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The Ballad of Wishverse Giles

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One girl in one town in all the world
battles darkness day in and day out,
but the darkness once swelled like a wave, and it swallowed
the towns that make do without—
all the towns that make do without.

***

It was vampire season! The papers were full
of thrilling murders. “Where is she?
It's time for the forces of light to, well, slay!
Time for some action, where is she?”
“Where is she?” Giles wondered, waiting.

He waited in the library till a young girl
sauntered in as the sunlight grew dim.
But she hissed at his crosses and smirked around fangs.
Dust fell—there was no-one but him.
No Slayer had come. Only him.

“There’s no Slayer in Sunnydale, so there’s no call
for a Watcher,” went his orders. Giles stayed.
So Giles was no Watcher. Be that as it may,
there were forces of darkness to slay.

So, each night, Giles went out to slay.

He found out in time of some Harvest affair:
rivers of blood, quite charmless.
Two demons disarmed him, and after the feast,
he could leave. They were judging him harmless.
It was hell to be helpless and harmless.

Evil crawled out from under the ground,
proudly baring its batlike face,
and set about making a hell to rule,
as befit the superior race.
A world for the Master's race.

Mammon, Mastema, and Maloker,
Archaeus and Azazel—
one by one they crawled out of the woodwork,
out of the mouth of Hell.
They came out of the mouth of Hell.

Vampires strutted down every street,
dragging bleeding victims along.
They banged on the doors, and they laughed, and they shouted,
“The world belongs to the strong!”

And each night, Giles went out to slay.

Giles was only one man, so he asked the police
how they planned to prevent all this killing.
The police said, “Vampires don’t kill people,
it's reckless behavior that's killing.
(And don't they only bite if you're willing?)”

“Lock your doors after sunset,” advised the police.
“Don’t listen to noises or cries.
If your kids aren’t home yet, don’t let them in now,
nor the second time, after they rise.”

But each night, Giles went out to slay.

Giles was only one man, so he went to the Mayor
to talk of his blood-drenched town.
But the Mayor was molting. An adder spoke for him,
coiled on a glittery gown.
A snake on a glittery gown.

“So tragic, these unfortunate attacks…
The Mayor is with you in prayers.
But as long as you know what to wear, where to walk,
you will not be caught unawares.”

And each night, Giles went out to slay.

Finally, Giles phoned London for help.
Travers said, “You've forfeited this right.
There's an Old One in Cleveland, so don't waste our time.
The Slayer has real foes to fight.”
He left Giles alone with the fight.

Every day, Giles lent books to teenagers dressed
in grey shades of prey. It felt right:
books would matter when these children grew up,
in the future he fought for at night—
that he fought to believe in, each night.

Miss Rosenberg found the crossbows and tomes
as Giles' confidence started to ebb.
“I know that I’m not the One Girl Chosen,
but I’m good at searching the Web.
Will you let me help search on the Web?”

Her friend Xander Harris weighed in, “You bet
that Willow has got what it takes.
And me? I'm not one with the research mojo,
but I sure could whittle some stakes.
Yes, I will whittle the stakes.”

Xander’s boyfriend Larry had found
new strength in refusing to hide.
“I don’t have Xander’s carpentry skills,
but running and tackling? Let’s try it!
Let those creatures of darkness just try it!”

Summer came, and hope sparked brighter.
They trained and slayed as days grew,
running with human muscles sore,
out of breath, and holes in their shoes—
wearing out bodies and shoes.

Even a vampire took up the stake.
“The point's what we choose to become,
when nothing we do matters,” he said,
and he went from whence you don’t come.

Still, each night, Giles went out to slay.

Sometimes he wondered about the Slayer,
sent against Old Ones head on.
He wished he could show her that tactic they’d tried
and tell her she wasn’t a pawn.

But at night, he didn’t wish—he slayed.

The school year started, and people lived on,
gossiping about who’d dared
to bare her neck or to kiss like there’s nothing
to lose or to do, just despair.

But each night, Giles went out to slay.

Xander went missing and came back for Willow,
but others joined to do good.
Lending each other their strengths and their skills,
unchosen, they did what they could.
They chose to do all they could.

And each night, they went out to slay.

***

The Mayor was on the news. He hissed,
“Great day! Today it’s one year
since my dear friend Eyghon first came to stay.
Alas, we have enemies here.
Yes, right among us, I fear.”

