Playing With Fire

Chapter Ten

Merle

I heard the voices first. Low, buzzin' sounds that were supposed to be words, but it took a long second for my brain to make sense of 'em.

"Looks like he's starting to wake up."

It could tell now that it was a woman. Where the hell was I? My eyelids felt like they were glued shut. After a few tries, I finally got them open and blinked in the bright whiteness of the room. Everything came into focus slowly...the empty chair next to me, the ugly ass paintin' on the wall, the IV bag, and the neat lookin' bandages that the stump of my arm was all wrapped up in. I glanced down at my other arm and saw the tube from the IV snakin' out from underneath my skin. I moved to rip it out, but realized I was tied down to the bed. I let out a low growl. What the fuck was all this shit?

"How're you feeling?" A colored woman was strollin' in the room, a clipboard in her hands. I stared at her cautiously, wonderin' if she knew how I got here. The last thing I remembered was takin' a rest in a bathtub in some old, rickety lookin' farmhouse.

"I'd be a lot better if I wasn't tied to this fuckin' bed." I said through gritted teeth as I tugged on the straps that were holdin' my arms down.

"We'll get you untied soon enough. It was just a precaution. We had no idea how you might react once you finally woke up." She explained, movin' closer to examin' the IV in my arm.

"Where the hell am I? Is this some sort of god damn hospital?" I questioned, watchin' as she buzzed around me, touchin', pokin', proddin' like I was some sort of animal.

"You're in Woodbury." She answered matter of factly, as if this one fuckin' word was supposed to answer all my questions.

"That don't help, woman." I said, glarin' at her in her fancy lookin' white doctor coat.

She perked a single eyebrow at me while she checked my blood pressure before givin' me an answer. "It's a town. The Governor picked you up. I'm sure he will explain everything when he gets here. Can you tell me anything you remember before you woke up?" She asked, not even botherin' to even explain any of this.

I shrugged, startin' to feel a little pissed off. I still had no idea where the hell 'Woodbury' was. I didn't know who the fuck the Governor was but he sounded like an asshole. And as for this bein' a town? Towns didn't exist anymore. "Ain't much to remember. Wasn't feelin' so hot, took a nap in a house I found. Next thing ya' know, here I am." I gave her a wry smile. I didn't mention to her about how almost the entire time I was out of it, I'd been hallucinatin' about that damn girl from Atlanta. The one with the long legs. Damn. Ain't that a good way to keep a dyin' man occupied.

"Well, you had us worried for a few days but I think you'll be just fine. The Governor asked me to let him know as soon as you were awake. He should be coming by soon." She said. "You need anything, just holler." I watched as she retreated out of the room and through the wooden door that creaked on its hinges.

I sat back into the pillows, fumin' silently. Bitch hadn't even bothered to unstrap me from this god damn bed. Then there was also the fact that she really hadn't explained much of anything. I squeezed my eyes shut, tryin' to rememeber this so called 'Governor' guy. If he had really picked up me up somewhere out there, I sure as hell didn't remember it happenin'. After layin' down in that tub, things got all foggy. Felt like one long, blurry dream. The only thing I seemed to really remembered was dreamin' up that Atlanta chick, kneelin' down next to me and talkin' to me. No idea what she was sayin'...but suppose it didn't really matter. Guess it made sense my brain had decided to hallucinate her up. She was the last person I had actually seen.

Suddenly, the sound of the door creakin' up again made my eyes shoot open. I looked up just in time to see man walkin' inside, smilin' at me all good-naturedly and such.

"You the Governor?" I sneered.

"That'd be me." He answered, pulling up a chair close to the bedside.

"You gonna explain to me what the hell is goin' on? How the hell I ended up here?"

He stared back at me calmly, folding his arms across his chest. "I'd be happy to untie you, just as long as you keep your cool."

"For Christ's sake, man, just do it." I snapped back at him. "I ain't goin' nowhere. Least not right now."

He got up after a long moment, no doubt internally debating whether or not I'd kill him once he got those straps off, and untied one before walkin' around to the other side of the bed to free my arm from the other. He sat back down afterwards, while I stretched my arms, rubbin' the sore spots left from where the straps had been diggin' into my skin.

"You look much better than you did when we first brought you in. You were almost half-dead. Didn't think you'd make it." He commented, leanin' back in the chair.

"Yeah, well, ain't nothin' can kill Merle but Merle." I said, tuggin' the IV from my arm.

"The doc said you were curious about Woodbury."

I glanced over at him. "Your little town? Just find it hard to believe, that's all."

"I get it, civilization is supposedly dead." He said, shruggin' his shoulders. "I just found a way to start rebuildin' it. It's safe here. People can have lives here. We have schools, libraries, jobs...an army. People have purpose."

I shook my head, still tryin' to wrap my mind around the idea. I had made myself believe that none of that shit was possible anymore. That the world as we knew it was long dead and gone. "That sounds nice and all, Gov, but my purpose right is to get the fuck outta' here and find my brother."

