The group ran, sprinting into the alleyway as fast as their legs could carry them. Their blood pumped loudly in their eardrums as the house came in sight.
Lee led the pack, the group all zeroing in on the shed as the pathway became a blur. Lee huffed as his footsteps pierced his ears, each stride a thundering stomp as they approached the fence. Carley held tight to his side, Kenny racing behind them, pistol in hand, covering Christa and Omid, who hung back. Omid's pained groans echoed down the road. Carley slowed to a walk as a walker came into view up ahead, only slowing down to watch a bullet pierce its brain. Her eyes grew wide as the walker slumped to the floor, turning to see Lee's gun smoking as he stuffed it into his pocket. Its head oozed crimson blood as Lee ran past it with indifference, while Carley merely tiptoed around it, as if it would suddenly reanimate and claw at her leg. Behind her, Kenny clicked the hammer down on his pistol, ready for the next being, alive or dead, to stumble upon them. Omid screamed out in agony as Christa held him upright, chasing the daring trio ahead of them while Omid's legs feebly dragged behind.
Only feet away from the garage, Lee stopped beside the fence, closing his eyes as he caught his breath, the image of Clementine burning the inside of his eyelids. As he blinked away her face from his mind, tears threatened to break through, his legs weakening to eroded beams, breaking the very base of who he was. He stood, tears streaming as her face etched it's way back into his mind; her being the daughter he never had.
In only three months, he found himself attached to this little girl he would have never met before the Apocalypse. At some unknown point she ceased to be a stranger he was taking care of, and became what felt like a loving daughter. Before everything went to shit, he didn't have the chance to become a father; his wife mentioned the thought from time to time, but the thoughts ceased before they could dwell, blowing away like a breeze of wind. He was too busy teaching students, he'd tell himself. Now, everything was different. In a world so devoid of life, so devoid of humanity, that relationship he forged with Clementine became an anchor to sanity; a beacon of hope in the darkness. Without it, he would crash into the craggy shoreline, running aground as all hope faded away within him. He couldn't lose that. He wouldn't.
He stood up, relaxing as the cool metal of the fence sent a shiver down his spine. The adrenaline passed through his veins like a car speeding down a highway. Carley and the crew became a mere fog as he rushed around the perimeter, the green shed drawing nearer and nearer as the rest of the group hurried to keep up.
"We need a new plan." Carley shouted over Lee's thundering footsteps; she looked behind her, each remaining survivor heaving with exhaustion as they tried to catch their breaths. Her words seemed to settle in the air, echoing through the silence that reigned over them after the herd of walkers that chased them across town barely a few minutes earlier drifted away in the maze they used to call a city.
"Right now, we need a goddamned miracle." Kenny muttered, pocketing his pistol while staring at the shed, faint glimmer of hope in his eyes. Months of dust and abandonment settled on top of the shingle roof, creating a creepy image of abandonment that synchronized with the group's low spirits. The theme continued on the shed's wooden door, the now rusted metal hinges threatening to break off. Surrounding the coffin, sat rotting planks painted a horrid vomit green, already in the process of being sun-blasted into something even more disgusting. Brown grass sprouted between the cracking cement and the brick fence, aching for a drink as the group marched onward behind the building, a mixture of hope and despair blending into a single thought shared amongst them as the gravel and grass crunched underneath their footsteps.
"She's out there," Lee insisted, his eyes bloodshot as he stared at back at his group.
There were only a few steps left before the door to the shed and the attention was divided among the survivors: Lee and Kenny inched forward, guiding the way as Omid and Christa hurried behind, following their backs to be led inside. Carley, a step behind, glanced around the sides of the alleyway, checking for any signs of movement: nothing. A cool breeze flushed through the alley, bringing the whiff of death from the corpses laying waste to the city. The mixture of metal and rotten flesh forced Carley to gag as she paced towards the shed, ready to get some fresh air, if such a thing existed anymore.
Lee and Kenny huddled against the door, looking back at the rest, Carley giving them a nod of approval before turning to each other; eagerness filled both of their faces, like home was around the corner. Lee placed his hand on the door knob, a sharp chill running up his arm as he twisted. The unbearable creaking echoed through the dark room, sending a chill down his spine as he was engulfed in emptiness.
Lee glanced around the room, now a dark cavern blessed with the shred of light the door brought in, limited with his shadow blocking half the light. Inside, a shelf hung over to the far left, closer to the front door, a mix of gas canisters and oil caps scattered, with the labels eroded beyond comprehension. The shredded pieces of his heart, standing on uneven ground, collapsed as the final sight shattered the pieces in his chest, sending tears falling to the floor. Kenny and the rest of the gang stormed in after Lee's whimpered cries, all aghast as the sight pierced their eyes.
"Holy…" Christa gasped, her eyes widening at the sight: the room was empty; the boat was gone. Her grip on Omid tightening as she took in the room, feeling a pit form in her stomach, as if gravity shifted the weight of her body with each step.
"What the fuck?!" Kenny cursed, kicking the door before placing his hands behind his neck, digging his nails into his skin as the angst poured through his veins. "Come on… just… come the FUCK on…!" His eyes bulged red as he screamed; his beloved boat, his escape, gone. Nothing could save him now from their impending deaths. As he stared into the dark room, he could feel the cold fingers of Death crawling up his skin, breaking every ounce of spirit he had left. The twigs of Sanity that he had held onto dearly smashing into fragments as more fingers crawled: Duck, Kat, Clementine. Their boney fingers grabbed at his skin, tearing his heart out of his chest.
"Fuck, it must've been the guy on the radio! He's taken Clem out of the city!" Lee's heart started to pound as thoughts came flying by like dust in the wind. "We're too late…" No. Fuck. Please, God no…
He punched the wall in anger, a red image of what could be happening painted on the stained canvas: Clementine glanced behind her, Savannah slipping away out of sight as blue waves took its place. She writhed about, her arms forced to her sides as rope bound her. The sickening taste of tape filled her mouth as she stared at her captor.
Carley seized his arm, snapping him away from the crimson painting and back into reality. "Stop! We don't know that for sure!" She stared at him, his sanity fading as he watched her search for him, trying to break down the walls of anger until she could reach his soul, pulling him of this Hell he found himself in. Something about the way she spoke hit him, revitalizing Lee's hope as they survived this apocalypse, one heartbreaking moment at a time. She made this hell bearable, just enough to keep him going.
"Who else could've taken it?" Lee whispered, a tear squeezing out of his eye before he looked away, trying and failing to keep the next tear from forming.
"I don't know." She mumbled.
"Uh, guys…" Omid mumbled, forcing everyone out of their shocked states and into the cold shed. He held out a piece of paper, muttering to Lee, "You'll want to see this…" He held out the crumpled note to Lee, who read over the words hastily written down.
I'm not good at goodbyes, so I'll keep this short. I'm sorry about all this, but I'm taking the boat. After Crawford, I just couldn't stay here anymore. I've never been good at groups anyway. I've always been better alone, especially after Hilda. If it means anything, I think you're all good people, just misguided. I'm sorry about everything. Lee, you take care of that little girl, you know you and Dominic mean the world to her.
"THAT BITCH!" Kenny roared, his fists clenched as he turned away from the aging parchment and everything that was holy. He smashed his fists through the wall, the pain a pleasure as his skin met wood. The energy pulsed through his body into one painful jolt as he felt the wood give way. "I knew she'd fucking betray us the second we met her Lee! The fucking dumb BITCH!" He looked away from the hole in the wall and into the shocked man's eyes, blood pumping around his iris.
"Her actions, uh, contradict your characterization, but yeah, the 'dumb bitch'," Omid mumbled, scratching the back of his neck, avoiding eye contact with the mad cow in the room as Lee crumpled up the paper.
"I can't believe this," Lee stated, his tone flattened, the anger and sadness fading away as shock took over, "This doesn't sound like Molly."
Christa lowered her head, staring at the ground as she whispered. "After Crawford, I don't know what to think about her anymore."
"This is all Dom's fucking fault," Kenny spat, causing everyone to shoot wide eyed glares in his direction. "He told us to trust that bitch and look what she did! He knew this would happen!"
Carley sighed, a bubbling anger filling her stomach as he continued his heat-fueled rant. She marched across the room, her heels echoing between the wooden walls while her fists clenched and unclenched repeatedly. With every stomp of her feet on the cold concrete floor, the boiling rage rose higher. "You don't know that Kenny! It's entirely possible things didn't turn out the way he expected. I mean, look at the way he attacked Vernon! He was probably the one that was supposed to take the boat, not Molly."
"Well, if he really cared, he would've stopped both of them," Kenny scoffed, stepping up to the challenge. "If he is some fuckin' time traveler, he could've stopped her from leaving with the boat in the first place!" The challengers stood neck and neck as they argued, each face a boiling red as their voices grew louder. The shed turned into an impromptu debate hall, the candidates screaming at each other as if their very words would shape the future of this nightmarish hell they created.
"He's unconscious Kenny, what was he supposed to do?!" Carley snapped, pressing her face closer to Kenny, staring into his eyes, fighting the Floridian for immediate dominance.
"I don't know, wake up?! Actually do something right for once?!" He exclaimed, nearly spitting out the last words in her face as he stared down the reporter.
"THIS ISN'T THE TIME FOR THIS!" Lee roared, drowning out both of their voices. The room died into complete silence, only echoes whispering into their ears as a million eyes rested on the urban man. After what seemed like a millennia full of sideward glances from the crowd, he continued. "I'm gonna hop over the fence and open the door into the backyard…We can't be having this conversation out here in the open." He stepped out of the garage, every footstep like the crushing of a human heart as all eyes fell to the floor.
Lee shook his head as he paced out of the shed, his mind rattling with disappointment at his friends. Every day seemed like two different fights: the main fight for survival and to stay together as a team, which they seemed to be losing. As he crossed the dead patches of grass he noticed his team, once a nice woven piece of art, unraveling and falling apart at the seams. The artwork so majestic and pure, sickened like a disease. The most beautiful aspects of their group turning on each other like starving animals. Is this what it means to be in an apocalypse?
