Chp 7 Just Children
Forever and a Day by Lilachigh
Chapter 7 Just children
Buffy stared at the photo, her mind whirling. The man and the woman were adult versions of Mandy and Jack. “That is weird, Spike,” she whispered, “but OK, children can look like their parents. It’s not that unusual.”
“Yes, there‘s often a resemblance, and sometimes kids grow up to look like their mothers and fathers, but these two are identical. Even down to the mole on the boy’s neck. There’s something not right going on here, pet. I can sense it.”
Buffy grinned cheerfully. “Perhaps they’ve shrunk! Yes, that’s it, Spike, we’ve discovered an amazing shrinking spell! Hey, perhaps we can market it. It would beat any diet on the market.”
But to her surprise, Spike didn’t laugh. He bent to the fireplace and flicked a match to the kindling. Buffy found towels in the tiny bathroom and sat down in front of the flickering flames to try and dry her hair and her soaking wet clothes.
“So, no shrinking spell,” she said at last as the vampire crossed to the window and rubbed at the condensation on the tiny panes.
“There’s more children coming in this direction through the snow,” he said shortly. “Would you let your kids out in this blizzard?”
Buffy gave her hair a final rub and joined him at the window. Sure enough, small shapes were fighting their way through the snow, their heads bent against the wind. “Spike, I don’t understand - all these children - ”
“They’re not children, Buffy. Well, they are, but I think - ” He turned to look at her, his eyes so dark they were almost midnight blue. “I reckon they’re adults that have been turned back into children!”
Buffy stared at him, memories flashing into her brain. “Spike, do you remember the extracts from the Elliott journals that Giles and Willow read out to us. The one from the 1500s, saying ‘what shall we do with all the children’ and the other one from the 1600s when the guy in Italy said there were empty villages surrounded by starving children who slaughtered one of his coachmen?”
Spike nodded slowly, his black brows drawn in a tight frown. “You mean, the plague that’s been travelling across Europe, coming closer to England every year is just - making children? Doesn’t sound that horrendous. Not enough to alert Wesley and freak out Giles when he read about it in those old journals.”
“But If it happened to enough people, then what would happen?”
Spike sat down on the bed and stared up at her. “Well, I suppose in the old days, no food would have been grown because there‘d have been no one to plough and harvest. No education, the houses would have fallen into disrepair and I suppose if they never aged - ”
“No new generations. Human life would be wiped out.”
“But it hasn’t been, Buffy. Bloody hell, life’s gone on and on. This sort of plague might have been a disaster in one small area of Greece in the Middle Ages, but what is it going to achieve in good old England today?”
“You’re forgetting the last entry in the Elliott journals, Henry Elliott in 1900.” Buffy screwed up here face as she remembered the words. “ ‘Mama and I horrified by what we have seen while travelling in the French countryside. Hundreds and hundreds of children. They die like flies but we cannot help them. I fear it is coming our way. Thank god for the good English Channel and the stout cliffs of Dover.’
She shuddered. “Just think of it, Spike. Hundreds and hundreds of adults who’d become children but they don’t grow up, they just die as they get older. The numbers have increased every time. What if now, today, it’s thousands and thousands?”
“Then there would be mass panic. You’d have an army run by eight year olds. God, Buffy, you’d have nine year old politicians with their fingers on the nuclear buttons. And with all the TV and instant communications, the world would go mad.”
Spike rubbed his hand across his head, ruffling the peroxide hair into a riot of curls. “You know,pet, there’s not many times when I wish your Watcher was in the same room as us and a bed, but I’d give a year’s supply of Scotch to have him here now!”
Buffy pulled on her boots, wincing as the hard wet leather cut at her feet and calves. “Well, he isn’t, we’re on our own, Spike. And I reckon we should go down and have a word with Mandy and Jack.”
“And say what exactly? Hey, are you really your parents and do you know you’re going to die at any moment? Don’t reckon we’ll be the most popular couple in England if we start making remarks like that. And Jack might well have another shotgun stashed away somewhere!”
