We've searched this goddamn hut for too long, without success. There's simply no sign of Vicky. Wait, that's not true. Every little shit in this cottage is screaming her name. Problem is; the shits aren't warm anymore. The crazy teenager is at least one hour ahead of us.
I'm pissed. I'm really pissed. I got no trouble hanging out with my brother, but not accomplishing what I set out to do…I do got trouble with that.
From the corner of my eye, I see Merle quickly wipe something of a table. I turn around, and nod towards him.
"What did yah find?"
Merle turns towards me, showing no emotion. "This."
He holds up a knife, with the blade cleaned and sharped perfectly. "Is it hers?"
Merle shrugs. "Could be."
I take one last look around, and swear. "Well, this was fucking useless!"
"Hey, bro, a little optimism ain't hurtin' anybody" Merle says, looking at the knife. "Take a look outside, maybe the trail continues."
"Or not" I mumble, but I do turn around to walk back outside. But on my way, something weird catches my eye. There's a paper on the ground, folded, stuck under a closet. I don't know why I haven't seen it yet, but now that I do, I have the urge to find out what is says. It's a really weird place to hide a paper. Or maybe it ended up there on purpose.
I just kneel down in front of it, and free the small paper. There's been written on it, and my heart skips a beat when I recognize the handwriting.
"What did yah find?" Merle now asks me. I quickly look over the page.
"What the hell…"
"What? What is it?" Merle asks curiously, while stepping towards me. I'm almost at the last sentence, after that the rest of the paper is ripped off, as if it was supposed to continue.
"What am I doing here?"
Merle then grabs the paper out of my hands. "What does it say? Some suicide letter?"
I stand up, and watch his face while he reads the whole journal. He then looks up, and shakes his head.
"I'm not believin' it."
I frown. "Why not? You think she lay it down for us to find it?"
"Yeah, I think that. She's smarter than she looks."
I shake my head. "Not that smart. I've seen this handwriting before, in her diary."
Merle chuckles. "You read a girl's diary? Man, you must've been bored!"
"That's not the point" I say, getting a little annoyed.
"Then what is?"
"Her handwriting changed over time" I explain, but I immediately see that my brother is too stupid to understand. "At the start of this whole thing, she had a normal handwriting, but over time, when she got more…like she is right now, it changed. You can barely read the things she writes down now. This handwriting is the one she used before she went crazy."
Merle shakes his head, laughing like it's very funny. "How are you so sure it's hers?"
I point with my finger on the paper. "Because she's referring to the night when her mother died, in a car accident."
"And that's how you know it?"
I grunt, and walk past my idiotic brother. On my way outside, I bump my shoulder against his, hoping to let him feel some of the irritation. "Let's just follow the rest of the tracks, and see where we end up."
"Sure, bud, whatever you say."
We indeed find some blood, and footsteps that tell us that she's been running around, stumbling, and once even fell on the ground. Eventually, we get to an open field, surrounded by trees. We both stand still.
"This is where the trail ends" I say, looking around. "See anything strange?"
Merle walks past me, and kneels next to a spot on the ground. "Yeah, car tracks. There must've been a huge car here."
I walk over to him, and look over his shoulder. The grass where the tyres must've been is totally flat, and two paths are leading back into another part of the forest. "They're old, aren't they?"
"Yep" Merle says, while standing up. "They must've taken her about half an hour ago. We can't go any further, unless we get a car over here."
I shake my head. "It's too late for that now."
I look around the open field again, hoping to see any more signs. "Who do you think took her?"
Merle shrugs. "Could be the Governor. Could be somebody else."
I kick a small branch away from my foot. "If the Governor took her, our work here is done."
The feeling of flying above the earth tells me I'm unconscious again. How many times did that happen today? Too many that I can count, probably because I wasn't totally awake most of the times. Very funny.
This doesn't feel like the first time that I woke up. The ground underneath my body doesn't feel like the muddy river bank, or the leafs fallen from trees. The ground beneath me is soft, and I feel comfortable.
