Chapter 8 Take a Walk with Me
Forever and a Day by Lilachigh
Chapter 8 Take a walk with Me
Jack, the man/boy’s anguished words echoed round the old-fashioned bedroom. “You must go away,” he repeated. “They’re coming to kill you and I don’t know how to stop them.”
“Who’s coming to kill us?” Buffy snapped.
“Neighbours, friends, people who were adults only a few days ago and now they’re children, like me and Mandy.”
Spike left the window and crossed the room to his side in two long strides. “Listen, Jack, why do they want to kill us?”
Jack shook his red head desperately. “They’re scared. You’re strangers. They think they’ve all been infected by something from outer space or a bunch of terrorists. A virus, a disease. They don’t know. None of us know. And they’re hungry, too. There’s been no way of getting any food and we’ve eaten all the tinned stuff we had and what was in our freezers.”
Buffy glanced at Spike. She could feel a shudder running across her body that had nothing to do with the freezing air. Whatever this plague was, it was certainly succeeding. Changing people and then driving them out of their minds.
She had a sudden vision of what might happen if that pack of adult kids attacked them. She could never hurt something that looked and sounded like a child. And Spike - she caught his gaze over Mandy’s head. Would Spike kill a child if it attacked him? Would he kill a child if it attacked her? She had a nasty feeling the answer to the second question would be ‘yes’.
The shouting from downstairs was getting louder. Obviously the mob were gathering up their courage to attack. “Listen kids - sorry - Mandy and Jack,” Spike said, running his long fingers through hair that was now a dishevelled cap of tiny platinum curls. “I’ve been thinking. You must have a cellar in a pub this old.”
Mandy nodded, wiping the tears away with the back of her hand. “Yes, of course we do. It’s where the beer barrels are stored.”
“Is there a way down there without going back into the pub bar?”
Jack’s face lit up. “Yes! There’s a cupboard in my bedroom and at the back of it there’s a door that leads onto steps going down into the cellar. My Dad used it all the time to save walking through a crowded pub.”
“Cupboard?” Buffy questioned.
Spike raised an eyebrow. “Closet to you, pet. Remind me to buy you bloody Anglo American dictionary for your birthday.”
Buffy stuck out her tongue at him. Even when the world was falling apart around them, it was still so marvellous to have him back, snarking at her, that there was a part of her that knew she could never be wholly unhappy again.
Jack led the way down a narrow passage into a room at the back of the building. True to his word, behind the clothes hanging from a rail in the closet was a small door. It swung open to reveal a flight of steep stone steps leading down in darkness.
“I’ll go first,” Spike said. “Don’t suppose there’s a light down there, Jack?”
The man/boy shook his head. “Do hurry up,” he begged. “I can hear them coming up the stairs. When they find you’re gone, they’ll start searching.”
Spike vanished down the steps. Buffy gestured to Mandy to follow, but the girl shook her head. “No. We can’t go. They’ll suspect something’s up if we’re not here.”
“And we need to lock the door from this side and hide the key,” Jack said urgently.
Buffy stared down at them. Two young faces, smeared with dirt and tears. She could only imagine what terror they were experiencing, the horror this plague had brought into their lives. She didn’t want to leave them.
Mandy reached out and shook her arm. “You have to go. As soon as it’s safe, I’ll come down and get you. But it won’t be for some time. I know we look like children, but we’re still adults inside. And the men will want to drink themselves senseless. We have to let them.”
Buffy bent swiftly to give the child a hug. “Take care of yourselves.” And she swung herself down the steps as the little door banged shut behind her and she heard the key turning in the lock.
Feeling for each step, she eased her way down the stairs. There was no light at all. It was completely dark and icy cold. She yelped in startled surprise when a hand grabbed her shoulder. “Spike!”
“Get a grip, Slayer. Who else did you think was down here?”
Buffy shuddered. “There could be a whole army of vamps circling for the kill for all I can see. Not being big with the vampire vision, you know.”
There was a chuckle from her side and the hand slid firmly round her waist, guiding her down the last few steps. Then she heard a clink and click and a yellow flame flared from Spike’s lighter.
Buffy winced and blinked as her eyes got used to seeing again. Spike gave a grunt of satisfaction; he’d found two half burnt candles on a shelf and the flickering light seemed as good as mid-day after the complete dark.
