I went with my fingers through the hairs on my chin, also known as a beard. I barely remember what I look like underneath all that hair. I can't even remember the last time I looked at my own reflection, but I can imagine how I look. Dirty. Pale. Underfed, maybe. Tired. Because that is exactly how I feel. I would give up anything for a good night of sleep. Well, not everything. But I would happily sacrifice a breakfast or two if it granted me some rest. I try, I really do. But I always find myself wandering through the corridors. I stare at every stain, every crack in the wall, till the sun interrupts the darkness and scares away the shadows of the night.
Apparently exhaustion makes me poetic. Not a good sign.
With one hand under my head I look up to the upper bed. As if a cell wasn't enough, the bunker bed makes it feel like a cage even more. Even though we started replacing the gates with curtains, the feeling is still there. It doesn't even feel like a bed. Even after a couple months, my body still expects a hard, cold floor to rest upon, instead of a mattress.
When I think about it, it might not be such a bad thing after all. There is always the possibility of us having to live out on the road again, if this place falls. That is an 'if'. A big 'if'. An 'if' I want to prevent at all costs, because that uncertainty could lead to my children's deaths…
I close my eyes, forcing that thought out of my mind. It's these kinds of things that keep me awake at night, and leave me exhausted during the day. Like now.
The 'if' keeps getting more likely to happen; there are too many factors that make this place unstable as a community. First, of course, there is Vicky. I owe her not only my life, but also Daryl's, Hershel's and both his daughters', Glenn…Judith's. And whether I like it or not, she did help Carl too. I…no, we are too deep in debt and she knows it. As long as it's not paid off, there's nothing I can do against her. There are already so many wrongs in this world. Forcing her away from us, or the old-fashioned 'getting rid of'….doing that only proves I have completely lost that little humanity I have left inside of me.
It would die with her.
It would prove her point.
I would turn myself into him.
After this great dilemma, there is also the disappearances of not only Calvin, but also Carol. We'd been looking all day, all night. This prison can't be that massive, yet we were not able to find a single clue. His little brother's whereabouts remaining unknown, Daniel started to freak out. Hershel had to give him some pills to calm him down. Katy, Vicky's niece, claims her psycho relative doesn't know anything. The thought of her being involved in this didn't even cross my mind. She does not particularly like Carl, but she wouldn't dare to hurt Calvin, nor Carol. The people closest to Vicky all agree on that, except Daniel, who's just looking for something or someone to blame. And right now, his former friend seems to be the best option. Unfortunately, these accusations towards the very well-known red-haired weirdo cause quite some disturbances among the people who are not so familiar with her. People are scared and worried. They keep their children close to themselves and look around anxiously, even though we locked Vicky up. We might have to move her away, or sooner or later people will start a ruckus over nothing.
Thirdly, there's Will, the psychiatrist. He's been acting strange lately. He might be a little traumatized, after Vicky attacked him, which is understandable. But the way he looks at other people. It's a look that makes me uneasy and is almost scarily familiar. Big eyes, not seeing much yet seeing everything. Eyes that want to capture every movement, like a surveillance camera. Small pupils. Dark circles. He's starting to look like the person he tried to help.
Lastly; Philip. The Governor. Maybe some survivors from Woodbury we were not able to bring here. They might feel some grudge against us. Who knows what they'll do. What they dare to do.
Philip, on the other hand…I am almost certain that if he gets the chance to bring us down, he will definitely do so. If he is still alive, that is. Another uncertainty. Another 'if'.
I open my eyes again. I should go up, help Daryl look for Vinnie and Carol. He probably didn't catch any sleep last night. He insisted we kept looking, even though the majority of the corridors are dark at night. Corridors we were not yet able to lit up. At this point he doesn't care in what condition he has to search. He just wants to find them.
I manage to sit up in the bed, and when I'm about to stand up, I hear a voice scream my name.
"Rick!" It's Glenn. I hear his hasty footsteps coming my way, so I dash out the cell to meet him.
"What's wrong?" I ask, when I see his pale face.
"There's smoke rising behind block D. Someone lit some papers on fire. Behind Glenn I see Hershel coming into the cellblock. "Tyrese and some others are trying to put it out, but it's only getting worse."
I look at Hershel. The old man already guesses what I'm about to ask. "We've already evacuated both C and D. Judith's with Carol."
"Good" I nod, while I step back into my cell, grabbing my gun. "Glenn, you come with me. Hershel, send Daryl my way, if you happen to come across him."
"Oh, shit" I gasp when we get to the scene. It's even worse than I thought. Smoke black as night is filling the narrow hall, which used to be deserted. We hadn't had the chance to clean it up after what happened with the walkers during Vicky's trial.
I hold up the fire extinguisher and hold the lever down. More smoke rises up as the extinguish fluid reaches the flames. Rick runs in with another extinguisher and goes to the other side, so we're able to close in on the fire. Tyrese appears out of the smoke, a napkin over his nose and mouth. Leaning against him struggles Daniel, coughing heavily. A few others lean against the walls, breathing for air.
