Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and Gasoline Alley characters are the property of their original owners.
An extremely wary undead Englishman stood in the darkness just outside the city limits of a small, peaceful, Illinois town several dozen miles west from Chicago. Just last night, Spike had been drinking at a demon bar in this Midwestern metropolis, when he’d overheard a casual conversation among a pair of misshapen imbibers. At their own table, these demons were chatting about the rumors of a certain place close by where any master vampire who’d ever visited had promptly left as fast as possible without committing a single murder or other atrocity in there.
These same strangely-reticent monsters also never particularly cared to explain to anyone the specific reasons for these hasty departures. In fact, directly asking them about it usually resulted in the curious getting their heads torn off and tossed into the nearest wastebasket by an extremely annoyed elder vampire.
Naturally, Spike was quite intrigued by what he’d just eavesdropped upon from those two wankers. Leaving his seat at the bar, Spike carried along his glass filled with blood to where these nattering blokes were seated, and without a single by-your-leave, he’d joined them at their table. Next had come numerous probing questions directed at the startled creatures, who confessed to Spike they didn’t know anything more about what had been recently discussed, save for the exact location of this town with such an odd reputation among the demon community.
It’d been too late then to make a quick trip to this town, with Spike risking the possibility of being caught by the summer sunrise should he leave right away. Still, when the next sunset came around, a blond vampire was suspiciously regarding the slumbering hamlet spread out before him. There didn’t seem to be any evident cause for alarm at the moment. In the dim light of a half-moon above, all Spike saw there was one more hick burg, exactly like any of the hundreds of others scattered throughout the entire state of Illinois during the middle of the 20th century.
This only made Spike even more mistrustful about the whole situation. Those demon buggers who’d told him about this place, they damned well hadn’t been lying or otherwise having him on, not when Spike menacingly made it clear to those nervous sods what he’d consequently do to them, their loved ones, and everybody else within range of his ire.
So...if there wasn’t any obvious threat, maybe he should check it out further for hidden dangers? Thoughtfully scratching his chin, Spike sent a considering look around at his new location. He then allowed his supernatural essence to probe for signs of magical perils. One of the perks of becoming a vampire, along with the extreme strength, fast healing, and never aging, was if that type of demon worked hard in learning how to do this, they could sense more easily the presence of all kinds of mystical energies: light, dark, and neutral. Nearly seven decades after being turned from a 25-year-old human poet into an undying, blood-drinking fiend, Spike was now pretty good at it.
Except, right at this moment, he couldn’t get a single, solitary trace of any
sort of magic--
Hold on, now... Spike unconsciously shook his head once, and he stared more fixedly at the sleeping town. Dammit, he kept getting the feeling there was something
there, but every time he tried to pin it down, this sensation actually sneaked off and hid from his attentiveness. Either that, or Spike was completely imagining it. It felt the same either way, rather.
Giving a very impatient shrug of his shoulders, the English vampire decided enough was bleedin’ enough. The only thing he knew for sure was that you had to actually venture into the town to experience whatever occurrence that none of his kind who’d done the same would ever talk about for some odd reason. Right then, let’s be at it, eh?
Confidently striding forward, Spike was nevertheless totally alert for a possible sneak attack. From what,
he couldn’t say, but it didn’t hurt to be ready. A few steps later, the watchful demon passed by the city limits sign.
In the very next instant, Spike’s legs gave way under him. He fell forward to slam face-first onto the ground, with his arms feebly thrown out ahead being unable to stop the vampire’s collapse. Weakly squirming on the street, Spike’s vision dimmed, accompanied by all of his teeth detaching themselves from his gums to next be sprayed out from his mouth in a hacking cough which went on and on.
During all this, Spike ignored the strange crawling sensation coming from his scalp, until all of his hair started falling down his deeply-wrinkled face. Staring at what he could barely see a mere few inches from his nose, Spike was still horrified at observing how the loose locks lying on the ground were now pure white instead of their usual blond color.
Scrabbling backwards inch by inch, with every skeletal limb scarcely managing to be lifted while moving his wasted body, Spike nonetheless kept at his desperate crawl. Eventually, a tingling sensation ran through his right heel, which continued up both legs and then the rest of his torso. Regaining his strength, Spike lurched upwards onto his feet. Right after this, a new set of teeth burst into existence in the vampire’s jaws, along with his cloudy sight returning to normal. Frantically patting at the top of his bare skull, Spike then felt under his fingers the sprouting hair replacing what he’d lost moments ago.
Sending a somewhat wild-eyed glance around, Spike noticed he was once again just beyond the city limits sign. Nervously backing up a few more yards, this demon stuttered out loud to himself, “What the hell was that?
There wasn’t any damn warning at all! One second I was fine, and then two inches into this bleedin’ town, I felt weak as a kitten! Like, like, I got--”
Stopping short in thunderstruck realization, Spike next whispered incredulously, “...older.”
He gaped in absolute wonder at a tranquil farm town spread out in the dim moonlight, which possessed perhaps the most subtle supernatural trap Spike had ever come across. Somehow (due to magic or another inexplicable reason), should any vampire of an advanced age enter this locality, the spell which maintained this demon’s body at the exact point of their previous human life in which they’d been turned would instantly fail. Moreover, the passing years which this vampire had previously avoided would immediately descend upon them, so they would suffer without relief all the pains and discomforts imparted to them by old age.
Spike shuddered in genuine dread. Just a minute or so ago, he’d been inflicted with the body of a man in his nineties, as if this former Londoner had never become a vampire and was forced to live the same length of years as the rest of humanity.
Prudently edging further away, Spike halted again as he finally understood why previous elder vampires who’d stumbled into the same trap and survived were notably reluctant to talk about it. Just like he’d keep his own damn mouth shut over the whole soddin’ thing. First, it’d been so bloody humiliating, being such a dismal, feeble gaffer. That led to another of any master vampire’s worse fears, of being rendered absolutely helpless until sunrise came and seared them into ashes.
Spike momentarily paused in his ruminations to allow himself a brief, happy fantasy of luring a certain poofter here and gloating at a safe distance over the resulting disintegration of that 221-year-old pillock with a soul. He soon sternly went back to the main reason why it was best to always keep mum about that appalling town.
Unfortunately, there was a specific type of blood-seeking demon who’d have absolutely no trouble with the temporal magic at this community. Any just-turned vampire (known as a fledgling) or even one who hadn’t spent more than a decade or two at biting people’s necks, would be perfectly fine in there, having the time of their unlives.
At that point, Spike scowled jealously while muttering in his most irascible tone, “Like hell! Those jumped-up sods can damn well find their own dinners without my help!”
Giving one last dirty look at the slumbering Illinois town, Spike spun on his heel and strode off into the night, leaving behind him the neighborhood known to its inhabitants as Gasoline Alley.
Author’s Note: The American newspaper comic strip with the title of Gasoline Alley
is unique for two things. It’s the second oldest strip still running (ever since 1918) and it also uses real-time continuity. That means for every day the weekly strip appears, a matching day takes place for the drawn characters. Naturally, these cartoon people take it for granted that time will pass for them just like it does for everyone else, without ever knowing there might be an exceedingly odd chronological manifestation for any supernatural person already frozen in time who decides to visit their town. This was what gave me the idea for how to give yet another written wedgie to Spike.