Forever, That's The Whole Point

Chapter 45

Chapter 45

Aurelia and Willow were setting up sleeping bags and pillows in Joyce's room. "So, I took a look inside that emergency bag." Willow said.

"And?" Aurelia asked.

"Smelled weird. Kinda like my grandma's closet, but worse."

"I didn't know that was possible. Is there anything we could use?"

"Trinkets, weapons, one very large textbook." She picked up the book and flipped through it. "The translation's gonna be a bitch, but…. Do you know that ancient Sumerians do not speak English?"

"They're worse than the French."

"Do you speak Sumerian?"

"Not at all. Was there anything else?"

"Uh, yeah. A box. A big, fat, unopenable box. I'm betting whatever the big deal about this emergency bag is, you'll find it in the box."

"Good. Keep on it." Aurelia walked out of the room. "Would you like to start on real homework, though? I'm beginning to believe that I'm going to fail Calculus."

"Sure. But isn't your Calculus teacher…. Missing?"

"We have a substitute. She's like one of the nuns in Catholic school…. She even comes complete with a ruler that she smacks against her palm and glasses that hang half way off her…." Aurelia gasped as she walked into her bedroom and found Chloe hung from a bed sheet from the ceiling. Kennedy, Rona, and Amanda came out of the bedroom across the hall and joined Aurelia and Willow.

"What happened?" Kennedy asked. "We heard…." She gasped and covered her mouth.

"Willow, get a knife." Aurelia ordered. "We're cutting her down."

From out of nowhere, the First as Chloe appeared, standing beside Chloe's hanging body. "Good thinking. But, on the other hand, why rush? Up or down, I'll still be dead."

"You're not Chloe." Aurelia growled.

"Yeah, well, neither is she, anymore. Now, she's just Chloe's body."

"What did you do to her?" Kennedy demanded.

"Nothing! We just talked all night. Well, I did most of the talking, but Chloe is…. I'm sorry, was a good listener. 'Til she hanged herself. Like when you called her maggot…. she really heard that."

"Don't listen to it, any of you." Aurelia ordered. "It's the First."

"Oh, let 'em. The only reason why Chloe offed herself is 'cause she knew what you're not getting. I'm coming, you're going. All this…. it's almost over."

"We'll be here."

"All of you? But wait. I thought…." She changed her voice to sound like Aurelia's. "They're not all going to make it. Some will die, and there's nothing I can do that will stop it." It was a conversation Aurelia had been having with Cassius. "Hey, I didn't say it. But I'll be seeing all of you. One by one. TTFN." The First disappeared in a flash of light.

"What is TTFN?" Aurelia demanded.

"It's 'ta ta for now.'" Rona said. "It's what Tigger says when he leaves."

"Chloe loved Winnie the Pooh." Amanda said.

"Willow, where's that knife?" Aurelia snapped.

Everyone in the house was gathered into the living room for a meeting. The mood was somber as everyone sat in silence, except for the soft sobbing sounds as they mourned Chloe's death. There were approximately ten potentials in the room, plus Willow, Oz, Cordelia, Xander, and Cassius. Aurelia walked into the room carrying the shovel she'd used to bury Chloe next to Annabelle.

"Is everyone here?" Aurelia asked.

"All accounted for." Kennedy said.

"Does anyone want to say a few words about Chloe?" There was silence. "Let me. Chloe was an idiot. Chloe was stupid. She was weak. And anyone in a rush to be the next dead body I bury, it's easy. Just think of Chloe, and do what she did. And I'll find room for you next to her and Annabelle. I'm the Slayer. The one with the power. And the First has me using that power to dig our graves." Aurelia threw down the shovel angrily. "I've been carrying you, all of you, too far, too long. The ride is over."

"You're out of line!" Kennedy cried.

"No, she's not." Willow said.

"You're gonna let her talk to you like that?"

"You are new here. Sit down and shut up. I am your leader and that means you do what I say." Aurelia snapped.

"But let's not try to forget, we're also your friends." Xander said.

"I'm not." Cordelia said.

"Then why are you here? Aside from getting rescued, what is it that you do?" Aurelia asked.

"I provide the only sense of style here."

Aurelia rolled her eyes. "You are here because you are scared."

"Same goes for everyone in this room." Xander said.

"Fine. Cordelia, all of you, be as scared as you would like, just be useful while you're at it." Aurelia said.

"Come on, Aurelia." Willow said. "You know everyone here's doing everything they can."

"The First isn't impressed. It already knows us. It knows what we can do, and it's laughing. You want to surprise the enemy? Surprise yourselves. Force yourself to do what can't be done, or else we are not an army…. We are just a bunch of girls waiting to be picked off and buried." Aurelia sighed. "Willow, get the potentials upstairs, and break out that emergency kit."

"What are you gonna do?"

"I'm declaring an emergency."

Kennedy, Willow, Cordelia, and Xander went through the contents of the bag sitting on the table. "That emergency bag's got some neat stuff in it." Willow said. "Weapons, charms, advanced reading assignments."

"Yeah, cool stuff, but we've seen it all before." Xander said.

"Well, not this, we haven't." Cordelia said. "What's inside it?"

"I don't know." Willow said. "I haven't been able to get it open." Aurelia walked up and yanked the lock down, shattering it. "Until now."

Xander reached in and pulled out metal figures from the bag. "Puppets. That's it! The First hates puppets! Now if we can just airlift Kermit, Fozzie the Bear, and Miss Piggy into town, the First'll be a-running."