He looked up beyond the metal fence and stared into the sky, a single bird flying south just beneath the warm sun. Its wings were outstretched with long, angelic feathers touching the grey sky. He listened as it sang, a wonderful chirp filling the distant horizon as it flew, gliding over the canvas of the November sky. Lee stared in amazement as the bird noticed him, soaring downward and towards the fence. Lee raised his arms, blocking the sun's rays out of his eyes to get a better look at the closing in creature. His face contorted as the wings grew longer, noticing only a few feathers on the otherwise naked bird. As he stared, he saw the bird's face; blood beaten and dead eyed. He stepped back, mortified and heart racing as the glistening white angel that glided over with ease morphed into a burnt demon, chasing him down Shit. Lee turned away from the abomination and as he leaped into the air and caught onto the metal fence, he lunged forward, throwing himself over the railing. He turned back and blinked, the bird disappearing from view. Okay… He marched onward towards the house, glancing back every few steps, a single thought coursing through his mind. Maybe Molly was right all along.
Back in the Shed, Kenny muttered under his breath as he leaned against the wall, his back covering the gaping hole he left as he looked about the room. "This is not happening… everything is so fucked…"
"Clementine is still out there." Christa whispered, yet loud enough to break another boundary, creating a crushing aftershock.
"So we get Clementine, and then what?!" Kenny shot back, his voice a rising tide as he stepped forward, his breathing returning to angst in an instant.
"We get the fuck out of cities. I'm done with cities. We go into the countryside and make a go of it." Christa spat out, holding her head as her voice added onto the tide, becoming a massive tsunami as they bickered.
"I'm with Christa on this one, Kenny." Carley muttered, her face still warm, but trying not to join in on this fight. She turned around, strutting out of the arena as she sighed, taking her place in the stands with Omid, who now leaned against the planks staring at Kenny as if he was some sort of monster. "This place is crawling with thousands of them, we've got no other choice."
"NOBODY GIVES A FUCK ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK CARLEY!" Kenny snapped, jabbing a finger in her direction, his face a cherry red.
"Kenny, chill!" Christa shouted, nearly drowning out Omid's cry of "we really should quiet down guys!"
"Do you remember we had a boat?! A BOAT!" Kenny threw his hands into the air, anger boiling within him like a raging fire as he stomped about the room, his eyes red with rage as he looked for something to break.
They turned as the door into the backyard broke open, Lee's voice hoarse as he shouted out, "WILL YOU ALL JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP?! ALL THIS BICKERING IS GETTING US NOWHERE! NOW, IF YOU'RE DONE, GET INSIDE THE HOUSE SO WE CAN FIGURE OUT WHAT THE FUCK TO DO NEXT!"
Everyone stared at him in shock, all eyes darting towards the floor as the group filed out. No one spoke a word, the only sound became the footsteps against the creaking wood. Lee glared, his eyes narrowing as he looked over the group, moving from one to the next as they filed out. Nobody dared to look at Lee. They stared wide-eyed at the patches of grass and dirt instead as they left the building, holding their breaths as if a single world would invoke Lee's wrath again.
As Christa followed behind the rest, she broke the chain, mumbling to Lee. "What do we do without a boat?"
"We'll talk about it inside," he deadpanned, barely opening his lips as his voice shot her, leaving her in the dark with her march.
The smell became unbearable within the first few steps. Dominic limped through the crowd of walkers, his fingers firmly squeezing his nostrils as he struggled to hold what breath he could. The stench was worse than the blood on his own clothes; carcases with the overwhelming aroma of blood and rot. He could almost taste the iron in the air, the blackened blood oozing out of their hosts wherever he turned, each drip becoming lost in the sea of blood seeping into the ground.
He coughed as he took another step, forcing himself to maintain composure as his body shook like a leaf caught in a tornado. It's ok… Dominic cooed. They think you're one of them. It didn't help. He snapped his neck as a deathly pierced his ears. Dominic's eyes bulged as a walker limped right past him, the horrid moaning sound erupting from its mouth like a siren call. More blood oozed as she groaned, making it worse as her throat gurgled with the struggle. The walker stumbled as she moved, nearly running into him and knocking him over as she passed. Dominic stared as the carcass, a lady Dominic guessed by the messy blonde hair and thin frame, kept going. The woman was middle-aged; its long hair falling down past her rotting neck, with dirt and blood matting within the otherwise flowing layers of clothing. Maggots swarmed her face as they crawled over the wrinkles in her forehead. A ripped black jacket hung over her shoulders, a bloody t-shirt resting underneath. This woman seemed to have been built, for her arms were more muscular than the average woman. As Dominic looked on, he noticed a gash around her neck, crimson fluid gushing out and onto the shirt with every nightmarish gurgle she made. He turned away as she forced herself through a few more creatures before running into the wrong walker, a larger walker knocking her onto the concrete. Dominic couldn't dare watch as the others stepped blindly over her, the moaning she made ceasing in an instant.
Dominic continued on down the road, using the roofs of the buildings as markers for where he was headed. He glanced about, looking for any sign of resemblance. Over the shoulder of a tall, possibly teenage girl, he could make out the vanilla cemented building with grey shambles surrounding the top. I'm on the right track, he thought as he pushed through.
He had never felt more claustrophobic in his life than at this moment. The walkers closed in on him every chance they got, all piling around him until he could nudge through a couple more and into a clearer part of the pack. He hurried down the stretch of road, feeling only more surrounded with the gutted organ wrapped around his neck like a thick necklace. It boxed him in, the tiny clot of crimson pink flesh amounting to a ton of weight as he shook with fear. Never had something so warm felt so cold to bear. He cringed as the slimy piece of meat slid around his neck, touching his skin as he shift through the crowd. He let out a soft whimper as his head grew weary, the noise of the undead filling his ears giving him a headache. Moaning, groaning…. screams. Why would they scream? He wondered as he glanced around, more blood and gashes decorating the limbs of gothic canvases surrounding him.
With only a few buildings left, Dominic could see the golden letters displaying "MARSH HOUSE" above the sea of walkers. He trudged through, gently nudging walkers out of his way as they growled at him. His legs burned as he moved, his escape so close yet so far away. The thirst for The Stranger's blood felt like a weight on his heart, sinking him deeper and deeper into the inescapable sea of madness. Within the cracks between the walkers, Dominic could see a darkened alleyway near the Marsh House with another small pack of walkers huddling together. With every step, the group became more and more in focus, revealing two familiar monsters.
The man of the couple stumbled around the lot without any purpose, moving about while clinging to his wife. He had a shaved head, with a tiny layer of black hair caressing his scalp. He wore a white polo, stained in random places with dirt and blood. On his left hand he seemed to have been scratched or bitten, the injury itself disguised with infected blood and puss. He walked steadily, tripping every once in awhile from whatever god-forsaken object dragged behind his wife. Dominic could easily tell the woman was the more gruesome of the two. She had been bitten on the neck, the blood pouring in tiny waves down the right side of her body, causing her to make a gurgling croak as she moaned through the city. She had no shirt, just what was left of rags glued to her shoulders and bosom with sweat and blood. Below, there was a gaping hole. Dark, near black liquid dripped as the walker stumbled, a trail of rotten flesh following suit. It seemed there was nothing left inside the woman besides her bones, the only thing keeping her upright. He gagged, noticing all of the fat had been peeled from the inside, leaving her skeleton to bulge around her ribcage. From her fingers up to her shoulder blades were covered with crimson paint, with tiny flakes of skin and flesh missing where walkers had attempted to dig for more.
He gagged, coughing up mucus as Dominic pushed through the final wave, leaving the horde and Clementine's parents behind. He shoved, the fingers of a thousand hands clawing as he broke free of the herd. Finally, he was alone, no abominating creatures pressing against him. Dominic ran, the stairs up to the doors of the Marsh House glimmering like the doors of heaven in front of him. One, two, three steps at a time he climbed the stairs, pushing past the pillars of the Marsh House and ignoring the screaming waves behind him. With one final step before the doors, his knees gave way, and he collapsed to the floor. His shoulder throbbed violently as everything went black.
Every inch of Dominic's body felt like a million pounds pressed against him as he slowly opened his eyes, the pain crushing him to the concrete as if gravity suddenly shifted. He struggled, lifting his head above ground to see where he was. The crowd was nearly gone now, with only a smaller number of walkers roaming the street. How long was I out? He pondered, seeing it couldn't of been more than a few minutes while he stared out to the empty street, thunder booming in the distance, shaking the earth as he tried to stand up, only to collapse once more. His mind raced at a million miles per second, the conveyer belt of his brain flying off the track as he howled in pain. He had done so much to get to Clementine, yet the adrenaline was fading.
Dominic looked through the haze as he blinked, wiping the drool that set on his lips as the blurred street came into view through the mist. Up above, the skies were covered in ominous clouds, lightning dancing above the city in a rapid fashion. He looked down in the streets, and in the center of Hell, a little girl stood, staring back at him. Dominic inched forward, pulling his own legs like weights as he squirmed to see who was watching him. She wore a blue and white ballcap, smothered in dust and blood. Two pigtails stuck out, one bunched in a tie, the other unwound like a battered patch of hair, several curls covering her face and running down her shoulders. Her shirt hung like rags as the pink t-shirt meshed with the dried blood stains and rips surrounding her body. The sleeves of her shirt were torn, cuts and rotting bruises creeping up from every angle, blood dripping onto the cement below her. She took a step, her right leg dragging behind her. She wore dark blue jeans, torn and soaked in crimson blood. Dominic gasped as he fell back, collapsing with a thud against the glass doors of the Marsh house.
"Clementine?!"He screamed out, tears already on his face. Dominic crawled forward, the ground like needles to his skin as he pulled himself up, begging to whatever god there was that this wasn't real. He struggled to his feet to run to her aid, only to fall on his face, his fingers breaking the fall.
"You left me like this, Dominic…" She whispered, a smooth, yet terrifying tone catching his ears. "You left me in the woods to die, don't you remember?" Her face revealed nothing but tranquility, an unnerving sense of placidity, yet her tone towards him was harsh, accusing. Her eyes, no longer the bright yellow orbs they once were, were grey and dead. She stared into him, as if she could see something else inside him. She limped closer, her hands limp at her sides as she approached the steps, her left leg dragging behind her with sickening thuds.
"I wouldn't do that, Clem! I- I wouldn't..."Dominic wailed, blood, snot, and tears soaking his face, his cries becoming nothing more than a whisper in the coming storm.
