The Calm Before the Storm
The house was abuzz with nursery commotion; Ben, Chuck, Kenny, and Christa assisting Omid and searching the house, while Carley and Clementine tended to Dominic. The upstair corridors hung with a tightrope of tension stretching the air thin, while downstairs, a tighter rope was wound. As Dominic had tried to hoist Lee up on the platform a mere fifteen minutes earlier, his gunshot wound flared, erupting a crowd of speculation; good, bad, and a bit nasty.
Clementine and Carley stood in the living room, glancing down at Dominic as he lie there on the couch, a bloody rag pressed against his shoulder and his legs resting on top of a similarly crimson cushion. Dominic held the rag firmly in place, the piercing pain from the gunshot resonating through his shoulder like a blade as more drops of blood flowed through his skin and onto the soft material, staining the edges as the cold repressed his tears. He pressed his head against the pillow as a furious Carley paced the floor beside him, the wooden floor pounding with every step she took, her thoughts erupting like firing waves as Clementine stood to the side, her complacent posture inferior as she stared at the ground, glancing up momentarily to sneak a glance at the two adults before her.
"What the HELL were you thinking?!" Carley's voice echoed in Dominic's head like a distant whisper, quiet yet scolding as he held the rag to his shoulder. Another wince forced its way on his face, pushing her words farther from his head. He stared, watching her mouth move in rapid succession, yet every word pressed his ears forward, only catching minor whispers as his shoulder flared, pushing him harder against the pillow.
His eyes rolled from his blood-soaked wound to the woman's overbearing eyes, deciding on an honest comeback. "I thought that I could get him out of there," he whispered, continually holding his arm in agony as needles rushed down his shoulder, and into his biceps, as if tearing into the lower flesh. "I didn't expect the wound to open."
He rustled with the needles, ignoring them as he pulled himself up into a sitting position on the couch. Carley rushed over and pushed him back down, causing him to scream as he glared back through teary eyes. "You're lucky you aren't bleeding out on a roof!" She reprimanded, snapping at him as she held the young man down while he continued to resist. "I want you to stay right here and rest."
He sighed, perusing the remainder of his limbs lying against the soft fabric before shifting into a more comfortable position, his right arm hanging loosely over the arm of the couch. "Okay mother." He muttered, staring back at her in defiance while she did another round of pacing.
"And don't even get me started on that girl y'all brought back with you!" She continued, running into a new rant, "Something about her just rubs me the wrong way; she's a danger to the entire group." Her eyes widened, an image of the new bitch Dominic had the nerves to invite into their crew swirling through her mind. She inhaled a deep, long breath of air as she allowed her nerves to simmer, and finally cool, ready to move on to new, more discussable things than bitching.
"You're wrong," Dominic breathed, releasing the tension in his arm as his eyes flickering back up to her face, "She's exactly what this group needs now."
Her eyes narrowed as her voice lowered further, a devilish scowl appearing across her face. "You better be right Dominic, for everyone's sake." She stopped moving as a thought crossed her mind, causing her to stare at the boy.
"I don't give a shit about how much you think you know, she is not good for us, on any account!" She hissed, the devilish look beaming out of her eyes and into his soul, causing him to wince as his blood pressure rose.
"What has she done to justify this hate?" Dominic growled, glaring at Carley through clenched teeth. "We wouldn't of gotten out of there alive without her."
"I've seen her kind before; it never ends well." Carley shouted, a scowl resting on her face, suggesting a final truth; she would never understand. No matter how much Dominic could tell her, as much as he wanted otherwise, she would always despise Molly.
"I like Molly," Clementine piped up. They both turned to see her sitting beside Dominic's armrest, staring up at them as they shouted, fear beaming in her pupils. Dominic and Carley looked away for a moment, out of embarrassment or tension, no one could tell. Her miniscule comment caused the tense rope hanging in the room to gain slack, allowing everyone to regain their sanity as the conversation quickly started up again. "She's nice." She added.
She took a step towards the little girl, getting down on her knee as she explained. "No offense honey," Carley mumbled to the little girl, taking Clementine's hand in hers, noticing the difference in hand texture. Clementine's hands were soft, minor ridges decorating her canvas as the tone set a view for pale bewilderment along her thin, gentle palms. Carley's, on the other hand, were darkened, with hard lines pressed between her fingers, cracks showing in different places on the tips, with scars interlaced beneath her palms; a past life telling her story within the dirt and cracks of her skin. "But not everyone is nice." She continued, "look at Lilly, the St. Johns, and that damned man out there stalking us." She glanced back at Dominic as she said the last part, a steady line piercing her lips between each word.
"Molly's different," Clementine defended, standing up in defiance as she shouted, "she saved us!"
"Yeah, with my help," Dominic grunted, receiving angry glares from Carley as she spoke, "and look what that did to you!" She scowled, glaring at his wound, her eyes piercing it as if they were the bullet whizzing through his skin.
