"You sure it was them?"
Carl nods. "Pretty sure. This is where I saw them disappear into the forest."
We went out there as soon as Carl came storming in on our conversation. I wonder how long the Woodbury residents will believe that we're just out on a supply run.
"Of course it was her!" Katy snaps. Of course, she insisted on coming, since it concerns her niece. Their family sure has a thing for being dramatic. "There are only two red heads in the area, and one of them is standing right here!"
"And you're both just as loud" Daryl grumbled, pointing his crossbow at a few walkers nearing. He was probably the first one standing up when Carl dropped that particular name.
"I got 'm" Michonne says, taking her katana off her back. I have no idea why she came along.
"Are you sure a search party of this size is necessary?" Sasha asks, pointing her rifle at one of the walker heads. A second later it falls on the ground, its skull split.
She's the only one asked to join.
"Glenn is capable of handling things back home, if that's what you're wondering" I say, more to myself than to her. We might have left too quick. "Besides; we got lots of ground to cover."
"Maybe not" Daryl says, kneeling next to something on the ground. He gestures me to come over. "Take a look at his."
I look over his shoulder, and frown. In the grass and rotten leafs lays a tiny red ball, about the size of the top of an index finger. "Are those what I think they are?"
Michonne glances at the small coloured ball in Daryl's hand. "M&M's, or they used to be."
"Definitely her work" I grumble.
"They're all over the place." Daryl points to another used-to-be candy a few feet further. I look up, spotting a blue, and a little further, a green ball. "She's telling us where to go."
"Could be a trap" Sasha points out. She lets her rifle lean on her shoulder, her face showing nothing but concern.
"Could be anything." I stand up, placing a hand on my gun. I quickly analyse the area. I can hear a few more walkers coming our way. There's candy everywhere, supposedly leading us somewhere. But where? A trap, like Sasha says, or some other place? Splitting up might be our best option, since it's dangerous to be out here with a group this size. The candy is our only lead, we could have two teams circle towards it separately, to make sure it's not something ugly waiting for us at the end.
I sigh, rubbing my eyes. Too many thoughts.
First things first.
I turn to Carl. "You head back to the prison. Tell Glenn to get everyone inside immediately."
Carl nods, which surprises me. No objections whatsoever. Maybe even he can feel the tension of the situation. Or sees the concern dripping from my face. Maybe both.
"I'll go with him" Sasha says. "Just in case."
"Thanks" I nod. I wait for them to be out of hearing range. Carl looks over his shoulder once, with a concerned look in his eyes. I try to crack a smile, but I'm not sure if I'm succeeding.
I turn around to the people remaining here; Katy, Daryl and Michonne, the best fighters in this terrain. I've heard stories about Katy, but I know her niece well. Seems the apple doesn't fall that far from the tree.
"This could get ugly" I say with a shrug.
Daryl snorts. "You'd expect it to be any different? This is her we're talking about."
"My insane niece" Katy mumbles, her eyes yet again hiding behind her red bangs. "She better have a good reason for pulling this kind of shit."
"I doubt it" Michonne sighs.
With every step, it seems I can hear her giggle in my head. She must find it amusing to have us follow her 'candy road'. We're just mere dolls in her game, and I don't like it at all.
After some more quarrelling, it finally quiets down behind me. There are not many disturbances on the way, just a few walkers here and there. Vicky seemed to have placed her candy very carefully, we miss not one of them.
But the further we go into the forest, the harder it seems to spot them. They're placed further apart from each other.
"Seems like she was running short" Daryl states, and I nod.
"Means we're a long way from getting there."
We get to a point where we almost need a binocular to find the next ball. The farther we get, the more I get the feeling we might just end up in the middle of nowhere, and it turns out to be one big prank.
"There" Daryl points after a while. We're standing at the border between the forest and an open farm field. The grass hasn't been cut in seemingly over a year. Its reached over Carl's height, even when he would be wearing his hat.
At the other end of the field, the forest continues, but above the trees a strange looking chimney pops up. It seems oddly out of place, and would look better in surroundings with factories or just plai industrial terrain.
"The path stops here" Katy says. I turn around.
Katy answers by holding up a sign, with sketchy letters saying that the path ends here. When I take a closer look, I see that she even drew a smiley in the corner of the wooden plank.
"Her handy work yet again" Katy says, throwing the improvised sign far into the farm field. "Now what do we do?"
"I'd like to check out that fancy building over there" Daryl says. "There seems to be more to it. Maybe—"
"Daryl! Rick!" Suddenly, a woman's voice sounds, coming from the direction of the chimney. A split second later, a greyish figure comes stumbling through the trees. Daryl immediately holds up his crossbow.