"You left me… all alone…. I thought you were supposed to protect me Donnie? Didn't you promise me that?" With every word she said, a black goo dripped from her mouth, staining her clothes and the concrete. The pink-red shirt she wore in rags becoming a smothered black top, blood decorating the canvas in easy, lenient strokes. Every phrase she spat ended in a charge towards him, her words choking in her own mutated suffocation.
"I-I'M RIGHT HERE, CLEMENTINE! WE'LL BE OKAY!" He screamed, stumbling over the words as an unknown substance filled his throat, choking him while he scurried away, pressing his back helplessly against the glass door. She kept advancing, the innocent face approaching him faster with every stride, sending his heart deeper and deeper into the chaos within his neck. He choked on every breath he took, forcing the substance deeper into his lungs, only to reveal the iron taste of blood.
"But don't you see? I'm already dead." She stood in front of him, looking down at the inferior man who once cared for her, only to abandon her in her time of need. Clementine pulled her leg from its limp stance and drew up her jeans, a massive cut plastered into her leg. Someone had tried to cut her leg off; the meat hung in slices down to the bone. Infected blood and puss poured onto the ground, dripping from her cut and down from her shoe. Her ankle was swollen, bite marks infected and red, dark crimson dripping down her leg and onto the ground. With every step she took, her leg snapped, the two halves of her bones smashing and rubbing together; obvious evidence that her ankle was shattered.
Dominic started to cry, turning away from Clementine and covering his eyes as guilt filled his heart. What have I done?
"It was the Stranger, he followed me into the woods! He broke my leg and left me to the walkers!" She hissed, her voice distorting, turning hoarse as she explained her untimely death. Dominic opened his eyes to see her staring at him, her eyes glowing as blood dripped from the sockets and into the black puddle seeping from her lips. He saw the horror, the dead skin, the sliced leg: dead Clementine.
"A walker bit me while I was out there, all alone! The only thing left to do was to clean the knife in what was left of my water and to cut the bloody thing off! Too bad, you weren't there Dominic! You could have been my tourniquet! I died quickly from blood loss!" Clementine turned around, displaying a horrible image of mud, dirt, and blood covering her back. Dominic stared through teary eyes, unable to find a back to her ragged shirt: just blood. Dark, infected...blood.
"I-I'm so sorry Clementine… I didn't mean… I didn't…" He sobbed into his hands, his own heart shattering into the pit of his stomach. I abandoned you. He thought repeatedly in his head, the weight of his failure pulling on him. You will pay for this…. Dominic looked up, closing his eyes as he prepared to meet his fate. If he had failed, he must accept his consequences.
"I'll never forgive you."
He looked around, but Clementine was nowhere to be seen. The blood-soaked little girl he had failed to protect was gone.
"The fuck?" Dominic croaked, the substance in his throat gone as well. Raising himself up, he stayed low, ready for anything to attack him. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his knife, wondering if he was about to have to strike at a walker, a dead Clementine; anything. Out of the corner of his eyes, a walker crawled up the stairs, its legs all but unhinged from the rest of his body. Most of its flesh was gone, but the bones and battered head remained. Was this…. Clementine?!
He didn't stay still long enough to find out. With the first new rush of adrenaline, he ran and swung, the knife diving deep into the cranium of the crawling abomination. In one swift motion, Dominic slammed his foot on top of the walker's neck and pulled, breaking its neck and retrieving his knife from the wound. The walker slumped onto the cement, its growling ceasing in an instant. Something sounded from behind him: staggering footsteps. Dominic swung on his heels, slashing his knife into another walker, who seemed ready to enlist him from behind. In another instant, Dominic brought out a left hook, sending the dead one against the glass of the building and giving a loud thud as it collapsed onto the ground. He charged forward, bringing his beloved knife down into the skull of his attacker, the walker left to roam no more.
"Fucking hell…" He huffed, removing his knife from the corpse's head. He looked around, the street now clear, with mere pellets of rain disturbing the otherwise abandoned road. Am I going insane? The little girl was still nowhere to be seen, and he was certainly not going to call out for the tiny walker. Dominic stepped to the edge of the entrance, taking quick glances down the road. From where he came, there was nothing but a few corpses that had been trampled on in the horde, and the ones he may have slayed along the way. On the other end was the horde, slowly drifting away to another street or another town, to terrorize other lives such as his own. With one final breath, he slowly turned back to the Marsh House, half expecting to see her there; nothing. All that was left were the two walkers that must have followed them, and the cracked glass from the ambush.
Dominic stumbled forward, his adrenaline rush wearing off. Not again. He forced his legs to move, his strength fading away as his legs quickly became weights, his vision blurring, causing him to stumble awkwardly to the door. His lungs heaved as they grasped for air, their hands clinging to whatever his throat brought them. His own footsteps rang in his ears, a migraine forming quickly as his brain exclaimed for sleep. He stumbled through the door, the dead walker slumping to the floor as he walked in. He shivered as the blood covering his hoodie trickled down his body, feeling cold to the touch rather than the warm, gooey feeling it had when he first applied it. He ignored it as he continued towards a staircase at the end of the hallway.
You are going to die, bastard. He stepped towards the stairs, letting a maniacal laugh burst from within his chest at the thought. I'm going to finally kill you! He laughed, his chest holding nothing back as he shouted to the man upstairs, blood rushing as his fiery rein took over.
"Just wait, Stranger. I'm going to have some fun with you." He whispered, grinning as he pictured the glorious event. His blood boiled at the sight of his faithful knife in the palms of his hand, licking the blade with The Stranger's blood dripping off of the cold steel. He jabbed it into the Stranger's arm, the man's blood-curdling screams music to his ears. The man was tied to a bedpost, every one of his four limbs chained to be cut away. He squirmed, tugging at the ropes as his back rubbed against the naked mattress. The vanilla walls were stained with blood, the mattress quickly becoming its next victim. The Stranger had slashes running down his back, his shirt in blue and red rags as the cuts burned his skin and the color drained from his face.
"STOP, PLEASE! I ONLY DID THIS FOR MY FAMILY!" He would yelp, trying to tug away from Dominic, the ropes binding his legs and wrists cutting the circulation. The Stranger would then glance about, Clementine sitting in the corner, the black eye he had given her glowing under the lamplight of the room.
"IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO MEET YOUR END, ASSHOLE!"Dominic would shout, laughing in pure, satiric glee as his blade met the bone, the sawing ready to begin. "I'LL TEAR YOU AND YOUR FUCKING FAMILY APART!"He would scream, Dominic's laughter interrupting his speech as he sawed away.
"I'M SO SORRY, P-PLEASE LET ME LIVE!" The Stranger would scream, tears welling up in his eyes as the pain would surely knock him out. Dominic smiled as he imagined himself grasping a syringe from the side table next to him, adrenaline shots ready to go. He would stab him in the chest, right above his heart, forcing the man to stay awake for the duration of his 'procedure'. The Stranger would laugh himself to tears, having flashbacks of all the talks they had on the talkies, how he lied and cheated his way to take her.
"YOU DON'T DESERVE TO LIVE, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!"Dominic would blare, giving one swish with his knife as he'd chop the rest of the limb, watching the gore pour out of the worthless man's arm, his crying filling the room as Clementine would stare from afar. How proud I would be…..
Dominic leaned against the railing of the stairs, a smile etched across his face as he decided exactly how this man's life should end. You're mine now Stranger, he thought as he put one foot in front of the other, tugging himself on the highway to hell. Suddenly, a creaking sound echoed down below near the entrance. Dominic glanced, the door remaining closed, but footsteps were slowly approaching from the side hallway.
"Have you come to play, Stranger?"He guffawed, wheezing as he made his way back down the stairs. He turned the corner, his vision slipping in and out of focus as his heart raced beneath his chest. Dominic glanced, a walker stumbling in from the hallway. Oh, you bastard. He was slow on his heels, swaying gently as he reached for his knife, mentally checking himself to clean it off before going for his target. Colliding with the wall, he stumbled as he met the walker, pushing forward as he grasped its shoulders, shoving it towards the floor.
"I'm… going...to...kill...you…" He gasped, out of breath as he lunged for the walker, only to be met with devastating force as the two came to a standstill. Dominic's fingers clung to the walker's shoulders, pushing as hard as his arms could while the abomination resisted, clawing for any skin it could grab. Dominic stared, the walker's eyes gone as two black pits glared back, empty sockets leading to a soul long gone. Its teeth were yellow, flies buzzing inside as the flesh flaked off in random positions, the jawline completely noticeable with a few teeth missing. It wore a red button up shirt, fraying at the ends from overuse with the left side smothered in blood. It must have been stabbed, Dominic thought as he pushed it back, the weight of the walker growing as his feet slid back on the tile floor. He glared at the walker, its breath smelling of death as it hung around his nose, a constant flow of foul odors breaking into his body. With one final shove, Dominic slipped, a shriek echoing from his mouth as the two of them collapsed onto the wooden floor. Without hesitation, the walker climbed on top of him, the weight becoming a rock of unspeakable mass on his chest. Gasping for air, Dominic clung to his faithful knife, dragging his wrists from the cold tile slicing the walker from its stomach to its head. In a sickening display, the walker's insides fell out with a sploosh, covering Dominic head to toe in guts.
He pushed, inch by inch until the corpse slid to the ground, its fingers clinging to a hole in his shirt. Dominic lifted the cold hands, gently placing it onto the equally cold tile before falling back on the ground, gasping as his throat closed, air being cut off from his lungs.
He closed his eyes as he focused on his breathing, regaining full consciousness before looking back at the hellish stairs. His throat burned, as if he had swallowed his own knife, slicing his esophagus to shreds with each pulsing throb, only to remove the blood associated with such an act. Dominic's legs throbbed, the small journey done feeling more like miles, and the claustrophobia only made the matters worse. He couldn't tell if his muscles were tense or relaxed, the excruciating pain they set on his body as he rolled over, pushing himself up from the ground. Immediately, he hissed, realizing the walker had unintentionally kneed him, a bruise developing on his calves. He looked as the blueish brown welp grew in size and became sensitive to the touch. Well, fuck. He limped towards the stairwell, holding onto anything he could to keep him upright.