“The enemies of the people resist
all that we’re trying to grow
here in Sunnydale. They offended
Lurconis just one month ago!”

“And each night, they go out to slay!”

“I know you good people are always polite
to our neighbors, the dearly deceased.
They’re starting a business! They’re good for the town.
We can all live together in peace.
Let’s all live together in peace.”

He went on, “Please respect their belief that you are
a snack that's cheaper than fries.
And the reports that they’re keeping kids in cages
at their club? What nasty, fake lies!”

And that night, they went out to slay.

Death split like dark waves around Oz’s van
and closed behind with a swish.
Where the wheels rolled, if only for moments,
the monsters couldn’t do what they wished.
They couldn’t do whatever they wished.

Two chased a victim through the still streets
while the van turned a corner, so slow.
A screech of tires, and it was time
to work, wielding crosses and crossbows,
as each night they went out to slay.

Strong Larry with stake, clever Nancy with cross
got the victim, while Giles
stared down the kids he'd once taught (once loved)
across their prone classmate. They smiled.
Across her limp body, they smiled.

Nights like this, they barely saved one
when who knew how many died;
but who can chart the seas of one person,
the worlds she carries inside?
Who knows the worlds in her mind?

Her dress a scandalous flame of blue,
her voice entitled and loud,
Queen C had walked like she owned the town,
recklessly daring and proud.
How had she dared be so proud?

She carried memories of a life
free of fear—a different way.
Back at the library, she bolted upright,
and here's what she had to say—
the story she told that day.

“'Don't you just wish,' the demon deceived me,
'fate punished the people you hate?
Isn't it time the world turned around you?
Trust me! It's gonna be great.'
She said she would make it so great.”

“And, just for a moment, I thought, ‘Fair point!
I reigned, I could date whomsoever—
before those freaks invaded my life.’
I said, 'I wish Buffy never…'
I wished Buffy Summers had never…”

As soon as Cordelia passed on the torch
of blazing truth, she died.
Teeth tore her throat, but the words had escaped,
dancing on the wind ever higher.
The wind fanned the flame ever higher.

The dead tried to build a cage in Giles’ head,
keep him locked behind books as they killed.
An axe broke the lock—too late for the girls,
but a Watcher could fight with his skill.
He'd fight like a Watcher, with skill.

He was holding a thread of research to pull
and unravel the dread—a spell
to meet the maker of this mistake of a world
and turn back the tide of hell.
Yes, he’d turn back the tide of hell.

“It’s imperative that I see her,” he said,
in case Cleveland helped, just in case.
And now back to work. Not a soul would survive if
Giles relied on the Council’s grace.
He wouldn’t rely on their grace.

Yet grace arrived when Giles needed her most.
Spinning-kicking too quick for the eye,
she saved his life and brought hope—which she
had lost. “We fight. We die.”
“We fight,” said the Slayer. “We die.”

Finally, Giles would be a Watcher
and help her! A dream come true.
But she scoffed at dreams. Her eyes were a weary
battlefield where nothing grew.
On this battlefield, nothing grew.

The Slayer left. Alone, she would die,
locked in the life that she knew.
Giles hoped that this spell would work as he thought,
to right what had gone askew.
Could he straighten this world, so askew?

The demon of wishes hissed and crowed,
“This is the real world now!”
But Giles plucked the deadly nightshade berry—
the necklace that gave her power.
He’d crush the source of her power.

“How do you know,” the demon tried,
“the other world can be good?
You trusting fool! Life will never
be as you think it should.
Why would it be as it should?”

“Because it has to be,” Giles said.
“I believe that the world can be good,
and I will do what I can every day
to make life be as it should.
That’s why it will be as it should.”

His arm swung slow with the weight of the Earth
turning from dark to light,
as every night ends. The world was remade,
dissolving in blinding white light.
Night dissolved in a blinding white light.

***

Three friends nod at him, knowing there's time
to chat and skip class and roam,
to hang fairy lights and to flirt and to fight
to the death—and to win and go home.
To rest from the fights and go home.

Wishes scatter in the wind. They could only
take root where good people did nothing,
but no speck of dust is left of that world.
Not even a memory—nothing.
It faded away and left nothing.

I like to remember how Giles fought on
through darkness, through times inhumane.
When the world went wrong, he believed in what’s right
till he made the world right again.
Hope made the world right again.