Walking With SkeletonsAuthor: Robert Cox (email@example.com)Rating: PG (Australian system - which, co-incidentally is pretty much
thesame as the American one)Summary: A fairly ordinary patrol takes a turn for the
surreal...Crossover: Discworld... sort of. Well, one character makes an
appearance,anyway.Spoilers: None that I can think of.****
Another night, another patrol.
For Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer, and Alexander Harris, this was pretty
normal.Of course, most other people would consider this sort of behaviour to
be somewhat abnormal, but they weren't in full possession of the facts. As
they made their way through one of Sunnydale's too-many cemeteries, on the
look-out for vampires - but finding none; it was shaping up to be a quiet
night - Xander idly asked, "So, Buff, do you think Giles has too much spare
time on his hands these days?"
"If he's got enough time to come up with things like 'when you're on
patrol, you're walking with Death,'" Buffy replied, "then I'd say, yes, he
does have too much time on his hands."
"That's what I thought you'd say."
"Did he have to be so dramatic about it, though?" Buffy continued. "I
mean, I already know that I have to stay alert while on patrol, so why'd he
have to say something like that?"
"If I had to guess, I'd say it's that new book he bought," Xander
replied. "Y'know, the latest Terry Pratchett novel."
why he was snickering earlier on today."
"Yep. And hopefully he'll be nice enough to let me read it myself before
too long, so I can see what's so funny." It had begun innocently enough -
Giles had left a copy of 'Interesting Times'
on his table, and Xander had
picked it up, curious as to what sort of things Giles read that didn't
involve large, dusty tomes.
Addiction had been nearly instantaneous. The character of Rincewind the
cowardly wizard - or 'Wizzard' - who kept trying to run away from danger, but
kept finding himself dragged back into it and, more often than not, ending up
being pivotal in solving whatever crisis he found himself in, appealed to
someone who once said, "I laugh in the face of danger. Then I hide until it
"Maybe I won't need Giles to explain as many of the jokes this time,"
Xander continued hopefully.
"Maybe," Buffy agreed.
Xander was about to make some sort of witty comeback, but he noticed that
the two of them had been joined by somebody else. He looked to see who - or
what - it was, and stopped dead. His mouth opened and shut a couple of times,
but no sound came out.
"Xander?" Buffy started. "What's wro-" She'd turned to see what had caused
Xander to stop so abruptly, and came to a sudden halt herself. Standing next
to Xander was a tall figure, cloaked in a black robe and carrying a scythe.
Calling the figure 'skinny' would have been inaccurate, as the word
'skeletal' would have fit much better. In fact, 'skeletal' would have been
pretty much the only accurate description, since it was literally true.
GOOD EVENING, the figure said in a bass tone that
nearly dropped off the bottom edge of human hearing, and that reminded both
Buffy and Xander of crypt doors slamming shut. To make the encounter even more
unusual- even by Sunnydale standards - the voice seemed to bypass their ears
completely, going straight into their brains.
"Err... good evening," Xander managed to reply. "You're Death, aren't
THAT IS CORRECT, Death replied.
"The scythe was a bit of a give-away," Buffy pointed out, struggling to
come to terms with the new arrival. "So was the fact that you're... the only
person I've seen that's skinnier than a supermodel."
"Hang on," Xander put in. "I've got an important question; are we going to
MAYBE. IT'S UNCERTAIN, I'M AFRAID.
"Uncertain?" Buffy asked. "You mean we might
die tonight? Then why
did you show up?"
UNCERTAINTY SEEMS TO BE VERY POPULAR THESE DAYS,
Death replied. IT'S PROBABLY DUE TO QUANTUM. AND EVEN
IF YOU DO NOT DIE TONIGHT, THERE WILL, IN ALL LIKELIHOOD, BE OTHER WORK FOR ME
"You mean vampires?" Buffy asked. "But they're already dead... aren't they?"
she added, knowing she was speaking to what was probably the only definitive
authority on the subject.
IN A MANNER OF SPEAKING, Death replied. THE HUMAN SHELL IS DEAD,
YES, BUT THERE IS STILL A LIVING CREATURE INVOLVED, WHICH PLACES THEM IN
MY JURISDICTION.THE PROCESS IS REMARKABLYSIMILAR.
Buffy and Xander considered this. It seemed
to make sense... well,
about as much sense as anything else did in Sunnydale, anyway.
"But why can we only see you now?" Buffy wanted to know."Or was tonight the
first night you've been here?"
NO,I HAVE WALKED ALONGSIDE YOU MANY TIMES,
ESPECIALLY THAT NIGHT IN THE MASTER'S CAVE, Death replied. As if reminded
of something, he reached into his robe and pulled out what looked like two
hourglasses. The difference between these and normal hourglasses was the names
engraved on the bases - Elizabeth Summersand Alexander Harris. HMMM.
INTERESTING. I'M SORRY, WHERE WERE WE?
"Why we can see you tonight," Xander pointed out.
YES, THAT'S RIGHT. EARLIER TODAY, RUPERT GILES TOLD
YOU THAT YOU WALK WITH DEATH ON A NIGHTLY BASIS, CORRECT?
"Ye-es,"Xander said slowly.
YOU MAY END UP WISHING THAT HE HAD NOT MANAGED TO
CONVINCE YOU OF THAT FACT. There was a brief scrabbling sound, and a
second robe-clad skeleton appeared on Death's shoulder, but instead of being a
human skeleton, it appeared to be a rat skeleton.
"And just to make the night complete," Xander muttered, "the Grim
Squeaker makes an appearance."
The Death of Rats nodded to the two humans. SQUEAK,
it said. SQUEAK-EEK SQUEAK, it added to Death.
THANK YOU, Death said to the Death of Rats. IT WOULD SEEM THAT MY SERVICES
ARE REQUIRED ELSEWHERE, SO I SHALL BID YOU A GOOD NIGHT.
"Bye," Buffy muttered.
"Yeah, see you later," Xander said. "Nothing personal, but I hope it'smuch
IF YOU EXERCISE DUE CAUTION, THAT SHOULD NOT BE A
PROBLEM, Death pointed out before vanishing.
"I think we should call it a night," Buffy said quietly.
"Yeah, it's just been too wierd."****
The next morning, Giles noticed their dishevelled appearances. Xander had
endedup spending the nightat Buffy's house, and neither of them had gotten much
sleep. "Good Lord, you two look terrible," he said, starting the jug to
make coffee for them. It wasn't his beverage of choice, but he knew that the
teenagers in his charge seemed to be quite addicted to the brew. "Was last
night's patrol unusually strenuous?"
"No, but it was unusually strange," Buffy replied.
"And it's all your fault," Xander added.
"Whatever do you mean by that?" Giles asked.
"You know how you told us yesterday that we walk with Death on patrols?"
When Giles nodded, Buffy continued, "Well, he showed up!"
"Who?" Giles asked, somewhat confused.
"Death!" Xander exclaimed. "You know - tall, black robe, good with
agricultural equipment, extremely
thin... Death. The Grim Reaper."
"Let me make sure I understand you correctly," Giles said slowly."Last night,
you were treated to an appearance by the Grim Reaper-"
"And the Grim Squeaker," Xander put in.
"- and this is somehow my responsibility," Giles concluded.
"That's right," Buffy replied with a nod. "Apparently, he's been tagging
along ever since I moved to Sunnydale, but we were only able to see him last
night because you managed to convince us that he was there."
"Like we said," Xander added, "it's all your fault."
Giles took off his glasses and polished them absent-mindedly while he
considered the implications of the previous night's events.