|Miles To Go Before I Sleep
Spike’s been swallowed by the giant octopus demon – can he fight it from the inside out?
Raging Waters is a water park in San Dimas, CA. A couple of their rides are:
Dark Hole Tube Slide: Dark Hole incorporates two 500-foot long fiberglass flumes, with an overall drop of 52 feet. It was the first two-person raft adventure ride through total darkness in the country.
Drop Out Extreme Body Slide: Dropout is a thrilling, seven-story drop/slide, and is one of the tallest vertical drops in the country. It hurls riders down in just four seconds, at speeds reaching nearly 40 miles an hour.
Poetic license: I have no idea if filling the pressure suits with pure helium will make them stand more pressure (I seriously doubt it would), I just wanted to hear them all talk like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Don’t try this at home. Inhaling helium (even from a balloon) can deprive your brain of oxygen and make you pass out or worse. Seriously, leave the stunts to the professionals.
Music Referenced: Stand, Rascal Flatts http://youtu.be/tneHF7M0TS8
|Giant thanks to Anona for betaing this chapter, including her grammatical and punctuation corrections, wonderful commentary, and final review. Also thanks to Capella42 for her insightful suggestions that made the whole story better and epd4 for her help with the initial beta. All mistakes are mine because I simply cannot stop fiddling right up to the last moment.
|Rating / Warnings:
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes, and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY.
Four Days Ago, Friday, April 15th, 2011, Unexpected Universe:
Spike tried not to panic as he passed by the rows and rows of sharp, jagged teeth inside the octopus' mouth. He reached out to grab onto them, to stop this before it got too far … before he got too far. The demon’s teeth scraped against the hard exterior of the pressure suit and sent chills down Spike’s spine like someone running sharp fingernails against bone. He managed to grab a hold of one of the teeth and stop his momentum into the creature’s mouth. He had just begun to push back out when the demon sucked in a deep swallow of sea water and Spike was washed away. He was swallowed whole, like a bitter pill, washed down the creature’s gullet with the sea water. The tooth he’d been holding onto was still in his hand; it had pulled out of the demon’s jaw cleanly, like a shark’s tooth might.
For a while he could hear the shrill voices of Bess and Angel talking and screaming and the deep baritone of the berk on the surface. He really didn’t have time to concentrate on what they were saying, but he did hear Bess tell someone to 'get fucked'. That made him smile a bit – he hoped she was talking to Captain Forehead. Bloody wanker couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a bazooka at ten paces.
Spike stabbed the sharp, toothy-weapon into the wall of the octopus’ throat and tried to stop his momentum. He held on with all his strength and tried to climb back out, but it wasn’t working. The weight of the water washing over him, added to the weight of the suit he was in, and the action of the giant demon’s gullet as it swallowed was more than he could fight against. His hands slipped off the tooth, leaving it embedded in the creature’s throat, and Spike was dropped down the dark tunnel. It felt like he might be riding a new demonic water slide at Raging Waters theme park in San Dimas. If ‘The Dark Hole’ and ‘Drop Out’ were married and had a baby ride, this is what it would be like: completely dark, extremely steep, and unbelievably fast with a big splash landing at the end. At least he didn’t have to worry about pulling his swim trunks out of the crack of his arse… Hey, any bright side was a plus at this point, even lack of a wedgie.
After the wild ride down, Spike was expelled into the demon’s stomach with a violent splash. The acid and bile began to leak in through the cracks the creature had made in his pressure suit and it burnt his skin as it tried in earnest to digest him.
“Bloody hell!” Spike screamed. “Hey! Can you wankers hear me? Get me the hell outta here!” he demanded of the disembodied voices from the surface as the stinking bile splashed over him and rolled him around like the suit he was ensconced in weighed nothing.
“Buttercup?! Angel?” he tried. “Bloody over! Can ya 'ear me?” he continued. Nothing.
“Fucking brilliant. Marvels of modern technology can’t take a little theme park ride,” Spike chirped in his helium voice.
“Right, then, guess this is up to you, Jonah,” Spike urged himself, finding it comically ironic – a vampire turning into Jonah. The comedy of it soon faded as the acid continued to penetrate the pressure suit, seep through the wet suit he had on underneath, and burn his skin painfully. Funny he didn't remember the burning bile being mentioned in that story...