"Wait" I say, pushing his weapon down. "That's…"
Daryl swings his crossbow over his shoulder and starts running towards Carol. She's covered in dust and filth and something that looks like blood. She's holding one hand in the other, the wounded one rolled up in a cloth, with the blood dripping through it.
She falls on her knees, exhausted. "Rick….Rick…."
"What the hell happened to you?" I ask when I stand in front of her. She shakes her head, breathing heavily.
"It was Will…he locked us up..."
"'Us'?" Michonne asks. Carol nods.
"Me and Vinnie. I cut my hand open trying to escape…." Daryl hands her a bottle of water, which she empties in almost one sip.
"Where is he?" I ask when she's finished.
"It was Daniel…and Vicky.
"Vicky?!" Katy cries out. "She was here?!"
Carol nods. "They took him. Vicky told me to follow a path of colours or something…"
So that what it's for. Carol could follow it home, and we could follow it to bring Carol home ourselves.
"Did she say anything else?" Katy asks. Carol doesn't answer right away, as if it's hard to say. She looks at Katy with sad eyes before spitting it out.
"She told me she's not coming back."
"Hello? You there?"
There's a hand waving in front of my face. A smelly hand, that is.
I shake my head, returning my consciousness to its rightful place in my brain. Vicky looks annoyed at me, folding her arms and shaking her head.
"Quit spacing out, will you? It's almost dark. They've probably found Carol already, and they're probably back at the prison, so no one's gonna hear the shot. So chill."
"That's not what I'm worried about right now" I mumble, holding up the gun again. I have my finger on the trigger. Vicky looks at me, her big eyes almost hungry for the bullet. But it's the same every time. As soon as I want to pull my finger back, my hand starts to shake, and I'm unable to control my entire arm.
Vicky drops her head, sighing. "Dude, get your shit together! I've been waiting for this all day. If you can't do it, I'll gladly take the lead."
"Are you guys done already?" Vinnie peeks behind the giant oak I had told him to sit against earlier. He still has his hands over his ears, like I told him too. It shocks me again how pale he is, how big the circles around his eyes are, and how skinny he looks. If that therapist was still alive, I might actually kill him.
"No" I say to Vinnie. "Just…stay there, ok? I'll come and get you when we're finished. It won't take long."
"Don't lie to him, Danny-doo" Vicky smirks. "This is gonna take ages."
"I'm doing my best, ok? Killing of someone you know quite well isn't your everyday job."
Vicky lifts an eyebrow. "Is it too difficult to just say 'friend'? Or am I really just 'someone you know'?"
I drop my arm again, my hand still shaking. "I have to admit; you've saved my life more than once and I am grateful for that…but a friend is someone I can trust with everything, where I go to when I have a problem, who gives me advice, makes me laugh when I need to, who gives me the proper pep talk when I'm held back, who is honest with me…"
Vicky rolls with her eyes in the way that she does. "Damn. Sounds like a hell lot of expectations to live up to. Almost makes me want to die…Hah, get it?"
Again, I look down at the gun in my hand. I can't believe I'm actually doing this. "This is nuts."
"So what? Just get it over with, and we can all walk happily out of here…oh wait. No, that's not possible. Well, unless you miss my brain and I turn into a walker. But I don't think I'll be happy. I wonder if walkers are happy. I've never actually seen one smiling. Or crying. I wonder if they have feelings at all. They do seem angry all the time, though. Like they wanna tear you apart for reading their diary or something. That's what I wanted to do to Daryl in the first place, but then I figured I could make better use of him. I wonder if he followed the path. I would've loved to see that. My own colour road. I got the idea from-"
"…Beg your pardon? You're talking to a noble here. You can't just tell me-"
"Just get out of here. Please." I throw the gun on the ground, or more let it slip through my fingers. "I'm not doing this. Go, and never come back."
Vicky blinks, with a confused frown on her face. "But…I wanted-"
"This is not the way you wanted to die, is it?" I interrupt her, slightly cracking a smile. After a minute, Vicky shakes her head.
"No, it's not. But…I can't go back."
"I'm not telling you to go back to the prison. You can go anywhere you'd like."
Vicky bows her head, her red hair falling in front of her face. With the next things she says, her voice sounds as if her throat is thick.
"I don't know where to go. The prison is all I've known. There's nothing else for me out there. I want to go to Muffinland."
I lift an eyebrow. I had heard her talk things like that before, but never this serious. She sounds like a spoiled child. "Well, you can still go."
