A Little Uncalculated Weirdness

Chapter 2


Chapter 2

The moon rose slowly, and in the musty silence of Sunnydale’s High School Library, four figures worked hard, reading long forgotten books that sent clouds of dust up into the air. The silence was broken by an almighty sneeze that made everybody jump.

“Oops. Sorry everyone.” Xander grinned sheepishly.

Willow smiled. “Gesundheit,” she offered helpfully, and then raised the book she was reading into the air. “Finished. Not a mention of any gates, portals, wormholes, black holes, or anything even remotely connected to doorways. There’s not so much as a vortex mentioned anywhere in these pages.”

“We get the message, Willow.” Giles closed his own book, sending another cloud of dust ceilingward. “There’s s-still another two hundred and sixty possibly relevant titles to consider though.”

“Oh great.” Willow stood up, and wandered over to the towering piles of books that they had erected beside Giles’ desk. “Oh which one shall I choose? They’re all so exciting.”

“This is ridiculous.” Buffy shut her book with a loud snap. “There’s nothing here. We could spend ages looking through this lot, and the moon is already on it’s way up. We’ve only got a few hours before the gate opens. I’m going to the graveyard. It’s, like, hot violence time.”

“Alright.” Giles rose to his feet automatically. “I’ll go and fetch the car.”

“You’d better stay here, Giles. Someone has to keep doing the book stuff, just in case. We need to know what’s going on.” Buffy slipped into her coat and made for the door.

“Wait a minute.” There was a note of authority in Giles’ voice. “I’m sorry Buffy, but there is no way I’m going to let you go to that graveyard alone on a night like this. I’m coming with you.”

“Giles…” She smiled. “I need you here, you know that. And anyway, I’m the Slayer. Me. You’re the Watcher. That means you work for me.”

Their eyes met, and Giles saw a flash of maturity in her eyes that he had not noticed before. It disturbed him, even though he knew that he was largely responsible for putting it there. Just because he had never got much of a chance to have his own childhood, was there really any reason to rob Buffy of hers? If only it were all that simple. Slowly he nodded, and sat down.

“Okay Buffy. Take care.”

“Sure.” Grinning brightly, and once more so much a child, Buffy left the library. Willow stared after her, and then turned to Giles in disbelief.

“You’re not going to let her just walk out of here?” she asked, her voice filled with outrage.

“What, what else can I do? She is the Slayer.” He looked down at the piles of notes and texts on his desk. “And she’s right, anyway; I-I have to keep going through all this. The answer has to be here somewhere.”

“Well I’m going with her.” Willow stood up sharply. “I’ll see you later.”

“Mmm.” Giles already sounded distant, his attention lost to the centuries old book he was studying. Xander looked up at Willow and grinned.

“Take care.”

“Sure.” She glanced back at Giles. “You will stay here, won’t you Xander. He’s right, even if he is infuriating. It’s important to keep looking through all these books.”

“Don’t worry.” He leaned back in his chair and held up a book entitled Memories And Records Of Sunnydale—1780-1980. “This is deeply entertaining stuff.”

They both laughed, then Willow turned her back on her two friends, and hurried to the door. She had to find Buffy, and keep her company tonight. There was no way of knowing what would happen when that gate opened. She only hoped that they could find out what to do before it was too late.

The graveyard was as dark and empty as always. Buffy lost track of how many times she came here, alone or with friends, in order to spend a merry night Slaying. She clenched her fingers around the stake in her hand, and glanced about. What was she looking for exactly? Why come here? There was no real reason to suspect that the gate was in the graveyard, but her senses had led her here all the same.

“What are we looking for, Buffy?” Willow looked about, trying to spot anything out of the ordinary. “Do you really think that the gate is here?”

“I don’t know.” As before, Buffy was drawn to the grave of Mark Hutten. “Willow, have you ever noticed this grave before?”

Her friend frowned. “I don’t think so; but I don’t look at these things very much. I’ve usually got other things on my mind, you know?”

“I guess…” Buffy gazed at the stone. “Why would a new grave appear, dated 1987?”

