The first thing I notice when we gather, is that Carol is not here. She could be late, of course, but it's not like Carol to come late. It's more something for Daryl to do.
And he does, again. He's the last one to come in, and he closes the door behind him. I feel uncomfortable, meeting like this. These people are my family, of course, but having a gathering like this, we kind of make ourselves an elite group within the prison community. Only we know that there I someone from the inside who caused the walker-attack two days ago. We've told everyone it was because they broke down the fence. Many of the older men ones could see through the lie, but understood that saying that out loud was not a good idea. They were smart keeping their mouths shut.
This time, we decided to gather in a boiler room, close to the place where the trial had taken place. Rick had put a table in the room, and was now leaning on it with both his hands. He looks around real quick, and notices that Carol is missing. Daniel too, but he's already made it clear that he thinks our speculations are ridiculous.
"So, what have we found out so far?" Rick asks to begin. "Me and the others who investigated the halls near the broken wall, haven't found much. Just…" He goes with his hand to his back pocket. He pulls out a rag, and lays it down on the table. There's blood on it. Rick nods to it. "We think it's a piece of a shirt or other clothing. Anyone recognize it?"
Maggie leans forward to take a better look, but shakes her head. "It's definitely a shirt, but don't know from who."
"Could be from the kid" Daryl mumbles. "It looks too clean to be a walker's."
"We did find another body" Glenn quickly says, as if he doesn't want to think the inevitable. It could be Vinnie's. "From someone who got bit not long ago."
"I'm just saying, man" Daryl shrugs. I see Rick biting the insides of his cheeks.
"What did you find, Daryl?"
Daryl crosses his arms. "Not much. I went to repair that wall in a proper way, not with just a fence over the hole."
"Anything from Vicky?" Rick asks with a sharp tongue. Daryl lifts an eyebrow slightly.
"Actually, yeah. I asked if she knew anything 'bout it. She said it 'wasn't her style'."
From the corner of my eye I see Glenn bow his head and Daryl puts on a 'told you so'-face. Rick is not amused, and turns to me. "What about the wounded?"
"So far so good" I say, trying to sound optimistic. "No lives in danger at the moment, medically speaking."
"That's good" Rick sighs, as if he needed some good news. He straightens his back. "Sasha?"
"For as far as I know, no one really knows what is going on, and I think we should keep it that way. I'm just worried that-…Well, the kid's older brother. Do you think he'll be a problem?"
"Daniel's been wandering around by himself" Maggie says, "I haven't seen him talk to anybody, not even Katy."
"Vicky's niece, right?" Tyreese asks, and glances at his sister. "Is she OK? I mean, with Vicky acting like this all the time…must be hard on her."
"Don't worry 'bout that" Daryl smirks. "That girl has locked up all emotions. Can't read nothing on her."
"How's her…mental state?" Sasha asks carefully.
"Stable" I say with a smile. "She's not like Vicky, if that was what you were trying to say."
"I didn't mean to-" Sasha starts, but she doesn't go further. "Anyway, Tyreese has a point. It's possible Daniel has leaked some information over to her."
"Well, we can't lock her up, can we?" Glenn says. "The people who don't know the situation will start to feel uncomfortable if we lock away every person that knows too much."
I nod. "Glenn is right. The point of this whole try was to show everyone that we won't become another Woodbury. We would be doing the opposite if we start prisoning people. We should handle the situation like it is now, and just trust that the people who know can understand that we will handle it. If we lock people up, we'll lose their trust."
"But if Daniel starts spoiling, we've lost them too" Sasha points out. "They won't accept that we've kept things from them."
"I think Hershel's right" Rick says, placing a hand in his side. "We're not locking up anyone else, except for the person who broke the wall. Let's just…keep looking."
I stare at the ceiling. There a burning marks on the stone. The inmate that had lay here before me must've been a smoker or something. Maybe into drugs. Wouldn't surprise me.
I carefully touch the dark circle the smoke made on the ceiling, and follow it's movement. The stone feels cold, which is a little weird when thinking this black spot used to be a fire.
A tear rolls from the corner of my eye, and follows a path towards my ear, onto the pillow my head rests on. I don't know why I'm crying.
