There Walk I
by backfromspace

It had been a long time since she read the poem. A long time since she let herself open the aging journal, a long time since the flowers her mother had pressed into the first few pages had faded and crumbled into dust. Everything seemed to go back to that, when it was all over. Even the heroes were buried eventually

Buffy wasn't buried the third time. They spread most of her ashes somewhere far away from Sunnydale, in some impossibly remote and peaceful ocean bluff miles from nowhere. They'd built a cairn out of rocks in the front yard before they sold the house. She didn't know if it was still there. She thought it would be only fitting if it wasn't, if the house and the block and the whole violent little suburb had crumbled into dust.

The poem was vanishing into the page. She ran her thumb across it, remembering a time impossibly not long ago, remembering another life she'd had. The war was over, had been over since that final operatic climax where the world all but ended for the hundred thousandth time and both Slayers vanished into vapor and, of course, dust. Always dust. She wondered suddenly what dust would turn into.

She set down the ancient journal carefully. If it had been a person it was old enough to have grandchildren, and it didn't have much more life left in it. The monogram in the corner had long since worn off, although the tiny engraved copyright symbol was still shiny in the afternoon sun. Some things never change.

Sitting back on the crumbling couch, she drew the Venetian blinds down, blocking the 6 o'clock summer sun. A Summers death at the Dawn of a new summer's life. It had been horribly poetic in its own little way. The ocean crashed against the bluff somewhere far below her, below the little glass shrine she'd built onto her new home with her own hands half a century before. She picked up the tiny glass urn with the last of Buffy's ashes and set it down on the journal. Remembering the words from decades of ritual, she chanted the poem.

Where nothing's what it seems
In the darkness of a shadowed sky
Nightmares walk with dreams
And there walk I

The room was building, invisible lines of power snaking up from the floor to coil around each other over the coffee table, over the journal, over her. They loaned her strength and her voice evened out, dropping decades.

In the silence of rosary fall
Dreams of shadows choke the fevered call
Calling ends all but the endless lie
There walk I

The sun sunk with a silent sonic blast past the Venetian blinds and struck the far wall, her shadow proud and erect against the peeling cream-colored paint. She sank down off the couch and onto her knees before the vial and the journal as imaginary opera crescendoed, battering itself against the windows, against her.

Shadows fall and shadows die
Shadows dream and so do I
Walk through night in shadow time
Walk in shadow - there walk I

The world went silent, thrumming just below the audible range with eldritch power. Trees paused mid-sway and the world was deserted of living creatures. After a moment, the sounds of the sea reached her. No magic, no matter how strong, could pause the timeless rise and fall of the ocean. It was the only anchor to the real world left to her.

Silence far below the shattered blue
Falling shadows of a wilting moon
Where roses blot techinicolor skies
We walk in shadow, and there walk I

A flake of paint escaped the stasis, drifting down the wall, impossibly beautiful. She watched it with a regretful intensity that almost made her break the pounding rhythm of her words.

Streaming silence of the western skies
Dream in shadow, you and I
Rescued in the foaming sea
Dream together, you and me

She picked up the vial. She picked up the journal. Her mother and her sister, the last remnants of a world that had long ago vanished into the dusty memories of those who survived. She had lived two lifetimes, one for herself and one for them. Her second life had just been starting when she lost one of them. It had reached its infancy when she lost the other. Both were millenia away from existence when her first life had begun.

And walk in shadow sleeping my
Where shadows walk do you and I.

No, she amended, reverentially lifting the top off the vial. She'd lived three lives. One for the door, two for the memories, and three for the dust. From Key to Keeper in three easy steps. It was time to see what came after life.

She upended the vial onto the poem.


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