"C'mon Carley, I'm fine," Dominic muttered, another jab going through his shoulder as a fresh blot of crimson stained the cloth he held dear to the wound. He shrugged, glaring through the pain as he forced himself to focus on Carley, bright lights flashing as each spark of immense agony troubled him. Ignore it, just focus. It's nothing. In reality however, it fucking hurt; with every breath, inhaling and exhaling the much needed oxygen was a chore beyond measure, every movement of his body making him bite down on his lips, cursing the screams he wanted to release. Yet, if he was going to get Carley to calm down, he had to play the part. She continued to glare at him, the rope beginning to tighten again, until he finally changed the subject. "So, how's Omid doing?"
She plopped onto the couch opposite them, her tone changing to something more friendly as her entire figure changed. "He's doing better, but he's going to need some meds soon just to make sure it doesn't get infected. We'll need to tend to your wound too." Her eyes drifted to the bloody rag he had been holding, noticing the edges were dried, but the middle still seemed to be fresh.
"Easy enough," Dominic muttered, "I saw a hospital on the way to the river, might be some supplies there."
"No, that's too easy," Carley muttered, resting her head in her hands, brushing her fingers through her hair. "These 'Crawford' guys probably cleaned out the place by now."
"So that means we hit Crawford then." He deadpanned.
She scoffed, looking at him as if he had gone mad. "You're kidding right? After hearing what Kenny said about that place, I don't want to go within a mile of it."
He gazed around the living room, expecting to find someone else standing there in the doorframe, but gladly they were alone. "The people in Crawford are dead," he whispered, turning back to Carley and Clementine once he was sure no one else was listening.
"Dead?" Clementine echoed, her voice changing to a more fearful tone, "like, walkers?"
"Yeah, they died a long time ago," Dominic hissed, "Some chick named Ana Corea or something like that. Anyway, there's no one left there but walkers, and surely we can handle them if we're careful."
"How many walkers are we talking about?" Carley instantly asked, disbelief spilling out with every breath.
"Um, hmm… I don't know, a lot? Maybe around fifty to one hundred, maybe more?" He coaxed, wincing as his sarcasm created instant karma, backlashing into a painful jolt.
"That's insane," Carley growled, her tone seeping back into what they had just escaped from, the rope tugging again. "You want us to walk into THAT?!"
The tension erupted as Dominic tried to explain to them. "Well, it's the only place left with meds. And I know where to find us a boat too, but it needs an engine and some gas, both we can get from Crawford."
She shook her head, "No, that's insane. We can't risk everyone's lives like that; we can find meds somewhere else."
"There's nowhere else, Carley," Dominic seethed, "This is what we've got. Don't tell anyone about it, though. We're not ready yet."
"We? No, you're not going in there like that," Carley scolded, pointing a finger at him like he was a child.
The rope tightened for a final moment, before snapping, letting the fueling anger rain down upon its victims. "I'm fucking fine alright?!" Dominic shouted, his face suddenly flaring hot, his vision blurry as he attempted to calm his breathing. He lay there, watching them.
The room died into silence as both girls froze, staring at the man on the couch. Carley stood, wide-eyed, as she slowly turned towards Clementine, stepping in front of her. Clementine jumped up, grasping her leg as both girls reeled away from him. Dominic sighed, unmoved as he rubbed his forehead lightly and stared at the ground, noticing nothing more than a dark, fuzzed brown mash before him. Beside him, he heard a faint mutter from Clementine. "Swear."
Dominic huffed, moving on from his outburst. "Listen, if we're going to get a boat working, we're going to need to hit Crawford. There's no way around it, except leaving the city altogether… and we both know Kenny won't stand for that."
Carley's eyes fell to the floor, returning to her natural composure, with a hint of depression in her eyes now that she saw how hopeless the situation has become. "Alright," she breathed, "we break into Crawford then… but you're still staying here, Dominic. If that wound gets infected, you'll only be a liability in there."
"I know." He sighed. He saw himself, standing on the sidewalk in Crawford, surrounded by walkers as his wound sent him over the pain threshold. He stared off as the walkers overpowered him, biting off his flesh, sending him to the ground in screaming torture, alone. He shook this violent image away as he looked back at the girls, their composures more relaxed as they sat around in silence, leaving him to relax his head on the pillow once again, only wishing he could change his bloody rag.
Around the corner, Molly stood, leaning against the kitchen wall, clenching her fists as her eyes narrowed to tiny slits, Dominic's words settling in her stomach like a rock. "The people in Crawford are dead." How the fuck do you know that…
"So how's he doing?" Kenny offered once he strolled through the bedroom door, everyone staring off in silence as he walked in. Christa stood next to the bed, a depressed look placed upon her face as she held her boyfriend's hand. She stared at the improvised cast strung around Omid's leg, a dark red glob of dried mash clinging to the injured area. Chuck stood in the corner opposite the bed, picking at his guitar as he watched the scene unfolding before him, no comment made. Ben leaned against the dresser adjacent the bed, huffing in boredom as he stared blankly at the wall in front of him. For a split moment, Kenny thought he might be missing his folks, or his crew in school. Omid lay in the bed, pain etched across his face like the theme of a canvas in a painting. His fingers grazed his leg, tiny grunts of pain filling his vocals as he watched the others.