If I'm unconscious, but can still think, I might as well think about all that happened today. First; I woke up in a forest, as if I walked into a wardrobe and ended up in the magical land we always dreamed of as a kid. Then, I was attacked by a mermaid-main that wanted to eat me. Then, I walked through the cool but creepy forest and found a cottage that is nothing alike the house made of candy. I surely weren't thinking straight, because I took drugs…. And I ended up somewhere in the forest, still wounded, found a pirate and passed out again.
Now, I seem to hear voices. Again. I heard them before, when I walked through the forest. It seemed then like they were trying to tell me something. Now, they sound more real. As if there are actually people nearby, having a conversation.
They start to sound more clearly by the second, and I can make out the words that are spoken.
"Can't….I don't think….her…" That's one voice, but there's another.
"Trust me…what I'm doing….following the plan…" I recognize this voice as the one I heard before I passed out. I try to focus, to hear more fragments from whatever they're talking about.
"…send her in….those people…."
"But how….will she do what we ask her?"
"Of course she will. We'll make her ready, she'll understand it all."
I try to open my eyes. The first thing I see, is a ceiling. Not from leafs or trees, but a real ceiling of a building. I try to sit up, but the wound on my side prevents me from it. I let out a grunt of pain, and put my hand on the wound. I feel a bandage is put over it, but the bullet's still in there.
"Wow, relax,." The last voice is close now. I blink my eyes, and the sight becomes less blurry. I can see the man with the eye patch. He softly pushes me back on the bed. "You shouldn't be moving so much this quickly. C'mon, I'll help you sit."
He puts the pillow vertical, so I can lay my back against it. He helps me lay down. I bite my lip, trying not to scream of the pain.
"So, that's better, isn't it?" he asks nicely. I nod, and try to smile.
"Thanks" I manage to say. "Where am I?"
The man that helped me, grabs a chair from nearby, and sits down next to the bed I'm lying in. "You're in a safe haven. We took you in, and took care of you."
I hear a disagreeing snort, and look up. There's another man in the room. He looks a bit like a Latino, and has a disgraceful expression on his face, and his arms crossed over his chest.
Eye patch-guy lays a hand on mine. "Don't mind him. He's not used to new people."
I turn towards the pirate. "Who are you?"
"My name is Peter" he says without hesitation. He points over his shoulder to the other man. "This is Martinez. And what's your name?"
I open my mouth to answer, but close it again. I try to think real hard, hoping I still remember. "I think it's Victoria, or something. A little old fashioned."
Peter grins. "How about Vicky? That's not so old fashioned, is it?"
I think about it for a second. It sounds good. "Yeah, I kinda like it."
I look down at my own body, to the bandage. It still aces like a bitch. "Do you know what happened to me?"
Peter looks at Martinez for a moment, and then answers. "We hoped you could tell us. You were injured pretty bad. Have you got any idea who did this to you?"
I clear my throat. "I…I don't know. All I remember, is getting in the car with my mom…I don't remember going to some place like this."
Peter narrows his eyes, and nods slowly. "Do you know where you are? I mean, which state, which country…"
"To be honest…I don't know anything for sure anymore."
"Well, then I think it will be weird for you to hear that you're in Georgia….close to Atlanta, to be exactly."
I blink with my eyes, and suddenly feel very cold. "What? You're kidding, right? That's not true. I live in San Francisco, with my mom. Unless….she wanted to bring me to my dad."
"Your dad?" asks Peter.
"Yeah, he lives in Atlanta, at least, he did the last time I heard from him." And then it seems clear to me. I know what I have to do. I sit up, ignoring the pain. "I have to go find him. Maybe he can tell me what happened, and bring me back."
Peter stands up, and pushes me back into the pillow. "No, I don't think that's a smart idea…"
"Why not? I can do it by myself. Do you have a phone? I can call him, and tell him-"
"No!" Peter says with a loud voice. It scares the hell out of me and I crawl back. He then smiles. "I'm sorry, I mean that you can't go, because it's dangerous. A lot is going on out there."
I don't understand anything he's saying right now. "What do you mean?"
Peter sits down again, and leans with his elbow on the side of the bed. "You've probably seen some weird people in the forest, haven't you? People walking slowly, stumbling, groaning, reaching out with their arms for you, and they smell real bad."
"Uh..yes, I've seen them." O god, I have a bad feeling about this.
