It was now dark outisde, the road only illuminated by the car’s headlights. It probably wasn’t pitch black but since the road was heavily surrounded by the forest on both sides, very little moonlight passed through.
‘Ya take a sharp turn left now,’ Daryl indicated, pointing his finger at what appeared to be a dirt road. ‘And then ya go right, the prison will be at the end of tha road.’
‘Seriously?!’ she exclaimed loudly, hitting both her hands on the steering wheel in amusement, ‘the world turns to shit and you decide to stay in a prison?’
The hunter looked at the woman in confusion. ‘Ya gotta keep them walkers away, the fences help,’ he explained.
‘Fair enough,’ she nodded, slightly smirking.
As she turned right, Mady spotted a watchtower, probably belonging to the prison.
When the car approached the fences, she saw two people running towards the gates. One of them appeared to be a male adult, the other one probably a kid as his shape was smaller but Mady couldn’t be sure in this darkness.
Daryl opened his window and signaled them to open the gate. The two shapes complied straightaway and the metal gates made a cringy noise as they were slid open. Mady looked around herself, scared that the noise would attract more zombies but for now there only seemed to be a dozen of them wandering around aimlessly.
When they were past the gates, Daryl immediately opened his door and left, taking his crossbow with him. Well, no farewells then, Mady mused sarcastically. As she put the car in reverse mode and drove towards the gate again, she noticed that they were already closed.
She was about to get out of the car to open the gate herself when someone knocked on the driver’s window.
‘Yeah?’ She asked, still annoyed about the closed gates as the window slid open.
‘I’m Rick,’ the man said, introducing himself, ‘You’re staying with us, at least for tonight.’ He was still young, probably in his thirties, though his unshaven beard made him look a lot older.
‘Not gonna happen,’ Mady replied, her most sarcastic smile plastered on her face.
‘Daryl’s orders,’ he simply explained as he shrugged his shoulders, making his way towards the trunk of the car.
‘I’m gonna give Daryl his goddamn orders’, she snarled stepping out of the car and falling face first on the gravel ground.
‘D’you need help?’ A boy asked, a big sheriff hat shadowing most of his face but for his toothy smile, before stretching out his hand.
‘That would be nice, thank you,’ the young woman thanked him. At least, someone’s got manners.
Staying there wasn’t in her plans, that’s for sure, but as she glanced towards the fences, she decided that a good night of sleep couldn’t hurt.
‘Which bags do you need for tonight?’ Rick inquired as he looked inside the boot, a shocked look on his face.
Mady looked inside too, trying to find out the reason behind Rick’s shock before realising that she might perhaps have packed a little heavy for a zombie apocalypse, but in her defense, the car being a seven seater, she didn’t see why she shouldn’t have used the extra space.
‘This one will suffice,’ she decided as she tried to pick up a fat gray suitcase and failed miserably, earning herself the laughters of Rick and the boy.
‘I’ll carry it,’ Rick chuckled. Mady did feel a bit embarrassed at needing help from someone. Ever since this thing had started, she had been on her own and she couldn’t have fared that badly seeing as she was still alive; a bit thinner, but still far from anorexic. To her great satisfaction, she saw Rick grimacing as he picked up the suitcase and made his way towards a small door on the left side of the building.
‘I’ll take these bags too, just in case,’ Mady told the young boy as she entered the boot to take two black bags from inside.
‘Here, let me help you,’ the young boy offered when she appeared again. She reluctantly gave him one of the bags, worrying that it might be too heavy for him but the kid seemed to be stronger than he looked seeing as he didn’t complain.
‘Thank you,’ she said as they followed Rick’s path, ‘So, what’s your name, sheriff?’ She asked him as they walked side by side.
‘I’m Carl,’ he replied without looking at Mady, ‘I’m not a sheriff, though, my dad is,’ he explained nodding towards Rick who was walking ahead of them.
‘I’m sure you would make a great sheriff,’ she complimented him and Carl blushed. She usually didn’t like kids, small ones especially, but this one appeared to be rather mature for his age.
‘Can I ask you two things?’ Carl blurted out when they were almost at the door.