It's really weird. I do not cry with any sound, just tears rolling down my face. Just like that. I do feel a pain in my chest, but I don't cry about pain. Not physical pain. Not anymore. They say it's the wounds you can't see that hurt the most. 'They' are right.
At the beginning of the outbreak, when I was still with my mother, I had jumped down a two storey building and hurt my foot. The pain was awful, but I couldn't just lay there. The very reason I jumped out was to run away as quick as I could. There were walkers already following me by 'jumping' down too. One fell on his head and his skull basically exploded. More were coming, and I had to hurry to get back to the hideout. So I got back on my feet and started running. The pain was like hell, but if I decided to stop I would've been dead. So I kept running, with tears in my eyes. Going out on my own wasn't a good idea at all.
At that moment, I thought that there could not possibly be something else that hurt so much as my foot. How was I ever so wrong. Nothing compares to the pain of losing a loved one. Nothing. I learned that after my mom died. The pain was something I had never felt before. I could not move, eat, sleep, talk. Just stare at the blood on my hands.
The pain was overwhelming. Whatever I tried to distract myself, it kept coming back eventually. Till I decided that I did not need the pain. It didn't give me any strength or any luck. The only way I could survive was to shut it down. To bury it deep. To push it away. I wasn't planning on dying any time soon, so I found my own ways of surviving.
I had lived like this for a long time, not thinking about the past, but only about the future. I joined several groups in order to survive, but never stayed long. Many of them must be dead right now. Another reason to travel quickly. Don't get to know anyone. Don't start to care. In the end, you're all alone anyway.
I was fine with living like this. It was my way of living in this stupid world. I hoped I could die like the person I was then. But everything changed when Vicky came back into my life. My beloved niece.
Everything started coming back; the worries, the pain, the stress, the memories, and most of all; the fear. Vicky had awakened the old me that I had tried so hard to keep hidden. She only had to call my name to make that happen. Every day, I had seen new faces, faces I tried to forget as soon as I had seen them. Then suddenly, there was the familiar one that would always haunt my memories.
After the trial, I hoped that I could go back to the person I liked. That I could go back to being silent, watching everyone closely but never talk much. To just hide every emotion, forget all about the pain, and move on when people start noticing me. Because no matter how much that girl looks like my niece, she never will be her. The Vicky I know is gone. She has completely disappeared. I don't believe that my sweet niece is still in there. It's not possible.
This Vicky I met attacks people, talks about castles and princesses, blowing stuff up and terrorises people by saying things like her plans to kill everyone with a huge firework. It should've been easy for me to just move on, because my niece is not really here. It's just like any other group I joined; I don't know anyone and just go along as long as people don't talk to me.
But there's something wrong. I'm not glad that my niece is gone. I'm not relieved that I can move on because I don't care about her. It's not that I don't care about her. Because I do.
I swing my legs over the side of the bunker bed, and jump down. How hard I try, I can't push it away. Not like before. Now that the feelings are back, I can't hide them anymore.
I walk out of my cell, and make my way over to the exit of the cellblock. I've seen how Vicky acts around this place. The people despise her, they're afraid of her. They keep their children close when someone says her name. They look around anxiously when someone has said anything bad about her. They never laugh when she is the subject of the conversation. Vicky is like a horror story around here. And there are lots of speculations after what happened at the trial.
I take a flashlight from the table next to a long corridor. Since this one doesn't have any lights, we walk through it with flashlights. I don't know where they've locked her up, but I'm sure I'll find her.
For as far as the happening at the trial goes; I don't think it was Vicky. She seemed to enjoy irritating the judge so much. And when the attack happened, she only frowned. It's not like she jumped right in to help either. She just seemed…surprised. Just like anybody else.
When I tried to Daniel this, he got mad. "You don't know anything about her! You haven't seen her like I do!"
I tried not to argue with him, but I ended up doing that a little. "How can you say that? She's my damn niece, for crying out loud!"