Dominic faced the corner, ready to ascend the painful flight of stairs. As he turned, a shadow dashed across the staircase, a dark mass running for the halls. Dominic glanced behind him, nothing there but the vanilla tiles and brown walls, with doors every few feet. Looking back, he took his first step, the sound of rushing footsteps pulsating in his ears before his head burst into agony, then everything was replaced by darkness.
The marshes surrounding the mouth of the Savannah river were always a muddy mess, even during the freezing winter, but for Molly it didn't matter. The brown, slimy goop floating on top of the water stuck to her legs. The water felt just as horrible as it looked; thick, muddy, and sloshy, like a garbage milkshake without whip cream. She trampled through it without giving it a second thought. She looked over the horizon as dark clouds drew closer to the river's shore from the north, black as night, as if threatening to drop the water then and now onto the land below. Several trees hung low over the water as if they felt the oncoming storm too. The chill moisture in the air clung to her skin, forcing her to shiver as she waded through the palpable sea of air. Not a single animal rummaged through the open fields, or a fish flop out of the river. Everything was still and silent, even a mosquito's heartbeat could be be heard if you pressed your ears to the sky. Beneath the surface, mud trailed the riverbed, the brown substance now a blackened hue from years of pollution and harbor traffic.
The night before, she had found herself sailing down the same river towards the sea, not daring to look back at the city she was leaving behind.
"Come… on!" She hissed, tugging the metal trailer as the wheels screeched from misuse, inch by inch drawing closer to the shore. She swept the blonde hair out of her face as her fingers slipped, nearly losing grasp of Hilda while she made her way to the muddy water. She pulled, digging her feet into the ground as the wheels gently turned, giving in to her forced momentum. Her muscles screamed as she gave yet another tug, the two mile pull taking a heavy toll on her body. She could hear the river flowing behind her, yet it still felt so far away. She grimaced as the fatigue paralyzed her body, dropping Hilda and grasping the side of the trailer weakly before pulling herself up. She nearly fell into the driver's seat as she took a deep breath, relaxing her tired muscles while laying down on the boat's fiberglass hull. All she could do was breathe in and out in rhythm to the beat of her own heart.
As she stared up at the starry sky above her, a single thought bubbled to the surface. She was finally free. All of the bickering left in the ruins of this dead city; the lies, the scams, the pain; every prick of the needle the people she had to deal with poured out of her like sweat as she clambered out and pushed the small craft off its trailer and into the water. The group, Kenny, Lee and the rest, left her like a bad memory. With every drop of sweat, another argument fell like a weight off of her shoulders, one she would never have to carry again. She could still hear their voices, and Kenny's yelling, as the group fell to its knees when she made the decision: I have to get out of here and save myself… Was that selfish of her? The question echoed endlessly in her mind as it tried to find any way of justifying her decision. In the end, it came down to one thing: the group was dead; there was no going back. No matter how much she wanted what they first had to last, the dynamic of the group members led to only one outcome: destruction. She couldn't bear to watch more people die, not after Hilda, and not after Crawford. She just wanted out, to survive. Maybe she had been too hasty when deciding to leave the group, but that didn't matter anymore. She exiled herself.
With the long haul out of the way, she breathed in the nighttime air, the morning dew slowly arising out of the docks as she got on her feet. She grabbed the red can hiding behind the driver's seat and unhinged the cap, the vile yet strangely appealing smell of gasoline skinning her nose alive as she brought it up to the gas tank, pouring the liquid until it reached the top of the tank. Molly climbed back in, her muscles still screaming as she gripped the key, turning it quickly while the excitement in her soul fought to jitter her body. With the start of the engine roaring to life, a smile engraved her face before she slammed on the accelerator, rushing out of the muddy docks and into the open river and towards the ocean beyond. Yet, that's when everything changed. She glanced out into the open water, nothing but black and blue water ahead of her for miles. Where am I going…? She didn't know. Savannah had been her home for most of her life, and since leaving Crawford, it just came down to basic survival: scavenge, eat, drink, sleep, breathe, repeat. Where was she to go that isn't just as much of a hellhole as the one she left behind; nowhere was safe. She stared at the water, the sense of overwhelming freedom quickly becoming a form of anxiety as she spun the boat around, unforeseen water splashing across her face. She stopped and hopped out into the goopy marshes with one man in mind. She needed guidance to search the wasteland, who better to get that from than from the man who could see the future?
Finding a broken fence along the river, she wrapped a rope around it, anchoring the boat before she made her trek back to the house. She ran, the activity suddenly easier on her legs without the bulking fiberglass dragging behind her. Within an hour, she stepped back inside the building, only to find out Clementine had gone missing, taken by some evil stranger that had been stalking them. In the back of her mind she knew this would be a bad idea; getting involved with Lee and the group would only bring hostility, especially after what she'd done; she couldn't risk it. She walked to the famous couch, only to discover Dominic still unconscious as could be, slouched against the armrest. She decided to search the house, see if any valuables were left lying around before leaving this godforsaken city once and for all. While scavenging around upstairs, someone had left a small amount of ammo stuffed in the back of a dresser in a bedroom, along with a tiny pocketknife. Could be useful... Down the hallway, a few packages of crackers were left unattended, stale as they were, she tasted them, only spitting them out in horror. Clementine, I'm sure. With the search complete she treaded downstairs, a noise erupting from the kitchen.
"Ow! Fuck!" A weakened voice had shouted to the rest of the house.
"About damn time you wake up." Molly had hissed, a sense of amusement coming from her voice. She couldn't stay long, not with the possibility of anyone seeing her again, especially around Dominic. If they knew about her taking the boat, she'd be ratted out immediately, no doubt by Kenny. If his outrages were bad, seeing her could be his breaking point.
So she lied to Dominic, seeing it was the only way out of Savannah, and the only way she had any chance of getting Dominic on board with her and away from the rest of them. She told him that the boat was gone when she got here, even hinted at the possibility that Lee and the others simply left him behind. No surprise, Dominic sighed with obvious disbelief, staring at her with pain and defiance in his eyes. He wouldn't go, but now Molly had another priority: Clementine. She cared about that little girl just as much as anyone else in Lee's group. In a way, Clementine reminded her of Hilda; sweet, innocent little Hilda. It was her chance to start again after her fatal mistake. She couldn't let the girl die.
Now, Molly was in the marsh again, the familiar muddy water and goop coming into focus through the mist. As she got closer, her mind wandered back through the the city and into Crawford. Her spine rattled as the memories played in her head, sending a shock through her nerves and deep into the marrow within her bones.
"Fuck! Do you think they saw us?!" Ben hissed as they slammed the glass door, cutting off the walkers whose footsteps and moans could be heard outside the school.
"I don't think so. I think we're good, for now at least," Lee muttered, staring down the steps beyond the door.
"Dominic wasn't kidding, this place is crawling with walkers," Carley gasped as she pocketed her pistol, a glimmer of safety replacing the cold fear inside her as the metal clinked against her thigh.
"They were monsters to start with," Molly added, crossing her arms as she leaned against a locker. "They got what they deserved."
"After what they did here, I think I can agree with you," Lee hissed, glancing at the young girl.
"Oh man, we are so screwed…" Ben breathed, his heart rate steadily increasing as he banged the back his head against a locker, struggling to calm his breathing and settle his nerves. The moaning emanating from all around them not helping either of his causes.
"Calm down son," Chuck muttered to the boy, looking around the building with a curious eye, the classrooms appealing since he hadn't seen one in decades, oh, how they've changed since he'd been a student. "We ain't dead yet."
"T-those things are gonna get up here, and then we will be!" Ben stuttered, his eyes wide with fear as his fingers gripped his hair, tugging as the mental frustration overwhelmed him. "We don't even know where to find the supplies we're looking for!" He hollered, shaking as every inch of his body felt like a walker was clawing for him.
"Hey, idiot! Care to keep your voice down before you attract every single one of those things in here?!" Molly hissed, clenching her fists as the boy cowered, hunched against the locker with Molly staring him down.
"I'm sorry! I'm just… scared," Ben whispered, his eyes darting between the remaining survivors and the doors, the sound of a hundred banging fists down the stairs against the front doors sending shockwaves down his spine.
"We need to keep our heads if we're gonna get those supplies and get out of here alive," Lee announced, his voice strangely calm while he wondered where the perfect place to find them might be. "We can find them if we work together." He gave a quick look at Molly before returning his gaze on the rest of the crew.
"You're right," Molly agreed, "we need to find where their command center, or whatever is. From there, we can find out where the supplies are at."
"Any ideas?" Lee inquired, praying someone might open up.
"Nope," Molly lied, "but let's just search the floor and see what we find."
Molly shook the memory away, stomping through the mud faster. She couldn't dwell on past anymore, all she could do was carry on. Once she finally reached the boat, the icy wind sent shivers throughout her body, making it all the more difficult to untether the craft from the fence post. Once the deed was done, she climbed aboard, taking a look back at the city behind her on the horizon. It made her uneasy, the lights didn't shine anymore at night, casting a sinister silhouette over the city she once called home. In the midst of admiring her old home, a thought ran across her mind. I should go back for him. She slumped in her seat, the freezing leather pressing against the creases in her back while the wild thoughts flew through her mind. Don't know if he got away from that herd of geeks, but I need to know that I'm not just going to sit here waiting here for a dead man. She gripped the wheel in her hands as she mulled it over, the sense of power in the spaces between her fingers was overwhelming. I could just leave… no. She couldn't just leave him in there. The boy was insane even trying to attempt pushing through a horde, let alone taking on this Stranger alone. She had to go back for him.
And that, she did.
"Hey Lee, looks like your little shitbird of a friend has up and left," Kenny growled as Lee entered the house. He stood over the couch, staring at it in disdain, bile in his stomach bubbling at the thought of the shithead that laid there previously.
"What are you talking about Kenny?" Lee groaned, dragging himself through the kitchen, focusing halfheartedly on the Floridian who called for him.
"Look for yourself," Kenny muttered as he approached Lee, pointing toward the living room they had left Dominic in the night before, his face smug with disgust as he stared down the man who trusted him.
Grunting, Lee strolled into the living room to find the couch empty. "How long ago do you think he woke up?" Omid inquired, appearing from the top of the staircase, his injured leg bent while he stood there, staring as well at the abandoned couch.
"Long enough to leave," Lee muttered, glancing around the room, as if Dominic would suddenly appear, looking for any clues of where the boy went.