‘What are in those bags and why are you wearing a dress?’ He wondered, amusement audible as he finished his question.
‘Guns and other kind of weapons,’ she answered as Carl opened the door and indicated for her to go inside. ‘As for the dress, that’s a story for another time.’
When they got inside, Mady was surprised to see that there were so many people there, thirty at least. She had thought that people would probably have regrouped in order to survive, but she did not expect for groups to be larger than, let’s say, ten people. There were people walking around, talking with each other and even children playing.
‘Come with me,’ Carl called for Mady, taking her hand, ‘let us find you a cell.’ As he led her trough the people, Mady spotted Daryl sitting around a table, skinning one of the squirrels, a middle aged woman next to him doing the same thing. He was talking animatedly with the short haired woman and Mady couldn’t help but feel a bit jealous.
After walking through two dark corridors and a room sporting some small round tables and a few chairs, they reached cell block C.
Carl opened the barred door and let her inside.
‘It’s,’ Mady started, not really knowing how to express it, ‘homey,’
There was a ground and a first floor, all the cells being on the left side. On the first floor, Mady’s eyes were immediately attracted to what seemed to be a perch.
‘Yeah,’ Carl agreed excitedly, putting the bag he had been carrying on the table, ‘I sleep on the first floor, in that cell,’ he declared, pointing towards the second cell starting from where they were now standing.
‘Where do you want -,’ Carl started but he was interrupted by Rick entering the cell block.
‘Go play with your sister, I need to talk to Mady,’ Rick ordered his son. Carl was about to refuse but decided otherwise when he saw his father’s stern look.
‘See you later,’ the boy told Mady before leaving. She nodded and gave him a quick smile, a bit worried about Rick’s tone.
She was still standing in the middle of the room like an idiot, her bag still on her shoulder, when Rick who had already gotten seated, indicated for her to do the same. Mady placed the bag on the table’s edge and took a seat facing Rick.
‘I need to ask you three questions,’ Rick stated, his eyes staring directly at hers, ‘but first you’ve got to tell what’s in those bags.’
‘Weapons,’ Mady admitted after a while. She had thought about lying but there was no use in it since she had already told his son. ‘Handguns, two sniper riffles, a bazooka, some ammo, bows and some things I don’t recognise.’
Rick was staring at her curiously, side-glancing the bags, ‘A bazooka?’ Rick exclaimed, obviously surprised. ‘Where did you get all that from?’
‘I took the guns from home,’ Mady confessed, uncomfortable at being questionned, ‘as for the rest, well, I panicked when this all started and I raided a gunsmith store,’ she blurted out and immediately felt stupid; admitting to a sheriff that you have stolen was not the smartest thing to do.
‘Alright,’ he finally said, chuckling, ‘So, first question,’ he announced, becoming serious once again, ‘How many walkers have you killed?’
‘Zombies, you mean?’ Mady asked, confused and Rick nodded. ‘Well, I obviously didn’t count them, but I’d guess about two dozen give it or take,’ she noticed that Rick was still staring at her, silently judging her and she felt the need to explain herself further, ‘I lived in Florida, that’s where I was when all hell broke loose. After a while, I decided to move north. Before then I had only killed five zombies but when I started travelling there were just so many on the highway and on the other roads…’
‘That’s okay,’ Rick reassured her, ‘I understand.’ Mady was finally starting to warm up towards this man, he seemed to be suspicious, yes, but also rather understanding. ‘How many people have you killed?’
That was the question that threw Mady off the hook. She didn’t want to answer that question, she didn’t want to be judged for what she had done. But at the same time, she didn’t want to lie: if the group was to accept her, even for just one night, she wanted it to for whom she really was. ‘Two,’ she conceded at last.
‘Why?’ Rick questioned immediately, leaning towards her over the table.
Mady licked her lip, before starting, ‘I was in the woods and saw two men walking around. They asked me for a ride, I agreed. After a while we stopped the car and they decided it would be best to go hunt for dinner. I was naive and I followed them into the woods again,’ Mady stopped, wondering if she needed to continue, but the look Rick gave her showed that he wanted the whole story. ‘They started speaking in Portuguese among themselves, thinking I wouldn’t understand, but I did. They wanted to rape me and after all the shit I had gone through, I wasn’t going to let that happen. I shot them both.’
