Spiegel Im Spiegel
Part Two: Traitor's Gate
Aylis wept in fear. Loud, incomprehensible shouts echoed off the brick
walls around her. She clung tightly to the banister, watching the fury of
her companions as they barricaded the door.
"What's happening...?" she whispered uncertainly, moving forward, crouching
next to the cluster of bags in the foyer. Her voice faltered, its accent
slurred and heavy.
A human girl. Too weak for this terrible place that was nothing like home.
When she had fallen through the terrible, green light and awakened here,
she'd thought she was in hell.
Through the thick darkness chinks of dim light cut into the room, pouring
from between the boards on the windows. Dust specks fell through them
delicately. The movements of her companions broke their shafts, throwing
moving shadows on the walls. Muffled sounds broke through the bricks,
sounds of cursing and shouts and the deadening, rhythmic attack on the
heavy old door. A woman-- a creature she knew as Maggie was bracing it
with all of her strength.
"Buffy!" Maggie called, throwing her full weight against the door, "Get
the latch, they're pushing through!" Her eyes flashed yellow and evil as
she glanced back past Aylis across the room. The curved, carnivorous fangs
were white against the darkness.
Buffy met her gaze, turned and leapt over the dufflebags and crates they'd
stolen together, landing beside her companion, lunging for the lock. The
door buckled under the pressure from without, and she ground her shoulder
into its heavy surface, trying to hold it in.
She was bracing hard. It felt natural to her. Forever bracing and
struggling for breath in the suffocating night. She was jolted violently
as they beat on the door from outside. It cracked in tiny fault lines,
running up the grain. She pressed harder.
"Foster!" she shouted, "Hide the stuff!"
Aylis shifted against the collection of bags.
"Why... why does this happen?" Aylis said softly, leaning forward a moment
"And hide your human!" Maggie added, kicking hard at the door jamb in
frustration. There was cold disapproval in her tone. Kills should be
clean. They shouldn't take years to carry out.
Aylis shrank back further into herself, trying to meld into the woodwork
At that moment his hand-- Foster's hand fell possesively on her waist.
Foster. She had begun to learn the strange language of this place from the
vampire who protected her. The price was acceptable, and she had no
alternative. And sometimes it was almost allright, if she was quiet--
Sometimes she dreamed of becoming completely invisible. And now she prayed
for it, burrowing into the collection of supplies for which the others were
Foster leaned close to her small ear. She was always faintly off, faintly
wrong somehow. The body he touched was somehow too blue, too translucent.
Something subtle about the shape of her face was otherworldy-- a hair
different from what it should have been. He wasn't sure if he enjoyed it
or loathed it. At that moment, he didn't really care.
"Get back," he whispered as he moved towards the door. He pressed against
it with the others, holding it shut with desperation.
She watched them moving and it all blurred together. The cacophany outside
was a dull mirror to their own shouts, fading in and out of focus to her
She was very tired, suddenly, and wished it would end quickly. She didn't
Suddenly Buffy was in front of her. She was kneeling beside her and
seizing her firmly by the arm. Her face was different from the others.
Aylis knew there was something sad and special about her, about the haunted
taught face framed in brown hair. Once, in a strange and light moment,
when the others were sleeping, Buffy had leaned over their campfire. She
told her how she'd dyed it blonde when she was young.
"I can't tell you how many hours I'd work on that hair, can you believe
it?" she said, chuckling gently, "It was a fine art. And hey, even when I
got mutliated demon goo all over it half the time, there were no split
ends. Nothing put out of place..."
Her voice was sadder then, her eyes glazed as she stared into the fire.
"Perfect..." she whispered, "Perfect hair..."
Young and stupid, back when there was hair dye and styling foam. That's
what she'd said, and her eyes twinkled a moment with a slight smile before
it faded to sadness.
But now, the tight, dark braid of her hair hung over shoulder as she knelt
beside the bags. The noises around them seemed to be growing organically,
coming to their inevitable crisis, full of panic and blood and anger.