"He probably went off looking for Clementine, same as us," Christa added, helping Omid to sit down before sighing and turning to Lee. "So what's the plan then?" Everyone locked eyes on Lee, waiting for his move.
"We still have no idea where the Stranger took Clementine," Lee announced, his voice switching to a tone of sadness as the words left him. "But we know she's still in the city. We need to find clues, anything, to narrow down where he would've taken her."
"So basically, you want to keep kicking every fuckin' door in," Kenny griped. He sighed as he kicked the couch before sitting on it. The man stared at Lee, waiting for something actually smart to come out of his mouth. He was still focused on the boat. All Kenny wanted was to leave this hellhole, to have some measure of safety on the high seas. After Katjaa and Duck, it's the least he thought the world owed him.
"We don't have much choice here, Kenny, it's either that or…" His voice died off as the offensive thought crossed his mind, the idea that Clementine would die along with it eating away his insides. "...or give up." He choked on the last words.
"Which isn't an option," Christa quickly added, noticing Lee's voice crack.
"Agreed. If we're lucky, we'll find-" A strange noise in the distance stopped Lee's statement in place. The sound of scrambling footsteps could be heard from outside, along with a cult chanting in their god-awful moans beyond the door. The group looked in each other's eyes, everyone giving the same signal as the moaning and footsteps grew closer. Lee ran to the window, an unspeakable amount of walkers closing in on all sides of the house.
"Holy fuck…" Omid gasped, saying what everyone had been thinking
"That's… a lot of them," Carley whispered, looking over Lee's shoulder as they looked out of the window. They couldn't count… hundreds, maybe thousands, of them were piling in the yard, headed straight for the house. Some of the abominations were crawling on the lawn, tugging at scraps of grass or other walker's legs. A few unlucky walkers were trampled, the horrifying sounds of squished limbs and wretched screams erupting from their crushed lips.
"Shit, they're coming straight for the house." Lee muttered, his heart flinging to his throat as the numbers fogged his brain, only to be realigned with reality by Carley's scream in his ears.
"We have to move, LEE! She hollered, pulling his shirt as they stumbled away from the window, their breathing rapid with panic as the room burst with shouts coming from every angle. They had mere minutes, if they were lucky, before these monsters raided the place, consequently destroying everything in their path.
"We can secure this place!" Christa shouted over the chaos, running for the back door, locking every latch her eyes could catch in her scrambling. Her fingers shook with fear as she jingled the locks, finishing and rushing to the living room, only to open the closet door close to the fireplace. She glanced around, grabbing anything heavy she could from the corner and returning to the back door, throwing them in place, blocking the entrance. Backdoor secured.
"Do you see how many of them are out there? There ain't no securing from that!" Kenny growled, standing in place as he pulled out his gun, pulling back the metal hammer. If anything was going to invade this place, they would be met with death, again. He closed in on the front windows, locking them before staring out, his mouth agape at the amount of dead stumbling toward them. Like ants, they moved in from every direction, covering as much ground as they could in the shortest amount of time possible. Kenny gripped his pistol as the oncoming shitfest awaited him.
"We've got to try!" Lee shouted over everybody, looking at each person before spitting out his orders. "Christa, search the house for weapons! Anything you can find! Kenny, move anything you can up against the doors, hopefully that'll hold 'em back long enough for us to make an escape. Carley, help Christa!" As they each ran off to do their selected tasks, Lee turned to Omid to see him staring horrified at the front foyer, his eyes moving manically from the doors to Lee. "Omid! What is it?"
Omid limped towards the foyer as fast as he could, nearly falling over as he gripped onto anything he could. He gripped the table leading towards the front doors, and collapsed as he reached the bare end, gripping the wall like a handle too big for his fingers. He could see through the gripping pain that walkers were closing in, at least ten of them about to reach the open entrance. Before Omid reached the front doors, a deep voice rang out, cutting through the chaos around the home.
"FRONT DOORS!" Lee shouted at the top of his lungs.
"Help….me…" Omid gasped as he struggled to stay upright, the mass pressing against him from both sides combined with the wound in his leg becoming an unbearable obstacle, throwing his vision into a blurry haze with the only thing left to do; push harder.
Everyone converged on the main entrance, pushing the door shut as the first group had made contact. They turned into one solid mass as they shoved hard against the wooden doors, the walkers' growing number pushing back, a few undead hands reaching through the thin gap in the door for them.
"Shit, Lee cut their hands off!" Christa shouted while pushing against the current.
"There must be a knife or something in the kitchen!" Omid suggested, leaning against the doors, putting all of his weight against the walkers, desperately praying to whatever God he believed in to let this end. A tear swelled up at the edge of his eyes. He looked around, the screams of a thousand undead walkers filling his ears, his friends shouting above the noise only deafening his hearing. Pressing against the entrance, his back began to ache, the weight becoming an moving wall as he tried to hold it in place, wishing he could somehow move it a few more inches, enough to keep the Devil out of his sanctuary. Omid glanced to the side, Christa and Carley beside him, holding the demons at bay while his strength slowly faded. In between the crease of the doors, hands reached for their next prey, an overwhelming stench invading their nostrils from the flaking flesh.
Lee stopped pushing, and ran for the kitchen. He ripped open every drawer he laid eyes on, silverware and utensils flinging across the room, yet the clinking and clanging could barely be heard over the sound of the hungry souls of the undead surrounding them. He dropped down onto his knees, rummaging inside the cabinets, tossing plastic bowls and more old utensils out until he came across a blade that caught his eyes. He examined the cleaver closely before standing up and running back into the foyer, cleaver held high.
"WATCH OUT!"Lee hollered, his mighty cleaver like a knight's sword, ready to spill the beasts' blood. Everyone took a glance, immediately spotting the shining silver in his hands, before ducking their heads and putting as much pressure against the doors as possible. Lee pushed past his friends, his eyes targeting the rotting hands like a chef ready to slice up his ingredients. He swung, fingers and arms falling to the floor, his silver sword now dripping with dark crimson blood, each slice in sync with the pounding fists just beyond. He stared, the bloody marrow of his foes gleaming in the what little sunlight beamed in as they continued their sickening moans. With every slice of flesh, the crack in the door became smaller and smaller, until it finally let out its angelic click, locking the satanic beings on the outside indefinitely.
Everyone took a second to breathe, Omid giving into the excruciating pain in his legs and sliding down to the floor, meeting the freezing tiles with a plop. Christa joined him, taking a seat and giving him a quick kiss before lying against him. The two watched Lee and Carley embrace each other in a victorious hug, laughing as the futility of their situation came bearing down upon them.
"So, when are we going to go back to sitting around doing nothing again?" Carley whispered to Lee, a smile etched across her face.
"That would be boring." Lee muttered, grinning at her joke. They stared at each other for what felt like an eternity, each gazing into the other's eyes, searching for what remained of their souls.
Carley searched, only to find an innocent man roaming, lost inside of himself, wanting to be freed so he could do right by the world. He was looking for someone, as if he had lost his reason for living. He had lost one of those reasons to the Stranger, Clementine, but she could see he was determined to get her back, no matter the cost.
Lee gazed into the woman before him, seeing not only the persevering woman looking for truth, but he could see the compassion she had for others, the bold leader she was becoming, and how she would stop at nothing to keep the ones she cared about alive and together.
Carley and Lee leaned in without realizing it, kissing each other, before quickly retreating, glancing around the room as if nothing had happened. The moment slipped by so quickly Lee couldn't tell if it really happened, only his heart racing told him the beautiful and honest truth. Carley stared, bug eyed, her wall crumbling down at the man she once considered a murderer.
Omid and Christa watched on, holding their lips shut as they laughed. Tiny whispers of "Awww!" and "I knew it!" fluttering from their mouths as Lee and Carley quickly separated, scratching the back of their necks nervously. Omid leaned forward, coughing before opening his mouth to speak.
"Can we just focus on how the fuck we're getting out of here?" Kenny grumbled, appearing from around the corner by the windows, interrupting Omid mid-breath.
Omid nodded his head, turning from Kenny to Lee, shrugging as he asked the question everyone wanted to know. "Now what?"
"Shhh," Lee coughed, taking his eyes off of Carley and back into reality. "Everybody, we have to hide, and then find a way out."
"Lee's right; this place is secure. We're patient and then we get going," Christa agreed, pulling herself off the floor, then helping Omid back onto his feet.
"Lee?" A tiny voice emanated from the radio on Lee's belt, causing a unified gasp to ensue within the foyer.
"CLEMENTINE?!" Lee shouted after retrieving the radio from his belt, his fingers shaking and eyes bugging towards the tiny speaker.
"Where is she?!" Carley blurted out, shocked and happy at the same time that she was communicating with them again.
"Is she ok?!" Christa submitted into the crowd of words.
"Can- can we find her?" Omid jumped in.
"T-the Stranger has me at… at the Marsh House, where my parents used to stay…" Her voice shook with every word, her voice sounding like it was travelling through a tube, telling Lee she must be in a confined space. She stopped for a second, her next sentence shaking just as much as she was. "He has Dominic too." She whispered into the transmitter.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" A voice echoed from behind Clementine's. The voices on the radio were suddenly replaced by static, ripping the hope from Lee's heart and replacing it with imminent dread.
"He has them at the Marsh House…" Lee repeated, looking at his friends, daring to not meet anyone's gaze, knowing very well it would cause him to burst into tears. Shit, do I still have that map? He dug around in his pockets, feeling little bits of scrap until he pulled out the little pamphlet, a map of Savannah's downtown district drawn down on the crumpled paper.
"Looks like the Marsh House is over by River Street, If we can get there, we can save them," Lee muttered, folding the map back into his pocket.
"If we can get out of here," Carley responded. Everyone turned, ready to continue blockading the house as the sound of breaking glass echoed from the living room. The murmuring of the walkers' screams turned into a full fledged nightmare as more walkers knocked through the glass windows, crawling over the shards and hastily placed barricades, swarming into different rooms within seconds. Lee backed away from the pockets of walkers, cleaving away at their necks and heads as they poured into the home. Christa grabbed Omid by the shoulders, guiding him away from the windows as they crashed, one by one, into the room, glass covering every inch of the floor. Blood dripped onto the living room floor like an omen, the blackened liquid pooling as the demons ambushed their prey, leaving the only safe haven left being Hell itself.