Spike swam through the churning acid of the creature’s stomach trying to reach the side. He bumped into one of the big yellow AUVs, which the monster had also apparently swallowed, and pushed it out of his way. Dead fish and other debris, some recognizable, some badly mutilated and partially digested, churned in the bile with Spike. The aroma was staggeringly putrid; beyond anything he'd ever experienced before. Spike stopped breathing.
It was pitch black in here, but Spike’s vampire senses could see well enough. He looked for a weak spot in the stomach lining that he could attack. He didn’t find anything that looked like an ulcer or anything like that, so he just picked a spot at random and began punching and kicking it with all his might. The monster didn’t seem to notice. The undulating walls of the stomach never flinched or lurched or stopped moving. Spike wasn’t expelled out the demon’s throat. So much for bloody Jonah.
“Gotta be swallowed by a creature with a bloody cast-iron stomach,” Spike groused in his high-pitched voice.
He tried to reach down and scratch at the burning skin of his abdomen and legs, but the pressure suit thwarted his efforts. The pain was growing, the area being burned expanding. He could feel deep, painful sores form on his skin, then they began to itch like mad as the Gem healed them. They were no sooner healed and stopped itching than the bile burnt his skin away again. He wasn’t actually sure which was worse – the burning or the infernal itching that he couldn't scratch.
Spike had had just about all he could take of this damn pressure suit. He couldn’t use his best weapon with it on – his fangs. He weighed his options as he tried to ignore the burning acid that was spreading over his body within the suit.
One. He could stay here and endure the pain and wait for someone to save him. Spike rolled his eyes, he hated that idea. Damsel in distress wasn’t his best look.
Two. He could remove the helmet from the suit and try biting his way out. What would happen without the suit? Since the octopus wasn’t imploding and the cracks in the pressure suit weren’t getting any worse, he had to assume the pressure inside the creature wouldn’t harm him. If he managed to actually get out while the demon was at the bottom of the ocean, that could be a problem, however.
Three. He could leave the suit on and allow nature to take its course. The bile didn’t seem to be degrading the suit. If he left it on, he theorized that he could pass through the demon’s digestive tract unharmed. Spike sighed, allowing the demon to excrete him would be humiliating and degrading, but was probably the best course of action at this point.
His mind made up, Spike turned, dove down into the deep, salty acid, and began swimming towards the bottom of the creature’s stomach. The closer he got to the bottom, the more of a pull he could feel tugging him, and everything else, down towards the demon’s intestines. Spike allowed himself to be pulled along, head first. He rolled his eyes and let out a defeated sigh. If Angel ever heard about this, Spike would never live it down. Angel always said Spike’s plans were shit; now that would be all too literal.
Fully prepared to endure this humiliation, he approached the relatively small opening at the lower part of the beast’s stomach which was the small intestine. When Spike got close enough to see the lining of the bowel, his eyes grew wide with surprise and fear. He began back-peddling, trying to swim away and break free of the tractor-beam-like pull.
The beast’s intestines were lined with large, wide, flat protrusions of what appeared to be solid bone. The unyielding gears ground together violently like a demonic, high-speed grist mill. Everything that passed through them was pulverized and ground into a thick paste. As he watched, the AUV he had bumped into earlier whipped past him and entered the grinder. Spike was slightly hopeful that it would jam or break the solid gears that ground the giant octopus’ food into pâté. Spike continued to swim, to fight against the pull of the beast’s digestive system, as he watched the spectacle.
To the vamp’s utter dismay, the large machine’s heavy steel ‘bones’ were easily ground fine enough to make the monster’s bread. Apparently eating and digesting that sub wouldn’t have been a real problem for the demon sea creature. Spike turned away from the demonic grinder and used every ounce of energy he had to retreat from the back end of the digestive tract. His plan of being excreted by the sea monster, at first simply degrading and humiliating, suddenly turned into something he was certain even the Gem could not protect him from.