"I'm fine," Omid hissed, his tone half defensive as it was happy. He glanced down at his injured leg, shrugging. It hurt, of course, but he was feeling better. He looked back at the friends surrounding him. All he wanted to do was to get back out there and find this stranger on the radio instead of 'resting' like his girlfriend wanted. "Did you guys find a boat out there?" He asked, looking back at Kenny.
Kenny's eyes narrowed as he kicked the ground lightly, "They're all fuckin' wrecked."
"Oh, well," Omid muttered, his eyes going to the thin sheets of the bed, the white folds crinkling as he pulled them closer. The room, as a whole, seemed to be for a child. The walls were decorated with an aged blue wallpaper with darkened yellow stars surrounding whomever entered. Pictures hung over the bedpost, mountains and family in a triangular fashion. Windows were perched on either side of the bed, gazing out into the back yard, trees filling the view beyond the glass. The dresser rested against the wall, its wooden makings seemingly aged with a picture sitting atop its surface, the color gone but not forgotten, along with the toy bear laying beside it on the ground, dust covering its plush body.
He brushed his leg, a distant stare enveloping him as his fingers traced the hardened material covering his leg before shooting back up, optimism returning to his eyes like a long-lost friend. "Well we don't need a boat anyway," he scoffed, "we can make it out of the city on foot."
"Yeah, right," Kenny seethed, glancing at Omid as if he just insulted his intelligence. "Go join Dominic's club then. I'll find a boat on my own."
"Don't be like that," Christa sighed, trying (and failing) to calm the southern man's nerves.
"You just don't get it! This place is crawling with walkers!" Kenny roared, turning on Christa. "That makes it a bit difficult to get out of here on foot, don't ya think?!" He growled, his eyes turning red.
"Calm down Kenny," Chuck grumbled over his guitar, not breaking tune as he glanced up. "They're only trying to help."
Kenny threw his hands into the air in fake exasperation before seething out, "The goddamn guitar wizard speaks! All y'all ever do is shit on my plans, every one of you, and it's really gettin' on my nerves!"
"Maybe because it's a goddamn stupid plan," Chuck continued, his voice remaining calm despite the Floridian's hate-fueled seething, "What do you think's gonna happen once you get out on the water? We live happily ever after? We'll run out of food and fresh water first. We're better off in the countryside."
Kenny puffed, clenching his fists as he glared at the older man before turning around, searching the room like a killer looking for his next target, until he feasted his attention to Ben who shrunk back immediately as Kenny's bloodthirsty eyes narrowed. "And you! Lee told you to watch Clementine, and she just shows up at the riverfront!"
"It- it's not my fault!" Ben stuttered, looking around the room helplessly for support. "I- I- I had to help Christa with bandaging Omid's leg. She must've slipped out when I wasn't looking."
"Uh-huh," Kenny growled, a finger aimed at Ben like a gun.
"Stop throwing blame around Kenny, I didn't even know Clementine slipped out," Christa shouted, taking a step towards the hot head. "So calm down, or get out!"
He stood motionless, shooting glares at everyone in his path before turning around, storming out and leaving a trail of dust in his wake. His mind raced as he exited the room; he had no boat, his friends were turning against him by the tenfolds, basically this day has been nothing but shit. He reached the stairs, descending each step with his anger sending sonic booms throughout the building, stopping only to release a minute piece of tension; punching the wall. He glanced at his victim; a small hole where his knuckles had been, which showed immediate bruise marks. Pausing no more than a second to extract a grunt from his actions, he marched into the kitchen, tugging at every cabinet he saw through blood-filled rage. He continued his rampage, flinging dusted item after expired thing aside, ignoring Carley's worried questions from behind him, they were only whispers through his fight. He flung open more cabinets, not even reading labels as he tossed the boxes into the back of the shelves, until he reached the last one. He flung it open, seeing a bottle of wine sitting comfortably in its place inside on the wooden shelf. Kenny stared blankly at the bottle before reaching, grasping it calmly before opening it. He guzzled its contents, closing his eyes as the contents rolled down his throat, pictures of Duck and Katjaa floating through his mind.
Junk. That single word repeated over and over in Molly's head as she rummaged through the bedroom: torn clothes, various personal items, some jewelry; nothing of value. She tore through the rest of the dresser, clothes flying over her head as the bottom came into view. Only dust and chipped wood remained as she tossed the drawer to the side; out of sight, out of mind. She scanned the room, eagle eyes searching; a broken lamp, the destroyed dresser, the bed. The bed. She rushed over to the mattress, lifting it to reveal a shining revolver atop the bed frame. She held the gun in her hand, twisting it around in her palms and feeling the cold metal weigh heavily in her grip. She returned to scanning, blankly placing the revolver in her pocket as she walked over to the closet. Her whole body tensed as the door creaked open across the room, turning around to see Dominic walking in casually, hand pressed against his wound. Her eyes narrowed to form a glare as he glanced in her direction.
