This ficlet was inspired by all the recent discussion about warnings. It's rather more angsty than most of the things I write, but that seems to fit the title.
454 words. Willow, late Season 6 AU. Xander got there too late.
Warning: Character Death
It took seven days to create the world.
It takes her just seven hours to destroy it.
Most of the people die in the first two hours, as the shockwave of fire marches around the world and turns it to ash and cinders. The people she knew - Buffy and Xander, Dawn, Giles, Anya, her parents - they're among the first to die. At least it's quick. She owes them that mercy - they were her friends, after all.
The ones who die later are less lucky. They see the first desperate news reports, as cameras that happen to be pointed in the right direction record the onrushing wall of flame, higher than a mountain, moving faster than an aircraft, stretching halfway across the horizon. The sight is broadcast out to the world in those scant few minutes before each camera in turn is consumed by fire. There's no way to escape, no way to hide; all they gain is to live their last moments knowing that death is coming for them.
She regrets that, a little. She didn't want anyone to feel pain. But as each human soul flares up and then goes silent forever, she knows their pain is over.
It's worse for the ones underground, in sealed buildings. They don't burn, they choke slowly as the firestorm sucks all the oxygen from the air. She gets angry with them; they weren't supposed to suffer that way; they're spoiling her plan. But not for long, as her power reaches out and the very air inside their lungs turns to flame and consumes them. After that, they can know peace.
The last humans left on Earth are the crews of submarines, deep in the cold, still depths of the oceans. They don't die until the fifth hour, when the seas start to boil.
The forests burn, leaving behind nothing but cinders. She used to be good at science; she knows the rainforests were the Earth's lungs, photosynthesis keeping the planet alive. No longer. But it doesn't matter, does it? There's nothing left to breathe the air that will no longer be renewed.
The icecaps melt, pouring their cold water into the roiling, bubbling oceans and sending up vast clouds of steam. Great dark clouds fill the air and blot out the sun, weeping silent tears of grief at the world's destruction.
Seven hours ago there were six billion people in the world.
Now there is only one.
She stands untouched in the midst of the destruction. A tiny figure, alone now. More alone than any human has ever been.
She sinks to her knees, and there is nobody left to hear her sobbing, hear her repeat a single name over and over again...