Carley stared into the kitchen as bodies piled up against the back door, each knocking on the door to a deadly beat. She rushed beyond the walkers in the living room, knocking one down in her path before reaching the counters, leaning her back against the ceramic top while she waited, gun drawn. Blood dripped through the cracks in the wooden door, bodies being squished while the rest the living room was flooded with walkers, forcing their way closer to the Hell House. Cracks splintered in the boarded window, the force of their mass actually breaking the barrier, the screams of walkers filling Carley's ears until a shattering crack exploded her eardrums, her eyes blinded as the door fell. A sonic boom erupted in the kitchen, the door falling to the floor as mutilated walkers dropped on top of it. Carley began to shoot every walker that stepped over the broken barricade, their bodies colliding with the others on the cold floor.
"CARLEY!" Lee cried out, noticing a couple of walkers heading her way. He swung, his cleaver cracking the skull of a walker, the undead cadaver collapsing into a heap where it stood. Lee crushed its leg before yanking on his cleaver, the blade flying out of its skull with a mighty squelch. He rushed for the next one, knocking it to the ground before bringing the blade down on its neck, the blood beginning to gush before Lee pulled his blade out one final time, slicing a deep gash into its skull. He bypassed the incoming walkers piling from the back door and gripped Carley by the arm, pulling her to the foyer.
"WE NEED TO MOVE!" Lee shouted over the chaos.
"THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!" Omid gasped, backing against the staircase, his eyes wide at the amount of walkers filling the house. It was at that point he couldn't tell which body was alive or dead, the wooden floor of the living room vanishing as it was replaced by the bloody bodies.
"SHIT! EVERYONE UPSTAIRS!" Kenny roared as he shot into the crowd, turning around in time to escape their rotting hands.
Dominic groaned, his throbbing head pulling him out of his forced slumber. He glanced about; nothing but a foggy scene enveloped him, throwing his brain into a chaotic mix of pain and confusion. He blinked before trying to move, pain shooting through his nerves from every muscle in his body. Stretching his arms and legs, he tried to focus on his surroundings, a chair straight across from him coming into view. The pain filling his body changed abruptly to cold adrenaline as the hair on his skin rose to a point. His eyes were cold, staring him down like a wild animal, creating a cage with his pupils. Dominic wanted to fight back, but he had locked the cage.
"Hello Dominic," the man greeted, leaning back in his chair, his foot resting pleasantly on his knee. His voice rattled Dominic's bones to the marrow deep within. The voice was cold, yet warm, on the outside he was inviting, but inside a sinister undertone threatened to break free from its chains.
"Stranger," Dominic grunted out, his voice hoarse as his breath left him.
"Is that what you call me? How creative." He muttered, chuckling at the title.
"Where's Clementine?" Dominic growled, his eyes filling with blood.
"She's safe," The Stranger smiled, "from you."
"What have you done with her?" Dominic seethed, his voice raising with every word, the anger building inside of him boiling to the surface.
"She's in a safe place," He countered, his voice remaining calm. "Where's your friend, Lee?"
"Hopefully as far away from here as possible," Dominic grunted.
"I don't think so. He doesn't strike me as the abandoning type." He smirked as Dominic's eyes grew narrower.
"Do you have a point, or are we going to just ignore each other's questions for eternity?" Dominic spat.
"My point is: you've become a nuisance." The Stranger rolled his eyes as he spoke, creating the roles within his mind: the so-called "hero" and the worthless pawn. He wanted nothing but to put a bullet into the boy's head, but decided on having a little fun first. "I didn't give you much thought before, when I heard about what your friends did. You were so preoccupied with yourself to notice your friends stealing from my car. They didn't care if they hurt someone else, and you just let them do it. Despite that, I really didn't care about you. You were a broken child, and I wanted revenge for what Lee did. But then I heard about who you really are, and what you have become."
"Is this the part you make me feel bad about my actions?" Dominic retorted, rolling his eyes at the useless details. His fingers twitched at the thought of the Stranger's blood running down his skin, a small smile twisting his face at the satisfaction of this man's death.
"You should feel bad. You murdered that man in cold blood," the Stranger stated calmly, twiddling his thumbs on the cap of his knee.
"He was a cannibal; he killed some of my friends," Dominic shot back. He glared at the Stranger, a firm look of disdain glued to his face. He looked behind the Stranger's brown hair and at the closed closet door behind him, the urge to burst into the small room taking over, sending a shiver down his spine. His legs shook violently while the two men spoke.
"But is that the image you wanted to imprint on Clementine's mind?" The Stranger asked. "Is that what you wanted her to become?"
"No. But sometimes you've got no choice." Dominic spat, staring at the creases in the door, looking for any sign of Clementine.
"Look at me when I'm talking to you." The Stranger said politely, his eyes widening with disgust at Dominic's disrespect. When Dominic glared back at him, he continued. "And I suppose it was a choice to let your friends take my stuff and ruin my life?" The Stranger remarked, raising a brow.
"I don't give a shit about your life," Dominic snapped, a lump forming in his throat when the Stranger raised his revolver at him. He watched it, the silver barrel pointing directly at his forehead.
"You better watch your tone," He muttered softly, pausing between each word. "I thought I knew what you were," he moved on, the sinister tone slipping away as he continued in even breaths, "You were just a boy who lost his mind, but I was wrong. You were much more than that. When Clementine told me about your past, I knew there was something special about you." The Stranger's voice seemed to rise, as if he was getting excited about mentioning Dominic's true roots.
"Uh huh," Dominic muttered, his mouth moving on autopilot, waiting for tea time to be over.
"There was no doubt in my mind," The Stranger leaned forward, each word spoken with clear intonations for his big reveal. "You were a Traveler."
"I don't know what you mean," Dominic shot back, tired of the nonsense bullshit he was being given.
"Of course you do," The Stranger smiled, "you're from the future, not only that, you're from a future where this," he pointed out to the world just beyond the walls, the world of the undead. "Where this never happened."
"Maybe I was just unlucky," Dominic shrugged, the pain of losing his family and friends, Josh and Steve, long sown over in his heart.
"No, that wouldn't explain everything you've been able to foretell. That takes something more than just an 'accident'." His friendly tone was shifting, resentment leaving his voice as he explained.
"Maybe you're right," Dominic muttered, barely giving a shit. "but as long as I don't become like you, I don't care."
"You created me," The Stranger shot back, laughing. "You and your evil little group. You don't understand how many times I tried to fix your mistakes, how many times I tried to save my wife and son. But, I couldn't save my family, so I will just have take yours."
"Is that what you want from me then?" Dominic snapped, "to take away my family and kill me?"
"No, I want you to break."
Out of the corner of his eye, Dominic noticed a rope attached to the closet door suddenly loosen, the young girl he had been looking for peering out at the commotion. Dominic smiled as he stared directly into the Stranger's soulless eyes. "You'll have to do better than a bullet to break me."
"Oh," The Stranger sighed, a smile stitched onto his face as the ideas roamed his twisted skull. "It'll be worse than that."
"Prove it then, shoot me." Dominic retorted, half expecting the man to merely laugh at his challenge.
The Stranger smiled, lifting his pistol and, without as much as a wink, pulled the trigger. Dominic screamed, the feeling of a thousand needles piercing his stomach. Clementine's shrill voice filled the room, the little girl running to his side, her fingers gripping his already numbing arm. He looked to her, tears already in her blurring eyes.
"How did you get out?" The Stranger questioned, the cold, pleasant voice freezing his bleeding stomach. Dominic glanced, dark crimson staining his shirt as his life began to end. He took one last look at Clementine, the barrel now against her forehead before his heart stopped beating, and his vision turned to black.
"So, how did it feel?" The Stranger asked, smiling at Dominic.
Dominic's eyes flew open as the world seemed to spin around him, his head light as he instantly looked down, only to see his stomach remained intact. What the fuck just happened?! The Stranger laughed, aiming the pistol at the boy as he struggled to come to terms with what he just witnessed.
"What the fuck?" Dominic gasped through the pain that emanated from his stomach; he couldn't wrap his head around it, the bullet and blood was gone, yet his body still ached. He gripped his stomach, praying for the excruciating pain to dissolve.
"You see? That was too easy. Killing you isn't enough, I want you to look back on this moment, and see just how much of a worthless little shit you really are."
"So that's why you're here then," Dominic coughed, smiling through the pain as he watched Clementine grab a bottle of wine from the shelf beside here. "You stayed right where I could find you so you could destroy me."
"You catch on fast," the Stranger smirked.
Dominic smiled back as Clementine tiptoed behind the Stranger's chair, completely unaware of the events that had just happened. "But, you'll have to do better than that to break me."
Without warning, the Stranger whipped his arm around and grabbed the little girl's arm, yanking her around the armrest and in between him and Dominic, the bottle loose in his right hand and the pistol in the other. He pressed the cold metal barrel against her temple, causing her to whine in pain.
"How about this huh?!" He opened the cylinder of his revolver and pulled out the bullets, leaving one behind just for her. He placed the barrel against her head, his finger resting on the trigger.
"I thought you were trying to save her from me," Dominic growled, his eyes on the trigger. "What a fucking hypocrite you are."
"I've grown tired both of you." He deadpanned.
He smiled as he pulled the trigger. The pistol clicked, sending a shockwave through the room before he continued. "That's one chamber empty, but the next might not be."
"You're fucking twisted," Dominic spat, his heart racing as his finger pinched for another shockwave. "She's just a little girl!"
"SHE'S MORE THAN A LITTLE GIRL, YOU'VE TURNED HER INTO A KILLER!" The Stranger roared, pressing it harder against her head.
"SAYS THE MAN WITH THE FUCKING PISTOL AGAINST HER HEAD!"
The man belched out a maniacal laugh before sticking the revolver in Dominic's face. "I'm going to shoot you again. Maybe the second time'll be the charm."
"You're a fucking lunatic."
Clementine stood against the man, silent and crying as the eternal fight continued. The men bickered, her fate lying in the hands of the guy she thought was saving her. Who was right? Everything she's heard has been lies between the two; both men called the other evil. But in that moment, she couldn't tell who was the real villain. Her heart sank as she realized she may never know the truth, and anything based on morality would have to be her judgement, and her judgement alone. But Dominic was right, this man she thought she could trust was absolutely insane. What did he mean by he was going to shoot him again...?