"Find anything useful?" He inquired in a flat tone, his eyes wandering to the pistol grip sticking out of her jeans pocket.
She pulled out the revolver and flicked open the cylinder, nothing but empty chambers greeting her. "Just an empty gun," She grunted.
He shrugged slightly, looking at the gun. "We might have some ammo for it; you'll have to ask Kenny."
"I'm not asking that asshole for anything," She snapped at the boy through gritted teeth.
"Fine then," Dominic muttered, unmoved. "But I'm not asking him for you." After a brief moment of silence, he stuffed his hands in his pockets and sauntered back towards the door, "Well, I guess I should go 'rest' now, have fun with your empty gun." He began to walk out of the room as she glanced away from him, staring into the closet as if searching for anything interesting.
"Hey," she growled, a question bubbling to the surface in her mind. The boy stopped dead in his tracks, shooting a short glance in her direction. "How the fuck do you know about Crawford?"
He looked away and took another step towards the door, ignoring her question completely. Before he could leave, she charged toward him, pulling him back into the room and slamming him against the wall, pressing the empty revolver against his wound, causing him to howl in pain.
"How the FUCK do you know about Crawford?!" She hissed, staring into his eyes with hatred pouring out as she forced the barrel deeper into his shoulder.
"Oww! Fucking stop it!" He yelped as blood seeped from the bandage, his face contorting into a grimace of pain, "What the fuck do you want me to say?!" He screamed.
"Tell me the truth," she roared, tearing the gun away from him before clutching the boy's shoulder with her free hand, holding him in her grasp.
"Fine! You want to know the truth?" He sneered, his voice hoarse as anger swelled into the room. "Everyone in there is dead. You heard me mention that earlier, huh? I know they're dead because I've seen it. We go in there for supplies, and find them all dead. Ben dies in there too." Her eyes narrowed the more he spoke, lie after lie pouring out of his mouth like a faulty sink; nothing but useless shit. "Go ahead, call me a liar." He spat, the anger growing as she pushed him harder against the wall. "But I'm telling the truth. You can ask Lee or Carley. I'm from the future."
"Bullshit," Molly growled as she stared at the mental kid before her. Her fist clenched as he spoke, his stomach beginning to look like a target.
"I can prove it," Dominic muttered, a small smirk playing on his face as he stared at her in fierce determination. "You and your sister used to live in Crawford. Your sister had diabetes or something, so you were sleeping with the doctor for medicine. He cut you off, so your sister is killed by Crawford. Sound about right?"
She stood, motionless. Her hands slowly released their grasp as this psycho stared at her. Without even blinking, she sent her fist directly into his stomach, the boy doubling over in pain. "DON'T YOU FUCKING DARE! WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!" She screamed at him, her face suddenly hot as her hands shook in rage, her fingers craving his blood.
He grunted in pain as he gazed up at her, her face full of fury, but continuing his explanation as if nothing has changed. "So you left Crawford; went out on your own; until you found us. But at least now you get to know that those bastards are dead."
She took several steps away from him, staring as the two ties of shock and anger threaded themselves in her mind. She glanced at her palms, noticing them quiver as the irresistible urge to jab Dominic with the gun again grew, the image of his blood staining the blank walls piercing her mind. She continued to stare, speechless at this kid who… knew. He knew everything; it was the only thing leaving his throat intact, and the room they stood in clean. But, somehow, this man had hit the nail dead-on. He knew things about her she hadn't told anyone. He gave her undeniable evidence of his knowledge.
Only one question remained, burning a hole in her throat as she whispered.
"I honestly don't know," he stated, holding his shoulder where the wound pulsed with pain. "Could be an anomaly, or something more innate. Somehow, from what I've seen, I managed to go back in time twelve years."
"Twelve years?" She stared at him, aghast. "When the hell were you born?"
"You're a fucking child." She deadpanned.
"Of course I am. A big, hairy child." He sneered, a small grin etching its way across his face. "When were you born then, Miss Adult?"
She gave him a short glare. "Funny." After a brief pause, she spoke again, "1982."
"Ah, so you'd be… like… thirty-three then. My, you are old." He coughed in pain as his eyes fell to the bleeding wound.
"I'm about to hurt you, kid."
"Looks like you already have."
"Good. You were getting annoying."
He chuckled before the pain forced him to stop, "Well, that pretty much describes my existence."
The banter came to a sudden conclusion as a door slammed downstairs. She gazed at him as he shrugged, "Kenny's either pissed off, or Lee's back. Or both."
"Nice to know you have it all figured out."
"Shut up." He muttered, taking the first steps towards the door.
Silence surrounded them as Lee stepped through the back door, the man from the sewers in tow. Everything had been a blur; one moment, the man had a gun to his head, more than ready to pull the trigger, the next, he was guiding him through the sewers and introducing him to his fellow cancer survivors. To Lee, Vernon seemed like a swell guy, despite holding a gun to his head. He seemed to care for his cancer friends more than himself, in Lee's eyes that made him a sensible leader, more so than Kenny or even himself.