“Okay, scratch that plan, then,” Spike murmured in his Alvin voice just as he broke the surface of the acidic bile. He looked up and around – he couldn’t get out the back door, that much was certain; that left the front door or the side. He pursed his lips together and thought. Before he took the suit off, he’d try to climb out the way he’d come in. He searched around for something sharp in the debris that littered the demon’s stomach. He finally found a couple of bones from which the flesh had been eaten away by the acid. They were needle-sharp on one end and blunt on the other and about eighteen to twenty-four inches long. Rib bones from some kind of large fish, he supposed.
Spike reached as high as he could and jabbed one into the pliant flesh of the stomach lining, then he pulled himself up. Holding himself and the heavy suit up with his right hand, he jabbed the other bone in with his left, up a bit higher than the first. It took considerable effort to pull himself up, hand over hand, in the heavy suit. The swabbie that strapped him into it said it weighed nearly three hundred pounds; Spike didn’t doubt that one bit. Slowly, one arm’s length at a time, he climbed out of the bile towards the esophageal sphincter, the diaphragm at the top of the stomach that keeps the stomach acid out of the esophagus. He grunted and groaned with the effort, clenched his jaw, and forced himself upward.
One more. One more. One more, he encouraged himself. Don’t let the bastard win.
When he faltered and almost fell, he cursed himself, “Bloody ponce! Fight!”
It seemed to take forever to reach the top, but he made it at last. Spike sucked in a deep breath of the putrid air and jabbed one of the bones into the beast’s flesh as hard as he could. Then he pulled himself up with the other until he could wrap his legs over the first one and sit on it.
Spike took a moment to rest there. He was bone weary and his flesh was still burning and itching from the bile that had soaked his wetsuit earlier. He pushed that pain away, concentrating on the job at hand. He had to get that sphincter open. He poked up at it with the other bone and he felt the beast’s whole stomach roil. His eyes went wide with hope. The bloody thing might just toss him out yet!
Spike poked it again, and again, and again. Holding the bone with both hands, he jabbed the sharp point into the soft flesh of the creature’s diaphragm. The beast’s stomach retched violently. It began churning even faster than it had before and splashing the gastric acid all the way up to where Spike was at the top of the stomach. Spike kept jabbing at it – harder and faster. He was sure the beast would vomit him out at any moment.
Then, suddenly, the world turned upside down. The diaphragm opened and Spike actually fell into it – out of the stomach and into the esophagus. He was out! Well … he was part of the way out. Spike held onto the sharp bone he'd been using as a poker and slid down the tube towards the creature’s mouth.
It must be diving, he thought as he reversed his earlier course, going up the dark waterslide now. At the top of the tube there was another diaphragm. Spike grabbed onto the tooth that he’d embedded in the creature’s flesh earlier with one hand and held tight. Feeling secure, he began jabbing the fish bone at the upper sphincter. He just needed one shot – one small opening and he could be free. His confidence soared. The weariness in his bones dissipated with renewed hope and adrenaline. He was gonna kick Angel’s ass good and proper for all this trouble.
Suddenly, the sphincter opened. This was it! Spike lunged at the opening, pulling with his hands and arms, kicking with his feet, pushing against the tooth that still held strong in the beast’s throat. At that moment, the demon octopus changed direction and began swimming up again. It opened its mouth as it surged swiftly through the freezing arctic waters. For a moment Spike could see freedom – it was only a few feet away. Then, just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone.
Water spewed in through the beast’s gaping mouth and, as suddenly as Spike’s spirits had soared, they crashed again. The vampire was pummeled by an icy blast of salty liquid and hundreds of small fish. The rushing river of frigid sea water pushed him back through the diaphragm at the back of the beast’s throat and all the way back down into the stomach. Spike landed with another violent splash in the burning gastric juices of the monster. Small fish, sardines that would never see any mustard sauce, fell all around him. He’d heard tell of raining frogs, but raining fish was a new one. The small, shiny creatures flopped around in the burning bile, trying to get away from the inevitable. But there was no escape – not for them, and apparently not for him.
The wild ride left him drained and disheartened, and once again bone weary.