“Maybe the old stone fell down, or got damaged somehow. It does happen.”

“Yeah. I suppose.” She shrugged. Something else was bothering her too. Perhaps it was the young age at which Hutten had died. Young deaths had become anything but a rarity in Sunnydale recently, but they were generally the work of vampires. It was hard to imagine some unfortunate teenager meeting his end by any other means. Maybe it was because 1987 was such a long time ago. She’d have been six. Innocent, happy, unaware of her peculiar destiny. She re-read the inscription on the stone, conscious that Willow was becoming restless. In Innocence Shall He Sleep. What could that mean? She remembered the reference to innocence in the prophecy Giles had read to her the previous day. What had it said? Something about innocence dying at the birth of death. What was the birth of death, exactly?

“Buffy? Are you coming? We can’t stand here all night, we’re getting nowhere. It’s nearly midnight.”

“Okay.” Buffy stepped back from the gravestone, her eyes still fixed on the words engraved into it. She glanced down at the flowers on the grave, frowning slightly. They were fresh, and there was a card attached. Fired by insatiable curiosity, Buffy leaned closer. She had to read the card.

“That’s it. It’s midnight.” Willow sighed. “Well I don’t feel any different. Do you, Buffy?”

“No…” Buffy reached out for the card. She could just about read the message, although the handwriting was far from clear.

“Mark. Lost souls never sleep. I hope you are at peace now. Love… I can’t read the name.”

“Does it matter? Buffy have you been listening to me? We have to go.”

“Just a second.” She knelt down beside the grave, leaning on the stone as she did so. Her hands tingled, almost as if the stone were vibrating with some odd power. She thought she heard voices, and something else… a merry-go-round?

“Buffy…” Willow’s voice, impatient and tired, sounded far away. Buffy didn’t bother answering. She bent further over the grave, and her vision blurred. Stars and comets seemed to be dancing before her eyes, and the whole world was in turmoil. Blackness approached. Suddenly afraid, she tried to back away, but the darkness reached out for her, and suddenly the graveyard was gone. Everything was empty and she knew no more.

“Bingo!” Giles sat upright, the book raised aloft like some kind of flag. “Look at this! I think this might be it!”

“It mentions the gate?” Xander was immediately interested, if only because his own book was so boring that he was in serious danger of reaching a comatose state.

“Well, not exactly. Not, not our gate anyway; but it’s all very similar.” The librarian stood up and began to pace, the excitement showing in his voice. “This book is a, a history of a Southern Californian town named Santa Carla. It seems that they have a higher than average instance of vampires and such like.”

“Sounds familiar,” Xander commented. Giles nodded.

“Exactly. You see, Santa Carla is an, an odd sort of town. Secluded. Cut off. There was a, a Slayer sent there once, but that was a long time ago. The book is all very cryptic. Anyway, this gate in Santa Carla is very like ours. It relies on planetary motions in order to bring it in-into existence; rare planetary positions, j-just like our gate. The interesting thing is, though, that their gate is apparently open for three days. The first night of the full moon is when it opens, but only people who are still in possession of their souls can pass through it. On the third and final night of the gate’s existence, those who have lost their souls can make use of it; travel through it to wherever it is that it leads to; but only in one direction. They can pass out of Santa Carla, but not into it.”

“And where do they go exactly?”

“No idea.” He shrugged. “We can’t expect the books to have all the answers.”

“So when is the gate in Santa Carla due to open?”

Giles began to look a little more subdued. “Yes. Well, er… that’s the problem, you see. The book was published in 1977, and it says that the planets would move into the necessary positions in October, 1987. It’s already opened.”

“And closed again.” Xander sighed, and leaned back in his chair. “Okay. So where does that leave us? Is there anybody in Santa Carla that we can call?”

“I don’t think so. Anyway, it’s a little late now, don’t you think? The gate has been closed for eleven years.”

“I wonder where the vampires went?”

“I shudder to think. According to this book, Santa Carla breeds a particularly powerful type of vampire. Whole families of them live there. They feed on outsiders. The author suggests a possible ratio of one vampire to every three humans.”

