I sit down on my bum, and wipe the sweat of my forehead. It's quiet in the prison, there's no sound to be heard. Except for my heavy breathing.
I've just finished my exercises. I don't really like doing them, but it's what keeps me fit. And alive. It's better to be able to run than just to wait for the walkers to come and get you.
I stand up, stretching my legs. I haven't spot a gym in here yet, so I use the space of my cell. I used to do push ups in the cafeteria, but I can't stand Merle's creepy eyes glaring at me.
I must be the first person to be up this early. I don't mind, I can take a walk across the fence, breathe in some fresh ear before breakfast. Hey, I gotta make something of my life here. There are three people who are hated here, and number one is Merle, then Vicky, then me. OK, maybe hate is not the word, but they don't exactly like me.
I kneel down, and reach under my bed for my sword. I like keeping it close. I don't really think of Rick as an assassin, but you never know. Especially after Woodbury.
When I step out of my cell, I almost bump into a red haired girl. I first think it's the same girl that put my sword into a toilet some weeks ago, but she's not her. She has a different glance in her eyes, and her face only says fear. As if she's constantly afraid of something.
"I'm sorry" she quickly apologizes as I step back. "I didn't mean to disturb."
"It's…fine" I say, blinking my eyes. Even her voice sounds different. "What are you doing here?"
Vicky nervously folds her hands together. "Look…I know I haven't been the most polite to you before…and I thought…well, I owe you an apology."
"You already apologized" I say, trying to pass her, but she stops me.
"No, I mean, a real apology" she says, almost begging me. "Let's take a walk, OK? C'mon."
She grabs my arm, and drags me along with her. Before we reach the door to the dark halls of the prison, I manage to free myself.
"Hold on, where are we going?"
Vicky holds open the door, and blinks patiently with her eyes. "O, it's not far. I want to show you something. I found it somewhere, I'm sure you'll love it."
I narrow my eyes at the girl, trying to make it sound tempting. But I don't feel the urge to go along with her. I just want to finish my walk along the fence, and eat my breakfast. And just survive another day.
Vicky sees me thinking, and points at my sword. "You can keep that with you, if that makes you feel comfortable."
I stare at her for a few seconds, and then step towards the hall. A smile brightens her face.
"Great! Follow me!"
She basically runs into the darkness, and I spot some of her previous enthusiasm. The girl she was before is still in there somewhere, hidden under the skin of a fearful grey mouse.
"How far is it?" I ask after a while. Vicky holds in a few steps so that she's walking next to me.
"It's just around this corridor" she says with a smile.
"What is it you want to show me so badly?" I ask, and I see her smile crack a little, but she quickly puts another over it. That's when I know there's something not right here.
"I can't tell you. It's a surprise."
I shake my head. How could I be so blind? Of course this is a trap. I pull out my sword, and point it at her throat. She gasps shocked, and holds up her hands in the air. Her eyes are pure innocence, but I know a liar when I see one.
"Where are you leading me to?" I ask angrily. She quickly shakes her head.
"I can't tell you" she says, her voice an octave higher than usual. I chuckle.
"And I'm just supposed to believe that?"
"That was kinda the plan" a manly voice from behind me says. I don't even have to glance over my shoulder to know who this is.
"Merle" I grunt.
"That's right" he says. "Now, if you mind lowerin' yer pointy stick, we can get to business."
I hear the soft click of a gun, and feel the barrel against the back of my head. I grunt, and drop my arm, but keep hold of the sword. I contract all the muscles in my body, because now I have the chance to quickly turn around, and get rid of this man.
I'm about to pull this off, when the barrel of the gun hits the back of my head, and everything turns black in front of my eyes.
When I wake up, I sit straight up. By the feeling of warmth on my skin, I know I'm outside. I try to locate myself, but it's impossible to see through the bag that's pulled over my head.
I try to move my arms, but their bound together with some kind of sharp rope.
"Hey, Merle!" I hear a girly voice shout. Ugh, Vicky. "I think she's awake."