She shakes her head. "No. Muffinland isn't a place you can just go to." She points at the gun. It takes me a few moments to understand what she's saying. And when I think I do, I probably don't. She wants me to kill her so she can go to Muffinland.
"I can't do it myself" she adds. "That's not how it works."
This is getting way too weird, and way too complicated.
Will was the one kidnapping both Vinnie and Carol, then sets himself on fire. Vicky escapes the prison to find out where they are, but comes back to get Daniel, who has a gun and is planning on shooting her. No, wait. Vicky wants him to shoot her.
Rick asked me to go find the two boys and the red head in question. He might as well told me to walk around aimlessly, because that's what I ended up doing instead. There are just not enough leads to go on.
Right now, I'm standing at the top of a hill, with a huge oak growing near it. I found some footsteps, which indicate that they'd been standing here for quite a while. Eventually they left, and there's where the problem starts; they went their own ways. The boys in the direction what they probably thought was where the prison is, and Vicky…well, who knows where that idiot is hanging around at the moment.
Of course, the niece insists on going to where Vicky went, but I can't let her go alone. She's the one most likely to get lost, since she's not from here.
Vicky is perfectly capable of handling herself, and the boys are clearly more important, since one of them is about nine years old and hasn't eaten in days. But the bitch with her stupid stick doesn't give a damn about that.
"I'm going, if you like it or not" the girl says again. I shrug.
"Suite yourself. Just now that I won't be there to clean up your mess."
She snorts. "You've made it your mess the second you stepped outside the gate."
I ignore the last few words, pretending to be too busy lighting a cigarette. I honestly don't care if she dies on her dramatic search for her long lost niece.
As it always seems to happen when the psycho red head is involved, things get spiced up. Katy just walked down the hill, and is running right back up.
There was a gunshot, not far from here. I squint my eyes. It's getting dark already and harder to see, but I don't necessarily need my eyes to know where it's coming from.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" I mumble, throwing half a cigarette on the ground. There are more gunshots sounding from the strange looking chimney.
"That has to be her, right?" Katy asks. The gunshots now move inside the building and leave a long echo for an army of walkers to follow.
"Who else?" I mumble as I start running down the hill. Who else would be so stupid to fire a gun in a place like that?
I have no idea where they're coming from, but suddenly the whole forest seems to be moving towards the gunshots. The closer we get to the source, the more walkers we see. They're jumping out of nowhere.
"Holy shit!" Katy cries out as she pierces a walker against a tree. "What the hell is she thinking?"
I almost can't hear her anymore with all the moaning around me. But for some reason, I hear another voice, clearly coming from the building with the chimney.
It's a factory or something. A high, square like structure with a chimney on top. The fences surrounding it are all broken down, and something that looks like a door is wide open, walkers streaming in like water out of a tub.
"…is this just fantasy?"
There it is again. The voice.
"Vicky?!" Katy screams. The girl that always seemed so calm and alert is now losing her mind. Great.
A walker throws itself on top of me, its jaws going up and down in front of my face, as if trying to choke me with its breathe. With little ease I manage to kick the stupid thing in the stomach, then smash its skull in with the end of my crossbow. Right when I'm about make a run for the building, another one grabs my right arm, attempting to take a piece of my shoulder. From my the back pocket of my pants I grab the small handgun I kept there. Not a fan of using it, but not much of a choice here. Besides, it may draw the walkers away from the entrance of the building. With a quick blow through the chin the bastard stops moving.
Grabbing my knife, I grab a fat one and pin it to the ground. With a quick cut I slice open its belly. Oldest trick in the book, but the best.
I don't even bother that the stuff gets all over my hands. Digging in with both is the quickest solution.
When I'm covered in guts, organs and blood and whatever the fatso last ate, I sure as hell smell like one undead bastard.
Looking around, I notice most of the walkers ignore me. Just a few come to close and get their skulls bashed it with care.
"Let's make a run for it!" I shout in the direction I last saw Katy. But the bitch is nowhere to be seen. "Shit."
There's no time to go looking for her if I don't wanna get killed. I dodge another pair of arms, kicking some undead chick in the stomach as I go, trying to make my way towards the building and the psycho inside.
She seems to be out of bullets and now uses her voice to draw her undead friends towards her. I can't believe I'm actually doing this.
The army of walkers gets greater and greater as I near the entrance. An undead wall seems to be surrounding the whole damn thing.