He closed his eyes and just floated there for a few minutes, trying to gather his courage and strength to try again. The acid began burning at his skin more vehemently – more was leaking in and it felt more concentrated. He must’ve damaged the suit more when he'd landed the second time. Then he felt himself getting pulled under, pulled towards the bottom of the stomach. The pull was much stronger now than it had been before.
Spike opened his eyes and looked around. Despite the rush of water that had dropped him back down here, there was actually much less fluid in the stomach than there had been before. The acid was more concentrated; there was less seawater diluting it. It was also at least twice as far to the top of the stomach than it had been the first time. Spike blew out a deep breath and began to swim against the pull of the digestive tract, which was no easy task in that bulky suit. He was so very exhausted now, mentally and physically. It was all he could do to keep from being pulled under and made into vampire pâté.
“Done in by a pussy,” he murmured to himself. “That would’a sounded right sexy at one time … a bloody dream,” Spike’s voice was back to his normal baritone; all the helium had leaked out of the cracks in his suit. It suddenly sounded strange, like someone else talking, and he began to laugh hysterically. “Eaten by a demonic pussy. Only you, William.”
Spike's laughter died quickly as he struggled to stay afloat in the rolling waves of acidic seawater. He couldn't stop swimming for even a moment or he'd be dragged under by the natural motion of the beast’s stomach. He was simply too exhausted now to execute his second plan, trying to bite through the beast’s stomach and escape through a ‘side door’, so he settled for plan number one: wait.
He thought for sure someone would be there to save him soon. He expected a large blade to slice the creature’s belly open at any moment and spew him out – like that scene in Jaws when they gutted the shark on the dock. He could see the smirk on Angel’s face when Spike spewed out of the demon’s belly at his grandsire’s feet. He wanted nothing more than wipe that smirk off Broody Boy’s lips.
Spike waited. He swam. But nothing like that ever happened. He didn’t know how long he swam and swam and swam. It was like one of those never-ending pools where you could go for hours but never get anywhere.
He had to try something else; plan number one wasn’t working.
Spike nervously unfastened his helmet as he tread water. He was pretty sure nothing bad would happen, like his eyes popping out of his head or his organs imploding, but natural science had never been his strongest subject. A small hiss of air seeped out from under it and he slowly pulled it off. He let out a relieved breath when nothing happened. He dropped the helmet and unfastened the latches around his waist. The heavy bottoms of the suit slid off his body and down into the murky bile. It felt liberating, even with the increased pain of the acid, which he was now immersed in completely. He slid out of the top half of the suit and let it fall away, too.
He could move! He felt like a new man. His determination and resolve returned. He clenched his jaw against the scalding acid that ate at his skin and flesh in a constant tug of war with the Gem of Amarra, which kept repairing the damage. He could take pain and torment. That wasn’t a problem. If he was in pain, that meant he was still here and therefore he still had a chance to get out. He just needed to ignore it now and do what had to be done.
Spike swam with renewed energy over to the supple, slick side of the beast’s stomach and began gnawing at it with his fangs and tearing at it with his hands. Glowing blood in the same phosphorescent shade of purple as the beast’s irises spewed from the wound Spike opened. It actually lit up the inside of the demon’s stomach like those bioluminescent noctilucales which, in large numbers, make the sea glow.
Spike smiled slightly as a memory popped into his head. The day JJ, Annie, Dani, and Billy had first seen the ocean glowing. He and Buffy had taken the kids to the beach one summer day. How old were they? Spike thought a moment. Annie must’ve been ten, the twins and JJ about five at the time. It had been a glorious day – warm and bright and filled with laughter; that alone would’ve made it perfect. But when the sun went down and the waves began to glow blue-green, it turned magical. Even Buffy was enthralled with the phenomenon and no one could resist jumping into the waves, then running out and splashing in the surf as their whole bodies glowed from the bright, tiny creatures that lived in the water. They were like walking, talking, giggling glow-sticks.