The Stranger let out a flat "hah" before kneeling next to the breaking boy, still holding Clementine against her will. "You don't seem to understand, Dominic," he whispered in the boy's ear. "You and me, we're Travelers. We are beyond the comprehension of man. Everything you see, can be controlled."
"I will never be like you." Dominic deadpanned, his eyes still locked onto the silver barrel against Clementine's head.
"Not yet, but you will."
"I thought you were going to break me." Dominic countered.
"I'm merely showing you how I felt trying to save my family. That's how I'm going to break you."
"You're fucking insane."
A twisted smile appeared on his face as he aimed the revolver at Clementine again, clicking again as he pulled the trigger. "Two down, three left. Your ignorance is going to cost the girl her life, Dominic."
He turned back to the boy, who merely stared back at him in defeat, shaking violently in his chair. "You're pathetic. I expected more of a fight from you. It's a shame really, you would've made a really good Traveler."
Dominic's voice barely reached the Stranger's ears. "What do you think Travelers are then?" The air stilled as the younger boy stared up at the Stranger. "Just something you can use to justify your insanity?"
"Insanity?" The Stranger scoffed, spluttering out more laughter as he stared at Dominic. "I'm not the insane one here. You are. Look at you." He spat at the boy's feet, taking in the trembling kid before him. How weak he was acting, watching as he held his 'friend' against her will, and not moving an inch to save her. "You try to save your 'friends', but look at where it's gotten you. You got nothing. You let them slip through your fingers, and now they're dead: Mark and Larry, Katjaa and Duck, all dead!" He flashed a small smile as his next words escaped his lips, "Not to mention Lilly…"
"Lilly shot me." Dominic seethed, bewildered at the mention of her name. "But that doesn't mean she's dead."
"You're right, she could be alive right now," The Stranger muttered, cocking the revolver once more, "But even she will die, some day." He shrugged, looking at Clementine, fiddling with the barrel pointed at her forehead.
Dominic sighed. This man was too far gone to be reasoned with; the deaths of his wife and son must've destroyed him more than Dominic realized. "Do you have a point?" He fumed, tired of this back and forth crap.
"My point is," The man shouted, turning back toward Dominic. "You've been doing everything wrong. You could've prevented their deaths, but instead, you failed."
"There was nothing I could do!" Dominic shouted back. The tide of the conversation suddenly changed as Dominic became the criminal, and the Stranger the interrogator. "Just like there was nothing you could do!" He shot, trying to poke a hole in the man's ego, possibly accomplishing his goal, for the raging lunatic howled with flaring anger at the boy.
"WRONG! There's a million ways you could have saved them. You had a chance to, and you blew it! Perhaps when you manifest, you'll understand this."
"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT?!" Dominic screamed at him, who merely smirked in response.
The Stranger pinched the trigger once more; this time a loud bang echoed through the room as Clementine's limp body fell to the floor, the thump of her body hitting the carpet syncing with Dominic's heart shattering. "Ah, seems that I found the right one."
"You son of a bitch," Dominic mouthed, no words coming out as the lump filled his throat, choking his every breath. No, Clementine…
The Stranger laughed, watching as Dominic scrambled out of his chair and onto the floor to Clementine, clutching her body as tears fell onto her face. A tear fell from his eye as a smile formed on his face, realizing she didn't even feel the pain. She was gone from this world, away from the hatred, the fighting, the struggle to survive. She was free, but that didn't make the pain go away. He looked up at her murderer with rage, so angry he could barely hear the man's next words.
"Do you see what I can do, Dominic?"
Dominic blinked, Clementine back beside the Stranger. He took in his surroundings; he was in the chair, again. The Stranger stared at him, chuckling under his breath as the sound of the gun clicking filled room. Dominic gasped as he clicked the pistol once more, pushing it against her temple hard enough to make her whine. Dominic reached out, doing the only thing he could think of before the deafening bang filled the room again.
This went on for several counts; the question, the laughter, the feeling of dread when he looked into her eyes before he heard the loud bang, and watching as her body fell to the floor. Through all of this, Dominic could still feel the weight of her body in his arms. He felt the tears, as if they never went away, dripping down his face as the little girl he loved like his own sister died, repeatedly, directly in front of his eyes. He held her in his arms as that special light left her eyes right before she hit the floor, unmoving. In an instant, he was back in the chair again. He tried to grab the gun, only to be met with a quicker bang then the last, feeling the rush of the bullet before it stopped her heart.
"Ready for another round?" The Stranger asked, the over-familiar cocking of the gun filling Dominic's ears. He looked up, his eyes already welled up with tears as he nodded, broken. He stared down at the ground while he waited for the next dreaded pop of the pistol. He shut his eyes as he prepared himself for the next round of Hell, at the same time as the tears began to drip onto his lap. His heart was gone, becoming an empty vessel with nothing left but to pump blood. The beat stopped time and time again. He lost count after the dozen mark, her thump to the floor ringing in his ears like a broken record player, now another trophy for the monster smiling down at him.
Clementine looked up the man holding the gun to her head, focused wholeheartedly on not moving her head. Did he just say… another round? The light struck her mind as she realized she had no time to think.
"Stop this… please…" Dominic begged, tears streaming down his face as he looked away.
Everything ran in slow motion as she faced the Stranger and attacked the only way she could; teeth. She bit as hard as her jaw could bite, the foul taste of iron invading her senses while she pushed the gun away, leading to an unwanted bang to pierce the air.
"OW! Fucking bitch!" The Stranger howled out, grabbing her arm and tossing her to the floor.
Dominic blinked, the thud of Clementine's body hitting the floor disrupting the pattern. What? He looked up to see the Stranger staring down at Clementine's shaking form, the hand clutching the gun clicking open the barrel for one more bullet. NO! Dominic leapt to his feet, shoving the hand away before he tackled the man, sending them both crashing over the chair and onto the wooden floor; the end closing in.
The Stranger sent a devastating punch straight into Dominic's cheek. The world seemed to blur as the brute force of the attack sent Dominic's head slamming against the floor, the carpet feeling like a steel wall meeting his skull. Groaning, he turned back to the Stranger with barely enough time to see the silver barrel turning towards him. With a swift kick, he knocked the pistol out of the older man's hands before striking a punch of his own, his fist colliding with his abdomen, the Stranger hunched over, giving Dominic enough time to reach down to his belt for his knife, only to feel the empty pocket. Of course. Before he could spin around, The Stranger kicked Dominic in the chest, sending the younger man sprawling to the floor. Gasping for air, he climbed back to the surface of the ring, wobbling for the lost pistol.
"Just die already!" Dominic hissed as he struggled to get back on his feet, his head deadweight while he focused on the ground, it clearly mutating into a mass of blue foam, circling around him as he fought to stay upright.
Clementine watched in horror as the Stranger turned toward Dominic again, pistol wrapped tightly around his finger. Frantically searching the room, she spotted the shining bottle the Stranger took from her earlier lying behind the chair. She snatched it up just in time to throw it, the glass smashing to bits against his face.
He howled in pain, blood dripping from the shards sticking to his skin. Clutching his face, he stumbled back, his spine resting against the rails of the closet door. The distraction was all Dominic needed to charge at the man once more, sending both the Stranger and himself through the small room, dismantled wood spraying through the apartment while the deathmatch met its final climax.
"I've been looking forward to this for a long time, Stranger," Dominic raged, punching the man in the jaw with brutal force, only to howl in pain from his bruising knuckles. The Stranger reached out, gripping the boy's throat and kicking him back into the living room, suspending him against the back of the chair he once sat in only moments earlier. He helplessly dangled, lights flashing wildly in his vision as he stared down the man who might actually be the one to send him to his grave. The Stranger's eyes were manic, almost filled with delight to watch him struggle. Dominic's ears filled with a high-pitched ringing as his killer began to laugh, each giggle like a whisper as his senses began to fade. He grasped the man's wrist with both hands, tugging with a hopeless effort, each tug sending him farther and farther away from victory.
"Oh, I've been looking forward to this too, Dominic. For a bit longer than you have." He smiled as he kneed Dominic in the groin, sending unbearable pain up the boy's body. Dominic screamed, barely a hoarse whisper as the remaining air in his lungs were shoved out, consciousness slowly slipping away before his eyes. The fight drawing to an unmatched victory, the Stranger pulled out Dominic's knife from his back pocket, flicking the blade out of its cover like popping candy from the pouch, catching the handle with a smooth grip.
Dominic sent one lousy punch in the man's direction, only to have his wrist pinned against the wall by the Stranger's free hand.
The Stranger held out the blade, eager to finish the boy off in his heart. "DIE!" He swung, the blade piercing the shredded cloth like warm butter.
A loud bang deafened Dominic as the Stranger slumped to the ground. He coughed violently as he struggled to breathe, his hands clawing at his crushed windpipe, the phantom of fingers wrapped around his neck still trying to suffocate him. He looked up to find his savior, catching a small glimpse of Clementine in front of him with the pistol outstretched, shaking with every beat of her heart.
"I-" she gulped. "I…. I…." Her eyes widened as the body lay there, motionless, the reality of her heroic, yet devastating action weighing her down, destroying every mental defense she had left.
Without any thought for himself, Dominic staggered over and hugged her with every ounce of his remaining strength. "It's over Clem, we're alright."
"I…" She discarded the pistol to the floor, her head drooping as she whispered. "He was going to kill you."
"He was, but you stopped him," Dominic hissed, collapsing against the young girl's shoulder.
"You don't smell good…" She continued, only just realizing that he was covered in blood and guts, some of it not his own.
"Yeah," Dominic laughed softly, coughing as his windpipe constricted, "Yeah, I know." He hugged her again, sentimental tears flowing down his face while he whispered. "I'm just glad you're okay."
"I'm sorry," Clementine cried, finally possessing the courage to meet his debilitated gaze. "I didn't listen to you before, and you almost died."
"It's okay Clem," Dominic soothed, clutching the back of her hair, holding her, reassuring himself that she was safe.
"He- he used my parents. He had them radio out for me, but when I got here, they were gone…" She blubbered, burrowing into his shoulder.
"What? He 'used' your parents? How?" Dominic gasped, realizing her parents' were out there on the street, bound to be drawn back to the house from the gunshots.