The two men stepped through the kitchen, footsteps resounding through the building as figures moved through the living room, bursting into the kitchen. Guns drawn, Carley, Kenny, and Chuck aimed, ready to fire. Unimaginable silence rang as they stood, only to be disengaged as the trio holstered their weapons, realizing it was him.
"Good, you made it back," Kenny blurted out as he gazed at him, his eyes narrowing at the sight of the real intruder. "Who's this?"
"This is Vernon, he's a doctor. He helped me get back here after we got separated." Lee replied.
"A doctor?" Carley echoed, her eyes suddenly alert as she stared at the new man, "Thank God!"
"What's happened?" Lee asked, his eyes darting between his three comrades.
"It's Dominic's wound," Carley muttered. "After he tried to pick you up, it opened; bled through his bandages. It might be infected. Omid's leg needs looking at as well."
His posture changed, shoulders hunched as Vernon released an aggravated sigh, exchanging a glance with Lee. "I didn't come here to heal your wounded."
"Please?" Carley begged, staring at the man. "Without you, Dominic could die."
All eyes were on Vernon as he pinched his forehead, a headache already brewing. "Fine, I'll see what I can do. Take me to him."
"Hey! You made it back." Another voice exclaimed as two new figures approached from the stairs, "Lee, who's the fossil?" Molly piped, descending the stairs in a stealthy fashion, only to regain neutral posture when she saw everyone holster their weapons. Dominic, on the other hand, hugged the railing as he calculated each step, one hand guiding him downward as the other nursed his wound. Both stood before Lee: Molly confident, as if ready to make future battle plans, while Dominic sifted where he stood, blinking rapidly as the pain washed over him.
Lee's voice was reduced to a muffled whisper, the surroundings muted as his vision focused on the target; his eyes shifting to nothing more than narrow, snake-like slits. The pain in his body erased as adrenaline replaced the blood pumping through his veins, like molten lava ready to burst, steam fuming through his ears. His teeth grinded against his jaw as he let out a distasteful hiss. "Vernon."
"He's a doctor-" Lee started.
"Vernon, you son of a bitch!" Dominic hissed as he marched forward, fists raised for the first strike. The memory of Vernon's betrayal blinded him as he raised his hand, aiming for a right hook right below his eyes until something pushed against him. Unseen forces held him back, stopping him mid-swing. He howled, grasping and clawing, seeking blood from the one who was destined to betray them. Dominic saw nothing but Vernon, and his soon-to-be dead body laying before him, but he could not escape his cage. He glanced, the crimson vision seeping away as he noticed Carley and Chuck holding him by the arms, like bars, holding him back from his prey.
"What the hell is wrong with you?!" Carley shouted as he persisted, pushing through her grasp, only to be caught again.
"How the hell does he know my name?!" Vernon shot at Lee, his eyes just as narrowed as the boy's.
"YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE! I'M GONNA KILL YOU!" Dominic spat. It became perfectly clear who the unforeseen war that he was directing at; both strangers now mortal enemies. Dominic pushed, the forces growing heavier and heavier, until, suddenly, the forces were an unbearable mass, crushing his body to the floor. He stumbled where he stood, weak. Dominic glanced about him, his fellow company in shock, for some reason. Muffled screams echoed all around him; a shrill screech profoundly puncturing through the chorus; "Oh my god, Dominic!" Clementine. He locked eyes with the one man he wanted to destroy as his vision diluted into a mere foggy haze. The world spun as his head collided with something hard, wincing in pain, only to realize it wasn't only his head. He tried to look away, only to be forced, like some other power was holding his skull in place, to look at his arm. With much difficulty, he turned, only to see a foggy red mass coinciding with, what seemed to be, the rest of the room. Dominic let out another shriek, his shoulder pulsating with brutal, agonizing pain. He questioned if Vernon beat him to it, somehow already stabbing him at his weakpoint.
He tried to stand up, only to lift his head and fall back down. Something pressed against his chest, holding him down, as what seemed like hands surrounded his blurred vision. He felt himself being dragged, a hard surface underneath his back, skinning his spinal cord. Tears flowed down his cheeks as his shoulder seemed to only bulge, the floor not being much of a savior.
"Fuck…. you…. Verno-" He whispered, a figure now standing above him, only to disappear as the world faded to black, the feeling in his body ebbing away as his consciousness drifted into the void.
A cold chill rushed past him as he opened his eyes. The sky loomed over him in a black drape as he regained focus, the stars above him seemingly more lit as the seconds passed on. He jumped up, ready to fight when he noticed his surroundings had changed entirely; the room had disappeared, replaced with trees and roots. He glanced around, leaves of assorted colors scattered about on top of dirt and insects, all scattering due to his manic appearance. The trees above him danced as the wind brushed by, the limbs swaying in sync as the light rustling filled his ears. Various whistles and ticks hovered over the forest, crickets and owls in the distance. To his right, an opening perched with dimly lit branches. He walked, with surprising ease, to the light, a clearance opening through the brush. The bark hung, frozen to the touch as he pressed onward, the rotten wood falling to the ground as he let it go. The ground crunched underneath his feet, only to end in deafening silence when the clearing came into view. He stared; a small fire burned silently in the center of the clearing, sending light dancing around in the trees and smoke to soar into the surrounding forest. A spit hung through the flames neatly, holding the carcass of a dead squirrel as its shadow loomed underneath. As he stepped closer, he noticed a young woman sat, her back towards him, on one of the roots, gnawing on a chunk of meat.