I hear a chuckle of the man, and a second later I'm pulled up my feet. Merle gives me a push in my back, forcing me to walk.
"Is that bag really necessary?" I hear Vicky say from my right. I hear a snort coming from my left.
"Trust me, it is. Jus' a little further, then it's safe enough to let her open her eyes fully."
For some time, it stays silent, and we're just walking. By the feel of it, I assume we're walking on a stoned road. Asphalt, I think. So we're a little further away from the prison, because the paths where we drive the cars on are not as flat as these. How long was I out? And hour? 30 minutes? 15? 10?
Suddenly, Merle pulls at my arm to stop. He roughly pulls the bag from my head, and I blink against the bright sunlight.
When I look around, I see we're indeed a long way from the prison. In fact, we're near to…Woodbury.
"Yeah, sweetheart" Merle says, as he sees me looking. "Rick made a deal with the Governor."
I look at him, and he has a satisfying grin on his face. "C'mon, keep walkin'."
I walk over the courtyard. Walkers are stumbling close to the fence as I pass by them. I sometimes forget about them. Once you get used to something, you'll just forget about it. When that something is there every day, every time you go outside, every time you go inside, everywhere you go, it sorta becomes part of you. Of this place. I'll probably think it's weird when they're all gone one day. Not that I expect it will ever happen. Maybe they'll starve to death someday. Maybe not. They could just stay the demons ruining our lives for the rest of our days.
There's a bunch of trash, a pile against the wall. I kneel down, scavenging through it like a rat for food. But I'm not looking for food. I'm looking for rope, maybe wire.
There's a blue USB wire lying there. I pick it up, put it around my wrist, testing it. I guess this will do.
I sigh, and bow my head. I can't believe what I've become. I'm about to deliver a woman to our enemy. Because it's the easiest thing to do. I have this crazy idea that giving the Governor Michonne will solve all our problems. But I don't know if the idea is really that crazy. It sounds so tempting, and I just hope it's true.
I look up, and spot something from the corner of my eye. Or rather, someone. I gasp.
"You're not there" I mumble, more to myself than to her. The sun makes her silhouette even more terrifying then it already is. This time, she's not wearing the dress she wore the day we told each other we would stay together till death. She's wearing the clothes she wore when she died.
"She's not there" I say again, bowing my head. I hope it's true, but when I look up again, she's still there. Her brown eyes look right at me, through me. They're questioning me. Is this the right thing to do?
I close my eyes, and rub with my fingers over my nose. I don't know.
I suddenly remember something. Something Michonne told me. She told me, that she kept seeing her dead boyfriend the first days he died. She said she still does sometimes. She said that they'll be there, but they'll go away after a while. If you like it or not. But you have to let go sometime.
When I open my eyes, and look up to the same spot, Lori is gone. As if she left, when I asked her to.
I stand up, dropping the USB wire. With a complacent pace, I walk back to the cellblock.
As soon as I enter, Hershel stands up from a metal table, closing a bible. Maggie and Beth both just leave. I bet they've just said a prayer.
"Rick, what you're about to do-" Hershel starts, but cut him off.
"I'm not going to" I say, and I pass him. I need to find Merle. I hope it's not too late.
I run through the part where we separated our 'guests' from the others.
"Merle!" I shout, but I do not get an answer. From no one. I quickly think of other places he could be. Cellblock D, where he searched for drugs in mattresses. I make my way over there, but theirs is no soul.
"Shit" I say. I gotta find Daryl. He must know where his brother is hiding this time. Last time I saw the youngest brother, was on the courtyard. So the courtyard it is.
"Daryl" I call, when I step into the sunlight again. Daryl throws away a cigarette, and flats it with his foot. "It's off. We'll take our chances."
There's not a lot of emotion on my friend's face, but after knowing him for so long, I can tell he's happy with it. "Didn't say it was the wrong call, but this sure is the right."
"I only can't find Merle" I say, and I see Daryl shares my worry. He nods towards a side door of the prison building.
