Left Behind

Aug. 9th, 2011 12:55 pm
devo79fanfic: (Default)
[personal profile] devo79fanfic
Title: Left behind
Author: Devo79
Character: Xander
A/N: First thing I’ve written in a while. Hope I haven’t gotten too rusty.

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It all ends with death or maybe, Xander thinks as he looks down from up high, maybe it starts with it. It’s pretty damn hard to say, especially from this vantage point, high up over the buildings in Sunnydale.

He can see most of the town from up here.

And it’s inexplicably beautiful.

In all its simplicity this might be the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. The sun is rising over the old church to his right and the golden beams banish the last remnants of darkness from the cemetery.

The silence is like a heavy blanket spread over the town. Thick and smothering… and safe.

He spreads out his arms and tilts his face up to catch the sun on his skin and smiles.

His fingers flex in the orange light and for one fleeting second he can hear his own heartbeat. Loud and thrumming. The only sound that escapes the heavy blanket.

Then he steps over the edge and falls.


------------------------------------------

The alarm clock is beeping insistently just inches from his ears and he fumbles around for it. Slams his hand down on the edge of the bedside table and grumbles. The sunlight is peeking though the blinds. And if sunlight can be smug, then this sunlight certainly is.

The alarm clock is suppose to play soft pop music. That’s what the station keeps advertising so he was expecting to wake up to the dulcet tones of some unobtrusive pop song. What he gets is a loud hissing from the alarm clock’s speakers.

“Fuck off,” Xander moans into his pillow and gives the alarm clock a hard thump before turning over on his back. He blinks up at the ceiling a few times. His eyes are all gunked up. God, he hates when that happens. Jesse used to call it eye snot and just the though of it makes Xander crawl out from under his blankets and make his unsteady way into the bathroom. He splashes water into his face and goose bumps appear on his arms as he shivers his way through brushing his teeth.

---------------------------------------------

The roads are empty.

Usually he has to drive at a snail’s pace because of all the other idiots driving to work. He’s almost sure everyone sits at home waiting for the moment where he gets into his car and drives onto the main road. Then they all rush out to their cars and drive like crazy to make it in time to slow him down and get in his way. He’s seen some pretty hard core stuff patrolling with Buffy but nothing prepared him for the sight of a little old granny, giving him the finger because he was in her way.

But not today.

Today the road is empty.

If this had been a western he’d have expected some tumble weed to fly over the road and maybe a few notes being played on an acoustic guitar.

He must be going crazy because right now he’d like to see an old lady flipping him the bird.

He pulls over and finds his phone and calls Buffy.

Empty roads in America can only mean one thing.

-----------------------------------------

She doesn’t pick up.

Neither does Willow.

Or Giles.

Or Anya.

Or, God help him, Spike.

The phone chirps happily every time he picks another name on the contact list but no one answers.

He doesn’t start panicking before he realises that he’s all out of contacts.

He throws the phone on the passenger seat and drives at top speed, which isn’t much in his old truck, to the construction site.

------------------------------------------

He’s never really thought of construction sites as creepy. Vampires are creepy. Zombies that want you to drive them around town are creepy. Scaffolding and half build houses are not.

It looks as if he’s the only one at the site and he knows that just isn’t right. If nothing else the foreman should be there yelling at everyone and everything, pointing at piles of wood with his clipboard and cursing.

--------------------------------------------

It’s not even as if people left their cars in a hurry, double parked, stranded across the streets or crashed into buildings.

They are all neatly parked in front of houses and apartment blocks, shops and in parking lots.

It’s as if everyone just agreed to walk out on their lives and forgot to inform him.

------------------------------------------

The mobile phone is mocking him as it quietly hangs out on the passenger seat. He picks it up and listlessly presses a few buttons.

He tries calling everyone again.

He even starts calling random numbers he remembers. The local pizza joint, his neighbour, the guy that tried to sell him a new car a few days ago, the cinema.

