Originally broadcasted 1/4/05
Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Day
A young woman’s finger hesitated above the top of a bishop. Less than half a second later her finger moved elsewhere. Instead of the bishop she reached for the figure of a horse – a knight. Her forefinger came to rest behind the wooden creature’s ears, and then a thumb and another finger grasped the chess piece on either side. She lifted it into the air. Over a castle it moved, coming to rest on a black square that matched the ebony color of the knight itself. Before letting go, the young woman’s forefinger stroked the carved mane of the horse. Then she sighed, examining the move.
The knight shook almost imperceptibly as she released it.
She looked across at her opponent, who watched with bright eyes. Now that the move was chosen and made, she breathed again. She nodded in approval before whispering the word, “Check.”
“You’re a quick study,” Skye spoke quietly, but with pride.
Vi shrugged. “Well, I was the brainy one.”
Skye raised her eyebrows. “Been meaning to ask you about that.”
“What?” Vi asked.
“You and your sister. It’s like you’re not twins at all.”
“We get that a lot,” Vi said with a sigh. “Not usually from other twins, though. They know how different their siblings can be.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. If you’d rather not talk about…” Skye apologized.
“No, no – it’s fine.”
Even so, Skye hesitated. Then, she blurted, “So do you two ever feel things from each other?”
“What do you mean?” Vi asked.
“Well, I saw this show once where one twin was in labor and the other felt it too. Another story was about a twin who was in a car accident and hit the windshield and his brother felt it from across town. Ever have anything like that? Like flashes of panic, or pain? Excitement?” She grinned and waggled her eyebrows.
Vi laughed. “Sometimes.”
“Well…it’s kinda odd.” Vi took a deep breath, a smile hovering in her face. “It used to go both ways. When we were nine, I broke my leg, and Angie cried too. Plus, there was this time when Angie wasn’t ready for a test, but I started sweating, even though it was my favorite subject and I aced it.”
“Really,” Skye said, amazed. “So it’s not just all talk.”
“Nope,” Vi answered. “But by the time we got to high school, we didn’t feel each other so much. I could still feel her sometimes, but it’s been a real long time since she felt me.”
Skye tilted her head a little. “Huh. I wonder why?”
“No time, I guess. Angie was the one with all the hot dates. She was a cheerleader!”
“And did you…feel…any of those hot dates?”
Vi blushed. “Some. It was…” She seemed to be trying to find the right word.
“Yeah,” Vi said firmly. “Very distracting.”
The two of them giggled, then a sound interrupted them as the doors opened and three more people entered the rec room. In the lead was Dawn, followed by a girl physically identical to Vi, but with more of a strut to her walk. Bringing up the rear was a grinning Xander, who was clearly trying his best to be charming and pretty much succeeding.
“Everybody uses the rec room,” Dawn was saying, “like most things around here, really. There used to be this big separation between slayers and watchers with the Old Council, but not any more.”
She stopped suddenly, her mouth dropping open and her eyes growing larger as she took in the image before her. Skye and Vi looked back at her, definitely no longer giggling. Dawn approached.
“Skye?” Dawn said, in a voice that sounded younger than she was. “You…you’re playing chess? With…Vi?”
Vi finally answered the awkward silence. “I was curious,” she said quietly.
Dawn looked at Vi. “Curious? So you asked Skye?” Dawn accused.
“Well, she was the one who didn’t seem to have a partner…” Vi explained.
Now Dawn shot a look at Skye, who murmured, “You’ve been busy lately. We haven’t had a game in weeks…and you turned to Vi.”
“She asked me some questions,” Skye answered carefully, “and I tried to answer them as truthfully as I could. But after awhile, a demonstration was really the only way….so…” She let her voice fade and tried to shrug.
“Just for curiosity’s sake,” said Vi.
“Did you like it?” Dawn’s voice trembled.
“Well…yes. Skye is a really good teacher.”
“I know,” Dawn sniffed.
“And Vi is a really good student. I mean, she just checked me for the very first time, and…” Skye stopped speaking at the look Dawn was giving her.