"Well…those aren't people any more. They're more like….monsters. We call them biters, or walkers. They used to be human, but they got infected. In fact, we're all infected. Once you die, you become like them. Or you can get bit, or scratched, and then you turn."
I shake my head. "You're making this up. That's bullshit."
Peter shrugs. "I wish it is. But it isn't. You've seen them yourself, haven't you? They're very dangerous to us, they want to take a bite. Literally. The only way to beat them, is by injuring them in the head. The brains, to be exactly. But don't underestimate them. Once they're in a group, they can be very dangerous. We call them herds. Many people died and became walkers during such an attack. Not many people survived. Only a few, like us."
I run with my hand through my hair. "Are you serious? This can't be happening. My dad…I have to find him!"
Peter lays a hand on my shoulder. "Relax, you will. I think I know how I can help you."
"How?" I ask quickly, sitting up to fast. I taste iron as I bite my lip.
"There is a group like us, not far away from here. They can tell you what happened in the city, or to your father. But…it's dangerous. Those people…they might think you are someone else."
"There once was a girl, who looked almost exactly alike you. But she was different. She was mad, crazy. She once belonged to that group, but they killed her off. You have to convince them you are not her."
I shake my head. "What if they don't believe me? What if they kill me too?"
"They won't. You're badly injured. They'll take you in, take care of you. I'm sure they will." He stands up. "I'll go make everything ready for you to go."
He turns his back on me to walk to the door, but then stops and turns around. "Oh, one more thing. They might tell all sorts of stories about me. They like to call me 'The Governor', as an insult. All those things they say about me; those are all lies. Do not believe any of them."
I pull my knees up my chest. "OK. I'll try my best. But will you help me if they hurt me?"
Peter takes a step towards the bed, and smiles warmly. "Of course I will. In fact, I'll check up on you every once in a while, and you can tell me how it's going on in there."
"What do you think is going on in there?" the dark haired boy asks me. I shrug.
"Dunno. Not sure if I want to."
Daniel leans against a car, playing with a knife in his hands. I look at him, tip toe. He keeps looking in the direction of Carl, who keeps walking down the street.
"Feel like avenging?" I ask. He turns his head.
I nod towards the knife in his hand. "You seem like you're on a killing trip."
Daniel looks at the knife, and quickly puts it away. "No, I'm not like that. I was just…thinking."
I cross my arms over my chest. "About what? That kid shooting your girlfriend."
"She's NOT my girlfriend" he says, and looks at Carl again. "And I sure as hell wasn't think about killing him."
I glance at him, shaking my head. "Well, you better go talk to him. You shouldn't keep it all in. If you do, you'll explode. Trust me, I know."
Daniel frowns. "What do you want me to say? 'Hey Carl, just want to tell you about how much I not appreciate you shooting Vicky'."
I shrug. "It's a start."
Daniel sighs, and looks away.
"Why do you care so much about that girl anyway?" I ask. "She pretty much betrayed you, but you still have feelings for her."
Daniel opens his mouth to say that's not true, but then closes it. He seems to realize that he can't fight something that's too obvious. He sighs again.
"I don't know. I just…know she's not like everybody says she is. I know she really cares about me, and Vinnie, and the others. She even wouldn't want to see you get killed. I know she likes to tease people, and enjoys to see them think about the weird theories of hers, but she'll give her life for any of us."
I nod. "Even Carl?"
"Even Carl" he says with a little disgust.
"If you truly believe that, you should honour it. Keep that thought in mind. Go talk to Carl, and quit pouting. And show me that you're not the pussy I think you are."
He chuckles at the last sentence, but then sees my face. I'm not joking. He nods. "OK, I'll go talk to him. But you keep watch, and warn me if anything happens in there."
"Yes sir" I say with a slight smile. Daniel steps away from the car, and walks over to Carl. I see him calling Carl, and they start talking to each other. Carl sometimes looks at the ground, as if he's ashamed, but Daniel pats him on the shoulder.
When I look at the spot where Daniel just leaned against the car, I see his knife. I smile.
"Man, I should've become a therapist."
I throw away the pencil. Another one is broken. I should've asked Daniel to bring some.
"Hey Vinnie" Beth says, coming from one of the cells. She holds Judith, the baby.