"C'mon" he says, and I follow him inside. Daryl leads me to a work shop, with all kinds of tools, like hammers, crowbars, saws and things. He walks to the back, certain of his case.
"Last time I saw him, he was in here, lookin' for drugs." When we go around a corner, we see a handkerchief on the floor. "Yeah, he took her here."
"Ah, shit" I grunt. I look up, to see another exit. He must've gone through there. "I'll go after him."
Daryl quickly stands up. "No. You don' know shit of tracking. I'll go."
He walks past me, stopping me from getting out. He looks into my eyes. "And when I come back, you need to be ready. You and your family."
I swallow a lump down my throat, and nod. With that, Daryl leaves. For a second, I don't know what to do. I stand there, lost in my own thoughts. I need to get me and my family ready. For war.
I make my way back to the cellblock, and immediately Daniel walks up to me. His little brother follows him and stays close to him.
"Rick! I can't find Vicky anywhere!"
I quickly turn my head, and grab the boy's shoulder. "Vicky?! When was the last time you saw her?"
"Yesterday" he stutters. "I saw her yesterday. We…didn't really go our separate ways like friends do, and I wanted to make it up to her, but I can't find her anywhere…"
"She's gone" Beth says, coming out of the cellblock with Judith in her arms. Her green eyes are looking sad, as if she lost a friend. "She said she wanted to leave in a few days. I didn't think she would go this soon."
"Damn it" I grunt, bowing my head in frustration. It all fits the puzzle. And it's even worse than I thought.
"And why are you doing this?" Michonne asks the red haired girl. Vicky looks at me with her big eyes, like I can give her an answer. I shrug. I'm not her daddy. Find your own words.
"I…There are people I care about in that prison too" she says, with a little hesitation. Michonne nods her head, not impressed.
We're nearing some kind of café, and I spot a car we maybe could use. Just a little old tricking, and we'll be on our way to Woodbury.
"Who do you care about, then?" Michonne continues to ask. "I know Merle has his brother, but you? Is it that blue eyed boy? What's his name?"
"Daniel" Vicky answers, with red cheeks. Michonne laughs, and I roll my eyes. Girl talk.
"I see. So you think delivering one of his friends to the guy who killed his mom will make him love you?"
"Ow, girl, that harsh!" I chuckle, seeing Vicky turn her head away in shame. Michonne turns to me with narrowed eyes. She ain't forgot about me.
"The same counts for you."
I shrug, not really impressed by the words. We're nearing the café, and I bind miss Sword to a pole with the wire.
"Keep an eye on her, woul' yah?" I say to Vicky, who's trying to stay at least three feet away from her. "Good girl."
I walk to the car, and pull the satellite from the front, like I did a thousand times. I manage to push it between the window and the roof of the car, and with a trick I did countless times, I unlock the door.
I glare over my shoulder, and I chuckle when I see Vicky's jaw dropped.
"C'mon, don' tell me you did worse things."
"I didn't do things like that!" she responds indignantly. But when she catches Michonne's eyes looking at her, she quickly shuts her mouth.
I shake my head, as I lay down on the seats. I move under the wheel, and pull out the wires. Just a little this and that, and this car will be running smoothly…
"Shit!" I say, as the car alarm goes off. I quickly pull out another wire, trying to make it stop.
"Merle!" Vicky shouts, panicking. "Turn it off!"
"Workin' on it!" I shout back. Fuck, this alarm is to hear from miles around. I can already hear those bastards coming.
"Merle!" Michonne warns, and I hear the moaning coming closer. There's also a yelp, probably from the girl. I manage to lift my head a little, and I see through the window that a walker is close to her. She could easily push him away, and stick a knife in his skull. But all she does, is yelling even louder, like the car alarms isn't enough.
I don't have time to play superman. I go back to the wires, and when I finally manage to sush this baby, a walker tries to take a bite of my leg.
