Today I’m taking a big step in my life. I will be heading down to Florida. I find a map in the second bedroom and spread it out on the table. Thank god the last person circled where we are. Right now I am far south of Atlanta, near a city called Macon. I pack what I have and leave the cottage. Walking on the rail road tracks, I make a list for today.
Find transportation, travel to Macon, find shelter, eat and sleep. A short list, possibly the shortest of all of my previous lists, but I need to check things off for today. Now, transportation. Even though I have two legs, I need something faster. A horse or car would work. As I walk, I come upon a dark tunnel. Only armed with a lighter for light, I walk cautiously with my gun in hand. I come upon a rock pile and a cluster of dead eaters. Someone must have been here earlier.
I climb over the rock pile and procede to exit the tunnel. I smile, spotting the red painted wood of a barn. Swinging by my sides, I cross my fingers, desperatly hoping for a horse. Instead of a brown horse my mind painted, I get a black spotted midget pony. Saddled and everything, I ride out of the barn as fast as the little horse could go. Good thing kit taught me how to read a map.
I go arrive at Macon at sunset. Town shops bare their broken windows at me as I ride along. Sometimes I spot a drifting walker, dazed and standing, waiting for some meat to stroll by. The sun reflect off of jagged pieces of intact metal and glass. I squint, trying to find a place to stay for tonight. I finally find one. A shed shelters the pony right beside the town house, blocking half the alley.
I open a door to a little town store and go up the creaky stairs. I cringe when I reach the top, the last stair groans highly under my foot. I feel the cool metal of a weapon on the back of my neck. The sun is down now and cold air scrapes its sharpened nails down any exposed skin.
“Don’t do anything stupid.” a voice warns me.
The person takes my backpack. I slowly raise my hands in defeat.
“You can turn around now.” the person says.
My backpack has lost it’s arsonal. Shit.
“What’s your name?” they ask coldly.
“Charlotte. I just want shelter for the night. Then I will be out of your hair.” I say, cutting to the chase.
“I have my own food so you won’t have to waste any of yours on me.” I add quickly, spotting glinting metal of knives and guns that peek out of shadows of the spacious landing.
The person, the leader I assume, is a woman with streaks of blonde in her brown curls that spiral down to her shoulders. She tosses my backpack to a shadow and it disappears. I catch a few of the granola bars from my backpack. I murmur a thank you and stuff them in my right pocket, nestled to the switchblade I always carry just in situations like this. Just how Kit taught me, I think to myself.
“You sleep downstairs in the shop, behind the counter. Then in the morning you collect your things and you can go.” she instructs.
“Will everything be in my backpack?” I ask in a cold tone, piercing the shadows with silent warnings.
She looks at the shadows, her eyes cold to the hidden. She nods and points to the stairs. I procede and take my place the cramped place behind the counter, staring at the vacant shelves. I sit up and eat my food slowly, savoring the food while it lasts. Tomorrow I’ll wake up, get my backpack, ride out of this crazy town to Perry which is South west of Macon, stop and clear out a place for shelter.
It takes me about fifteen minutes to walk a mile. There is a distance of miles between Macon and Perry is thirty miles. I calculate mentally and cringe. Almost seven and a half hours to walk.
Good thing I have a horse. I can slash the time in half and spend the rest of my day finding a place to settle for the night. I shift around before falling asleep.
I wake up and go downstairs.
“You're with Grace today.” Dad says after breakfast.
I nod, not talking back. They still are weary about me, a ticking time bomb waiting to explode...again. I need to earn their trust back. Daryl has been out with Maggie trying to track down charlotte. They haven’t come back and we don’t expect them to for a few days. Wes and Grace are a couple now.
Daryl explained what had happened the day Charlotte lost her memory, just a shoulder massage. God, what did Charlotte see in me? Honestly, I’m just another monster too. I grab my hat and gun, walking over to Grace who has a basket in her hand.
“Ready?” she asks, flashing a small grin to me.
I nod. We walk out to the woods. Only the adults can go get water because of Charlotte’s accident last time. As we walk, we talk. I have been paired with grace all week. We have a small flame of friendship growing on the kindle we find together. If we’re lucky, we find a few pinecones. A question she asks stops me in my tracks.
“Did you love her?”
When the last word rolls off her lips, it's like everything in the woods frooze as well as me. I loved her with all my heart. No, love. I love her with all my heart. I will find her even if it’s the last thing I do. A chorus of moans breaks my determinated thoughts. I shoot sharply and they are down in minutes.
“If I had stopped for Chase, I wouldn’t be here.” she confesses quietly.
“She pushed me on. I remember her saying something like she had been in my shoes once.” she adds softly.
