Prologue: Infested City
Disclaimer: The only character I own is Clary Dixon. I do not own The Walking Dead, or any of its characters.
Don't make me out to be the hero, 'cause I ain't one. I'll warn you ahead of time. I'm not the hero. I'm far from it. I'm anything and everything, except a hero. I'm just a redneck with a crossbow. No, I'm more than a redneck with a crossbow. I'm a survivor. A survivor of this hell on earth. I'll do just about anything to stay alive, including putting the infected down. And I mean the bitten or the scratched, anyone infected with the virus. It's not the virus that kills you. It's the symptoms. The high fever. You'll get to where you're hotter than a furnace, to where you're burning up, to where you're begging for death. And then, you get your wish. You die. But you don't stay dead long. No, you come back. You come back as one of them. The undead. Or, as we call them, walkers.
Glenn grins at me as he drives out of Atlanta, the blaring '80s rock on the stereo drowning out the screeching alarm. No, we're not thieves. Technically. I don't think that it counts as stealing any more, so, therefore, we're not thieves. We're survivors, just some people that want to stay alive in a world where the dead walk.
Atlanta, the capital of my home state, Georgia, was overrun in the early days, and then bombed by the U.S. military. I was sitting in Glenn's car with him when it happened, watching as the city went up in flames. We found a few others, then joined them at a quarry up in the mountains, surviving there. We're always in need of supplies, so it seems like every other day, Glenn or I (sometimes it was both of us) make a run into the city, careful to avoid walkers. We never had a problem, until we decided to bring a small group with us. A man named Rick showed, shooting up the streets like it was the O.K. Coral. Sounds draws walkers, so within minutes, the store was surrounded. Rick rang the dinner bell.
I was considering leaving Rick behind, seeing as he had no idea what in the holy hell he was doing, but he managed to help us out of the tight spot, which brings me to the car that Glenn and I are in. We had to lure walkers away from the front of the store so Rick could back the clunky cube van up to the store, getting the rest of the group out. Rick found us a car, and he may or may not have smashed a window, setting off the alarm, and hotwired it so we could use it. Either way, the combination of the ringing car alarm and Metallica blaring lured the walkers away, allowing us to escape from the infested city.
As we pull into the quarry camp, Dale, an old man that spends his days watching for walkers on top of his RV, shouts, "Holy crap! Turn that damn thing off!"
"I don't know how!" Glenn replies. The younger sister of Andrea, one of the girls on the run, runs to us, badgering us with questions about her sister. A former cop named Shane barks at us to "pop the damn hood," which, might I add, I'm already on. I climb out of the car window, because The Dukes of Hazzard are always needed in the apocalypse, and Glenn looks at me for help answering Amy's rapid fire questions. "Sorry, Short Round," I say, using the nickname I gave him when we first met because I didn't know his name. "This one's on you."
"Clary!" he whines. Before I can reply, Shane snaps, "Are you two crazy, driving this wailing bastard up here! Are you trying to draw every walker for miles?"
"I think we're okay," Dale says.
Shane looks at the old man over his shoulder. "You call being stupid 'okay?'"
"Well, the alarm was echoing all over these hills. It'd be hard to pinpoint the source." Shane turns around, glaring at him. How dare you disagree with me. Me Shane. Me big and strong. Me alpha. I smirk at my inner monologue of how I see Shane. "I'm not arguing, I'm just saying," Dale defends himself. He looks over at Glenn and I. "Wouldn't hurt you to think things through a little more carefully next time, would it?"
"Sorry," Glenn apologizes, gesturing to the Ram as I walk around it. "Got a cool car."
"It was the heat of the moment," I say as the cube van that Rick took pulls in behind us. Andrea's the first one out as it comes to a stop, the two blonde sisters running to meet each other. A woman named Jacqui climbs out, followed by a man that we call by his last name, Morales. His family runs to meet him, and I glance over at my friend, Carl, and his mother, Lori. I knew that he had lost his father in the beginning, like I did. The only difference is there was no love lost between my father and I, and quite a lot between Carl and his father. Carl looks over at me, and I give him what I hope is a reassuring smile. I turn towards the van as T-Dog climbs out. He was in charge of my eldest brother, Merle, who was handcuffed to the roof by Rick after he (A) fired at walkers, drawing more of them, and (B) started a fight, threatening to shoot T-Dog. What can I say, my brother is an asshole. I glance around him for Merle, then lift my gaze to T-Dog's. "T," I say. "Where's Merle?"
"I dropped the key," he says. "I'm sorry."