I push it away with my intact arm, my knife stuck in its throat. I give it a kick in the stomach, and grab the woman's sword. With one swing, the head tolls over the ground. I look around, and there are more of them than I thought.
Two are lying dead near Michonne. Vicky is sitting on the ground, knees pulled up to her chest. I don't have time for this shit.
I pull out my gun, and start shooting these bastards, It's not like they haven't hurt the beautiful singing of this cabbie. I don't care if more of them are drawn to here. Let them come. I don't give a shit.
When the road's cleared, I cut Michonne loose. "C'mon, get in!"
Vicky stands up, tracks of tears over her cheeks. She stumbles towards the car, and manages to pull herself in the back. I start the engine, and drive off the parking lot.
I can hear the teen in the back crying softly. Well, she's been pretty useless through all this. Could've pulled this off easily by myself.
But maybe some trauma is good for her. Maybe it'll bring the old her back, and I can finally have some real fun.
"So, this is your thing, uh?" Michonne says suddenly, dragging me out of my thoughts. "Taking out the trash?"
"Don't be too hard on yourself, sweetheart" I say with a little chuckle.
"Rick, the Governor" she continues. "When anyone need to empty their piss pots, you're there."
"They just wanted to get the job done" I say, focusing on the road. Vicky's stopped crying, which means she's listening.
"And you're the right man for it" Michonne says, and I ignore it. She looks over her shoulder to the back seat. "Then why is she here? She's not the girl you wanted to bring along, is she?"
"Don't you worry about her, honey" I assure her. "You better be thinking of what's about to come."
Michonne turns to the front, and watches the road for a while. Vicky manages to pull herself up, and looks through the window, lost in thoughts.
"You know" Michonne starts again. "We could go back. All of us. We could go back, forget about it."
"If you don't stop talkin', I'll cut out that little tongue of yours" I say to her, but she's not afraid of my words.
"If I have to believe you, there are far worse things to come."
I bite at the inside of my mouth. "I can't go back. I can't."
"Neither can I" Vicky suddenly says, with a sad tone. "But she can."
I look at the rear view mirror to the back. Vicky doesn't have half the problems I do. She's doing all drama queen, not knowing shit, but something tells me she's right.
I kick the breaks, and the car stops with the tires scraping over the road. I turn to Michonne, and look her in the eyes while I cut the wires around her wrists loose.
"If you go back, you better be prepared for what comes next."
She looks back, a little confused. I hunch over her, opening the door for her.
"There's something I gotta do on my own" I explain, with a slight glance at Vicky. "Something we gotta do."
With that, I close the car door, and leave her on that road. I can see Michonne stand there for a little while, confused. But then she disappears into the woods, looking for a way back to the prison.
Vicky hunches forward. "So, what's the plan?"
I snort, and grin mysteriously. "You'll see."
I shake my head. "No, that doesn't sound like her. Not at all."
Rick lays one hand on his gun to rest, and looks at me seriously. "How do we know for sure what she's capable of these days? She's a different person now, we don't know her at all."
"It's just not like her" I still say, "she would never do something like that. She would never give someone else up to save…us."
"Why wouldn't she?" Beth asks. "She cares about us, I know she does."
"But do she care about us that much? I don't think so!" I angry stand up from the metal table, and want to walk away. But a small hand grabs mine, holding me to a stop. I look over my shoulder, and see my little brother standing there. His big brown eyes are looking at me fiercely.
"Don't go" he says calmly. I blink with my eyes, confused.
"I'm not going anywhere" I say. Vinnie lets go of my hand, but keeps eying me.
"You're not going after her again" he says, as if he has the power over me to say that. I turn around fully.
"I'm not going to, I promise" I say, and I mean it. No matter how much I care about Vicky, I'll never risk my life for her like that. Not again. "Besides, Daryl is already on his way."
I glance at Rick, who nods. But he doesn't look so happy. I figure he's worried about Michonne. I think we all are. I haven't spoken a lot with this woman, but from the conversation we did have, I know that she doesn't deserve this.