She couldn't of been older than seventeen or eighteen, her body skinny and built, wearing a blank white t-shirt with a black overcoat one size too big for her body. Blue jeans with multiple tears covered her legs; obviously worn out sneakers protecting her feet. The woman's hair was jet black, somewhat short, with two pigtails sticking out neatly underneath her worn out cap. The color was barely visible; a somewhat blue hint lingered under the dirt. She didn't look clean, as if she hadn't bathed for years, as more dirt stuck to her hair and skin, even more clinging to her clothes. The sudden smell reached his nostrils, causing him to cough. How long has she been here?
She jumped, spinning around as his cough echoed through the forest, standing with her hand already gripping the pistol holstered in her pocket. "Who's there?!" she called out, her eyes scanning the edges of the clearing, "I swear to god Donnie, if you're playing tricks on me again."
Donnie? Dominic's head spun as the name pierced his brain. That was his childhood nickname; the name his family always called him. But it's just a coincidence, right? He didn't know who this girl was, how could she know his name?
When the surrounding trees beared no answer, she clicked the hammer on her pistol down, her demeanor changing from humour to fear as she brought the pistol closer to her chest. Her voice trembled slightly as she let out a deep breath, her voice harsh as she shouted into the woods. "I've got a gun. So unless you don't want to get shot, I'd come out and introduce yourself."
Dominic sighed,realizing he simply couldn't play invisible any longer. Stepping into the cone of light dancing around the clearing, he called out, staring into her barrel. "It's alright, I'm friendly."
"Who are you?" She growled, her weapon aimed directly at his chest.
"I could ask you the same question," Dominic answered simply. He tried to examine her further, but she was cast into shadow as the fire burned behind her.
There was a brief pause as she analyzed the man's voice while both of them stared at each other. The deepness of his voice echoing into the night sounded too familiar. Her hands tightened around the trigger as she hissed, "My name's Clementine."
He took a few more steps forward until the light bathed his face in its warm glow, "Clem? Is- what the fuck?!" He whispered, his brain unable to comprehend her new stature as she held the gun lower, letting it fall limp in her fingers. He struggled to catch his breath, his throat closing as he choked on the harsh reality. He felt the air around him, a harsh cold blowing from every direction, except for the fire that gave off what hint of heat it could. He stared at her, her facial features becoming more recognizable and familiar through the burning light. He could see it now: the glowing yellow eyes, the petite nose, only the face was older, more mature. The way she carried herself was like a mirror image of who she once was; inside this young woman, he could still see her. She was hardened now, yet she still retained a shred of humanity; she still had fear. In a way, she reminded Dominic of Lilly: tough, determined, human. Characteristics that he admired, yet they were slowly fading away within him as the dark force of insanity rose from its ashes.
Her eyes trailed over Dominic as she examined his features. He wore a white t-shirt, tattered and bloody, with a black hoodie, and a pair of black tennis shoes and jeans. His brown hair fell down just below his ears, and a pair of black glasses sat on the rim of his nose. He looked just like Donnie. But how? He was much younger…
"D-Dominic?" She stuttered, the grip on her pistol loosening as the forest waved side to side, the barrel of her gun following suit, dropping it to the ground as her head grew lighter. "Is that you? H-how?"
"God Clem," Dominic gasped, a mere whisper piercing the forest as he stared at her in awe, her dizziness unnoticed. "You've grown."
"But-" Clementine's jaw continued to drop, her eyes darting from this younger Donnie to behind the boy, where her Donnie should've been, then back to the boy. "How the fuck? You look like you're seventeen."
"Gee, thanks. I'm nineteen actually, or twenty. I thought the beard would make that pretty obvious." he grumbled, trying to count the years.
"Okay," Clementine whispered, "I'm going insane." she slapped herself as she stared at him, his features unchanging. "How can you behere?"
"Trust me, if I knew, I'd tell you." He sighed, taking a seat next to the fire as she continued to stare at him. He took a moment to think before asking his next question. The fire burned before him as he reached out, feeling the heat get more and more intense as his fingers grew closer to the flames, until he jerked his hand back. He glanced around him, feeling more certain the air was a nice chill as he raised the same hand, feeling the insane rush of blood run from boiling and painful, down to a frozen thin layer under his skin. He quickly brought it back down, blowing the heat into his palms as his body shivered. Shivered. "Where are we? What year is it?" He stuttered, taking in that this was real.
