The Fall of Humanity
...And the Horse You Rode In On
It was 60 days, or about two months, since the world had fallen into total chaos and anarchy. The amount of living human beings were quickly dwindling as evidenced by the increasingly larger herds roaming the streets. Atlanta was littered with burned out buildings, buses, and cars. Windows were smashed, shops were looted for nearly anything even remotely useful. Food of any kind was more and more difficult to find, and liquids, especially water, was worth more than gold and diamonds had ever been.
While Buffy was sitting on a fence just watching a large group of walkers ambling around aimlessly, she was debating with herself if it was worth the risk to try to thin it out by chopping off the heads of those on the outer edges of the group, or if that would just be inviting trouble both for herself and anyone who might be nearby. It had become a common pastime for her, along with being a diversion and a way for her to use her Slayer abilities now that all the vampires and demons seemed to have gone poof. Rime called it an obsession, and she was probably at least partially right about that.
Suddenly an odd, vaguely unfamiliar noise reached her ears. It sounded suspiciously like click-clack, click-clack. She frowned as she lifted her head and turned it to both sides, trying to pinpoint the source of the sound before she got up, jumped off the fence, and walked a couple of streets over to see an unexpected sight; a man was riding on a horse, wearing a sheriff’s uniform, including a sheriff’s hat. A cursory sweep over the surrounding area didn’t reveal anyone else, at least no one with a pulse.
Buffy decided to follow the man at a safe distance, if for no other reason than to save him from his own stupidity. Riding into a walker infested city on a horse, really?! What was he thinking? Or maybe the question was why wasn’t he thinking? Acquiring a horse was actually a good idea since both gas and diesel were in incredibly limited supply now, and neither cars nor the roads would last forever. Horses on the other hand had existed for centuries and millennia before that, and they would probably continue to exist unless they all got eaten. Still, a little common sense would’ve been appreciated, especially since the animal was unlikely to survive an encounter with the hungry hordes. The man on the other hand had a little better chance of getting out of this alive, maybe.
Rime was fortunately safe back at the furniture store, and would not go anywhere else until she got back. The woman was brave but her self-preservation instincts were thankfully in good working order, most of the time. Not that Buffy had any room to talk; she regularly took risks she would’ve yelled at anyone else for even thinking about. But then again, she was a Slayer, which few others could claim, and that meant that taking dangerous risks were nothing new to her. It was just a way of life.
The man on the horse, however, read as completely human according to her Slaydar. Which on one side was a good thing, because no demons? Definitely a good thing. On the other, it was bad for him because it meant he probably only had the guns on his back to defend himself with, and that was very bad. Noise attracted the walkers, especially gunshots as they were both sharp and loud, but also because there were many large groups of walkers shambling around nearby looking for dinner. A single shot and all the walkers within hearing distance would shamble their way towards the precipitous sound.
Unsurprisingly it didn’t take long for him to get himself nearly encircled by the starving corpses, but at the last minute he managed to escape under an abandoned tank which had conveniently been left behind by the military. The horse wasn’t as lucky and many of the walkers feasted on the animal as it was dying. Buffy was grateful when it disappeared beneath the herd and she was unable to see anymore. Sadly it didn’t mute the sound of chewing and the ripping of flesh, nor did it stop her from hearing the anguished neighing the animal made before it finally became blissfully silent. It was one occasion when having enhanced supernatural hearing was definitely a bad thing.
Apparently there was a hatch of some kind underneath the military vehicle as she heard the sound of the man scrambling upwards and then a thud of something being slammed in place before all she could really hear was the sound of his heavy breathing. The next thing she heard was another gunshot, this time clearly from the inside of the tank, before it went silent again. The educated guess was that there had been a walker left inside the armored vehicle and it had made an attempt to bite the newly arrived human.
A few minutes after that his head and upper body popped up from the hatch on top of the tank. The man surveyed the immediate area, clearly without noticing Buffy, before the approaching walkers with enough muscle memory to climb came at him. He quickly ducked down again, bringing the top hatch with him and a click was heard as he locked it.
Sometime later the latch at the top of the tank suddenly opened again and the sheriff quickly climbed out and made a run for it. Further back from the feeding frenzy Buffy didn’t bother to hold back her eye roll as she began running, adding Slayer speed to catch up, dodging walkers and using the Scythe to cut the top of the head off of the ones she couldn’t avoid. Now was not the time to ensure a large drop in the undead population. Stupid males and their stupid need to do stupidly heroic things. The sheriff made a right down a side street, firing into the walkers when they came to close to him.
Suddenly she heard another man exclaim, “Whoa, not dead! Not dead! Come on, come on!!” Buffy silently chastised herself for not paying enough attention to notice there was another living, breathing person up ahead. That could potentially have gotten the man killed and her hurt. Buffy pushed the thought out of her mind, along with the mental image of Rime scolding her for nearly getting herself injured.