I watched as his lips were pulled up in a smile. One that look a little too forced for my tastes, but he didn't give me much time to think about it. "Got family still out there. I understand. I respect that." He stood up from the chair, the legs scrapin' against the tiled floor. He crossed the room, pullin' back the blinds on the one square winow and lookin' out. "I'm just gonna cut to the chase here, Mr..." He paused and turned to look back at me expectantly. It took me a second to realize he stopped because he was searchin' for my name.

I cleared my throat. "Dixon. Merle Dixon." I drawled.

"Mr. Dixon." He finished pleasantly before turnin' back to the window. "We need more men like you here in Woodbury. You're strong, tough. I could tell that right away. Most people don't have the damn guts to do what it takes to survive in this world. Most people don't have what it takes to come back from what you did. You a military man, Mr. Dixon?"

"Merle." I corrected him with a growl. That Mr. Dixon shit wasn't gonna cut it with me ever. "Spent a few years servin' my country before my honorable discharge." When I punched that god damn pussy officer right in his mouth. I felt my lips tuggin' upwards in a gleeful smirk.

The Governor nodded at his spot in front of the window before turnin' back around and leanin' his shoulder against the wall. "I thought so. We don't have very many military men here. I need someone who knows combat. Someone who's not afraid to do the dirty work from time to time." He said slowly. "I don't do this often, but I'm offerin' you a deal. You stay in Woodbury for a while, help out then I'll help you look for your brother. I'll assemble the search party myself, all my best men to help you. I think we both can agree you wouldn't have much luck out there lookin' on your own."

I looked at him, narrowin' my eyes. He stared back just as calm as ever, waitin' on my answer. I didn't know if I could trust him or not which bothered the hell outta me. Usually I could get a pretty good feelin' about a person. Could tell whether or not they were full of shit. Not with him, though. I licked my lips and opened my mouth, ready to say no but stopped. It was naggin' at me how right he was. I know I could find Daryl on my own. That wasn't a fuckin' question. I was a damn good tracker. But it'd go a lot quicker if I had other guys out there lookin' too. I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against the pillow. "You got a deal, Governor."

I heard his footsteps comin' closer before I felt his hand clap on my shoulder. "Good man, Merle, good man."

I opened my eyes just as his hand left my shoulder. "Just don't forget your parta the deal." I said.

He shook his head. "You have my word, Merle. Tomorrow we'll get you set up in a place to live. Let you get used to Woodbury and all healed up before we get you workin'." He gave me another one of his phony smiles. "Your woman has sure been a big help 'round here, too. Bein' a doctor and all."

I felt my eyebrows knit closer together, feelin' mighty confused by this little statement. "Woman?" I questioned. "I ain't got a woman, Governor. Think I'd know if I did."

"You really don't remember, do you?" The governor said, soundin' amused almost. "Her name's Harlow. Said she met you briefly before findin' you half-dead a day later. She was draggin' you around, lookin' for antibiotics, when I was lucky enough to find ya'll."

I shook my head, diggin' deep in every single corner of my mind and trying to pull up anything that would help me remember whatever the hell chick he was talkin' about. I didn't remember too much from when I was out of it...just bits and pieces of things that made no sense. I didn't recall ever meetin' a Harlow...unless. Nah, it was crazy. But still...unless he was talkin' 'bout that chick who pulled the gun on me right before I left the city. Which meant that maybe I hadn't been hallucinatin' her up all the other times.

I thought real hard on the one coherent thought I had before I woke up. Lyin' in a bathtub with a woman kneelin' over me, blurred 'round the edges but solid enough to recognize with her dark hair and pretty face. Holy fuckin' shit. I could have sworn I was dreamin' the whole thing up. That sweet lil' thing had actually been there afterall. "Jesus Christ." I muttered, rubbin' my hand over my stubbled face.

"You rememberin' now?" The Governor asked. "Wasn't surprised you didn't at first. You were in and out of consciousness for days apparently. Harlow's been stoppin' by to check in on you for the past week. I'll let her know you're finally awake. Have her stop by." He said before turnin' and headin' back towards the door to the room. "Keep restin', Merle. I'll need you in tip top shape as soon as possible." Then, he was outta the room and the wooden door was swingin' closed behind him.

Damn, things changed faster than the blink of an eye anymore. One minute I'm handcuffed to a blazin' hot roof left for dead, and the next I'm sittin' pretty in some fancy little town with some son of a bitch who called himself the fuckin' Governor. Then there was that chick to think about. Never thought I'd see her again, yet by some crazy, fucked up turn of events she ended up playin' doctor with ole' Merle on his deathbed. She was probably gonna stroll on in her expectin' some sort of thank you. Some sort of grand gesture that proved I was glad she hadn't left me to die. Well, I wasn't so sure I could do that. That would mean admittin' I hadn't been tough enough to save myself.

"God damn it." I growled, shakin' my head. The thing was, though, deep down somewhere I knew I sure as hell was glad that hot headed lil' chick had found me when she did. I just wasn't sure those words I could ever say out loud.



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