"Who've you've seen for the first time in years!" Daniel shouted back. He ended up dashing out in madness. I haven't seen him since then, and I didn't feel like looking for him. His brother is still missing, I get that. It's sad and all, but that doesn't give him the right to blame Vicky for it. And besides; he was the one who failed to look after his little brother. He blames someone else for his own mistakes.
I keep walking down the hall, not really thinking about where I'm going. The flashlight flickers a few times, and I'm scared it'll die out before I've gone into a brighter area. The next door is the F-block. I quickly go in before the flashlight really dies. Great. Now how am I going to get back?
"Katy?" a voice suddenly calls my name. I freeze, and the flashlight slips through my fingers. It falls on the ground with a thud. I don't pick it up, afraid to move. I only look with my eyes, not turning my head. The floor of the cellblock is covered in blood, as if a huge massacre has taken place not long ago. The cells are all wide open, with exception of one. Behind the bars sits Vicky, with a bright smile on her face. "Katy! So, you've finally come to visit me! How exciting!"
I slowly turn around to face her, scared for the pain and lost memories to come back. For the first time, I look straight at my niece, and she looks back at me. For the first time in forever, I can look her in the eyes. Then it hits me. Her eyes. They're as blue as ever, but this time, they really see me. Not like the other times, when she just recognized my face and called my name. Now she really sees me. I just can't describe it, but this feeling comes over me that makes the pain drift off like it was nothing. For the first time in forever, I really, really feel something.
Vicky smiles. A real smile. She reaches out with her arm to me. "Come here. Come closer."
With my knees shaking, I make my way over to her. I kneel down in front of the bars. Our faces are really close to each other. I can see every spot on her face, every little curl in her cheek when she smiles at me.
"It's really you" I gasp. Vicky takes my hand in hers.
"Of course it's me, silly," she says, almost with her own voice. There's still something different about her, but it's close enough for me. "I may not look like it, but I'm still your big niece. Me being the Muffin Queen doesn't change anything."
"The…Muffin Queen?" I ask, and Vicky nods confidently.
"Yes, I am the ruler of Muffinland. You are now in my temporary palace. It's OK, you can stay here, because you're a royal too now. But the others…well, that is gonna be a problem. They arrived here as guests, but they're trying to take over the palace. It's very complicated. But the real problem is, well, I have to get back to Muffinland, because they've been without a queen for some time. All my people must be very scared that I've disappeared without a trace-"
"Wha-…what are you talking about?" I ask, really confused. Vicky lets go of my hand and instead ruffs my hair.
"Oh, you! I'll explain later. Maybe you're too young to understand. Two years can make a big difference, you know."
"Vicky…I don't understand…" I stutter. I thought she was joking. But her face is dead serious. She actually believes she is the Muffin Queen of Muffinland. She has made it her mission to find that place and rule over it.
She continues babbling on about it, but I can't listen to it. I'm stuck in my own realization.
She's actually gone.
She's gone totally insane.
Why? Why did this happen? The only person I'm not afraid to remember the face of has gone mad. How long till she starts to hallucinate? Or maybe dementia? How about that?
I stare at the girl in front of me, who's now talking about how to make a muffin of dead people. I don't even care anymore. My niece is gone.
I suddenly feel angry. I make fists of my hands and squeeze real hard. It's not fair. It's so not fair. Why has she done this to herself? How could she? How could she do this to me?
My hands start shaking, and without me having the control to stop it, I raise my arm. I contract my muscles, and suddenly my fists shoots forward and hits Vicky's cheek. My niece falls on her back by surprise. She quickly sits up again, and holds her hand against the place I just punched her. She looks confused.
"Hey, that's not nice! I was talking! If you wanna have a fight, you could ask any time. I don't mind."
"Shut UP!" I scream, and jump on my feet. Vicky frowns.
"There's no need for shouting, you know. I'm not deaf."