As Spike tread water in the gastric juices of the beast, he bit his bottom lip and closed his eyes as the happiness of that night ran like a video in his mind. Tears stung his eyes and puddled behind his lids. He could see the children’s joyful faces, see Buffy, laughing and kicking the glowing water on him. Buffy. He still hadn’t contacted her and that strange emptiness remained in his chest. He’d been ignoring it, convincing himself it was the depth of the sea which had caused the disconnect between them. But he couldn’t ignore it any longer. He reached out through the bond to her. He got nothing but a huge black-hole of silence in return. Maybe it was just the ocean. The pressure of the sea water or the waves distorting the signal and not letting them …
“Oh rubbish!” Spike chastised himself, blinking his eyes open. He knew better than that. The bond had worked perfectly fine on his way down. He’d closed it before they got to the bottom, but there was no distortion or distance between them. Something had happened to her. And here he sat in the glowing belly of the beast, unable to save himself, let alone find out what was wrong with her.
When Spike looked back at the wall of the stomach where he’d begun tearing a hole, his heart sank further. It was completely healed. “Bugger,” he swore as he ran his hand over the spot. You couldn’t even tell where the wound had been.
Spike redoubled his efforts to get out. He tore at the supple lining of the beast’s stomach with fingers and fangs. He drew more glowing blood from the wound, but he could never get it larger than five or six inches wide before it simply healed up again – regenerated.
Billy’s voice rang in Spike’s mind, “It says that if you cut one of its arms off, it can grow a new one! It can re … re-gen-er-ate. Regenerate.”
“Bloody hell,” Spike moaned as he kept trying. No matter how fast he tried to work, how deeply he cut into the cast-iron stomach, or how hard he pulled at it with his hands, he never could get a hole large enough to escape through.
Spike screamed and growled and roared in frustration, pounding his fists against the creature’s stomach. Nothing changed: the undulating gastric rhythm never faltered; the pull of the juices down towards the grist mill never weakened; the painful dance between the Gem and the beast’s acidic bile never let up.
A shower of frigid water and more flopping fish poured down atop Spike, pushing him down. He was again caught in the strong undercurrent that was pulling everything towards the demon’s bowels. Although the additional water diluted the acid slightly, the extra salt stung his wounds and quickened the flow of the stomach contents through the grist mill. Spike began to swim again, trying to get away from the natural pull of the creature’s digestive tract.
His body was exhausted and now completely covered in rough blisters and oozing sores, which both itched unmercifully and burned painfully at the same time. He was once again caught up in the flow of that never-ending pool, swimming against the tide with all his remaining strength just to stay in one place. As he swam, half-digested fish with their sharp bones sticking out of rotting flesh, tore at his wet suit and skin, adding to his agony. Unyielding debris raced past him, ripping at his body. Driftwood, plastic bottles, pieces of fish net with lead weights attached, bits of coral, a horseshoe crab, a lobster, even shells and rocks from the bottom of the ocean swirled in the bile and raked at his suit and skin.
He knew where all that stuff was headed, just as he knew that’s where he would be if he couldn’t keep swimming. He didn’t know how long he’d been in here. It might’ve been hours or days; he really couldn’t tell. Obviously help was not coming. Spike reached out for Buffy again through the bond. He could think of nothing else to do. He closed his eyes as he swam and concentrated with all his strength on reaching her, pouring his entire soul into it. But his entire soul wasn’t there – part of it was missing; the part she kept inside her.
“Buffy,” Spike called aloud. His voice was hoarse, gravely from the acid he’d swallowed. He just needed to hear her name; he longed to hear something other than the constant gurgling and splashing inside the demon. He had no idea what had happened to her. He knew if she was unconscious for some reason … a car accident, maybe, he might not be able to contact her. But he was sure that wouldn’t cause this emptiness within his soul. He saw her face behind his closed lids and he swam and swam and swam some more, trying to reach her, but never getting any closer.
“Buffy, where are you, luv?”
After some time, Spike began to falter. The current was dragging him under. He’d rally with sheer willpower, pull away, get back to the surface, but he couldn’t keep it up. Each time he was pulled down he got closer and closer to the grinder, and each time it took him longer and longer to get away. He was on the verge of giving up. Nothing was working. He wasn’t gonna get out of this one, he could feel it in his weary bones. He tried again to contact his wife, hoping beyond hope that whatever was keeping them apart had cleared, but he got no answer.