Buffy stared around. The cellar was formed from rough cast stone, painted white. The low ceiling bulged from age and the air was heavy with the smell of yeast and hops from the huge beer barrels that were ranged along one wall, their pipes running up and disappearing through the ceiling into the bar above. “I can’t hear a thing,” she murmured, listening intently for sounds of pursuit.
“Shouldn’t reckon you could,” Spike said. “Soddin’ walls must be a good two or three feet thick. They built to last four hundred years ago, Slayer.”
She shivered violently and he turned a worried face in her direction. “Cold, sweetheart? You didn’t get your clothes properly dry from all that snow, did you?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll survive.” She tried to keep her voice as light and cheerful as possible, but she was bitterly cold. Her bones ached and every muscle in her body was yelling at her to crawl into a nice warm bed, pull the covers over her head and go to sleep.
She sat down with her back to a wall and clasped her arms round her knees. “Spike, we’ve got to get to Giles and Willow. They must know what’s going on. If anyone can help, it will be them.”
“A plague that turns adults into kids! God, Buffy. That’s foul. I’ve seen a lot of evil things in my time. Done most of them, too, if I’m honest. But this takes the prize. I reckon even Angelus would have been proud of this one.”
Buffy listened to him, but couldn’t find the words to reply.
Spike paced up and down, leather coat swinging. He hated being cooped up in a small space with no way out. “God, can’t imagine I’m in a pub with all this beer and can’t get a bloody drink,” he grumbled.
“Spike. Concentrate,” she forced herself to say . “Beer bad. Makes your breath smell.”
He threw himself down next to her and draped an arm affectionately around her shoulders. With a groan she leant against him. If only she didn’t feel so cold, so ill. What on earth was wrong with her?
Suddenly, one of the candles flickered and went out and just then, a thought flashed through her brain. She was human. What was to stop her from being infected with the Plague? Was that what was happening to her? Would she go to sleep and wake up tomorrow as a ten year old Buffy? Oh God, no. Please no.
“Get some sleep, pet. They might be hours coming to unlock the door. We’ll head out to find Giles in the morning.”
Sleep! No, the last thing she wanted was to go to sleep. Buffy struggled free from his encircling arms and pushed herself to her feet with what seemed like the very last of her strength. She couldn’t tell Spike what she feared was happening. It was so unfair. They had been back together for such a short time.
“I think we need to get out now,” she said hoarsely. “This is too urgent, Spike. We can’t just lie around down here until morning. And anyway, I can’t stand that beery smell all night long.”
Spike stared at her, puzzled, then got to his feet, too. “OK, pet, don’t get your knickers in a twist.” He turned his head, then picked up the remaining candle and held it up in the air, gazing at the flame then flickered and bent in his direction.
“Thought as much. There’s air coming in from somewhere, Slayer. A real draught. I reckon there’s a tunnel down here, leading out of the cellar.” He handed her the candle and began lifting the beer barrels away from the wall. One of the pipes broke and beer cascaded down in a foamy mess over the stone floor.
Buffy was struggling to stay upright; her head was swimming and her eyes felt blurred. Steeling herself, she called up every ounce of Slayer strength she could find and held the candle as steady as she could.
“There! I was right. A tunnel. Might have guessed. Stands to reason. A pub this old, so close to the sea. I bet smugglers used to bring brandy and port right up from the coast, straight into the cellar.”
Buffy walked forward and pushed the candle into the black tunnel entrance. The flame danced in orange and yellow and with her eyes blurring, it looked as if a hundred golden stars were circling in the air around her.
“Home sweet home,” Spike said suddenly and, as ill as she felt, Buffy smiled at the resignation in his voice. “You, me and another bloody tunnel,” he continued, then sighed. “You know, pet, one day I’m going to retire and write a best seller called Tunnels I have known and Loved. Should make my bloody fortune with the demon community.”
“Where do you think it comes out?” Buffy whispered, scared of trying to speak normally in case he heard how hoarse her voice sounded.
“Somewhere on the coast. There’s a lot of marsh land around here. Right, are you ready, Slayer to take a little walk with me in the dark. Promise I won’t bite! Much.” And he turned with a wicked grin, holding out his hand to her.
But as the candle fell from her hand, the last thing she saw was the horror that appeared in the sapphire eyes she loved so much.
to be continued
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