No one answers.

--------------------------------------------

After pulling a few shop doors and finding them locked, he smashes the huge glass doors at a supermarket. Stepping over the thousands of tiny glass fragments, he walks by the quiet registers.

He ends up standing in the middle of the fruit and vegetable area. He’s all alone and nothing he does seems to lure anyone else out. Xander picks up a reasonably sized watermelon and chucks it at the nearest wall. It makes a wet sound as it breaks. Seeds and red mush splatter all over the place. But no one comes to check what the hell is going on.

The manager doesn’t storm out to scream bloody murder at him. So he picks up a few oranges and throws them, as hard as he can, against the sign that says “Cereals.”

------------------------------------------

Buffy’s house is quiet. No one is there. The house doesn’t even smell of her favourite perfume. His voice echoes through the hall as he runs up the stairs.

He checks every room. Once. Twice. And the third time he starts opening the closet doors as if he expects every Sunnydale citizen to jump out from behind Buffy’s purple coat and yell “Surprise!”’

They don’t.

No one as much as breathes.

Xander slumps down on the edge of Dawn’s bed. He runs his shaking hands though his hair before he jumps up, runs out of the house, leaving the front door open behind him, and keeps running.

------------------------------------------

Willow’s house looks normal from the outside. Nice and clean with flowers on each side of the path leading to the front door.

He pauses before he turns the door handle. He closes his eyes and listens and then he slowly turns the handle and exhales.

Willow is gone.

Even the big aquarium in the living room is empty.

Xander ends up with both his arms up to the pits in clear water, plants clinging to his wrists, before he gives up the search and just leaves the house. Water drips from his arms and on to the nice carpet in the hallway.

------------------------------------------------

It feels wrong to walk unsupervised around Giles’ house. The old watcher has always been a neat freak and just the thought of rummaging through his things makes Xander feel like an intruder.

He quickly checks every room and then leaves.

------------------------------------------------

He stops to get something to eat.

Walks right into McDonalds and into the kitchen. Everything is clean and nothing seems out of place, like someone just shut down for the night and intends to return later. He manages to find most of the things he needs to make a burger.

He’s worked at plenty of fast food joints to know how to make a good hamburger. He hums quietly to liven up the place.

---------------------------------------------------

Xander is already standing outside in the parking lot, by his car, when he turns around, walks back in and stops in front of the Ronald McDonald statue by the counter. He tilts his head a little to the right and asks,

“What the hell are you grinning at, asshole?“

Ronald doesn’t answer. He just keeps grinning like and idiot.

Xander kicks the iconic clown in the nuts before he picks the bastard up and throws him through the big panorama window.

-------------------------------------------------

Xander is sitting on the top steps of the stair to his apartment, the burger left half eaten by his side, when a thought suddenly strikes him.

He thunders into his living room, violently stabs at the remote with his still greasy fingers and turns on the TV.

Almost all of the stations show nothing but a black screen. A few seem to be running preset programs, like cartoons and old sitcoms and it only takes a day or so for those to stop broadcasting as well.

The news stations are all black.

---------------------------------------------------

The internet works.

He listlessly watches bad German porn for a few hours and then starts sending emails to everyone he knows, and a handful of people he doesn’t.

He isn’t really surprised when no one answers.

He checks out every damn internet site he can think of. Scrolls through newsfeeds and photos of cats doing absolutely nothing. Checks Youtube and clicks through more than a hundred videos of people doing bad cover songs, dogs rolling around and babies giggling.

No posts or comments are older than midnight the night before.

--------------------------------------------------

The drive to Los Angeles takes no time at all when you don’t have to slow down for other cars.

--------------------------------------------------

He stops outside the Hyperion and just sits there for a few minutes. He listens to the wind whispering its way through the quiet street and then steps out of the car.

The lobby looks different than he expected. He’s not really sure what he expected but a vampire detective should definitely have some dark curtains hanging from the walls and maybe a gargoyle or two in the corners here and there.