"Christ, just….listen, please!" I beg her, and she finally shuts her mouth. I take a deep breath, feeling my eyes tearing up. Then I start talking. "You gotta snap out of it, okay? This is not you. This is not my cousin I love and care about. You've gone completely insane. I can't recognize you anymore. You're scaring me. And I'm not the only one who's afraid of you. Everyone in this prison is scared of you. Don't you get it? You're becoming a monster! Please, can you just….just come back, ok? I know you're still in there somewhere, even though I still have to believe it myself, but something tells me that the Vicky I know isn't gone. I've met so many people over the year, and I forget all their faces. I wanted to do that to this place to, forget all about it. But you're here. And you were the first face I could remember. And I want to keep remembering you. I want to stay with you. For as far as I know, we're the only ones of our family still alive. We have to stay together. Please, try to come back. I need you, more than ever."
Vicky slowly crawls towards the bars. She looks up to me, and a sad smile appears on her face. "Katy…I'm sorry. This is just the way I am now. I can't change who I am, but I'll try to be the niece you know. I'll be your niece forever. Wait, since we're the only members of our family left, we'll might as well call ourselves sisters. Who cares?"
I kneel down in front of her. "What happened, Vick? How did you…"
She shrugs sadly. "I just couldn't do it. I just couldn't handle. I was too weak, so I had to change in order to survive."
That sounds very familiar to me. "Oh, Vicky…We all had to change ourselves in order to cope with this whole end-of-the-world-thing, I had too. But…this is what you've come up with?"
"We all deal with problems in our own way. I just so happened to pick the other approach. But I'll be your sister, alright. Don't worry about that. But you have to promise me one thing."
I lift an eyebrow. "What?"
Vicky's eyes sparkle mysteriously. "You have to come with me to Muffinland."
I roll with my eyes. "O, brother."
I open my eyes, but I can't keep them open for long. My eyelids feel really heavy, as if they want me to close my eyes again.
I try to sit, because I'm lying on the ground. My head hurts, and my chest too.
I look around, but I can't see anything. It's very dark in here. Where am I?
I stand up, and bump my head into the ceiling. This must be a very small place.
I try to remember what happened. Lizzie came up with a plan for The Thing. I went down a long slide. I fell on the ground. There was a walker. He tried to bite me. But then he was suddenly pulled away by someone. I heard a loud disgusting crack, and suddenly someone had grabbed my arm. It was a man. He dragged me down the hall. I tried to see his face, but it was too dark to see.
He opened a door and pushed me inside the room. I fell on the ground, and the man closed the door behind him. I remember nothing after that.
Only screaming. I heard Danny too. And Rick was shouting. I also heard a lot of gunshots. All the sounds I heard sounded far away, as if they were in another room. It stopped after a while, and I got hungry. I remember the man coming into the room, and then there was pain in my head…
I sit down again, afraid I hurt my head even more if I keep standing up. I hope the man doesn't come in again. And I hope everyone's OK. I hope Danny's OK.
I lay down on my belly and start thinking. I have to get out of here, because Mica and Lizzie must be worried. I've been here for way too long, they must be looking for me. I hope the Thing hasn't started yet. I wouldn't want to miss it.
I start crawling forward, afraid of the low ceiling. After a while, I hold up my arm to feel how low it is, but I feel nothing. I sit up, and then stand up. There's nothing above me now. Nothing I can touch. Maybe the ceiling is higher over here.
I keep walking, holding my arms straight in front of me so I won't bump into anything. Finally, I hit a wall. I touch it with both my hands and sigh. At least I've found a wall.
I try to find a door with my hands, like I've seen in a movie. I follow the wall till I feel something cold. It's a metal door. I try to find the knob, but then I hear footsteps.
I stop moving and step back. The man is coming!
I fall back even more, afraid that he will open the door. The footsteps are getting closer and closer. I stumble back in the dark, waving with my arms. I'm trying to find something to hold on to, but I can't find anything.
I hear the man turns the doorknob to open it, and I get really scared. I step back even more, till I bump into something that feels like a table. Was that why the ceiling was so low at first? I don't know. There's a soft click by the door.
I kneel down and crawl under the table to hide. The door swings open, and I can see the shadow of the man. There's someone else with him. He pushes her inside, and she falls on her knees on the ground. The man quickly closes the door again, and I hear him walk away.
The woman is panting, and she sounds like she's hurt. I dare to come a little closer, and I hear her talk softly.
"Ah, shit….Oh, lord…"
I recognize that voice, and come even closer. "Carol?"