"Son of a bitch!" I shout, turning and punching the first thing I see. Which happens to be the side of the car we stole. Glenn reaches over, grabbing my wrists before I can punch the car again. Apart from my brothers, Daryl and Merle, and my best friend, Carl, Glenn's the only person that I trust enough to touch me. Glenn holds my wrists together, looking at my hands. I tune out the others as Glenn lifts his gaze up to mine, quietly asking me, "Why the hell did you think that punching a car would be a good idea?"
"I didn't," I tell him. "You know me, I don't think. I act. And then worry about the consequences later."
Before either of us can say anything else, Carl shouts, "Dad!"
Glenn and I turn as Carl takes off, running towards Rick. "Son of a dick," I say, surprised. I watch as Carl throws his arms around Rick, who hugs him back, looking dumbfounded. "I didn't see that coming.
Merle's a tough son of a bitch. He'll be alright, I remind myself as I walk through the woods with Carl and Sophia, attempting to clear my mind of Merle's current state. However, that only results in me worrying about him more. Merle and I aren't close. That's my other brother, Daryl, and I. To be honest, Merle's a bit of a jackass. Well, "a bit" doesn't quite cut it. Still, Merle's family. There's fifteen years between Daryl and I (a lot, I know), but we're still close. Daryl and I are a lot alike, and we're nothing like Merle. Daryl hunts, trying to find food for the camp, I go on runs for supplies, and Merle, the lazy bastard, just sits on his ass doing nothing. Oh yes, he's very helpful. Still, we'd do anything for family. Merle's eight, almost nine, years older than Daryl, and they aren't close, but we're Dixons, and Dixons stick together.
"You okay, Clary?" Carl asks, nudging my arm to get my attention. I glance ahead of us at Sophia, who's two years younger than us, as she runs around in the forest. I look back over at Carl, giving him a small nod. "I'm fine," I tell him. "I just hope Daryl gets back soon, you know?"
Before Carl can say anything, Sophia screams. We look ahead of her, only to find a walker feeding on a dead deer. The hell? Walkers never come this far up the mountain, I think as Sophia turns and runs to us, screaming for her mother, Carol. Sophia takes Carl's hand as she reaches us, as he shouts for Rick and Lori. She tugs on his hand, trying to get him to run away. I start to pull out my knife, which I always have on me, but Carl takes my wrist, looking me in the eyes. "Just run, Dixon!" he barks. "They'll take care of it."
He pulls me with them without waiting for an answer, Sophia leading us back to camp. I nearly shout for Merle, then remember he's chained to the roof in the walker infested city previously known as Atlanta. Instead, I yell, "Glenn!"
As we near the camp, I can hear the others running through the woods towards us. Glenn momentarily stops, checking to make sure I'm alright ("Why wouldn't I be, Short Round?"), before he sends me, along with Carl and Sophia, back to camp. I follow the two inside Dale's RV, sitting next to Carl and across from Sophia. I look over at Carl, discretely studying him. It's something that I tend to do without thinking about it. Study people, wonder what their story is and what they think of this. I also study their features, things that I wouldn't notice if I just glanced. I notice that Carl has a light dusting of freckles on his cheeks. There's three months between us (I'm older), but he looks like he could be a few months older than me. Then again, I am rather small for fourteen. Nearly everyone (everyone except for Sophia and the Morales kids) is taller than me, seeing as I barely reach five-two, and I'm lucky to weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet. Yeah, I may be small, but I still pack a punch. What I lack in size, I make up for in my give-'em-hell attitude.
Carl glances over at me as he brushes a piece of his dark hair out of his eyes. Carl and I both have dark hair, though mine's closer to black and his is a bit lighter. We both have blue eyes, his bright blue and mine mixed with grey. I look away from him, across the table to Sophia, who looks at her mother out the door. She's the exact opposite of us. Dirty blonde hair and jade green eyes, and she's even quieter than I am, which is saying something. I hardly ever talk, but when I do, I make sure my opinion is known.
I glance out the door as I hear voices, my brother's ringing out above all the others. "Clary! Merle!" he calls. "Get your asses out here! I got squirrels!"
"Daryl," Shane calls, and his voice lowers as he tries to tell Daryl about what happened in the city. I start to get up, knowing that it won't go well, and that's when I hear the yelling. Shane shouts, "Watch the knife!"
"Oh, shit," I mutter, scrambling out the door. I find Daryl going after Rick with his knife, and shout, "Daryl!"
He stops long enough to look at me, and Shane takes the opportunity. He knocks the knife out of my brother's hand, putting him in a chokehold. "Hey!" I exclaim as I run to Daryl's aid. "Chokeholds are illegal!"
