Chapter One: The Deer Stand
Eve stood back and surveyed her work proudly. It’d taken her almost three months, but she finally had the deer stand to her liking. She had it stocked with enough supplies for several weeks, including the dried and salted meat she had packed in a plastic bag hidden in an old cooler. The ladder was rickety, but light enough that she was able to rig a pulley device to bring it up after her. It was the fourth hideout she established in an eight mile radius toward the deserted town she got her supplies from, and it was by far her favorite. Whoever had built it long ago was not messing around. It was high. Really high. And in it she found a plethora of hunting supplies, including three wicked looking knives, skinning sheers, a large bag of salt and drying rack. All things she’d never used before this. But she’d learned quickly.
Eve climbed up the ladder to her elegant perch and readied herself for the cold night. December hit Georgia all at once this year, with brisk days and icy nights. She stocked up the deer stand with dozens of sleeping bags she’d spent all summer gleaning from the old Walmart in town. The deer stand had a small wood stove that was used to quicken the meat drying process and on especially cold nights, she lit that sucker up to keep warm. The deer stand was mostly covered, with chest high walls and a sturdy roof. She nailed up some heavy blankets around the open parts to keep the heat in and she’d reinforced a few timbers to be sure of the structure, but again, whoever built the thing in the first place wasn’t messing around. It was a thing of beauty, and Eve thanked her lucky stars everyday that she found it.
From the vantage point she could spot trouble from miles around, and the stand was high enough and camouflaged enough that the likelihood of being spotted by another human was slim. And if someone did spot her, well she always had her bow.
Night folded around her like a velvet blanket and she settled into her nest of sleeping bags. She supped on a can of peaches and a dried piece of meat from her cooler, washing it down with a few cups of water from the jugs she had stored in the corner. The one downside of the deer stand was its rather limited size. She couldn’t stay there for long without having to seek out more supplies. There just wasn’t the room to keep it all. But then, that’s what her other hideouts were for.
Before going to sleep she checked to make sure all her alarms were set in place. She had trip wires all over the territory she’d claimed that would alert her to any walkers or people nearby. She attached the hook to the cord around her neck and shut her eyes,.
She woke sometime later to the gentle tugging of the cord The tugging that meant someone, or something was in her territory. She tried not to be alarmed. This happened at least once a night. Though she’d designed the trip wires for human legs, animals sometimes triggered them. Reluctantly she rolled out of her bundle and grabbed her bow. Gently pushing aside the makeshift curtain, she peered out.
It was a bright night, the moon hung high in the sky, sending full and plump rays onto the forest floor. In the distance Eve could make out a small group of walkers rambling around, seemingly aimless in the woods. But then their faces turned toward her, as if they could smell her. No, they heard something. A rustling coming from just east of her deer stand. She turned toward the source of the sound and saw a group of survivors taking out a few walkers. They were quiet, experienced, but in the deep night, their every movement was heard through the trees. The small herd was making its way closer to the people and they were oblivious to the danger.
Normally Eve would have just watched the scene unravel. She’d had her fair share of helping people and being rewarded with attempts of sabotage and takeover. She had worked hard for all that she had, and somehow people always thought they could take it. No, not this time. She learned her lesson many times over.
Eve grabbed a pair of binoculars from her pack and inspected the humans further. There were four of them. Three men and a woman. No, wait. Two men, and one kid. But the kid was holding his own, that was clear. Eve couldn’t help but be impressed as he expertly knifed down a walker. And the woman, woah. Was that sword? The herd was upon them now and it looked like it was getting desperate. Eve thought about trying to help, but she still didn’t want to draw attention to herself. If these people had gotten this far alive, chances were they would survive this. Eve felt another tug on her neck, alerting to her a second trip wire that’d been kicked. She scanned the distance and felt her blood run cold. A herd. A huge herd. Heading in their direction. But no, they were going just west of her hut and west of the survivors. They would miss them if they kept on that way.
Eve looked back at the survivors. They were getting swarmed now. The kid looked like he was hurt. Oh god, bitten? No, there was a bandage around his leg,. An old wound then. Uh oh, one of the guys took out his gun. If he shot that, that whole herd would head their way. Might even tear down her deer stand. Eve cocked an arrow. Before the guy could fire his weapon Eve shot down the walker about the attack the kid. The guy looked up and after a moment of scanning, he saw her.