This looks nothing like that and he can’t help but admire the craftsmanship that went into building the hotel. The stairs lead him up to the first floor and he searches every room, even when it’s obvious that they aren’t being used… weren’t being used…before.

He lingers in Angel’s bedroom. It has to be the vampire’s room. No one else would have that many black pants and shirts in their closet.

He picks up a shirt hanging on a chair by the door and breathes in Angel’s scent.

---------------------------------------------------

He sleeps in Angel’s bed for a week.

It feels weird.

---------------------------------------------------

He ends up at the Getty museum.

Walks through the halls and stops to look at a painting here and there. He starts humming to himself. Xander’s voice carries through the building and he stops to listen to the echo. He closes his eyes and listens to his own voice fill every corner and smiles up at the ceiling as the words to “Crazy” cling to the paintings.

He’s nowhere near as good a singer as Patsy Cline. He grimaces when his voice breaks on the high notes. Still, the words make the rooms seem less abandoned.

Makes him feel less alone.

------------------------------------------------------

The sculpture isn’t the most beautiful he’s seen in the museum. It’s not even the biggest.

And yet he can’t seem to move on.

The horse looks like it was sculptured by someone who had never seen a real horse. Like a blind man’s description of a horse turned solid. Its legs strangely bowed and the head stretched and thin.

Breaking the glass, Xander reaches in and pulls the horse out of its see-through cage. It feels smooth against his skin. Leaving the alarm to shriek into the empty halls of the museum, Xander walks out with the horse clenched in his fist.

------------------------------------------------------

He picks out the most expensive car he can find with the keys in the ignition and drives it back to Sunnydale. He pushes the engine to its limits on the deserted roads.

The trees and buildings look as if they are flying by the car at top speed. It looks like everything is stretching out a little to keep up.

Driving a Lamborghini isn’t much fun when there’s no one to see you in it. And the thrill of it soon wears off.

It’s not even red.

--------------------------------------------------

It takes him four weeks to search every house, apartment and crypt in Sunnydale.

He’s alone.

---------------------------------------------------

He’s calling random people in the phonebook.

No one answers.

He even manages to find phone numbers from France and Sweden on the internet. Xander feels a wave of fear when he’s waiting for someone to pick up. He just realised that he doesn’t know French or Swedish. The phone isn’t picked up. He’s oddly relieved.

He stops doing it for a few weeks.

Then starts methodically calling every number in the book. Ten a day. At that rate he’ll be dead before he manages to get halfway through.

He still calls Willow and Buffy and everyone else on his contact list every day. No one answers.

------------------------------------------------------

Xander starts talking to the sad looking plant on his windowsill.

He swears it starts looking perkier.

But maybe that’s because he started watering it regularly.

------------------------------------------------

He brings the horse figure with him everywhere.

It sits in the child seat in the shopping cart when he picks up food at the mall. He asks it what kind of cereal he should get, or if it wants canned pineapple or peaches.

It prefers peaches.

All the fruit and vegetables are just heaps of green moulding and rotting gunk so he quickly goes past them. The meat and dairy sections of the supermarket are best avoided.

“Oh,” Xander points at a box of Lucky Charms, “Think that’ll taste good with the long lasting milk?”

The horse just sits in the child seat and Xander stares at it before he takes two boxes and dumps them into the cart.

“Not much for talking, are you?” he wonders out loud.

------------------------------------------------

One night the silence becomes too thick, too palpable. He walks out into the street, wearing nothing but a wrinkled pair of boxers, and enters every apartment in the building. Xander turns on every radio, record player and music center he finds.

The radios emit a loud hissing and the cacophony of the cds playing fill the street until Xander can almost reach out and touch the music.

He stumbles back to his bed, pulls the covers over his head, closes his eyes so tight they hurt and starts singing at the top of his voice.