“Remind me not to go there for a vacation.” Xander looked pale. “Speaking of vacations, maybe now’s the time for one, huh Giles? How’s Britain this time of year?”

Giles smiled. “Probably cold and wet. Vampires prefer heat, you know. That’s why they’ve taken to the States so readily.” There was a teasing glint in his eyes. “Antarctica should be pretty safe.”

“Gee, thanks.” Xander looked as though he were going to speak further, but the opening of the library door silenced them both. They glanced towards the sound. Willow stood in the doorway, her eyes wide and frightened.

“Buffy…” Giles breathed the word at a barely audible volume. He took a step towards Willow, then stopped, as if unwilling to go forward and hear what the girl had to say.

“She… she disappeared.” Willow’s voice sounded small and uncertain. “We were in the graveyard, and she stopped to look at the grave, and she was reading the card, and then she just wasn’t there anymore.”

“What?” Giles ran towards her, catching her by the arms. “W-w-what g-grave? What card?”

“You’re hurting me Giles…” Willow pulled free, looking pale. “I don’t know what happened. The grave was—was the one from 1987. The one with the new stone.”

There was a second’s silence. Giles stared from one to the other of his companions, then made for the doorway at a run. “Stay here!” he ordered as he raced from the room; straight into a uniformed policeman.

“What the-?” The policeman, taken by surprise, grabbed hold of Giles automatically, and the librarian, both startled and frustrated at this unnecessary obstacle, pushed him aside and tried to run past. Immediately he felt the grip on his arm tighten, and he was spun around to face the wall.

“In a hurry?” The policeman turned to somebody standing next to him. “Do you know this man?”

“Yes.” It was Principal Snyder’s voice. “He’s Rupert Giles, our librarian. When you rang me to say that an intruder had been seen, I never expected…” He gestured towards the library door. “You’ll probably find a group of pupils in there too. He’s always with them. The man is a bad influence. Children miss their lessons to meet him here.”

“I see.” The policeman was already reaching for his handcuffs. “Well we can soon take care of him, Mr Snyder. Do you want to press charges?”

“I don’t know…” Snyder smiled. “I don’t suppose you’d like to keep him in for the weekend?”

“I can’t do that, sir. But I can keep him in for the night if you’d like. It’s the best I can do without anything definite to charge him with. I don’t suppose you’d know if there’s anything missing from the library?”

“Only Giles could tell you that.” Snyder looked up as the doors opened, and Willow and Xander wandered out. “Would you like to take them along too?”

“I don’t think that would be necessary, sir.” The policeman gave the two a cursory glance. “I’ll run them home, though. Make sure that they’re parents know they’ve been hanging around on school property in the middle of the night.”

“Y-y-y-you’re making a b-b-big mistake, officer.” Giles felt the metal bracelets click around his wrists, and tried to stem the rising anger. “I have to go somewhere.”

“Plenty of time for that tomorrow.” The policeman nodded at Willow and Xander. “You two come along as well, please.”

“Giles?” Willow glanced towards the librarian. There were times when he seemed like anything but a responsible adult, but at other times she was more than glad that he was there, to defer to. “What should we do?”

“D-d-do what he s-says, Willow. I won’t have you two trying to handle this on your own.” There was a hardness to the Watcher’s tone; a strong note of authority. The teenagers nodded.

“What about Buffy?” Xander managed to whisper, as they began to walk down the dimly lit corridor.

“I don’t know.” Giles sounded almost despairing, the worry painfully clear in his voice. “I just hope that she’s going to be okay.”

Buffy groaned, and rubbed her head, feeling rather as she had done after getting drunk for the first time. She stretched unwillingly, not wanting to move for fear that it was a hangover which had laid her low. Images of a gravestone wobbled into her mind, and she frowned and began to sit up.

“Hey, take it easy.” The voice was gentle, and sounded pleasant. The frown passed across her face again. Male, young, but definitely not Xander. She pushed herself into a sitting position, confused at the distinct feel of sand beneath her fingers, and then, finally, managed to con her eyes into opening.