“So we are going to die?” Buffy and Spike whirled round. Mandy stood in the doorway, her eyes dark and sad behind her round spectacles.
Spike snarled and flashed into game face for a second or two, then reverted to human. Now wasn’t the time. Mandy was just a child after all and although he’d killed too many people in his long, bloody existence, he couldn’t remember too many kids.
Buffy stood up and held out her hand to the young girl. “Mandy - are you - look, we found this photo. These people - they’re you and Jack, aren’t they?”
Mandy swayed slightly and gripped the door handle for support. “Jack’s my brother,” she whispered. “We run - we ran - this pub together. Then - this happened.”
Buffy reached out and pulled her into the room, shutting the door behind her. She sat her down in a chair and knelt in front of her, holding her shoulders tightly to stop her shaking. “Now listen, Mandy. We’ll help you. Just tell us. When did it happen?”
Mandy was shuddering now, tears running down her face. She wiped her nose with the back of her hand in a childish gesture that tore at Buffy’s heart.
“About a week ago,” she replied. “It was terrifying. There was a thick fog in the evening. Really bad. No traffic along the road, only people from the village coming in for a drink or something to eat. I felt fine. I wasn’t ill. I didn’t even have a headache. Then - when I woke up the next morning....”
She stopped as sobs shook her, then went on, “I swung my legs out of bed, and they didn’t reach the floor! I’ve never been so scared in my life. I screamed, Jack rushed in from his room and - and he was a little boy! He screamed when he saw me and when I got to a mirror I saw why.”
“Did you ring the police, or go to neighbours for help?” Buffy asked.
“Yes, of course. We dialled 999, but there was no reply, which was weird. So we ran next door - and that was when we realised - ”
“That everyone in the village had been turned to children,” Spike broke in.
“Yes.” Mandy took a deep breath. “And all the real children were missing. At first it seemed like a nightmare. One or two older people just lost control. They ran off into the mist, yelling and shouting. We haven’t seen them since. And people who’d had children were frantic with worry. They started to vanish into the fog, too, hunting for their families.”
“But you and Jack decided to stay here,” Buffy said quietly, stroking the girl’s dark hair.
“It seemed the only thing to do. Jack was sure it was some sort of virus. Perhaps some disease that escaped from a laboratory somewhere. He reckoned that when the mist lifted, the authorities would arrive and give us some sort of antidote.”
“But no one has come?”
Mandy shook her head. “When no one answered the 999 call, we rang the local police station direct. Bob Baines is our policeman. He answered - he was screaming. He sounded about five years old! We haven’t seen him. And nothing has changed. We’re still children and now you say we’re going to die!”
“Mandy, listen, we need you to be strong. Spike and I will sort this out. We have some very clever friends. A girl called Willow Rosenberg who is an expert at all this type of thing. As soon as we can get to her and tell her what’s happened, she’ll find a way of reversing the spell, or whatever it is.”
The round, spectacles had slipped down Mandy’s nose. She pushed them back up in a gesture that reminded Buffy painfully of Giles. If only he was here. If only they hadn’t got separated on the road down to Emsworth.
“Right, as soon as the blizzard stops, we’ll get back to the car and head out to find Giles and Willow,” she said, glad to have some sort of plan to put into place. She glanced at Spike, but he was standing by the window again, peering through the tiny diamond shaped panes, absorbed with what little he could see in the dark world outside.
“More and more children heading this way,” he said briefly, and then tilted his head to one side, listening. “And there’s a lot of shouting going on downstairs, pet. I’m beginning to think we might have a problem on our hands.”
Just then the door flew open and red-headed Jack erupted into the bedroom. He slammed the door shut and stood with his back pressed against it. “Go away!” he shouted. “Get out. They want to kill you both. I can’t stop them. They’re coming to destroy you. Right now!”’
to be continued
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