------------------------------------------------

Xander tries to research what might have happened. But most of Giles’ books are written in foreign languages. The letters are weird little scribbles that look more like bird droppings than letters and he finally gives up.

He has no idea what is going on.

And honestly, he doesn’t give a shit why it happened. He just wants it to stop.

---------------------------------------------------

The electricity stops working.

He stands there, flipping the switch on and off for twenty minutes, before he finally goes out and checks all the other houses on his street.

---------------------------------------------------

His phone runs out of battery and he screams himself hoarse as he kicks his coffee table to splinters in pure frustration.

The he drives out to get a new one, only to discover that the Lamborghini has no trunk space to speak off. Xander leaves his new fancy coffee table in the parking lot outside the shop.

---------------------------------------------------

The day he gags, when he opens a can of peaches and the sweet scent hits him, is the day he stops taking the horse with him when he goes shopping.

---------------------------------------------------

The potted plant on his windowsill dies.

He cries so hard he starts having trouble breathing.

Xander finds a shoebox and puts the plant in it. Its leaves are a sickly brown colour and they limply lay against the sides of the box. A few of them are already starting to feel slimy.

He buries it in the garden. The horse watches from a stone.

“Uh,” Xander mumbles and fumbles with the tie he’s put on for the occasion, “Plant was…” he hesitates before continuing with a stronger voice, “Plant was a great companion. He didn’t talk back and he didn’t ask for more than was his due. I’m sad to see him go and he’ll be dearly missed….”

The horse stares right ahead.

“Oh, yeah,” Xander nods, “Amen.”

-------------------------------------------------

He knows he’s losing it when he hears the horse whinny. It’s almost inaudible and he could pretend he didn’t hear it.

The horse spends three days at the bottom of a box in his closet before he frantically rips the cardboard box apart and, while apologizing profusely, gently wipes the horse clean and takes it to the park for some fresh air.

-----------------------------------------------

He makes a big meal. All his favourites and he savours it. Chews and tastes each mouthful slowly.

The horse is sitting on the telephone book across from him, next to the empty clay pot the plant used to be in. He reaches out and turns the horse just a little to the left so it can look out the window.

-------------------------------------------------

He cleans up after himself.

He washes the bed linens and cleans out the fridge.

Then he walks out of the house and heads for the tallest building in town.

--------------------------------------------------

The end

Date: 2011-08-09 02:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beccers4469.livejournal.com
That was so sad. Well crap.

It was very good though, and you're not rusty at all;)

Date: 2011-08-10 11:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Thanks :)

Date: 2011-08-09 04:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whichclothes.livejournal.com
Wow! That was scary and heartbreaking.

Date: 2011-08-10 11:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Thank you.

It's a fic I've been working on and then deleted only to come back to it and write this.

Date: 2011-08-09 09:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kotki-psotki.livejournal.com
It's very sad, but splendid story. Thank you

Date: 2011-08-10 11:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Thank you for reading it :)

Date: 2011-08-09 10:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaleecat.livejournal.com
well that just killed me. Calling their numbers every day. Frantically rescuing the horse statue from the closet & apologizing, the weeping over Plant. And then cleaning everything, & carefully leaving Horse with a view out the window where it presumably sits placidly staring at the empty world. And Xander gazing at the emptiness of everything before.... GAH!

I would say you aren't rusty at all.

Date: 2011-08-10 11:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Thank you.

It's very much inspired by the book Night Work by Thomas Glavinic. A great book that I strongly recommend.

Date: 2011-08-11 02:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaleecat.livejournal.com
ETA: you're very welcome. The imagary still haunts me. tho I hope you're next bunny is more cheerful, I'm out of kleenex. ;-)
--
I just looked at that book on amazon, not sure i could do a full novel of one person left alone. I've read several very good post-apocalyptic novels (I re-read Frank's Alas Babylon once a year) but ... somehow I think your short story is more powerful & affects me more than that novel would in part because its Xander.