“So sorry, luv. Bloody well should’ve known to listen to you, pet. Never should’ve come,” he croaked out, his voice raspy, rough. The pain that covered his skin was getting worse. It was getting harder and harder for him to ignore it, to block out the singeing, searing pain. He just didn’t have the strength to fight it any longer.
“Fee-fi-fo-fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman! Be he live, or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread,” Spike’s gravelly voice rang out in the darkness.
He began to laugh madly as he quit swimming, quit struggling against the current. He was resigned to his fate. The giant demon would grind his bones to make its bread. There was nothing he could do to stop it. His muscles were nothing more than quivering, aching lumps of sinew and flesh, unable to function even one second longer. He had nothing else to give.
“Love you, Buffy. Reckon I’ll find out ‘bout those spiders in limbo first-hand now.”
Spike turned around, he wasn’t going into that pepper-grinder feet first; head first would better. He watched as the current pulled him closer. When the grinding stones came into view, he clenched his jaw as he watched them pulverize everything that entered – fish, driftwood, rocks. He closed his eyes. It would only be another few seconds and it would be over. He pictured Buffy and their children. That was what he wanted to hold in his heart as he faced limbo and the trials he knew would follow.
Tears built behind his lids as his family’s faces morphed from the joyous memories he wanted to carry with him to bleak looks of abandonment. He thought of Bess and wished he could get the Gem to her – to give her the light back. He pictured Bess going home and returning nothing but his duster and boots to Buffy. He could see his wife trying to explain to the children that those meager objects were all that remained of their father. The confused looks and tearful exclamations of the children burned in his mind’s eye. But Dad promised he’d come home, he could hear Annie croaking out through her tears. Dad promised!
Spike’s eyes flew open. The faces of his children remained in front of his open eyes, overlaying everything. It was as if they were the sun and he’d stared at it them too long – they were burned on his retinas. He reached out and put his hands on either side of the opening to the ‘Chop-O-Matic’, fighting the unbelievably strong pull of the demon’s digestive system. Debris piled up behind him, pushing against his back as his body partially blocked the flow. Spike struggled against the vortex, bracing his feet on either side, as well. He roared in effort, trying to push away. He had to fight – for them, for Buffy. He’d promised.
But it was too late – he was too close, too exhausted, the current was too strong. His hands and feet were sliding on the slick, mucous-covered walls of the stomach – it was going to suck him in, after all.
A spontaneous prayer of sorts formed in his mind and silently hurtled out into the universe. You wankers know you need me! Your bloody Tetrad needs me! The Slayer needs me! Think of all those soddin’ prophecies you’ll have to rewrite! You good for nothing, buggerin' son of a…
Just as his hands slid through the opening, he was lifted away from the grinding bowels by a sudden surge in the volume of liquid and by the monster turning in the ocean. He was suddenly surrounded by the gastric acid, nowhere near the grist mill any longer. Bubbles, debris, and rotted sea creatures whirled around him in the dark, shredding his wet suit and his skin – but that didn’t matter. That was so much better than the alternative.
Then, as if someone had actually heard his prayers and hadn’t taken offense, he was out of the churning bile and on dry land … so to speak. He was high up on the side of the slick ‘cavern’, his body was wedged in a fold in the lining of the demon’s stomach. The acid here was worse – undiluted by the sea water below, but at least he didn’t have to swim or fight. He could simply endure it – this he knew how to do.
Spike closed his eyes and drew in several deep breaths, letting each one out slowly. The putrid, fishy odor of the bile didn’t even bother him any longer; it just felt good to breathe again. His skin burned and itched as deep blisters formed, scabbed over, and then healed; his muscles trembled and ached painfully from hours or perhaps days of overexertion. He doubted there was one inch of his body that didn’t hurt, from his eyeballs to his entrails. But at least he wasn’t vampire pâté – that had to be counted as a check in the 'plus' column.
“Uhhh … didn’t really mean the last bit,” Spike rasped into the darkness, his vocal cords felt like he’d swallowed a gallon of acid – which he certainly had. “Now that we got an understandin’, let’s talk about gettin’ me the bloody hell outta ‘ere.”
Stand by Rascal Flatts
You feel like a candle in a hurricane
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