"Hello" I say, trying out another pencil. It's not the colour I wanted, but it looks like it. Beth sits down on the steps of the stairs.
I shrug. "Just something. I want to give it to Danny for when he comes back."
Judith coughs softly, and I look up. I still can't believe that a baby is so small. I mean, she's like a dwarf, but she can't walk. Or talk. And she doesn't have a pointy hat, or lives in a mine.
Beth sees that I am staring at the baby. "Would you like to hold her?"
I shake my head. "No. I don't think I can."
"Of course you can. She's not that heavy. I'll help you."
I look at the baby, and it almost looks like she's staring back. "OK."
I stand up, and sit down next to Beth. With both her hands, she lifts Judith up. I make a circle of my arms, like I've seen Carol and Beth do. Beth softly lays Judith in them.
"That's wasn't that hard, was it?" she asks. Judith didn't even seem to notice that I am not Beth.
"Are you her mom?" I ask. Beth giggles, like the girls from my class and shakes her head.
"No, I'm more like her babysitter."
"Where is her mom then?"
Beth sighs. "Her mom is not here anymore."
"Like my mom?"
Beth nods. "Yes."
I look at Judith. "But that's not fair. She's a baby, she needs a mom."
Beth shrugs, and softly lifts Judith a little higher in my arms. "Sometimes, things are not fair. We can't really do anything about it. We just have to make the best of it with what we do have."
"Do you have a mom?" I ask her, but she shakes her head.
"But I do have a father. And a sister."
"I have a brother, and a sister. But I don't think Vicky wants to be my sister anymore."
Beth doesn't answer, but stares at her knees. So I look back at Judith, who's making a funny sound with her mouth. I softly touch her nose with the tip of my finger, and she blinks with her eyes.
"That's funny" I say, and I look at Beth, but she's not paying attention.
Then, there are footsteps of people walking into the prison. I see Daryl, the man I don't like with the crossbow, and Merle. Beth quickly stands up.
"And?" she asks them. Daryl shakes his head, and walks towards one of the cells. Merle disappears to a different place. Rick told me not to go there, because that's where Merle sleeps.
Beth walks towards the cell where Daryl is in. "What happened? Did you find anything?"
Daryl looks over Beth's shoulder at me, and whispers something back. It seems to shock Beth very much, and she whispers something back.
I look at Judith. "Grownups are annoying, right? They always talk about boring stuff."
Judith softly groans, so I guess she agrees.
"We're not very different, are we?" I ask her. "They all want to take care of us, and never tell us anything. But I guess that's OK."
Judith extends her baby arm and touches my cheek.
"Too bad you can't talk" I sigh. "If you could, we could play together. It's really boring without my friends here. Or my brother. But he'll come back soon. Have you met him? I think you'd like him. I do."
Judith lets out a yawn. I think she's tired.
"Beth" I call, and she quickly turns around. Her face is a little pale, and her eyes are widened. "I think Judith needs to go to bed."
Beth lets out a deep breath, as if she just had a very exciting moment, and it just passed. She walks towards me. "Of course, I'll take her."
She picks Judith up. I wave at her before Beth takes her into her sleep-cell. I then see Daryl is still standing where he last stood. He looks at me, and I don't like it. He then turns around, and I can't see him anymore.
I stop the car. "This is it. You can walk from here."
Vicky looks out the window. "You sure they'll let me in?"
"Of course they do" I say, trying my best to sound assuring. She asked this over and over again, and it's getting on my nerves. "Just, go out. It'll be fine."
She turns towards me. "OK. Thank you, for everything."
I nod. "Of course. And don't forget; the day after tomorrow, I'll meet you at the east side of the prison."
"Yes, I won't forget." Finally, she opens the door, and steps out. She still has a lot of pain because of the wound, but she keeps strong. She waves at me, before turning her back on me and walking into the direction of the prison.
Martinez steps out of the other car, and walks over to my window. I roll it down. "What?"
He looks at the red haired girl disappearing between the trees, and shakes his head. "I'm still not buying it, man. Just because the local nerd pours a pair of scissors in her head doesn't mean she's lost her memories."
"Show some respect for Milton" I say. "He knows more than any of you. Me and him can confirm the whole story."