My book recommendation on the theme--The disappearance by philip wylie (1951, back in print). the premise is what if one day all the women disappeared from the world of men, and all the men disappeared from the world of women. The novel follows each world of single gender as they try to adapt.
Edited Date: 2011-08-11 02:34 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-08-11 09:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Just ordered the book by Philip Wylie at the library.

Date: 2011-08-12 12:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaleecat.livejournal.com
wow, i think that's the fastest anyone has responded to a book rec. Now i'm nervous. ;-)

Now you're making me want to go re-read that & Alas Babylon.

Date: 2011-08-09 10:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sam-arkand.livejournal.com
This has the horrible, eerie normality of that just one thing being absent that made "Hush" so effective.

Date: 2011-08-10 11:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
I was going for eerie so that's great :)

Date: 2011-08-09 10:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dragonyphoenix.livejournal.com
Holy shit! Nope, not rusty at all! If anything, I think you've improved.

Date: 2011-08-10 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Thank you.

I have a couple of fics in the works but I just haven't been feeling like writing much. Then this fic attacked me ;)

Date: 2011-08-10 04:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] muffiewrites.livejournal.com
You can put an incredible amount of real pathos in simple sentences. Brava.

Date: 2011-08-10 11:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Thank you.

Every word is chosen for its maximum impact on the sentence and what I want the reader to feel.

Date: 2011-08-10 11:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baudown.livejournal.com
This was haunting and beautiful and gave my heart a twist.

Thank you.

Date: 2011-08-10 11:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading.

Date: 2011-08-10 11:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anndaydream.livejournal.com
That made me want to go curl up in bed with a big squishy teddy bear... xx

Date: 2011-08-10 11:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Aw!

*hugs you*

Date: 2011-08-10 01:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparrow2000.livejournal.com
You made me cry! That was super.

Date: 2011-08-11 08:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Thanks :)

*hugs*

Date: 2011-08-10 06:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] louise39.livejournal.com
Here on a rec by [livejournal.com profile] petzipellepingo

All alone. Terrifying thought. Not to be borne.
Poor Xander.

Date: 2011-08-11 08:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
It is a very terrifying thought.

Thanks for reading :)

Date: 2011-08-31 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lusciousxander.livejournal.com
That was very well written and broke my heart to pieces. Poor Xander.

Date: 2011-08-31 03:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Thank you.

If it broke your heart then it worked like I wanted it to.

Date: 2011-09-15 01:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heeroluva.livejournal.com
Very scary and sad. *wibble*

Well done.

Date: 2011-09-15 05:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Thank you.

*hugs*

2011 - That Was The Year That Was....

Date: 2011-12-17 02:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pingback-bot.livejournal.com
User [livejournal.com profile] sparrow2000 referenced to your post from 2011 - That Was The Year That Was.... (http://sparrow2000.livejournal.com/110979.html) saying: [...] And talking of fics where you might want to invest in a nightlight before you read, Left Behind [...]

Top five great reads from 2011!

Date: 2012-01-06 08:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pingback-bot.livejournal.com
User [livejournal.com profile] lusciousxander referenced to your post from Top five great reads from 2011! (http://buffyversetop5.livejournal.com/327590.html) saying: [...] for living in the Summers' house, and why they didn't send Dawn to her father... " 4) Left Behind [...]

Date: 2012-01-06 10:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] waddiwasiwitch.livejournal.com
I'm here via a rec in Buffyverse top5. Wondeful. You captured his desperation and his lonliness so well. I could picture the horse and his potted plant and the empty streets.

Date: 2012-01-07 07:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Thank you so much.

Date: 2013-11-04 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] comlodge.livejournal.com
Oh my. That hurt.

Date: 2013-11-04 02:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devo79.livejournal.com
Sorry about the pain but thanks for reading *hugs*

I was going for it being a painful read so I guess I succeeded.

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