nods. They are afraid to look away from each other, afraid to find that her words have conjured something real.
"This is Sunnydale, baby," says the voice of Jesse; older, more confident, and oh-so doomed. "You just never know."
And, fighting his way up from the deep pressures of sleep, Xander has a single moment of horrid beauty. A moment of belief, like old soldier's dull and persistent, in which all wounds are healed and apendages restored. The future is suspended, for just a fraction of a second, before it falls over his conciousness like ashen snow.
Bringing memory and, with that knowledge, a type of aputated death.
*Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus. London, New York, Oxford U.P., 1969.
Ps. Feedback is your friend! ^_~