"It's, uh, 2011 now I think?" She mumbled, sitting down on the opposite side of the fire, "It's been about eight years since the beginning, that's all I know." He stared at her, the features of her face perfectly visible now; several scars lined her skin, all different shapes and sizes. One scar cut across her lip, brown and faded, as if it was an old injury. Her yellow eyes glistened with the fire, and her wrist, a thick scar running over it, as if a large animal bit her many years prior. The cap he noticed earlier was the same cap she wore as a child, only solidifying in Dominic's mind that this was indeed Clementine that sat before him.
"Eight years. Jesus, no wonder you're all-" His sentence ran cold as he finally got a good look at her in the light. She had grown alright, almost unrecognizable from the little girl he knew. He found himself looking away in guilt, as if he was looking at his own sister instead of a random girl around his age. "Well, at least I'm still older than you." He smirked, turning back to her.
She let out a small giggle, the tension in the air dying away just as quickly as it had appeared. "I was still born before you, so I'm older."
"At least I finished high school," He sneered, the fact he was now eight years into the future fading away into his subconscious, along with the suddenly non-existent pain he should have felt from his shoulder.
"You'd be surprised," she winked, stuffing her fallen pistol back into her pocket.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You'll find out in about five or six years."
"But that's too long to wait."
"Anyway," she interrupted the flow, returning back to Dominic's original question, "We're in Ohio, just outside of Kent. Something bad went down… we don't know if anyone else made it out alive." Her eyes went to the flames as she spoke, the happiness that lit her face before now dissolving into grief. "I guess in the end, the dead always win. That's the biggest lesson all these years have taught me."
"You even sound grown up," Dominic tried to smile, but the tear glinting in her eye prevented any hint of happiness as his smile, too, faded. "I don't know what happened, but I'm sorry. If I'm still around, I know that I'd be doing everything I can to make things better."
She sniffled slightly as she wiped the offending tear away, "You do. That's what makes you a good leader."
"I don't know," Dominic muttered, his eyes falling to the flames, baffled. "With everything I've done, I don't think I shouldbe a leader. No one seems to listen to me anyway, and when they do, it's usually too late."
She laughed before scooting over to his side of the fire, patting him on the back. "A lot of people didn't see eye-to-eye with you, especially Kenny, but I don't think a single one of them would call you a bad leader." She shrugged as she spoke, hugging this younger version of Donnie, realizing the wall she built could be torn down. "To some, you were like a prophet."
"A prophet? Because of the whole foreknowledge thing?" He scoffed, glancing at her. "I don't think that should be enough to be a 'prophet'. I make mistakes just like anyone else."
"But you learned from those mistakes, and became something more than the boy you were. People looked up to you. Not saying you were perfect, but a lot of us owe our lives to you." The air grew colder as ferocious winds blew through the clearing, leaves and debris following. The distant sounds of thunder signaled the oncoming approach of a storm, sending the faint whiff of rain as a warning. The crackling of the fire became the only source of comfort as the world around them fell into silence.
Dominic shifted as the wind froze him, his thin hoodie barely retaining any warmth. He gazed at Clementine, who stared into the fire blankly, poking the embers with a thin stick she found in the dirt, before rotating the spit that she had speared the squirrel on. The silence began to feel like a noose around his neck, suffocating the life out of the duo. Breaking the silence, Dominic finally spoke up, his signature sarcasm dripping from his voice, "I'm not perfect?"
She grinned before punching him in the shoulder, "Shut up." She sighed, spinning the squirrel a tiny bit more before the next question burning in her mind bubbled to the surface. "So, you have no idea how you got here? Where were you before this?"
"I was, well," his voice trailed off as the hatred for Vernon that burned within him reignited, "I was about to punch Vernon in his traitorous fuckin' face. That's pretty much it. We were at the house in Savannah."
Her eyes fell as the words sank in, depression kicking in as the images of her old friend blew through her mind. "When Lee died…"
"I won't let that happen," Dominic interrupted, determination thick in his voice.
"Some things can't be changed," she muttered, "you can try, but life finds a way."
"I saved Carley and Chuck," Dominic added, "I'll save Lee too."
"If you could, we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?" She deadpanned, eyes cold.
"Since when did you get a degree in time travel?" He sneered, a small smirk appearing on his lips.
"Since we discovered the Travelers."
"The Travelers?" He echoed.
"It's a long story."
"And who's actually with you? Me?"
"Yeah, it's you," she shrugged, "at least the older you."
"This is getting confusing fast," he mumbled, kicking a pebble through the dirt.
"You don't know the half of it," she stated as a tree branch cracked in the distance, causing both teenagers to stiffen.
As Clementine pulled out her pistol once more, Dominic whispered, "Walker?"
"I don't know."
Another crack echoed just beyond the clearing, the branches close by swaying nervously as the noises got closer. "Okay," Clementine whispered, releasing the safety and pulling the hammer back for a second time. "Please tell me you've got a weapon."
"I've got…" he patted his pockets, feeling nothing, realizing now his pistol was gone. His mind went into a frenzy as he searched his pockets, finally pulling out his infamous black knife. "Well, a knife."
