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Whispers of Futures Past

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Whispers of Futures Past

Spike stepped over the body of the girl in the blue dress who lay at the side of the muddy footpath. His eyes were fixed on the figure perched on the low wall of the old railway bridge. He paused and shoved his hands deep into the depths of his duster. “What you up to?”

Xander didn’t turn around. Spike didn’t expect him to.

“Not much,” Xander replied. “Just thinking.”

“You can get pills for that these days. Good to nip these nasty diseases in the bud, before they bite you in the arse.” He didn’t need to see Xander’s face to know that he’d smiled. He stepped closer, rested one hip on the edge of the parapet and looked at Xander. He could hear the heels of Xander’s boots thumping rhythmically against the face of the soot-stained wall. “So what are you thinking about?”

“I was thinking about how things change.” Xander nodded at the railway cut below them, the embankments covered in a tangle of brambles and morning glory that strangled anything lying beneath. “Trains used to come through here,” he said. “Taking people all over. Or maybe freight trains. Or maybe both. I guess it had to be busy, for someone to have gone to the effort of building the railroad in the first place. But it’s been gone for years. All that work, and now it’s just a place for folk to walk their dogs or go for a hike at the weekend. I wonder if they’d have bothered laying the tracks, all those years ago, if they’d know it would be gone so soon?”

“Quite the philosopher tonight, aren’t you?”

Xander shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s just these...” He ran his fingers across the battered sandstone. “If these stones could talk to us, I guess I’m wondering what kind of stories they’d have?”

Pulling his hands out his pockets, Spike took out a cigarette and lit it with one flick of his Zippo. “They’d tell us about men with picks and shovels breaking their backs digging them out of a local quarry. They’d tell us about stone masons crafting them, shaping them to do their job topping off this parapet. They’d talk about trains rattling through here, throwing out smoke when they passed under the bridge on their way south. They’d talk about the silence after the trains and the smoke were gone and the way you could suddenly hear the birds, once there was nothing to drown out their singing.” He looked down at his cigarette, and left it where it was, a sixth white digit resting against the old stone. “Maybe in years to come they’ll talk about the two of us sitting and thinking about them.”

“Maybe?” Xander looked down at his feet. “Do you think we’ll outlast them?”

“We might.” Spike flicked some ash over the side and watched the echo of the sparks vanish into the darkness below. “We might not.”

Reaching over, Xander plucked the cigarette out of Spike’s hand and took a short puff. He handed it back. “They make me feel young,” he said.

“You are young.”

“I’ve not been young for twenty years, Spike.”

Spike shifted his hip until he was fully seated on the top of the wall. Xander didn’t look around. “You’re just a baby. If I’d thought, I’d have waited a few years before I took you, but you know my impulse control has always been a bit of a problem.”

“You’re all about the self gratification. Sometimes I wonder what the hell Angel was thinking.”

Spike snorted. “Irish bastard wasn’t thinking; he was just reacting. Then he got surprised when I did the same thing. He’s the one that taught me, so he should have known damn fine I’d take what was on offer.”

“Do you ever regret it?”

“No. Not saying we’ve not had our ups and downs. God knows you were a bratty fledge, but you’re growing up pretty well, if I say so myself.”

“And you’re going to take all the credit for that?”

“Damn right.”

Xander chuckled and pulled his legs up until he was perched on the top of the wall, his heels just resting on the edge.

“So have you stopped brooding?” Spike asked.

“I wasn’t brooding. I was just thinking. Immortality's a funny thing. You think that you’ll be king of the hill, but there’s always something that’s been here long before you.”

“That’s just the way it is. You’ll be here far longer than most things, if you keep your nose clean, but there’s always going to be something that’s older. Something that’s seen more, done more, knows more.”

Xander turned his head and smiled. “Now who’s the philosopher?”

“That would be me,” Spike replied. “And it’s thirsty work. Come on, I fancy a pint and the Black Cat should still be open.” He stood up and held out his hand, his shoulders hunched against the drizzle of rain that had begun to fall.

Xander swung his legs back over the low wall and let Spike pull him to his feet, his boots squelching in the mud. “Does it have to be the Black Cat?” he asked. “I can never remember if black cats are good luck, or bad luck, but there’s something about that place that gives me the creeps.”

“Xander, you’re a vampire. You’re worried about superstitions?”

“I’m just saying, why don’t we go to the Rams Head instead? They’ve got Fullers ESB on tap.”

Spike nodded. “Rams Head it is then.”

They turned to the left, Spike in front, Xander at his shoulder and headed off down the track towards the lights of the village at the end of the valley.

The rain fell lightly down on the girl in the blue dress and the stones on the parapet of the old railway bridge stood shoulder to shoulder, watched and held their peace.”