Then her mind switched gears. Huh, it sounded like there was some kind of plan involved in this madness after all, even if it seemed to be a flimsy one. She could relate to those. Buffy moved a little faster, quickly stabbing and slicing at the dead trying to close her in, and then she was in the small alley the two men had run down and she saw them. They were climbing up a fire escape as fast as they could manage, and the narrow street below them was promptly being filled up with hungry corpses.
She made a split second decision and took a running leap up on a trashcan, jumped on various things which were standing around the alley, including a few walkers, before she made the final jump onto the fire escape’s cage. It would’ve been impossible for her to get to the actual ladder from street level due to all the walkers crowding around the lower part of the fire escape ladder trying to reach the two fleeing men. After landing on the lower part of the cage she promptly grabbed the bar of the next one and used it to boost herself up so the grabby hands below couldn’t get to her. Once she was standing again she snaked herself through the vertical bars, the apocalypse diet had made her already thin frame even smaller, and she carefully got first one foot on the ladder and then then other. Then she was climbing up towards the sheriff and his pseudo rescuer. Above her they were staring in shock at her from a landing about a third of the way up the building.
When she finally put first one foot and then the other on the landing decisively, she stood up and smiled brightly at the two stunned men and said in her best air-headed cheerleader voice, “Hi!” And then laughed inwardly as their jaws literally dropped open.
Buffy bit down on her laughter. She knew full well that she looked the part of a stereotypical dumb blonde, especially when she made an effort to the play the part. There was just something about the society seeing an attractive blonde woman which made them place her in the ‘lowered intelligence’ box, and then refusing to change their minds. Of course she had used this ignorance against both people and vampires and demons in the past to great effect. It wasn’t her fault that they allowed someone’s hair color to do their judgement for them.
While she was still wearing black leather pants and black combat boots, her shirt was a bright pink t-shirt with several pink Care Bears printed on the front. To make matters worse, or better - depending on your point of view - her blonde hair was in twin braids. It made her look like she was in her mid teens, or late teens at the most. Had it been pre-apocalypse then at least the added make-up would’ve made her look like she was in her late teens to early twenties.
According to Rime it was her Apocalypse Barbie look, or if she was in a bad mood - her Apocalypse Lolita/Baby Prostitute look. The last one had been coined when she’d found some make-up and had applied it a little too generously. It hadn’t helped that she’d used the reflection in a partially broken window as a mirror since she didn’t have access to a real mirror at the time.
The twenty-something Asian guy recovered his voice first. “Hey.” Buffy rewarded him with a second sunny smile that he needed another few moments to recover from. “Where did you come from? There were no one else out by the tank or nearby.”
“Oh.” She giggled as she continued her play-acting. “I was, like, in a sidestreet when I, like, heard a gunshot and, like, went to investigate. When I, like, got there. He,” she pointed needlessly at the man who had introduced himself as Rick Grimes to the kid while she had been climbing, “was running like a madman down the street, shooting the dead people, and, like, out of nowhere you, like, jumped out and both of you started running and then, like Batman, you began climbing up here. It was like an action sequence in an action movie!” Buffy’s smile at the end was bright enough to blind the sun, while she winced inwardly at the overuse of teenage slang and the number of times she’s managed to slip ‘like’ into that short explanation.
Officer Not-So-Friendly didn’t seem to buy her act though, or at least not as much as the Asian kid, who had yet to introduce himself because he had seen her before he had managed to reply to the sheriff. So in an effort to divert a little attention from herself, she decided Rick had had the right idea and stuck her hand out.
“I’m Buffy, by the way.” Her name was so not helping her image in the slightest, but in an effort to correct her own over enthusiastic first impression she toned down her smile a little.
“G-Glenn. My name is Glenn. Rhee. Nice to meet you.” Apparently her name was uncommon enough that he sort-of managed to concentrate and also to remember his manners, but before Glenn could introduce his new friend, the other man reached out his own hand and shook hers.
“Rick Grimes.” She noted absently that he had a nice, firm handshake. But before he could get another word in edgewise, Buffy decided to move things along. Their little ledge was too exposed in her opinion, and the alley below was now packed with walkers trying to get to them. The only reasons they were not either up on the ledge or climbing the ladder to get there was that they neither had the motor skills needed nor did they have enough space to move properly.
“Not to be, like, rude or anything, but shouldn’t we, like, be somewhere less visible?” She waved a hand down towards the groaning horde below them for emphasis. That got them moving, and after a short argument Glenn went first since he knew the building, he was followed by Rick, and finally Buffy brought up the rear.
The latter two-thirds of the fire escape ladder didn’t have a cage, and after giving it, the distance up to the rooftop, and the distance down to the street and the walkers occupying it a long look. Glenn commented, “Oh no. The bright side: It'll be the fall that kills us. I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy.”
Next thing she knew Glenn began climbing the ladder up towards the roof. As soon as he was far enough up Rick began climbing after giving Buffy a concerned look, and finally Buffy herself began the task of climbing vertically up the side of a building. It was a good thing she didn’t have any problems with heights or she would’ve been in so much trouble right now.
This chapter is a combination of the original chapter 3 (...And the Horse You Rode In On) and chapter 4 (Apocalyptic Fashion).