Eve pulled down the ladder to her nest and slid down it. She sprinted toward the group that was still fighting for their lives, killing walkers as she went.
Once she reached them, she still hesitated. They looked like they’d been through hell. There was a guy with a crossbow who was so bruised and bloody, it was obvious he’d been beaten lately. And the other guy...he had blood on his chin. Like he’d literally torn someone’s throat out. Eve’s hesitation only lasted a second or two, until she looked at the kid. No kid should have to live like that, or die like this. Whoever these people were, she couldn’t watch a kid get killed.
“Follow me,” she said, her voice a harsh whisper. “There’s a herd heading this way, so be quiet.” She saw the men exchange looks before hurrying after her. She shot down a few walkers that were hovering near her stand and when they reached the ladder she made the kid go first. “Can you make it up there with your leg?” she asked.
The kid nodded and began to climb. “You next,” she said to the lady with the sword. The man with the crossbow followed and before the second man could climb up the ladder, Eve leveled him with a glare. “You listen to me,” she growled, grabbing his shoulder. “If you or any of your people try anything, I will not hesitate to kill you. I just saved your lives back there. Don’t make me regret it.”
The guy locked his eyes with hers and nodded.
Once they were all up in the stand, they stood at the windows and watched the walkers amble through the woods. There were hundreds of them.
“Thank you,” the last guy said again. “You really did save us.” Eve nodded.
“I’m Rick,” he said. “This here’s my son Carl,” he pointed to the kid.
“Michonne,” the woman said, stepping forward.
“Daryl,” the guy with the crossbow grunted. He was still watching the walkers through the window.
“I’m Eve.” She put her bow back on its stand and cleaned off her knife before putting it back in its sheath on her hip. “You all hungry?” She nudged the cooler with the dried meat toward the kid and took out a few cans of fruit. “Help yourself.”
The kid looked at his dad who nodded before digging in. The rest followed suit. After they’d eaten, Eve pulled out her first aid kit. It was pretty basic. She had a lot more medical supplies back at her cellar. But it’d have to do. “You all need to clean yourselves up. Those wounds look pretty bad. Especially you,” she nodded at Daryl.
“What happened to your leg?” she asked Carl. She settled in front of him holding a bottle of peroxide.
“We were attacked,” Rick spoke up from the corner. “By people,” he clarified.
Eve nodded. “There’s no law here anymore. People think they can take what they want.” She moved to start tending to Carl’s wounds and he flinched back. “It’s okay,” she said. “I used to be a nurse.” It was only a small lie. The cut was short, but deep. It’d need stitches. The kid put on a pretty brave face as she stitched him up. “How old are you?” she asked him.
Carl looked up. “Thirteen.”
The peroxide bubbled and hissed on his dirty leg. She salved it up with neosporin and put large bandage over it. “That should do for now, but you’ll need to keep it clean so it doesn’t fester. Here.” She handed him a bottle of vitamins. “Take two right now, your body needs it. Then take one a day until the bottle’s empty.”
“But it’s yours,” Carl protested.
Eve smiled. “It’s fine.” The truth was, she had a stockpile of vitamins in the cellar. But she wasn’t telling them that. Not yet.
“Who’s next?” She asked. “You?” She pointed at Daryl, the one with the crossbow. He hadn’t moved from his vigil by the window, but he finally looked at her.
“You’ve got a nice set up here, dontcha?”
Eve stiffened. It was exactly what Marv had said right before he tried to kill her. She eyed the crossbow again. It was beaten up, but she had no doubt this man knew how to use it. She felt a cold discomfort rolling in her stomach. Why in the world had she decided to help them? Just because they had a kid? Kids could be just as dangerous as adults. What was she thinking?
Daryl dropped his crossbow and moved toward her. He took Carl’s place and pointed to a large gash on his cheek. “Think you can stitch this up too?”
Eve gulped. She was nervous but moved steadily, wiping his face with peroxide and sterilizing the needle before stitching the gash closed. It was bad, but it would heal. Looked like the kind of cut made by the butt of a shotgun. She was real familiar with those kind of cuts. She had a scar on her own temple from Marv’s heavy handed club. She shivered, thinking of him again.
Daryl noticed. He looked up and held her eyes. Something strange passed between them. Something Eve couldn’t describe. All she knew was that her fears of this man evaporated in that gentle stare. She felt calm for the first time since she invited them in.