She nodded once, raising the barrel towards the intruder before turning back to Dominic. "Alright, just follow my lead."
"Clem, it's me! I heard voices; who's there?!"
It was eerie how similar the voice was to Dominic's. It felt as if the words slipped out of his own mouth rather than from across the clearing. It sounded deeper, but the light tone was still there. Clementine smiled as she flicked the safety back on and stood up. "It's okay, it's a friend!"
"A friend?" The voice scoffed. "Friendly people don't exist any-" He stepped into the clearing, his voice breaking as he stared, mouth agape, at the boy beside Clementine. "Who the fuck are you?"
"Well, this is awkward."
Dominic glanced over his older self, noticing immediately the years have worn him. He was taller now, about 6'2". He wore a torn black hoodie, similar to what he was wearing now. His hair was shaggy, down to his shoulders, with a thick beard covering his face, yet trimmed. He still wore the glasses he came into the world with, but his left lens had a crack running diagonally up the side. The weirdest part, Dominic thought to himself, were the scars; they littered his body. Above his eyes, what seemed to have been a gash inked across his forehead, a thick wrinkle of callused skin built over the wound. His nose, in particular, looked as if someone, or something, peeled away at the right side of it, allowing later years for it to regrow tougher skins. Through the hoodie, he couldn't tell, but by the markings across his callused hands, he was willing to bet there were loads. "Who the fuck are you?" He seethed, raising his gun and bringing Dominic back to the present.
"I'm you, technically." The younger Dominic stated simply.
"Bullshit," his older self spat, inching closer, his finger firmly pressed against the trigger. "That's not even possible. Time travel prevents it."
"Well, obviously, it doesn't."
The older Dominic glared at his younger self, as if analyzing the boy. "Well," he started, confusion spilling from his tone. "You look like me. I suppose anything's possible. The fuck you want then?" He stepped back, aiming again, not allowing this idiot to fool him.
"I didn't come here willingingly," The younger Dominic growled, already fed up with himself.
"Well, go back then, before you fuck up the timeline or something."
"You're a fucking asshole, you know that?"
"Well, we're the same person, so…"
"Can you two please shut the fuck up!" Clementine shouted at them, breaking up the fight instantly as she jumped between the two. They were all standing; older and younger Dominic glaring at each other, while Clementine held the two at bay. Silence erupted from the trio, allowing the thunder to ring overhead, the threat of rain more imminent as the silence became more weary.
"You taught her how to curse," the younger Dominic muttered, ending the silence on a sarcastic note. "How dare you."
"Don't you start."
"How the fuck do you live with this guy Clem? It's like living with my brother all over again." The young Dominic sneered.
"Can we please get back to the situation at hand? Like how the fuck you got here, and how to send you back?!" Clementine growled, turning on the young boy.
"Well, let's start with the basics then," the older Dominic muttered, the annoyance clearing from his voice. "What were you doing before you got here?"
"I was in Savannah; Lee just got back from the sewers with Vernon…"
"...and you tried to knock him out. Yeah, I remember that." The older Dominic shrugged, plopping down onto the ground in front of the fire before looking up at himself. "Almost forgot about all of this happening: going to the future."
"Well, do you remember how you got back?"
"I kind of just, woke up. As if it had been all a dream." He let out a sigh as more thunder pierced the air, the storm only moments away from engulfing them. The stars had all but disappeared, the clouds obscuring any hint. The air was freezing, with little to no help from the small fire that grew smaller by the second, as if preparing for the oncoming end. "Well, if you were in Savannah, that means you haven't dealt with the Stranger yet."
"He wasn't there at the house," the younger Dominic stated. "He changed his plans so I couldn't kill him, knowing that I knew his every move."
"Yeah, the fucking Traveler bastard." Dominic mused, looking into the fire.
"What the hell is a Traveler anyway?" Dominic muttered, facing his older self as he sat down next to the fire.
"Time Travelers basically, some have the ability to rewind, some have the ability to do both. Most don't have the ability at all, but still have the gene. It's a bit complicated really." He turned to look at his younger self. "Anyway, he uses his powers to win over Clementine. When you go back, you need to stop him doing that. He won't take her to the Marsh House, not with you knowing everything you know. I don't remember where he took her, but if you can stop him from taking her in the first place, he'll come to you."
"Okay then, how do I get back? You still haven't explained that one."
"The same way we got into this mess in the first place," the older Dominic muttered, pulling out a revolver from his jeans. "Hopefully the shock will slingshot you back to the present."
"Whoa, wait a second. You're not suggesting…?" The younger Dominic's eyes grew as he stared at himself, thinking he, himself, whatever, was insane.
"There's gotta be another way," Clementine shouted, staring down at the older Dominic. "You can't just kill yourself."
"You don't understand Clem, this is how it happened! I don't know how or why, but this is how it happened!"
"That's fucking crazy!" Dominic spat.
"Trust me." He swiftly raised the revolver to point it at his younger self before either of them could react, looking himself dead in the eyes before pulling the trigger as Clementine cried out.