I kick Shane in the side, and he let go of Daryl, falling to the ground. He looks up at me as he places one hand over his ribs. "It's illegal to assault a police officer," he says.
"File a complaint, jackass," Daryl snaps, scrambling to his feet. He beat me by one second, so I change direction and say, "Why don't you go book 'em, Danno?"
Daryl and I stand back to back as Shane scrambles to his feet, glaring. Shane and I have never been on good terms, and I don't think I helped the situation. Oh well, he's an asshole, anyway. "Daryl, Clary, your brother was a danger to us all," Rick says. "Clary, you know that. You were there."
"Doesn't mean he deserved to get left behind," I reply.
"It's my fault," T-Dog says. "I dropped the key."
"Couldn't you just pick it up?" Daryl exclaims, turning towards him.
"I dropped it down a drain. But, when I ran, I stopped long enough to chain the door with a padlock. The staircase is narrow. No more than six walkers can fit in it at one time. And that ain't enough to break the chain or padlock."
"What's your point?"
"Merle is still up there, still alive."
"He better be," Daryl snaps. He drops his guard, and Shane, being the cocky son of a bitch that he is, decides to take a swing. Surprised, Daryl doesn't block it. I step in to block the blow, but I don't raise my guard in time. Shane's fist connects with my jaw, and, off balance, I fall back into my brother. Yeah, that's not gonna help. Daryl sticks up for me, and it someone hurts me, well, they get it, to say the least. My brother puts one arm around me, pushing me slightly behind him. He looks at Shane and growls, "You touch my sister again, I'll kill you."
"Okay, Sonny," I say, gently rubbing my jaw. "Take it easy, man."
Daryl glances at me. "You caught that, didn't you?"
I give a nod as Daryl sends another death glare to Shane, then turns to Rick. His voice cracks as he says, "Just tell me where he is, so I can go get him."
"He'll show you," Lori says.
Rick nods. "I'm going back."
"Then you won't be goin' alone," Daryl says, then walks off before anyone can say anything. Glenn, knowing the streets, volunteers to go with them. T-Dog, who feels like it's only right that he goes as well, joins them at the back of the cube van about ten minutes later. I walk over to say goodbye, deciding not to go with them. Daryl pulls me into a quick hug, kissing my forehead and saying, "I'll be back."
"Enough with you quotin' the classics," I say, then grin as I add, "I know."
"Ooh," Daryl says, catching my Star Wars reference. "Nice one."
"Ford always gets a pass," I say, turning away from him and facing Glenn. "Stay safe, will you?"
"Clary, I'm going into a city infested by the undead to rescue your crackpot brother with a pair of bolt cutters," Glenn deadpans, holding up the tool they're borrowing from Dale. "Nothing is safe."
"Well, then don't get bit," I say. I glance over at Daryl, who is now out of earshot. I look back up at Glenn, saying, "He'll do anything to get Merle back. You know that, right? Keep an eye on him for me, will you? And make sure they both come back in one piece. You, too."
"You got it," Glenn says. He looks over at the car, where Dale and a former mechanic, Jim, are currently stripping the car we stole. "Make sure they don't fully destroy her?"
"I think they already have," I say, taking another look at it. I look back up at him. "We'll steal another one day. One that's cooler."
"Promise?" Glenn inquires, grinning.
"I know how to hotwire," I confirm. I glance at Daryl, then to Glenn. "You better get goin'. He's gettin' impatient. Impatient Daryl is not a very good Daryl to be around."
Just as I say that, Daryl presses his foot against the horn, sounding it. He shouts to the others, "Come on! Let's go already!"
Glenn looks at me, impressed that I knew it was coming. He climbs up in the cube van with Daryl, taking the passenger seat while Rick slides behind the wheel. T-Dog joins Daryl in the back, and my brother nods once as he closes the door. I step back as they drive away, and Carl comes over, followed closely by Carol and Sophia. "Hey, you okay?" Carl asks. "Looks like you took a hard hit back there."
"I'm good," I say, turning to look at him. "I've had worse. It's nothin', really."
Carol frowns as I say that, and I lean away from Carl as he reaches to move my hair out of my face, looking at the bruise that I know is already starting to form. "I'm fine, Carl," I say, then glance down the cliff to the crystal blue water below. "Lake?"
He nods once, going to tell his mom that he'll be down at the lake if she needs him. Sophia looks up at Carol, who nods before she can ask. I give a small smile to Carol. The woman is afraid of her own shadow, but she'll still do whatever to protect her daughter. "I'll race you guy down," I say as we start down the path. "First one there wins."
