Patient zero just had to be a kid. He went to school one day and got a fever. Dark blood under the skin of his forehead shaped itself into some kind of symbol. Before anyone knew what was happening he had chewed off another kid’s fingers. Then it happened it again and again. It spiraled so fast.
People were calling it the Glut. The fever, the symbol, then the chewing on meat of the human variety was how it happened. It was hitting people randomly. The city had shut down. No one coming or going. They figured out the symbol was magical. So, who better than slayers to deal with it?
Faith watched the boy in his cell. He looked back. He wanted to use his little hands and teeth to consume her. The eyes of people with the Glut told you everything you needed to know—they were all hunger.
They took over an abandoned prison. It was the safest place they could think of to keep the hungry. Faith had to laugh at that one. She had figured she’d end up back there eventually, but she had pictured herself on the other side of the bars.
The boy sat on the cell floor. He was just a kid that this had happened to. She kept staring at him like that would help her fix him. His steady gaze never left her, and the clamoring sounds of the others faded away.
“Shit!” Faith jumped. Buffy had come up without her noticing and that still made her feel like Buffy had won something.
“Sorry,” Buffy said. “You’ve been down here awhile. I thought I’d see if you would come have dinner.”
Faith dragged her eyes away from the kid to catch Buffy’s worried look. “Yeah,” she agreed. “Let’s get out of here.”
As they walked away she felt his eyes following her down the hallway.
The sun was going down outside and the tiny cell window showed the last orange light. Faith shoved her dirty clothes in a bag and sat back on her cot. They had taken over one of the bigger office rooms of the prison. Two cots, the few things they had brought, and blank walls were all it contained. The good thing about it, it was far enough from the cells to be free of the noise from the hungry.
Buffy sat on her own cot. “Will and Giles are still trying to find a way to reverse this.”
“I can’t wait to get out of here,” Faith said and checked the window to see it was dark outside.
After a minute of quiet, Buffy said, “There was a mom out there today. She wanted in to see her husband. I don’t know if we should let people in or not.”
Faith shrugged, “They probably already saw them like that. They want to look, let them.”
“True. I‘ll talk to the others about it tomorrow.”
Faith felt like she needed to reassure Buffy even though Buffy was the one with all of the positivity and determination. “We’ll work it out, get everyone cured with some magic, and save the day.”
“I know. We always do, right? It’s just, who knows what else the new rules of magic are going to bring.”
“Trying not to think about it, B.”
“You’re right. I just hate the waiting.” She laid back on her cot and Faith did the same. “What’s with you and the boy?” Buffy asked after a moment. “You keep going to see him.”
“I don’t know,” Faith said to the ceiling. “It’s like there’s something that keeps pulling me to his cell. Then I just stand there while he looks at me. It’s weird.”
“They creep me out, not gonna lie. I’d rather be anywhere but here.”
Faith let silence be her agreement. She was aware of when Buffy fell asleep, her breaths deepening. The other slayer’s presence helped steady Faith while she laid there with her thoughts.
It was a small sound that drew her attention back to the room. She turned her head to see if it had come from Buffy, but she was still asleep.
She turned her head to the other side and saw someone standing by the door, hidden in shadow. She sat up quickly and tried to make out who it was. A quiet voice spoke, “The beginning.”
“What beginning?” she asked. “Who are you?” Her slayer senses were definitely tingling.
“It ends with the beginning,” was the response.
“What the hell does that mean?” she said, but whatever it was had gone in the blink of an eye.
“Buffy, did you see that?” she turned to the other cot.
Buffy was sitting up, wide awake, with a blood red mark on her forehead. She was tearing into someone’s leg with her perfect, white teeth. Bits of red meat were between them. Hungry eyes locked onto Faith’s own.
Faith woke up. She was sweaty and her heart was racing. She looked at the still sleeping Buffy beside her and was relieved.
“Faith?” a groggy voice asked.
“Nothin’, B. Go back to sleep,” she croaked.
“Something,” Buffy mumbled, she was waking up.
Faith rubbed at her face. “It was a dream. Just a dream.”
“I know how that goes,” Buffy said. Buffy reached across the space between their cots and put her hand, palm up, there.
Faith looked at her hand in confusion for a few seconds before grasping it in her own.
“We aren’t alone any more, Faith. We don’t have to be alone.”
Faith nodded and tried to calm down. The strong hand holding hers helped.
Faith stood in front of the cell.
The symbol on his forehead looked angry. He rocked back and forth where he sat on the floor. He smiled and it was unsettling. A little drool ran down his chin.
She imagined him eating some other kid’s fingers. She imagined knowing you had done something like that. She didn’t want to think about her dream. Some part of her knew what it had meant. It meant that to end the Glut, they had to kill the boy. The only thing she wanted to think about less was the other part of the dream.
Her only hope was that it hadn’t been a slayer dream.