Summary: A Slayer fights her way through a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of zombies, picking up a traveling companion along the way.
Rating: R for violence and swearing
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Characters: Original to Eleven Hours at the End of the World
Word Count: ~2000
Spoilers: For Buffy the Vampire Slayer through the end of the series; spoilers through the end of Angel as well.
Original Story: Eleven Hours at the End of the World by Soundingsea
The damage is as follows: one bloody head wound, two zombies down, and three more shotgun shells gone.
Movement in the back seat of the truck, and Sarah tenses, expecting another undead frat boy to squirm up out of the darkness. Instead, it's a little girl, pale grimy face pressed against the window, teary-eyed and alive.
She doesn't have time for this. She really doesn’t. On her own, she'll reach Cleveland with another day's walking, and she doesn’t need some orphaned kid slowing her down. It’s already long past sunset, and she still hasn't found a safe place to hole up.
Sarah stands in the center of the road, biting her thumbnail, her Slayer senses tingling. The walking dead are legion. Even when they're not right in her face, she can sense them. She feels hot, flayed, and jumpy every moment she's awake, and her dreams are full jumbled violent fragments of other lives, other girls. Other deaths.
She shoulders her shotgun and her pack. The little girl looks hopeful. Sarah limps reluctantly to the truck. Hot-wiring didn't come packaged with her Slayer skill set, unfortunately. But, maybe the truck has gas. Maybe it's got keys.
She pushes the empty front seat forward. "Hi, I'm Sarah. What's your name?"
The little girl squeezes herself into a ball against the far door.
The trail mix is getting low, and now Sarah has to share -- although the little girl doesn't seem any more interested in eating than she is in talking.
Still amped up from fighting, Sarah decides to drive through the night. At least until the gas runs out. The shotgun rests on the bench seat beside Sarah. Just in case. The little girl stares out the dirty windshield, twirling her dark blond hair between her fingers. It's so dirty and tangled, the back is clumped in dreadlocks.
Sarah drives with all the windows rolled up, so she can't hear the low moaning. It's like a wind that never ceases. It makes her nuts. She’s not looking for more slayables. Not with the kid to look after. But, the itch under her skin won't go away: the itch that says kill something. They're out there in the darkness. Everywhere.
The dead rise faster than the new Slayers are called, and Slayers weren't designed for post-apocalyptic duty. Otherwise, they'd be called in armies and droves, instead of one by one. That's Sarah's theory, anyway.
A groaning member of Homo Not-So-Sapiens lurches into the road. It's close enough, she's able to pick it off with her trusty sawed-off, just by rolling down the window. The little girl jumps and claps her hands over her ears. She doesn't make a sound.
Two more zombies block the road. Sarah kills the engine, savage joy ripping through her. She knows she's being reckless. She should just ram her foot down on the accelerator, and drive over them. She'd always looking for a fight these days. She can't help it.
"Get down under the seat," she tells the little girl.
She jumps out of the truck. The sweetish reek of decay is so thick, the air practically shimmers. Sarah charges the zombies, forcing the first two back with an explosive series of kicks. She gets one shot off, but misses. Bad news: these zombies are fresh. Their brains aren't total sludge yet. The one wearing overalls and a trucker hat hurls himself at her with a grunt. She head-butts him, then shoves him into optimal shooting range with a kick that would have won her high school team a soccer trophy. She shoots, and his head blows open like melon with an M-80 stuffed inside.
She wonders if Julio will give her a commendation. "Oldest Slayer Not Yet Dead" has a certain, macabre ring.
'Course, if she's going to win that, she's gotta take out Rosie the Zombie Riveter. Rosie grabs her arm, hauling Sarah closer to her snapping, drooling jaws. Maybe she's trying to pull Sarah's arm off; maybe she's just trying to get closer to Sarah's tasty brain. Sarah doesn't intend to find out which.
Rosie slams her against the side of the truck. Sarah twists free, raises her shotgun, holding it by the still-warm barrel, and smashes the bitch's skull. Never cut off the stock. Excellent for de-reanimation. Plus, a blunt weapon never runs out of ammo.
The headlights illuminate a bus bench with an advertisement announcing: McDonalds! Only Two Blocks Away! Serving Breakfast All Day! No hot breakfast is available within two blocks or two hundred miles of here. The entire world is wrong, and it has nothing to do with the lack of Egg McMuffins.
Sarah keeps driving, chewing a mouthful of dry, flavorless beef jerky. Hooray for camping stores. They're not as picked-over as the grocery stores, and they still yield plenty of useful stuff. The little girl just turned her head when Sarah held out the beef jerky.
All trends start in California and roll eastward. This, Sarah knows. She used to read Seventeen, back when she was seventeen. Before her life fell apart. No big surprise that the end of the world came hurtling out of Los Angeles. Demons, weird stuff... unreal stuff. Mythical monsters. Sarah's seen twin contrails in the sky and known it's not a plane, but a dragon gliding overhead. She's seen unicorns cropping clover on the shoulder of a deserted highway, their milky coats glowing in the early morning mist.
Three years ago, she was playing at one of the Greater Omaha Area League's few spring soccer games. Her parents were cheering at the sidelines. She scored and won the game. Left her opponents in the dust. Being a superhero seemed kinda neat that first year, until the world went the way of Los Angeles.