We all line up, Carl grinning at Sophia and I. I wink at Sophia, then nod once towards Carl, and she seems to understand. "Ready," she starts.
"Set," Carl adds.
"Go," I say, and with that, we take off.
That evening, I sit next to Carl around the main fire, still grinning. He wears different clothes than he was wearing earlier, before our trip down to the lake. He thought that he was the victor, but, well, Sophia and I had other plans. The look on his face when we pushed him in was priceless. It was one of those times that I wish I still had a phone that worked so I could have taken a picture of it. "I'll get you back," Carl says, looking over at me. "I will be avenged."
"Keep tellin' yourself that," I challenge. "I'm much to fast for you."
"I think I can keep up."
I look over at him. "You better run, Grimes."
"I intend to," he replies, and we both blush, glancing away. Lori says something to him that I don't quite catch, and he shakes his head. "No, she won't."
Curious as I am, I turn my attention to the group as Morales asks Dale about why he turns his watch every day, at the exact same time. It just so happens that I'm more curious about why Dale turns his watch every day like a "village priest saying mass" than about what Lori and Carl are talking about. "I've wondered this myself," Jacqui adds, and we all nod our agreement.
"I'm missing the point," Dale says.
"Unless I've misread the signs, the world seems to have come to an end," I say, then shrug. "But, you know, maybe I'm wrong about that."
Lori chuckles as Jacqui adds, "It's, at least, hit a speed bump for a good long while."
"But there's you, ever day, winding that stupid watch," Morales says.
"Time," Dale says. "It's important to keep track, isn't it? The days, at least." Dale turns to Andrea. "Don't you think, Andrea? Back me up here." Andrea says nothing, simply taking a swig of beer. Dale turns back to the rest of us. "I like what, um, the father said to the son when he gave him a watch that had been handed down through the generations."
"'And shepherd we shall be?'" I inquire, automatically thinking of the "family prayer" from The Boondock Saints. Morales chuckles, obviously understanding the reference.
"What?" Dale inquires. "No. He said, 'I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire which will fit your individual needs no better than it did mine or my father's before me. I give it to you, not that so you may remember time, but so you may forget it for a moment, now and then, and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.'"
We're all silent following Dale's speech, and Amy breaks it by saying, "You are so weird."
The Morales family chuckles, and Dale says, "It's not me. It's Faulkner. William Faulkner. Maybe my bad paraphrasing."
We go back to eating the fish that Andrea and Amy caught, talking quietly amongst ourselves. Suddenly, Amy lets out an ear-piercing scream. We turn to see a walker biting her arm, and I drop my plate, drawing my knife as I say, "Oh, shit!"
People start screaming as more walkers surround us. Yes, that is totally gonna help. Fan-friggin-tastic job, guys. Lori and Carl take cover, and Shane pushes me down next to them. He begins firing at the walkers taking over the camp. I quickly notice that more of the survivors are being killed by the dead than the ones surviving them.
I notice a walker stumbling towards Morales from behind, and shout, "'ales, get down!"
He ducks without waiting for an explanation, and I throw my knife. It hits its target, and the walker goes down. Morales gives me a nod of thanks, and I feel a living hand in mine. I turn to see Carol taking my hand, pulling me with her, Sophia, Lori, and Carl as they make their way towards the RV, Shane covering them. She releases her hold on my hand as soon as she sees that I'm coming with them. Shane barks orders to the survivors, ordering them to make their way towards the RV.
A walker that Shane missed and I didn't see is almost on me. I shriek in surprise as it grabs my arm, trying to pull away. I feel another hand on my arm, this one living, and realize that it belongs to none other than Carl Grimes. He tries to pull me back, and the walker tries to pull me towards it. Even with two people pulling away, the walker isn't letting go. I catch a glimpse of a knife handle protruding from the back of its skull, and it drops to the ground. Off balance from trying to pull away, I fall back into Carl. He wraps his arms around me, breathing a sigh of relief. I look down towards the walker, and see Daryl behind it. He threw the knife. He's the only other person that knows how to. "Daryl!" I cry, staring down at him.
The group that went into Atlanta is back. They take down the remaining walkers, and the corpses grow still once again. The way they should be. Daryl drops his crossbow as soon as it's over, and I run down to him, leaping over a walker body or two on my way down. He picks me up, spinning around once so he doesn't fall over, while I bury my face in his neck. "I can't leave you alone for six hours," he says, his humor dry. "Dear Lord, Clary."
"Never goes well, does it?" I reply as he sets me down. I glance around him for our older brother, then up at him. "Where's Merle?"
Daryl pauses for a moment. "We couldn't find him, Clary."