Something That Could Have Happened to Tara McClay But Never Did
Complete, impenetrable blackness. So dark, the urge to touch her eyes to check if they were still there and open obliterated all caution. Her arm twitched upwards, but almost immediately her knuckles smacked into a smooth-cold-hard barrier – a metal ceiling, mere inches above her body. Frantic groping and pawing proved it was all around her, encasing her like a coffin, only there was no lining, no pillow, just bare metal. She could barely move for lack of space. Tara forced back the scream that seemed lodged in her aching throat. It came out as a stifled sob.
There was no reply. This was bad. Where was she? As Tara lay there, listening, trying to remember, struggling for self-control, she began to become aware of other sensations. Like the feeling of something brushing lightly against the sole of her foot, and the unyielding chill of metal against the skin of her shoulders, back, and butt. Goddess!
The realization that she was completely naked, covered only by a flimsy sheet, undid her. Panic slammed into her, and she thrashed wildly, driven by nothing but fear. Out! She had to get out!
This wasn't a coffin, this had to be one of those drawers for dead bodies – as seen on TV. She was in a morgue.
"Help, please, let me out!" Tara yelled, but her throat was sore, parched, muting her voice to a dry, raspy whisper like a crinkled newspaper. She needed something to drink, just a sip of water to moisten her mouth and throat, to get her voice back. She banged her fists against the walls and ceiling, creating a sound that reminded her of thunder, deafeningly loud and kind of hollow.
Eventually, she paused to listen for footsteps. That's when she noticed the complete and utter silence.
The deafening silence of her heart.
Suddenly the drawer was pulled open and she was assaulted by bright neon light. Squinting, she was looking up into an unknown face. A young man in a white lab coat stared at her from behind his spectacles, abject fear in his eyes.
Tara struggled to sit up, clutching the sheet to cover herself. "Thank you," she croaked. "Wh-What happened? How did I—" She stopped when something sharp plunged into her chest. It hurt, not much, but there was some discomfort. Instinctively, without comprehension, she swatted the man's hand aside, eliciting a yelp of pain. But even as she watched him stumble backwards, the sensation stirred up a buried memory, made it rise to the surface: splintering glass, a hard slap against her chest that blossomed into pain, and then a leaden coldness oozing into her the way water seeped into a leaking boat.
Tara groped at her chest, at the object lodged between her ribs and yanked it out. A wooden stake - looking just like the one Xander had made for her, the one Tara always carried around in her bulky coat pocket.
She opened her fingers and the stake cluttered to the floor.
Willow. She had to get to Willow. Willow would know what to do. Tara could feel a slight tremble inside her chest, as if a shaky compass needle was slowly aligning itself with the earth's magnetic field.
"I don't understand," the young man muttered, nursing his broken wrist. He edged backwards, eyes wide with terror. "You should be dust."
The tremble inside her turned into a definite tug. Willow. Tara could feel her lover's powerful presence in the distance, at the other end of the magic umbilical cord that bound her. Tara swung her legs off the drawer and slid to the floor. Could she walk? Yes she could. She took a few halting steps towards the young man, her movements slow. It was like wading through treacle.
She lifted her head in the air and sniffed, scenting the air like a hyena. He smelled good, alive. Tara smiled.
First she'd eat, then she'd find Willow.