"I- I don't know. They said he was helping them find me and that they were at a hospital with daddy and that he was sick… they had doctors taking care of him…" She muttered, her mind drifting back to the astonishing radio log they had left her.
"That must've been…" The realization suddenly fell on him like a pile of bricks. He must've gone back in time and tried to coerce them to send out that radio message, while he recorded it. The fucking bastard, the fucking genius bastard.
"Must've been what?" Clementine asked, looking up at him with swollen eyes.
"That must've been at the hospital Lee found Vernon's group," Dominic countered, dodging the question. "Listen, we need to figure out how to get out of this city as fast as we can, every walker in a mile radius will be converging on this place within minutes." He bent down and picked up the pistol and his knife, the metal suddenly becoming weights as he pocketed them both before turning back to Clementine and mumbling out. "Let's go."
Dominic looked at the body lying on the floor. Nudging with his foot, he shifted it over onto its back, revealing crushed plastic shards littering the floor. Ah, fuck. He bent over, grunting as he lifted the biggest chunk of plastic, feeling the roughed up edges for the transmitter. Pressing down, a high pitched squeal of feedback erupted from the broken talkie, landing Dominic to toss it on top of the body, directly at the Stranger's head.
He stumbled for the door, using Clementine as support while he pulled the knob, heaving. On the other side, a walker waited, suspicious of the chaotic noise behind the walls. FUCK! He froze, glancing between himself and the dead, hoping that the blood covering his clothes masked him enough to disguise them. It growled in its docile state, until its desolate eyes rested on Clementine. It gasped, the dry blood clogging its throat forcing a gruesome gurgling sound to pierce the air. It hissed out, sending Dominic into a blood-red frenzy, retrieving his knife without hesitation and charging, lodging the steel in its eye. They fell backwards, Dominic landing on top of the undead. Gasping for breath he pulled, slowly retrieving his blade from the carcass.
"Damn, that was close," Dominic breathed, rolling off of the body and landing painfully onto the cold floor, his lungs contracting as he struggled for more oxygen.
"It… it didn't bite you…?" Clementine gasped, astonished at the new amount of blood covering his chest.
"No, it didn't. It couldn't smell me through the walker blood," Dominic mumbled. He held up the crimson blade once more, his face contorting as he realized what he had to do next. Oh God, not this again.
"Hey, come here," Dominic called out to her softly. She did as she was told, only to turn away in horror as Dominic held out the knife. Turning back to the body, he stabbed it into the walker's chest, each pull weaker and weaker as his strength continued to fade into oblivion. "This is gonna suck, but I've gotta do it, okay?" He whispered, looking at her for calming reassurance.
"Okay," she whimpered, clenching her eyes shut as Dominic ripped open the cut on its chest.
He reached into the incision, pulling out any organ he could.
The sky remained a grey hue after the storm, distorting the inside of the Marsh House. The tanned golden ceiling morphed into the familiar dead hue, as if the world suddenly became a black and white movie. A low rumbling growl of walkers echoed from down the hallway, forcing their hearts to beat to an irregular rhythm as it grew closer and closer.
The smell of rainwater stuck to the air as they stepped outside into the cold night, the concrete under their feet glimmering with specks of clear puddles. Dominic limped past the glass doorway, gasping as he stumbled against Clementine before falling face first onto the ground. He glanced up, trying desperately to pull himself up when he caught a glimpse of the main road, walkers swarming in from both directions.
"We...can't...stay here!" Clementine whined as she looked, turning towards the horde covering their path. She gripped his arm with both hands, pulling him with no results.
"I can't… move..." Dominic hissed as he tried to push himself back up.
"You have to…!" Clementine murmured, staring at the growing number of walkers. "Please, get up!" A tear welled in her eye while she pulled his, hand, as if she was trying to drag a hundred pound sack of potatoes through the city, with nothing but sweat coming out of her small pores.
Nodding, Dominic shook himself out of her tiny grasp and placed his hands onto the wet concrete. The thick water ran between his fingers, sending a chill down his spine as he pushed, what felt like a thousand pounds of bricks that was himself lifted off of the ground, little by little. Clementine wrapped her tiny arm around him for support as he swayed where he stood, every muscle in his body screaming for a miraculous death. "I know I'm tired, Clem. But I know we can make it... don't stop, no matter what. Okay? Just... keep going." He hissed, forcing the muscles in his face to contort into a grimace of determination. If he could motivate her to live, he would do just that.
"But what if you-?" She whined, hanging on to Dominic like a lifeline. Was he her lifeline? Or vise versa? Nobody could tell. Yet, if they wanted to make it out alive, she knew in her soul they needed each other.
"DON'T stop." He repeated, staring directly into her eyes.
She nodded slowly, the realization of what Dominic was asking her forming in her mind, a drip of adrenaline pumping through her veins as she prepared herself to enter the storm. She secured her arms around Dominic while they approached the final step, taking a deep breath before stepping off gracefully, Dominic stumbling his footing before looking back at her. She nodded, her confidence dwindling with every step into the horde.
The first thing she noticed was the smell, the strength of it toppled her back, carrying Dominic with her. She glanced at him with wide eyes before they continued, the groans overpowering the thunder moving out of Savannah. Using her free hand, she gripped her nose, staggering her breaths in and out as they walked, muffling her tiny shrieks of terror as walkers bumped into them. Her heart raced, knowing with certainty that any wrong tap could be the end for them in the blink of an eye.
Dominic gripped Clementine, the two turning for River Street, back from where he came. His vision was blurred completely, with black splotches blinking in and out of existence between steps, the pain in his legs and arms blinding him further. He led by touch, hoping her hands were enough to guide him out of this hell. He smelled the familiar retched odor of blood and rotten flesh, surprisingly accustomed to the shit while they trekked through. His breathing was muffled by the crowd, miniscule spurts of wheezing quickly becoming hyperventilation as they continued, before having to hold back what little breath he had when they bumped into a 'fellow' walker.
They surrounded them, in the middle of the road. Looking back, neither Dominic or Clementine could see the Marsh House, just fuzzy street lamps that were nothing more than black poles marking their progress, and building silhouettes in the fading light. Moisture stuck to their clothes as they hobbled down the street, the duo unsure if they were sweating or it was the air. To Dominic, it felt like it was raining, pellets of water finding their home in his eyes, restricting his blurred vision further to maybe a foot in front of him, the darkness getting worse.
In the midst of the crowd, Dominic's eyes glazed over a familiar pair. He tried to watch, the details obscured as he gripped Clementine for continuous support. Coming closer, Dominic squeezed her hand, nodding for her to look away. She gasped, staring, stiff as a rock, while the couple passed them. The man looked to be in his thirties or forties, short hair with a familiar set of clothing. The dark blotch that should be his hand dripped with blood, his palms swollen to ungodly size. The woman had the too well known gaping hole, limping as the remaining pieces swished inside.
"M-mom? D-dad?" Clementine whined, burying her head into Dominic's shoulder as the tears welled in her eyes.
"D-don't look... Clem... please…" Dominic whispered, trying to lead Clementine out of the horde, before her own 'family' turned against them. He limped, his fear of death conquering the mass amount of blinding pain flowing evenly throughout his body. He heaved, dragging Clementine to the sidewalk on the opposite side of where the Marsh House would be, away from the heartbreaking sight behind them.
"Clem… look at me….. those… aren't your parents anymore…" Dominic whispered, gasping while his throat burned from his fight. She looked at him, her face swollen with tears as she realized the worst, devastating truth.
Her parents were dead the whole time.
"Just… a few more steps…" He continued, the end of the horde coming into view. He could see past the blurred mass of walkers, the street where he had maimed the first walker just beyond, merely a few yards from the end. He returned to his clinging posture, allowing Clementine to lead the way out. Within moments, they were back into the mass of the undead.
Just…. a bit… more…
Dominic's eyes closed tight as the road drifted off into the dimming sunlight. His head went blank as his consciousness floating freely, the world seeming to spin around him. The pain evaporated as Clementine's surprised cries pierced his ears, but his heart slowed to a calming, restful beat. For a brief moment, it felt as if he was flying; the last sound he heard was his body collapsing to the ground with a loud thud.
To be continued in 800 Days...
"Where do we go now?" Clementine asked, her eyes shooting up to her guardian.
"We move north; it's the only way," Dominic muttered.
"Listen, about what happened to your parents…" Dominic started, a glare from the little girl cutting his sentence short.
"I don't want to talk about it." She deadpanned, staring at the ground in defiance.
"Please don't be dead… please don't dead…"
"Welcome to Camp Shithole. Your tent's over there," she muttered flatly, shrugging off the newcomers and returning to her duties.
"If it's such a shithole, why do you stay?" Dominic asked, raising an eyebrow.
"It's better than being out there."
"Please... just wake up!"
"We can't go back Dominic!" He shouted.
"We have to go back! I'm not leaving her in there!" Dominic roared, pulling out his pistol.
"Come on out kid, or the girl dies!" The voice purred, each word projecting over the camp, instilling fear on all who heard.
"Holy shit, you're alive!"
"I don't know what's wrong with Dominic!"
"The government doesn't exist anymore. They're just survivors now. They're not above us." Dominic stared at his group, each member nodding slowly, all except one.
"His wound is bleeding again. Fuck, help me get him up. We need to move."
"You and I, we're not any different. We both steal, we both kill. We do everything we can for our groups. Thing is, you killed mine, so now it's time to get even." Simmons mused, toying his gun as a small grin stretched across his face.
"They're coming through!"
"This way! I've got a boat down by the river!"
"So who do you save kid? Your girlfriend? Or the little girl?"
"Molly, they're coming!"
"Josh?" Dominic gasped, lowering his gun.
"Fuck, the boat's gone! I left it right here!"
"This can't be real. This isn't happening." Josh panicked, glancing erratically at the scene around him.
"Dom, I need you wake up!"
"No, this is real. This is all we've got now." Dominic muttered, gripping the boy's shoulder either for comfort or concern, he really didn't know.
"Listen Clem, I know this is hard, but we might have to leave him. They're almost on top of us!"
"No! We can't!"
"Everyone's dead." Josh murmured.
"But we're still alive." Dominic countered.
"We may not have a choice."
"There's always a choice!"
"Not all of us…" He whispered back.
"God, I hope you're right."
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