“What the hell are you talking about?” demanded Angie, the slayer’s twin, in a tone that broke the mood. She even had one eyebrow almost touching her hairline and blinked in puzzlement. “It’s chess, for God’s sake!”
“Now, now,” Xander said soothingly. Around him, Angie continued to look puzzled, Dawn withdrawn and hurt, Skye a little guilty, and Vi embarrassed. “Different things mean different…things…for different people is all. But let’s all calm down, and like Angie said, let’s remember that this is really just a game. Right?” Dawn said nothing. He looked at Vi. “Right?”
“Yeah!” Vi replied. “A game.”
Xander nodded. “Just a pleasant way to pass the time, give the old brain cells a bit of a workout, test your wits against a worthy opponent, enjoy each other’s company…” He stopped himself as Dawn glared at him. Coughing, he turned to Angie. “So, Angie. Do you play chess?”
She shrugged. “I’ve played a couple of times.”
“Really? Okay, well maybe if you do become a watcher, then you and Vi can be chess partners, leaving Skye and Dawn to play each other.” He stopped abruptly as he caught the look on Dawn’s face.
Dawn’s arms were folded, head was bowed slightly, and one eyebrow was raised. Her mouth had formed a straight line. She wasn’t blinking.
Her reply was a single word. “Pig.”
Barlow College – Old Hospital – Late Afternoon
Graffiti spattered the decrepit brick building. On the very top arose a clock tower, with arms not moving. Vines grew out of control along all of the sides of the square structure, and one large tree reached to the third of four stories.
There were surprisingly few windows, and most of those were barred.
Barlow College – Old Hospital Library – Staircase – Same Time
Dust lay everywhere, and the only source of light, apart from a few narrow windows, was the flashlight in the security guard’s hand.
The security guard himself looked up the stairs, in the same direction he aimed the flashlight. On his ill-fitting uniform was a nametag that read, “Carpenter.” He looked skinny, in his mid-thirties, and was clean-shaven.
“Hey!” he called up into the shadows. “Anybody up there?”
No sound came back. Still, the security guard hesitated. When he spoke again, his voice had a gruff humor in it. “Look, I know this is a cool place to hang out and maybe get high and all, but nobody’s supposed to be here. Ya know?” He began to gradually ascend the stairs. “Come on! You don’t really want to hang around bunches of rats, do ya?” He muttered to himself, “Not that I’ve seen any rats, but this place must be full of ’em.”
He stopped, peering up. “Anyone?”
Nothing. Carpenter paused, staring up into the gloom and trying to use his flashlight to see more. He succeeded in casting bizarre shadows.
“Oh, man,” he grumbled, “if I didn’t need this job…”
Again he mounted the stairs and, slowly but surely, he approached the landing above. Each and every footstep echoed in the dim stillness. Sweat beaded on his forehead.
When he finally reached the landing, he took a deep breath. The flashlight swept over the cluttered room, illuminating boxes and rusty wheelchairs, as well as broken bookshelves and a few pieces of furniture. Nothing moved.
“Okay,” he called out. “Anybody here? Anybody?”
Still, nothing. At last, he turned around to head back down the stairs.
With frenzied speed, a shape emerged from behind the pile of boxes nearest the stairs. In the darkness, its details remained hidden. Some kind of light gray cloth, perhaps white once upon a time, draped its upper body. The head was…strange. But most visible were its hands. They were gnarled, with tips more like claws than nails. It was these almost-hands that reached for Carpenter, grabbing his throat and face from behind.
The flashlight fell. It rolled and bounced down the stairs, shooting beams of light in random directions as it fell.
But above, from the struggle between the shape and the security guard came the sound of scraping and hard breathing. Carpenter tried to scream, but his panicked voice was muffled by the Shape’s powerful grip.
Then, with a grunt, the Shape made a wrenching movement. Bone crunched, and Carpenter went slack.
At nearly the same moment, the security guard’s fallen flashlight reached the bottom of the stairs and broke. Complete darkness returned to the stairwell.
But not silence. The sound of a body being dragged across a floor continued to echo slightly. Minutes later, other sounds were audible. First came the ripping of cloth, then the wet, slick sound of a predator slitting open its prey’s once-living flesh.
And then – chewing.
End of Teaser