"We should hide you somewhere," she said. It was a statement of fact,
empty and resolute. She lifted her from the ground, guided her to the
stairwell. Her touch was almost gentle. She kicked open a panel under the
stairs. The space within was stale and murky.
Buffy pushed her towards the little opening and turned to go. Tears came
to Aylis' eyes, and as the little form before her turned, she jumped
forward, grabbed its hand.
"Why..." she whispered, and Buffy's shoulders tensed. Her hand was
motionless in Aylis' grip.
"Why did this-- why did all of this have to happen...?"
The small, drawn face flinched, pale white against the brown hair.
She had been running, running two stairs at a time. The sounds of shouting
and violence floated on the cool night breeze. Running up the metal
progress. One level, two. Her sister's small form high above. She wasn't
Running, using the girders to vault herself forward. Lunging into the
future and the promise of her birthright.
And the stair gave way beneath her foot.
And her ankle twisted, and the failing metal pitched her backwards, and she
was falling, falling violently against the unyeildng metal. Her forehead
hit heavy against the girders. A hard crack of contact. And the movement
continued, the sensation of falling. And then nothing. Darkness.
And she remembered, strangely, a night months before even that. Inane,
meaningless. Dawn opening the refrigerator, the light inside it glowing
white on her face. The dull hum. Dawn reaching for a carton of milk. The
microwave chiming with mechanical cheer.
"Why... why did this have to happen...?" Aylis was near tears. Buffy
started, her face hardening.
"Get in the hole," was all she said.
And the door burst open, throwing Foster and Maggie back. They rolled with
the impact and leapt to their feet in preternatural speed. Buffy swung
herself up by the banister onto the stairwell, crossbow aimed as she landed
spry and silent on the stairs.
Something burning was thrown through the open door, and Aylis saw flames
starting in a far corner of the room. She cowered into her knees, crawling
into the musty space Buffy had found her, and peered through the gaps
between the stairs.
And the noise continued. Vampires outside. One lunging for the two
standing inside, throwing itself against the open, empty doorway. It hit
hard against the invisible barrier.
"Pull back!" Buffy yelled, "We've been living here, they can't get in--"
The creature dissolved as the arrow struck. The smell of smoke was
becoming thick in the air. She felt herself breaking inside.
She looked where Foster was reaching with those hands and those arms,
seizing one on the outside, pulling him in and ducking out of the path of
Buffy's crossbow. Saw the evil in his face, the sheer joy of breaking the
body in his hands, of breaking it and throwing it headlong into the growing
fire. And the noise outside continued.
Each night with him. Each night with all of them. Maggie screamed
something to Buffy over the din.
They were so desperate to stay alive. Things seemed to slow in Aylis'
vision. The world blurred around the edges as she became aware of the
weariness in her bones. This wasn't where she belonged. Foster screaming
with lust as he threw burning debris at their enemies. The insistant
nights in his angry arms.
And she rose. The creatures were throwing themselves at the broken door,
and the fire rose behind her as her companions desperately fought for their
miserable lives. A vampire swung in to strike the invisible barrier with
an unrestrained fury.
"Come in..." she whispered, coming to stand. The vampire who swung at the
door spun out of control, her weight out of balance, falling forward and
onto the ground. And as she landed, suddenly, they all-- all of them,
froze in shock.
The silence lasted seconds. It was pure and white and empty.
She stepped forward, in that time, and moved towards the door. Her light
hair fell in its thin whisps against her back.
"Come... in," she said again, louder this time. She was sure she'd gotten
the words right. She'd learned their language as quickly as she could.
She had to.
And she turned to the three stunned figures behind her. The beasts would
know justice. The other would know peace.
The smoke was rising, becoming too thick to bear. She coughed.
And then she smiled.
"I hope you all die," she said, smiling softly at her friends, as the
raging creatures without lunged on her from the shattered gateway.
Continued in Part Three: Contrast