"Those are Muppets." Willow corrected, taking the figure from Xander. "And these things are shadow-casters. You put them in motion, and they tell you a story." She pointed to the book. "It says you can't just watch, you have to see."

"What does that mean?" Cordelia asked.

"It's cryptic." Xander said. "I don't like it. Every time instructions get cryptic, someone gets hurt…. usually me."

"You can't just watch, you have to see?" Aurelia repeated. "See what?"

"That's where all my fancy translating skills break down," Willow said. "But I think it's an origin myth. The story of the very first slayer."

"I saw her."

"You saw the First Slayer?" Cassius asked.

"The other night…. in my dream. It's got to mean something, right?"

"Let's find out." Xander said, holding up a round metal wheel.

In the darkened living room, Xander struck a match and lit the wick at the center of the round metal object. The light filled the room, revealing Willow, who was holding a large book open in her arms. "Ok." She said. "According to this, I think…. you put on those puppet guys one by one. They cast shadows and the shadows tell the story. First, there is the Earth." Xander put the first metal figure on the metal object. The light at the center cast a shadow of the figure on the wall and a tribal drumbeat could be heard in the background.

"What's that sound?" Kennedy asked.

"Ok, so far, so creepy." Xander said.

"Ok…." Willow went back to the story. "Then, there came the demons." Xander added the figure to the shadow caster and growling sounds echoed with the drums. "After the demons, there came men." When Xander added the shadow caster, chanting sounds blended in with the growling and drums. "Men found a girl." A girl's scream sounded out as Xander put her shadow caster on. "And the men took the girl to fight the demon…. All demons. They…. They chained her to the Earth." Xander put down the shadow caster of the chain. "And then…. and I…. I can't read this. Something about darkness." The shadow casting device started spinning on its own.

"What about darkness?" Aurelia asked.

The shadow caster device was spinning, making shadows of the figures on the walls, but the shadows were animated, moving, acting out the story. "It says you cannot be shown." Willow said. "You cannot just watch, but you must see. See for yourself, but only if you're willing to make the exchange."

"When did you get so good at Sumerian?" Xander asked.

"It's not in Sumerian anymore." Willow said, showing that the words on the pages of the book were magically changing into English. She and Kennedy stood, alarmed, as the shadow casters told a story of a demon attacking the chained girl. The device spun faster and faster as the shadows moved up the walls. Suddenly, a bright blue light formed at the center of the device, growing in size until it formed a window of light. Aurelia walked closer to investigate it.

"But what does it mean?" Xander asked.

"It means I have to go in there." Aurelia said.

"No, it doesn't!" Willow panicked. "Where does it say that? It doesn't say that!"

"Aurelia, you don't even know what you're exchanging." Cassius said. "You don't know if you're ready yet."

"That's the point." Aurelia said.

"No. Aurelia, we don't know where you're going or how we'll get you back." Willow protested.

"Aurelia, you can't." Xander said.

"How will we get you back?"

"Find a way." Aurelia said, jumping through the window of light. The portal closed behind her.

"She's gone."

"What was that about an exchange?" Cordelia asked. There was a flash of light and then a large, growling demon appeared.

"Ah, this must be the exchange student." Xander said just before the demon grabbed him by the shirt collar and threw him across the room, breaking furniture as he landed. Cordelia, Kennedy, Willow, Cassius, and Oz were standing there in shock as the growling demon now turned its attention to them.

"Willow!" Oz said. "Use your magic. Send him back!"

"Um, trying." The demon backhanded Willow, sending her across the room. Oz ran over to her, dodging the demon. Cassius pulled out throwing stars from a bag behind him that Aurelia had left there and hurled them at the demon. He engaged the demon in hand-to-hand combat until the demon finally pushed him to the ground.

"Weapons." Kennedy cried.

Cordelia handed Kennedy a sword from Aurelia's bag, while also taking one for herself. Kennedy charged at the demon, whaling on it with the sword. Cordelia just backed up, keeping the sword in front of her. She went over to Cassius and started to help him up. The demon took on Kennedy, but she was no match for it. It punched Kennedy and sent her across the room.

Cassius jumped up and onto the demon's back. "Get out of here…. all of you." He called.

"What are you gonna do?" Kennedy asked.

Cassius didn't answer her, he just slammed the demon's head into the wall, but it turned the tables on him, throwing him so hard into the ceiling that he broke through it and landed on the floor upstairs. The demon broke through the closed French doors, smashing glass as he left the house. Willow sat up where she'd fallen with Oz cradling her. Xander also tried to stand with Cordelia's help.

"Are you injured?" Willow asked Kennedy.

"Just hurt." Kennedy said. "Don't make a case out of it. How 'bout you?"

"I think we'll live." Xander said.

"Except maybe Angel." Cordelia said, pointing up.

"I'll go check on him." Willow said.

"We've got bigger problems than that." Oz said. "Demon loose. No Slayer."

"We need Aurelia."

"You gotta get her back." Xander said. "Looks like it's spell'o'clock."

"Which spell?" Cordelia asked. "I mean, didn't you see that thing?"

"I've got to get her back." Willow said.

"We don't even know where she went." Kennedy said.

Aurelia tumbled through the portal and found herself in a desert. The lighting was strange, though. As if brightness and contrast had been turned super-high, giving the scene a supernatural feel. She looked around herself and realized she was in the middle of a desert. "Well, I guess that worked." She muttered to herself. Behind her, she heard chanting nearby. With a sigh, she went to investigate.

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