Dawn woke up suddenly, in the middle of the night. She wasn’t quite sure why. She hadn’t been having a bad dream – she hadn’t been dreaming at all, as far as she knew. It hadn’t been one of those all-too-frequent times when Buffy came home late after Slaying and accidentally woke her up.
She wasn’t sure why she suddenly woke up, but if she had to guess she would have put it down to a slight whirring sound that she heard as she woke, just on the edge of hearing. By the time she was fully awake, it was gone. Dawn listened, wondering if she’d imagined it, but everything was quiet. Even so, she was fairly certain that she had heard something. She wasn’t the kind of person who suddenly woke up in the middle of the night, and, unlike the rest of the Scoobies, she hadn’t had years of practice with Buffy.
Still, this was Sunnydale. If she even suspected that there was some kind of odd whirring sound in the middle of the night, chances were that there was, and some kind of demon was causing it. So Dawn turned on the light, hoping that there wasn’t going to be some kind of vast monster looming over her.
There wasn’t. There wasn’t anything. Her room was exactly as it had been before she’d gone to sleep. There was no hint of anything out of place.
Dawn wished that she could find that reassuring. Instead, all she could think about was that there might be something invisible, making a whirring sound. It hadn’t been a particularly threatening whirring sound – it had sounded like a large fly, or someone rapidly flicking through the pages of a book – but she was sure she had heard it, and she couldn’t see what had caused it.
But there was nothing she could do. It was late, and she was tired, and she had school in the morning. Even if Buffy was in, Dawn wasn’t about to go and get her so that the Slayer could root around and not find anything. Buffy already tried to keep Dawn away from that sort of thing, and Dawn wasn’t going to go to her just because she’d heard a noise in the dark. A noise which, now that she thought about it, she could well have imagined.
So she went back to sleep. After all, she was tired. By the time she woke up in the morning, she would probably have forgotten all about it.
When her alarm went off, telling her that it was time to go to school, Dawn just lay in bed. Normally, she’d get up and get ready – she liked school, and besides if she was slow there was a good chance that Buffy would be hogging the bathroom.
But she didn’t. She didn’t get up, not because she felt tired – although she did – but because she did this every day. Every day, Dawn got up, got ready, went to school. Sure, school wasn’t always the same thing, but that wasn’t the point. Even if some of the furnishings of her day were different, the main structure was the same. She got up at the same time, went to school at the same time, had lunch at the same time. Over and over again, day in, day out. She never really did anything.
She wondered if waking up in the night had thrown her rhythm off, or something. She did feel unusually tired. Dawn suspected that she would be fine if she’d had a good night’s sleep. In any case, once her day actually started and she got into the swing of things she’d probably be okay.
She wasn’t, not really. It was as though there was a part of her that was normal, a part which brushed her teeth and ate breakfast and chatted aimlessly with her mom, and there was another part, buried so deeply in her mind that she wasn’t even really aware that it was there. A part of her which just sat there and watched and wondered what the point was. There was nothing new here, nothing of substance. Just the same thing day in, day out.
Not that Dawn was really aware of that. She just felt a little bit odd.
Joyce dropped Dawn off at school a little earlier than she normally did. She had some errands to run. Normally Dawn would have been fine with that – she could go the library and do some work, or speak to her friends if they were there. It wasn’t as if she was really early, just a few minutes.
So, when she said good bye to Joyce, she fully expected to go to the library. She decided at the last moment that she didn’t want to. It was a nice day, the sun was shining. There were trees. She’d stay outside for a little bit. After all, her friends weren’t there yet.
She walked under the trees. She didn’t think of anything much, beyond the fact that the sun felt nice on her skin. After a few moments, she stopped walking and spread her arms, turning her face up to the sky. She closed her eyes and felt the sun shining through her lids. If someone had asked her why she was doing that, she couldn’t have answered. She wasn’t thinking of anything. It was just something that she wanted to do, so she did it. It felt nice, and she didn’t get to spend nearly enough time outside. Sunnydale was too dangerous for that.
Dawn began to spin slowly, in a circle. She didn’t know why. No reason was required.
As she spun, the breeze picked up, whistling through the leaves. Threaded through the rustling, just for a moment, was the sound she had heard in the night.