It was daylight. Hot sunlight lit up a half empty beach, highlighting the crests of distant waves. Handfuls of people walked dogs across the sand, and in the distance she could see a pier, bedecked with shops and a spattering of tourist attractions. The merry-go-round caught her eye most readily; so she hadn’t been imagining it. She really had heard one. But that had been when she had been in the graveyard, with Willow… Panic gripped her, and she tried to get to her feet.

“Hey, hey. I said take it easy. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, sure.” She turned her head slightly, and looked into the blue eyes of a boy about her own age. He had black, curly hair cut in a style that seemed somewhat dated, and his shirt, although new, also gave the impression of being a little retro.

“Who are you?” Standing up, Buffy found that she felt perfectly alright; although her sixth sense was screaming for her attention.

“My name’s Michael. I live near here; found you when I was out walking.” He grinned. “I would have called an ambulance, but you seemed to be okay.”

“I am okay. I’m just a bit confused…” She pulled away from him. “Er… Where is this place?”

“Where?” The boy looked concerned. “Are you really sure that-?”

“I’m fine,” she interrupted firmly. “I just don’t remember what this place is called, that’s all.”

“You’re in Santa Carla.” He grinned again, a charming smile that made Buffy think that she could actually come to like this place. “Southern California, murder capital of the world.”

“Do you work for the tourist office?” She began to brush the sand from her clothes. “Did you ever hear of a place called Sunnydale?”

“Don’t think so. Is it near here?”

“I hope so.” Buffy sighed. It was painfully clear to her what must have happened, but it was not something that she liked admitting to. She had found the gate, alright, that much was certain. She wondered what Willow had done; whether she had gone back to Giles or had tried to follow her friend through the portal.

“Did you ever hear of someone called Mark Hutten?” Buffy asked, before her mind had a chance to tell her tongue to stand still.

“Mark Hutten? Are you a friend of his?” There was a trace of suspicion in Michael’s eyes. It was as if he were not willing to speak of the other boy, as though a veil had come down over his face.

“No… I just heard the name.” She wondered at such defensiveness. What was this guy hiding? She thought about what Giles had said, about one hell leading to another, and a shiver ran down her spine. If her Watcher was right, Santa Carla was another Sunnydale; filled to the brim with suspicious occurrences, mysterious deaths and unpleasant demons. Just great.

“You got anywhere to stay?” Michael was speaking to her, but it took a few seconds for that to sink in.

“What? Oh, sorry. I wasn’t actually planning to stay, but if you know somewhere?”

“Sure. My mother is away, and my grandfather is never home. My place isn’t too far from here. There’s just me and my kid brother most of the time.” He flashed her a winning, and quite irresistible smile.

Buffy frowned, suspicious. Michael was open and friendly, with the kind of face that one took to immediately, but she had seen too much over the last few years to be fooled easily. She remembered Angel. This wouldn’t be the first time that a handsome young man with a nice smile had turned out to be something other than she could have hoped.

“It’s okay, I’m not trying to pick you up.” He grinned. “Well, maybe.”

“I’ll think about it, okay?” She took a step forward, and wobbled suddenly. “Ugh.”

“Whoa!” Michael jumped forwards, and caught her. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh no…” Buffy rubbed her head. She had never got such a powerful jolt before. Usually, in Sunnydale, the local vampires gave off strong vibes, which sometimes gave her a headache. This was something different altogether. It was as if she had somehow been picked up and dropped into Vampire HQ.

“What do you mean, ‘Oh no’?”

“Nothing.” She pulled away from him, suddenly scared, and in the process her eyes locked with his. She jumped as if hit. Michael was giving off vibes as well. Unfamiliar ones, but vibes nonetheless. Great. What was it with her that she was able to choose so badly? Or was it some power that she had within her, that changed normal, healthy young men into soulless demons with a passion for human blood? “Get away from me.”

“But…” He frowned. “Hey, look, I didn’t mean to be playing it fresh when I asked you about staying at my place. Honest. If you don’t want to come, that’s cool. Really.”

Buffy took another step back. He had such gentle eyes, such a genuine expression of concern, and that bothered her even more than her suspicion of what he was. Fumbling, she reached for the cross around her neck, and held it out towards him.

