Shades of Grey
Author: Dark Star
Summary: There is no colour anywhere.
Written for the Four Horsemen Challenge at Writer’s Toybox
Thanks to Jo for the beta.
The world is grey. Grey skies, grey landscape. There is no colour to be seen anywhere, not even red. He misses red.
The world is cold. The wind that whistles through the damaged buildings is bitter. There is no heat to be found anywhere, and even the warmth from the small bonfires he makes is not enough to warm him. He misses warmth.
The world is empty. He has seen no living person for weeks, and even the wildlife is scarce. He has seen nothing move – not rats, birds, or even insects for days. He is truly alone.
The world is silent. The only sounds come from the wind rattling loose boards on the buildings or howling along the lonely passages between them, and even to his ears, the sound is eerie. He misses the noise of people, or the chatter of birds. The silence is deafening.
He wraps the threadbare coat tighter around his thin frame. He has not eaten for over a week, and even then it was only a scavenging rodent. He’s not really sure why he bothers. Who cares if he lives, anyway? He doesn’t.
He stands, lifting the rucksack off the floor. It contains everything he has in the world, and he hefts the heavy bag over his shoulder and stamps out the grey heat of his fire. He’s not sure why he bothers with the heat at all, as it never warms him. But he chooses to do it, because at least it gives him something to do. Every night he clears a space and he gathers the wood. And while he’s busy with his task he can pretend that everything is normal. It’s only when he stops working that he remembers.
But he likes to watch the movement of the flames and the grey crackle of the wood gives him some semblance of life. Fire is, at least, living. It is the only sound and colour in this poor parody of Earth. He huddles over the meagre heat and broods.
There are still buildings around, though most of them are derelict. He prefers to stay outdoors when he can. The absence of humanity is too depressing to stay inside for too long, but still, they do provide cover from the daylight. He has just built his fire for the night and he starts toward it when he stops. A sound…. Not the wind, and not the rattling of buildings. Something else. Humans? No, there are none left. Demons, then? Not many of those, either. With something approaching glee, he pulls his sword from his pack and hurries off to see what has made the noise.
Staring down from the rickety tops of the old buildings he sees them. He grimaces. Zombies. He should have guessed – they’re one of the few things still walking, and he supposes its only fitting that all that’s left as remnants of the dying civilisation are dead things. Is nothing left alive?
That thought sends him hurrying down to where the zombie pack are shambling about in the ruins. His sword is true in its aim; he’s been fighting for too long, too many deaths are burned into his soul. But this is different. He can’t be blamed for killing something that is already an abomination and he puts everything he has into his killing spree. It is exhilarating. Kill, kill, kill and he doesn’t stop until the walking dead are reduced to piles of bloody pieces.
He gathers the gory pieces and spreads them around town, arranging them artistically in prominent positions, and then he waits. And waits. His heart sinks. Killing and dismembering the zombies has used the last of his energy and he hoped… but nothing.
He can’t eat zombie flesh, but if anything were still alive they should have been lured out by the smell of… well, not fresh meat but meat nonetheless. But nothing has stirred. He really is alone, then.
It’s then he hears the smallest of sounds. Something is heading toward the broken zombies and he’s there in a flash of vampire speed, grabbing the animal by the scruff of its neck before it reaches its prey. He lifts it up and stares dispassionately at it. It’s a cat, straggly and old, and its green eyes widen in fear at the predator eyeing it up.
Angel shrugs inwardly. A cat’s as good as anything else, and he’s so hungry. He feels the animal trembling in his fingers, and as he raises the animal towards his lengthening fangs, light bounces off the frayed old collar and settles on the tag.
He stares at the name for a long time, but not really seeing, and suddenly, long-buried memories race to the surface. Golden hair. Bronze skin. Her smiling face. The feeling of being wanted, and loved. The feeling of being somebody, and the feeling of being something other than dead.
He drops the frightened cat in disgust, where it runs off and disappears into a hole in the fence. Angel’s head is still full of the only woman he’s ever truly loved. Why did the cat have to bear her name? Was it an omen? He shakes his head. Foolish nonsense. It had become common to name animals after slayers once they had become so widespread, and the name of ‘The’ slayer had been the most popular choice of all.
So long ago. At least she had ended up with a relatively normal life and normal lifespan, and had seen none of this desolation, and he’s glad of that.
Angel leaves the carnage behind him and returns to his campfire deep in thought. What had he become? He’d hacked the zombie corpses up without a thought. He’d done dreadful things over the years that made him wince now that he thought about them. Was he still a monster if there was nobody left to judge him? Or was he a monster because he was the only one left?
The fire has burned low and he piles more wood on it. Sitting cross-legged in front of its warming embrace he feels the meagre heat on his face, and he closes his eyes, allowing the fire to make him drowsy.
Instantly awake, Angel turns his head toward the sound. He makes no move when the rustle of bushes part and the cat comes slinking out. Giving the vampire a wide berth, the cat skirts around the clearing and settles on the other side of the campfire, drawn into the open by the warming glow. It hunkers down, watching him warily.
Angel holds still, pretending to be asleep and he watches the cat inch toward the heat beneath his lowered eyelids. She settles down carefully, ready to bolt at any sudden or unexpected movement and it occurs to him then that he is no longer alone.
For the first time in ten years he smiles.