"How?" he asks.
"You remember I told you to wait by the cars while me and Milton where following the trail she left?"
He nods. "Yeah, so?"
"We found a small hut, probably from some hunter. She had rested there for a couple of hours, and wrote notes to herself. Journals, saying that she doesn't remember anything from the moment that she got in the car with her mom."
"What if she put them there on purpose?" Martinez asks sceptical. I open search through one of the bags I brought with, and hand over the thing I was looking for.
Martinez looks at the small book. "What's this?"
"Her diary" I explain. "Now tell me, who would throw that around for anyone to find?"
Martinez opens it, and reads the first page. "This is from before the walkers."
"Yes, just a few days. And it can tell us everything about Rick and his people."
"Then why sent her in? And isn't it possible for her to regain her memories being around those people?"
"I sent her in because I know she won't be coming out. And she won't regain those memories, because the diary is the only thing capable of that."
Martinez frowns, too stupid to understand. I sigh.
"Milton and I found those notes in the hut. Writing is the only thing that helps her. To calm down, to think, so it will be the only thing helping her remember."
"So, you wanna go in and check it out?" Carl asks. I nod.
"Sure do. Gotta find Vinnie some pencils, I'm sure he'll love it."
We're standing in front of my house. It looks a lot different than I remember it. I see the door's been kicked in more than once, as if people kept repairing it, and using my home as theirs for some time. I don't mind, we did the same in the worst times.
I walk onto the porch, and look into the house. "Hello?"
No answer. I look over at Carl. He shrugs. "I guess we can go in."
I step over the broken door, holding up a gun. Just in case. My hearts beating very fast, but I don't want to look like a pussy to Carl. I already seem to make that impression on Michonne.
I step into the living room. All drawers and shelves are empty, and the couch is put aside.
I walk towards the wardrobe where my mom used to stall all Vinnie's drawing equipment.
Carl comes in too. "It hasn't changed a bit in here. If you don't look at the things people have changed in here."
I chuckle. "I bet your house looks just like this."
Opening a box full of pencils and chalks, I hear Carl sigh. "Probably."
Carl picks up a chair, and sits down. I grab an etui and put some of the pencils and chalks in there.
"What were you doing in that bar?" I ask after a while. Carl doesn't answer at first, but then lets out a breath.
"I wanted to look for the gun…but there was also a picture hanging above the bar. A picture of me, my dad and my mom. It's for Judy."
I glance over my shoulder. "That's brave of you."
He shrugs. "I just think she should know what her mom looks like."
I close the etui, and stand up. "I wish I had any pictures of my parents. I mean, I still have that sketch, but a picture…"
"It makes it more real" Carl says. I nod. Then, we hear the sound of a car. I walk towards a window, and look between the curtains. It's the green Hyundai.
"It's time to go."
We make our way outside, where Rick and Michonne are waiting for us in the car. I hold the etui close to me, as I step into the back. Rick starts the car without saying anything. When we start to go faster, I hear some rumbling in the cargo space. Maybe Rick did manage to get the guns.
It's a silent drive, with nothing special happening. I'm quite happy with that, knowing what happened on our way towards the town.
Vinnie is jumping on his feet as we drive onto the courtyard of the prison. As soon as I set foot on the ground, he jumps in my arms. "Whoa, missed me?"
"I'm just happy to see you."
"Hey, I got a present for you." I still have the etui in my hand, behind my back. Vinnie lifts his eyebrows.
"Well, what is it?"
I show him the etui, and he widens his eyes. "My stuff! Where did you get it?"
"Where do you think?"
He grabs it out of my hands, and opens it. "I need these colours! Thank you so much!"
"You're welcome, bud."
I rub hand in his hair, and go to help Rick with the gear. Daryl comes out of the prison to help to, and together we take the stash inside. When I go for another round, I see some movement from the corner of my eye. Something colourful is nearing the prison.
I walk towards the fence, and narrow my eyes.
"Dan?" Rick calls. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know…maybe you should come look…"
Rick comes to stand next to me, and watches the figure getting closer. "Shit…"
I just want to say that Daryl isn't a pedo. That he stares at Vinnie really creepy, doesn't make him a perv. (I kinda had that feeling writing that part)