“Go away,” she told him, her voice firm. At the same time she glanced around on the sand. She had been holding a stake in the graveyard. It should be here somewhere. She saw it, and made a grab for it, her movement so fast and sudden that Michael did nothing but stare. She grinned at him.

“Going to try and make a move for me now?” she asked, stepping towards him. He stared at the stake, his eyes widening.

“Hey. Hey! Get that thing away from me! I’m not a vampire anymore. Listen, I don’t know where you come from, or what it is that you’re into, but I’ve had it with vampire hunters wanting to douse me in Holy water, or stake me through the heart. Did the Frogs put you up to this?”

“Huh? Frogs?” What was this guy? Some kind of drug addict experiencing psychotic illusions?

“The Frogs! The Frog Brothers! Listen, I’m telling the truth. I am not a vampire anymore! And I never sucked any blood anyway, so get that damn stake away from me. I won’t come near you, I promise!”

Buffy frowned. She did not lower the stake, but her posture relaxed a little as she regarded the boy in obvious interest.

“You’re not a vampire anymore?” she asked cautiously. “What happened? Did somebody invent a cure?”

“Not exactly.” He was obviously extremely uncomfortable. “Could you please put that stake down? I’ve had a thing about them ever since the summer. Believe me, it is not pleasant when your own brother and his two best friends are trying to decide whether or not they should kill you.”

“I… guess not.” Buffy hesitated, then lowered her arm a little. “I guess it is daylight. You wouldn’t be out if you really were a vampire. It’s just that you felt kinda like one. Sort of… totally unpleasant. You know?”

“Gee, thanks.” He frowned. “What do you mean, I felt like a vampire. How’d you know that?”

She regarded him thoughtfully, then stuck the stake into her belt and held out a hand. “Hi. Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer. This is going to seem like, really weird, but I’m from a town called Sunnydale, which is, like, totally full of vampires and demons and all kinds of seriously unfriendly headcases, and I seem to have fallen through some kind of portal into your town. I don’t really understand the physics and all that, although I’m sure Willow would, but my Watcher says it’s all something to do with ancient prophesies and planetary whatsits, and, well—I am pretty tired.”

“Huh?” Michael looked completely stoned. “A… portal?”

“Yeah. See, Giles—he’s my Watcher—he says that there’s this gate that leads between Sunnydale and this other town with lots of vampires in it, so I’m out looking for it in the graveyard, and all of a sudden I’m falling through this mist and darkness, and everything is, like, really bizarre, and then the next thing I remember is waking up here. Santa Carla, right?”

“Right…” He frowned. “You were in a graveyard in the middle of the night?”

“Sort of like my favourite place to hang out. Me, my friends, a stake, maybe a vampire or two.” She flashed him a cheerfully casual grin. “You know the sort of thing.”

“Yeah, sure. They get really unfriendly, and start flying about and throwing things at you. Next thing you know there’s vampires everywhere and they’re all trying to suck your blood.” He made a face.

“Flying? Your vampires fly?” Buffy looked intrigued. “They don’t tend to do that in Sunnydale. Just as well really.”

“Yeah, it’s a real pain in the neck. Round here, they leap about all over the place.” He shuddered visibly. “They leap off big bridges in the middle of the night, and swoop out of the sky to attack tourists. Totally uncool in a very big way.”

Buffy nodded understandingly. This guy seemed alright, even if he did give off seriously weird vibes. She was almost prepared to ignore the outdated clothes and haircut.

“About Mark Hutten…” she said, suddenly remembering. “Did the vampires kill him?”

“Mark? Not exactly.” Michael smiled a small, irresistible smile, and pointed towards the pier. “Come on. Let’s go somewhere where we can talk a little easier, okay? There’s too many people down here. I don’t know who we can trust.”

“Okay by me.” She followed him across the sand, heading for the big pier, where the shops and the tourist attractions mingled in a garishly old fashioned sort of way. “I don’t want to go too far though. I have a hopeful sort of feeling somebody is going to be coming through that gate after me before much longer.”