I see it on all the faces. Glenn keeps looking over his shoulder, hoping they'll come back. Maggie holds her since-today-fiancé's hand all the time, and in the other she holds a gun. Carol has her arms folded, with a gun at her belt. Carl keeps his finger on the trigger, his eyes narrowed in the shadow of his head. Hershel has a gun hidden just above the stump where his leg used to be. Even Beth has a knife in her pocket, and keeps one hand close to it.
For the first time, I realize that what Rick said earlier about going to war, is actually happening. We're really at war.
I look at my little brother, who keeps watch over everything I do. I know I really can't leave. If something would happen to Vinnie, I would never forgive myself. My mother gave her life to protect him. I won't make her sacrifice a lost cost.
Rick clears his throat, asking our attention. "What we need to do know, is prepare ourselves. We need to make this place secure. It should be able to hold anything, dead or alive. We need to prepare ourselves for a fight, we need to be able to defend this place. This place, this prison we've been staying in all these weeks. After all we've been through, I think we're allowed to call this place our home. We are going to fight for our home, like we did with the farm, like we did with our camp. No matter the outcome. We'll fight."
I see heads nodding, people feeling the tension, and the urge to go to battle. I look down at Vinnie, and even he is putting his hands on his hips, narrowing his eyes bravely.
I look at Rick, and nod at him. His face stays flat, but I see a grateful twinkle in his eyes. We're ready.
"So, I count to three, 'kay?" Merle says to me, his hand on my arm. My heart is beating so loud I can barely hear anything else, but I just nod. Merle chuckles, and ruffs my hair. "Good girl."
I breathe into my nose, out to my mouth. The walkers are outside the car, slamming their fists against the windows. They're freaking me out. And I'm sure that between now and half an hour, there will be a moment where I wet myself, because what we're about to do is only going to attract more of these creepers. Hmm…creepers. That sounds better in my ears than walkers.
"One….two…." I suddenly realize Merle is counting down. Before I can prepare myself for what's about to come, Merle is at one, and turns up the volume of the radio. Crappy rock music blasts from the car, and creepers will hear this from miles.
Merle pushes me out of the car, the opposite side of where the creepers are. I fall on my knees, while Merle lands in a trained roll over the ground. He does all that with a gun in his arms, while I can't even stand properly on my own feet.
He glances over his shoulder, and nods towards the direction of two gigantic barrels. This area looks like the industry-thing Merle described earlier.
I stay low as I follow him further into a more safer place. When I look over my shoulder, I can see the car rolling through, followed by the walkers who are attracted to the loud music as bees to honey.
Merle points something complicated towards me with his fingers, and I don't understand any of it. He rolls with his eyes, and does it again. I shrug confused. He crawls towards me, and grabs my chin with one hand. He turns my head into the direction he kept pointing at, and I gasps.
Peter. The Governor. They're here.
Merle quickly pulls me down behind the barrel, and lays his finger on his lips. This time, he just whispers to follow me, instead of pretending I'm deaf and do hints. I stay close to him, and try to ignore the loud gunshots and screams as the walkers arrive at where the Governor is.
Merle pushes open a door to a boiler room. He walks to a window, and lays his big machine gun on the windowsill. He closes one eye, and aims with the other.
I cover my ears while he starts shooting, and he smirks when he sees it. "It'll all be over soon, sweetheart."
After a while, the shooting of the men stops. All I hear, is groaning of walkers. I remove my hands from my ears, and sigh relieved. But Merle doesn't share my relief. He only looks up, scanning the area.
"What the…" he mumbles, and then we hear footsteps. They're not close, but in the building. Merle throws his weapon on the ground, and grabs my shoulders. He drags me towards a small locker, and pushes me inside. "Stay here, you hear me? Do not make a sound, do not move."
I nod quickly. Merle closes the locker, and the only light in the small space comes through the keyhole of the broken lock. Merle steps away from the locker, and grabs his gun.
"What are you doing?!" I whisper. "Hide!"