“What?” I snap.
Maybe she had a brother or sister. They died. She’s all alone now. God, if only I hadn’t assumed such a stupid thing the day she left.
“Come on, we have enough kindle and pine cones.” Grace says softly, brushing her hand on my shoulder, snapping me out of the trance I was just in.
I nod numbly and walk with her back to base. Wes greets her with a peck. My heart aches for Charlotte. We all walk back into the main room of the base.
“Everyone, this is Gena.” Dad says, introducing the new girl to the rest of the group.
She’s pretty. Blonde hair and blue eyes. She smiles at me and sticks her hand out.
“Call me Gen.” she says.
I don’t accept her hand, but say, “I’m Carl.”
She puts her hand down and moves to Wes and Grace. They all seem to like each other. We all eat supper and head to bed. In the middle of the night I’m woken by a hand on my shoulder.
“I can’t sleep because I’m too cold. Can I sleep with you?” I hear a voice ask.
I spot the blonde hair. Too sleepy to be rude, I scoot over in my sleeping bag. She cuddles into my side, just like Charlotte used to, with her head on my shoudler and an arm around my waist. Maybe the universe is trying to say that Charlotte and I aren’t meant to be, if we are getting spilt up so often. Maybe gen and I are more compatible. That was the last thought on my mind before I fell asleep.
I wake up and groan quietly, my back aching like hell from being so cramped on the floor last night. A memory of Todd and I feeding the geese on a rainy day kept me up for the rest of the dawn. I see the woman from last night at the door with my backpack in her hand by the handle.
“Everything’s in there. Trust me.” she says.
“Can’t trust just anyone.” I retort quietly.
She flashes me a small smile.
“I like your attitude kid. Good luck though, loners usually don’t make it long out there. You can join us if you want.” she says.
“I have to go. You seem like a good leader and ally, but I have to be somewhere and I’m on a tight schedule. Thank you though and good luck.” I say, opening the door and getting the midget pony.
I find that everything except a can of corn is in my backpack. I urge the pony to go faster and follow the signs on the small two laned highway. Skeletons of cars line the pavement. I have to get to the town. This is the worst place to be at night with a horse. The mid morning sun heats my head gently as I continue to ride to Perry. My eyes scan inside the cars. I spot a faded blue flannel inside one of the cars and I cry out as a memory strikes my brain.
Images flood my head. His smile, his chuckle, the sheriff hat that adorns his head, his blue eyes framed by his black eyelashes, his lips, so tender and smooth, the pale scar from the bullet that split into six pieces, his brown hair, the best to tug at, him in general. Carl Grimes. I tentivly touch my cheek and wince. He hit me the last time. On accident, he didn’t mean to. I was downstairs with Wes.
Maybe I can go back. I shot down the ray of hope. I’m too far gone. I need to head down to Perry and continue down to Florida. As much as I would like to go back, I need to ride ahead of the oncoming winter. I know I wouldn’t last a week up here. I wonder what the leather bracelet means. Maybe it was a present from Carl.
I hope we find each other again. I know we will, sooner or later. Legs clenched around the horse, I swing my pack around and fish out my map and sharpie. I unfold the map and see how long I have to go. I check my watch. It’s 7:43 in the morning, three hours left. I refold the map into it’s tiny square and place it back in the backpack with the sharpie.
Just as I look up from zipping my backpack up, I hear more than a few groans. My eyes widen at the sight of forty or so walkers, about fifty yards away. As a surging river of curses erupts from my mouth, I turn the pony around, yank the straps on my backpack tight, and then dig my heels hard into the sides of the pony.
“HIYAH!” I shout.
The pony neighs and speeds off. Cars pass by as a blur as I navigate the pony to weave through deserted car lines. The herd isn’t not too far behind for dead people. Who knew the dead were so fast? I ditch the pony when I get to the town house from the night before.
“Whoa kid, what’s wrong?” the leader says, looking concerned when she invited me in.
“Big herd, coming this way, need to get out, wanted to warn you.” I say through mid pants.
She nods and motions to a shadow. A honey brown haired girl comes out. She looks around Wes’s age. Her mocha colored eyes pulse with panic. No one else comes out.
“I thought there were more in your group?” I ask as the duo scurry around, getting their individual bags.
“Just wanted it to appear that way to everyone.” the leader murmurs, pumping a shotgun with ammunition.
“I’m Helena, call me Hel. That’s my daughter, Samantha, she goes by Sam.” she quickly says.
I follow the two to a old dusty truck behind the town house. We all get in and speed out. I hope the horse gets out alive, it would come in good use later. But for now, we drive until the truck runs empty.