The little girl is asleep with her head on Sarah's lap, sneakers dangling off the edge of the seat.
Should've have left her behind, and just taken truck. That would've been the smart thing to do. But she couldn't have done it. She's not that cold. Not yet. The small, solid weight of her head on Sarah's thigh is comforting. She's been alone a long time.
When she sees young girls, Sarah always wonders if they'll be Slayers. She hopes not. Good way to get yourself killed.
Way too many Slayers have fallen to the beasties out of the dimensional rifts. Sarah heard the rumors last year. Everybody did. Powerful witches walked in other dimensions, attempting to drive the magical creatures out from ours. Blah, blah, blah. Spell must have backfired, though. Not that the remnants of the Watcher’s Council are admitting anything. The dead still walk the earth. Only now, they don't dissolve into dust anymore.
She hasn't seen a vampire in months. Maybe there aren't any left. Seems like the zombies are getting worse everyday, though.
Sarah narrows her eyes at the horizon. A little further east, and she'll be in Cleveland. Odd destination for a winter hidey-hole? Maybe, but it's not like she's got anyplace better. She mostly ignores what's left of the Watcher’s Council, but Julio -- (the guy who'd be her Watcher if she let him) -- is in Cleveland. Julio means a place to sleep. Better than sleep, he keeps telling her. Work off some of that excess energy.
Resistance coils in Sarah's stomach. She doesn't like him that way. But, so what? Big deal, right? The whole world's gone to hell. Shake it off and let him fuck you. She remembers awkward, urgent fumbling behind the field house. She remembers Mike's eyes, sometimes brown, sometimes green. Well... oh well. Nothing much left to say about the magic of Mike + Sarah 4EVA after your zombie boyfriend begs you to kill him. And you do. Nothing much to stay in Omaha for, after watching Mom and Dad turn to dust on the end of your trusty stake, after walking through their gritty dust, breathing it, scrubbing it off your hands.
Sarah shakes herself out of her reverie. A fallen overpass lays crumbled across the highway. The suspension on the red truck is almost shot. They'll never make it off-road, and jagging back to the last turnoff doesn’t suit Sarah. She'll find a place to camp for the rest of the night, then it looks like she and her silent young friend are hoofing it.
"End of the line," she murmurs. She might as well be speaking to herself. If the little girl is awake, she gives no sign.
Can't a girl camp in peace? It's not even dawn, and she's waking up to a fight.
Getting out of her frost-laced hammock's no fun. The first cool licks of fall have given way to the biting edge of winter. She and the little girl are rolled up together like pill-bugs. Sarah struggles out of the hammock; she and the little girl tumble gracelessly to the ground and roll apart.
Sarah shivers in the crisp air. Her camo's desert-issue. None of her gear's rated for weather much colder than this. Past time to find a warm bed, even if that means dealing with the living.
Thrust, duck, clobber with the butt of her shotgun, smash the skull. Blood splatters all over her, but she's got extra fatigues in her pack. Ammo is precious, and bashing in a zombie's head is cake with slayer strength. Yeah. Being a superhero's just peachy fucking keen.
Another one lurches toward her. She raises the shotgun, blasts it -- then she's seized from behind and dragged into a stinky, squishy embrace. Dropping the shotgun, Sarah struggles against the clammy hands clamping her throat. Foul wind rushes from the zombie's gaping mouth. Teeth graze Sarah's hair.
The zombie staggers and drops her. Sarah springs away, grabbing the shotgun as the zombie topples to the ground with the little girl clinging to its back. The zombie flails and squirms like a raggedy, stinking fish.
"Go, get away!" she yells at the little girl.
The girl whips her head around. Her face is vicious, monstrous. The heavy brow, the glowing yellow eyes, the jagged fangs. Sarah doesn't hesitate. She fires. The zombie flops to the ground and lies still.
Sarah's got a wooden stake, but it's deep down in her pack. A shotgun is just going to piss off a vampire. So, this is how it ends. The Oldest Slayer Not Yet Dead, taken down by a half-pint vamp. How embarrassing.
The little girl springs off the zombie's back and runs, disappearing into the swiftly lightening morning, her sneakers drumming on the frost-hard ground, fading fast into silence.
Heart hammering, Sarah lowers her gun. She finds herself hoping the little girl can find a dark hidey-hole before the sun catches her. Yeah, it's stupid. She should go after her. Stake her. But, there's something to be said for preserving an endangered species.
Better if she doesn't mention this to Julio, though.
Sarah unhooks the snarled, knotted hammock from the bent signpost and the knobby tree. SNOW EMERGENCY ROUTE, proclaims the sign. Nobody's coming to plow this winter, she's pretty sure. Then again, she was pretty sure vampires were extinct.
Shaking the ice crystals off the hammock, Sarah rolls it into a tight cylinder, stuffing it into her pack. She twists her curly brown hair into a new braid and wraps her knit scarf around her head and neck. The navy sky brightens with streaks of yellow and red at the horizon. No nuclear winter in this apocalypse. The world’s ended, and the sunrises are still pretty. Go figure.
Sarah starts walking east. A few hours, and she'll be in Cleveland.