"Shut up" he hisses, and he looks straight at me. The way he looks at me, makes me feel cold. It's not an annoyed look, or sarcastic. Not at all. He looks…desperate. He patronises me. He begs me to shut my damn mouth, because if I don't I'll die.
But what about him?
The footsteps come closer. Merle gives me one warning look, and then faces the man entering the room.
"Merle!" I call as I run between the two gigantic barrels. Where the hell is that piece of shit?
It's freaking me out. Everywhere I look, I see bodies, and I've even seen some come back to live. All that's spooking in my head, is the thought of Merle getting in trouble like that….
I run through the building Rick and the Governor sat in, just two days ago. "Merle?! Where yah at?"
I walk to the back, and kick in a door. It leads to some kind of boiler room. I look around, and notice a pool of blood at my feet. I swallow a lump down my throat, and kneel down to get a better look.
It's still red, which means the blood was from a living person. At the time.
I dip two fingers in the liquid, and rub it between them. It's not warm, neither cold. Between. So the person who this belonged to must be around here somewhere.
I stand up, and follow a trail that leads from the pool. When it ends, I stand in front of locker. The door is completely smashed in, and inside there's more blood. A trail of footsteps leads from there to a door to the outside.
With a heartbeat from here to Tokyo so loud, I follow it. It goes on till the grass outside. I grab my crossbow even stronger, ready to shoot any time.
It leads me back to the place I was at first, but now, there's someone, or something. A walker is hunched over a body, ripping pieces of flesh from the bones.
I freeze at the second I recognize the shirt the bastard is wearing.
"…Merle?" I ask, almost whispering. The walker immediately turns his head, and red green eyes are staring right at me. A piece of flesh is hanging out of the corner of his mouth, still chewing. He growls at me, stumbling over the body towards me.
"Shit!" I say, stepping back. I feel cold inside, as the bastard that used to be my brother nears me, with his knife arm still at him.
I suddenly feel weak. My legs feel like pudding. I drop my crossbow, and grab my knife. As soon as he's close enough, I stab him through the forehead. I know he's dead by the first stab, but I keep on doing the same thing. Over, and over again. Blood is splattering all over the place, but I don't care. I can't stop. I need to continue doing this.
At the end, I fall on my knees, the knife slipping through my fingers. It falls in the ground with a soft thud, but I can't hear a thing through my own sobbing.
Snot and other shit is coming from all kinds of holes and drips down my face. I kick the filthy body, cursing my brother for being so stupid. How could he do this?
"Oh, Dary-doo" I suddenly hear a voice say. I look over my shoulder, and see a red haired teenager standing, leaning with her shoulder against the wall of the boiler building. I blink with my eyes.
"Who else? Your granny?"
I wipe some of the snot of my face, and stumble upon my feet. I look into the blue eyes. There's a fever a like glance in them, the one I always used to.
She shrugs. "Well, yeah. If you like to say it like that. I'd rather say that I've finished my journey, and would like to return to my kingdom. We'll have a huge muffin fest, and we'll let walkers dance through the halls like our little bitches."
I step towards her, not even hearing what she says. She snorts sarcastic. "Man, you look like shit. And you smell like it."
She looks past me, and sighs. "OK, I get it. Seeing your crappy brother as a crappy brother would ruin my day too."
She walks past me, and grabs the knife from the ground I dropped earlier. A walker comes from behind one of the barrels. Without hesitation, Vicky kicks it to the ground and steps it through the eye.
She giggles, as she pulls the knife back. "Look, I've caught an eyeball!"
She grabs it and throws it against one of the barrels. The eye splashes apart, like a water balloon. She giggles again. Then, she pulls the shirt of the walker, and walks to Merle's corpse.
She carefully lays the shirt over his face, like a blanket. She then looks up to me.
"It probably stinks just as much as your jacket, but that doesn't matter, because he's….y'know, dead-y-o. Now, would you accompany me to my palace, stinky knight?"
With a last look at Merle, I grab my crossbow. "Let's get outta here."