Rick opens the emergency exit, in order for the smoke to make its way outside.
The danger seemed to be just as easy to annihilate as it was able to arise. I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand, and throw the heavy extinguisher away. As I try to sit down against the wall, Daryl dashes in, his face tensed.
"Sorry man" I pant, "you just missed it."
"Everyone alright?" Rick asks, looking around. A few hold their thumbs up, others just groan as an answer. Tyrese pats Daniel on the back, who seems to be more affected by the fire than others.
Daryl nods towards Rick as he walks in, waving the smoke from his eyes. I see him kneeling down in front of the spot where the flames were burning just a minute ago.
"He got here first" Tyrese explains. "Tried to put it out with some wet towels and water, but the guy who lit it must've used some kind of oil."
Dan just nods in agreement, and coughs again. Rick kneels next to the teenager, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Did you see who it was?"
Dan shakes his head. "All I saw was smoke. There was no one here."
"Was there something on the papers, maybe? Something written?"
"I…I think so" Dan manages to say. "Some antique handwriting. I couldn't read it though."
Rick turns his head to Tyrese. "Did you see anything else?"
The man shakes his head. "Nothing unusual besides the flames. But the bastard who did it must've disabled the-"
There's a quick shriek sound and the next thing we know there's water pouring down from the ceiling. The smoke detectors are finally waking up.
"You gotta be joking" Dan snaps annoyed.
"Well, at least it's still working" Rick says with a little sarcastic tone in his voice. Despite the situation, I can't help but to grin a little. The water feels nice on my skin, just like rain. Tyrese chuckles and shakes his head. For a moment, we're all just relieved the panic's over, even though the real problem hasn't yet arisen.
"Got any idea who this might be?" Daryl suddenly asks. He's kneeling next to the still smoking ashes, investigating the scene. I stand up to get a better view at what he's pointing at, and I feel my heart drop as the ashes deform from a pile of nothing to a corpse.
Dan puts his hand over his mouth, desperately trying not to puke. Tyrese gets a disgusted look on his face.
"You hear any screams?" Daryl asks. Dan shakes his head.
"But there was no growling either" Tyrese adds. The thought of he burnt corpse being a person makes it even worse.
"No screams means he was already dead when the fire was lit" Rick states, holding a napkin over his nose.
"It's a 'he'?" Dan asks.
"Yeah, but not your brother" Daryl mumbles, taking a closer look, while the others step back. "It's a grown man, going by the body type. In his thirties maybe."
"You think it's the psychologist?" I ask, remembering the man going by the name of Will. The cranes seem to be out of water as the indoor pouring stops coming down on us. Daryl stands up, shrugging water off his jacket.
"Not impossible. He's been gone for quite a while."
"Do you think he's murdered?" Dan asks, fear in his voice.
"Let's not jump to any conclusions" Rick says, even though it's obvious who the main suspect is. "Let's just clean this mess up, then we'll start asking questions."
"It stopped" I whisper, squeezing Carol's wet sleeve.
"Yes, it has" she answers softly.
"What do you think happened?"
I feel Carol shrug her shoulders. "Maybe one of the girls tried to cook, but it didn't work out the way they wanted."
I nod. That could be it. The thought of cooking makes me hungry, and I feel my tummy grumble. I don't remember the last time I ate.
"We'll get out of here" Carol suddenly says. "I promise. I'll get you out, and make sure that man never hurts you ever again."
She gently tightens her grip around me and I feel her lips pressing against my head, like my mom would do when I was little. "I promise."
This has gone on too far. That idiot keeps messing up, and I'm done playing the good guy. I know she's behind all this. And if she won't come clean, I'll beat it out of her.
I dash into the cellblock where we put her, locked up and away from others. I cannot yet see the particular cell itself, but I already know she's not there. It's too quiet. There's no singing, no drabbles, nor the sound of someone sleeping.
I can't help but to go see it for myself. Nonetheless, I'm right.
"Stupid bitch" I grumble. The bed's made up, the papers that form her diary nicely sorted on the ground, a pile for each day. The clothes she wore the other day lay folded on a chair next to the bed.
I slam my fist against the bars. She's not making this any easier. Where the hell would she be?
Furious as can be, I want to leave the block immediately, when I realise something. The kid, Dan, said something about antique handwriting on the papers that were burnt. My memories of Vicky's 'handwriting' recalls only sketchy signs and random drawings of cupcakes.
I turn around, back to the cell. I look at the last pile of written pages. The opposite of antique, of course. Squeezing my arm through the bars, I grab the top one of the last pile. Trying to decipher is a useless effort, and I can confirm with one look that this isn't what Daniel meant.
This does not prove her innocence, though. She might not have used her own writings as burning material, but someone else's. The guy had a notebook with him all the time.
The cruelty of burning a man in his own notes seems to fit her mind nicely.