"Carry on….carry ooon…"
If Katy were still here, we might've been able to close up the hole, but now I don't bother trying. Inside the factory it's just as dark as the halls of the prison. With the walkers in here, the tension feels just like the first day. Luckily, the hall only has one direction to follow. As long as I keep the majority of the walkers in front of me, and not in the back, I should be fine. Excluding the ones that have yet to enter the place.
I start shooting one arrow after another, retrieving whenever I can. There's not much time to stick around. There's no place to hide, there's only one straight line ahead. No doors to spare rooms or anything.
"I see a little silhouette of a man…"
I try to follow the singing for as much as possible, but it seems to be coming from everywhere. The only solution seems to be to follow where the walkers are going.
Finally, the hall makes a turn to the left, with a light coming from the next place. I push aside some of the smelly bastards around me. The singing seems to be getting louder.
The light is blinding, and I hold up my arm to protect my eyes.
"Easy come, easy go. Will you let me go?"
When I've adjusted to the brightness, I can see I've arrived in some kind of workplace. There are big machines and a big oven in the right corner. From the ceiling down hang ropes with hooks, probably used for pulling up the finished products, whatever used to be made here.
In the middle of it all, everywhere I can see, there are walkers. If it weren't for my smelly clothes, I would've died already.
"Vicky! Where the hell are you?" I shout. A few walkers turn their heads curiously, but I don't pay attention to it. There's no answer.
A loud, high pitched scream. The walkers in the workplace groan, as if answering to it. There's no sign of the red haired girl anywhere.
"There was nothing left" Daryl ends his story. I place my hand over my mouth in shock, fighting back tears. "Even if she made it out, she didn't leave a path for us to follow this time."
I turn my head towards Katy, who's been staring into nothingness for the past half an hour. Hesitantly, I put one arm around her, attempting to comfort her somehow, but she doesn't respond to it.
"I did find this" Daryl mumbles, searching in the pockets of his jacket. When he holds up his hand, he has a paper between his fingers. "The last page of her diary. It's addressed to all of us."
He carefully lays it down on the table, folding it open as if it's as vulnerable as glass.
Rick picks the paper up with the same care, as if it's a sacred manuscript. He clears his throat, and then starts reading.
Dear everyone (including my diary)
By the time you are reading this….who knows what I might be doing. I don't even know what I'm gonna do. Maybe find a boat and go off on adventures on my own, finding some awesome treasure and fighting dragons.
Maybe I've been eaten by creepers. In that case, my remains will probably be carried around by several walkers to different places (do walkers poop?) I might be guilty of a few killings along the way, since I'll be part of the walker.
Maybe I'll be a walker myself. Perhaps I'll find my way back to the prison. Be sure to cut of my limbs, because I love seeing walkers struggle like that. They seem like angry midgets.
Maybe I've shot myself in the head, since Dan was such a wiz. Then perhaps I'm flying around somewhere, watching the world from above. A little like Big Brother. But more like Big Sister, since I'm a queen and all.
But enough of that. I'll try to be serious for the rest of this letter.
I want to thank you for amusing me and helping me and playing with me and staying with me (although I do not appreciate people taking over my place like it was theirs to begin with, but let's just let bygones be bygones I suppose.)
You have been funny people to hang around with. I do regret not getting to kill some of you (those people know who they are) but that's ok. I'll get their asses when I'm in my walker state.
You people have been really mean to me sometimes. Locking me up for shit I didn't do. Treating me like I need taken care of. Well, I don't think you got the memo, but I'd been doing pretty good on my own before you came to this place and ruined everything.
But I am grateful for that, because it was getting boring.
To end my letter, I'd like to tell everyone something personal:
Maggie and Glenn: Get married already. I wish you the best of luck in your marriage and know that I was your #1 supporter.
Beth: Get a boyfriend so you can double date with your sister. Just be happy.
Carl: Hit puberty, man. Take good care of Judy.
Judith: Take good care of your brother, he can be a real dick sometimes. And your father too.
Rick: Chill and shave. You don't have to do everything yourself.
Hershel: I've always wanted to tell you this; you look like Santa. You're awesome. Sorry for the other day.
Michonne: I love your sword. Please stick it up Philip's ass for me.
Tyrese and Sasha: You still owe me.
Daniel: You're a pussy. Grow some balls and protect your little bro for once.
Carol: She's fine. Get yourself a manicure or something.
Vinnie: Help your brother find his nuts.
Daryl: Go fuck yourself.
And lastly my dear niece: Take good care of my palace. I'm leaving it in your care. See to it that they don't ruin it (again). Be careful. Maybe cut your hair a little. I love you.
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