‘That’s why you threw a knife at Daryl?’ He inquired after a few minutes had passed.
He slowly nodded and stood up, telling her to follow him, saying that dinner must be ready. After walking through the same corridors she had passed with Carl, and before he opened the door to what he explained was the inside garden where they all ate, Mady decided that there was something she needed to ask him.
‘Can you please keep it for youself,’ Mady demanded, ‘the last part I mean?’
‘If the council asks about, I have to tell them,’ he explained, feeling sorry for the young woman.
She nodded and as they entered the garden, she started smiling. It had been far too silent for too long. Perhaps it woudln’t be that bad to stay with the group, it’s not like she had a destination in mind.
Dinner was unexpectedly tasty. Before all hell had broken loose, Madeleine used to be a vegetarian but when raiding a store before heading out of Florida, she decided that it would be stupid to let the meat go bad and so for the first time in her life she had eaten meat.
‘So, do you like squirrel?’ Maggie asked her, her mouth still full.
Rick had introduced her to pretty much everybody but Mady was sure that by tomorrow she would have forgotten half of their names. Rick had told her that the woman who had been with Daryl was Carol and that she had lost her daughter not long ago. Madeleine didn’t have children, she was too young for that in her eyes, even though two of her friends already had kids. Besides, she had never really been fond of children.
‘I don’t know enough types of meat to compare it too,’ Mady admitted after swallowing her first bite. It wasn’t bad, but she still wasn’t used to the taste. Remembering the berries that were still in the car, she decided that she would go get them before heading to bed.
‘You’re funny, I like you,’ Maggie laughed loudly, making everyone look at them. Madeleine saw that Daryl was looking at her and she tried a small smile, feeling uncomfortable at being the centre of attention. She wasn’t shy, she never had been, but she didn’t yet know many people here and having them all look at her made her feel self-conscious. Daryl didn’t smile back and instead turned back towards Carol and started talking with the woman again. I did impale him, so I guess I deserve his anger, Madeleine reasoned.
Dinner passed quickly and seeing as she had arrived to the prison with Daryl rather late, it was already, what some would call time for bed.
Before going to bed though, Mady decided she would take a shower first. Even though the water would probably be cold, it was still better than washing herself in lakes the way she had been doing since she had started her road trip from Florida.
She opted to go back to her car and get the berries she had been craving.
Compared to some stories she had heard tonight from Maggie and Glenn, she had been rather lucky, especially when it came to food. Her dad owned, or rather had owned a big mansion with lots of land. Thanks to this, she had had fresh fruit and vegetables for an entire year, that’s when Mady had decided to leave.
When she was about to leave the car again, an idea popped into her mind and she rummaged through the car’s trunk trying to find a red bagpack. When she found the small white package she had been looking for, she coudln’t help but smile, feeling proud of herself.
As she reached cell block c (all by herself!), Mady noticed that most people were still awake. Some of them, like Maggie and Glenn, deep in conversation around the central table. Carol was there too. The person she had been looking for, however, was nowhere to be found. Well, she could always do this later.
As she looked upstairs, she saw her suitcase in a corner. At least she wouldn’t have to hurt herself trying to get it upstairs. She decided she would look for a place to sleep after taking a shower so she merely retrieved some toiletries, pajamas and a towel from her luggage.
Feeling rather content, even though she still wasn’t sure if she would stay with the group for the long run or even if the council would let her stay, she made her way towards the room Rick had called their makeshift bathroom.
It was very simple, all white tiled. A very badly painted sign on the ground indicated that the left side was for the women and the right one for the men. She didn’t really see the point though, considering that the only thing separating both sides were some badly sewn curtains.
Going to the left side, she proceeded to strip down and pumped some water into the showerhead. It fealt heavenly! Granted, the water was cold and the ground slippery, but it still was the best shower she had had in the past two months. Mady started humming as she rubbed herself clean with shampoo and shower gel.
When she was done, she put on her very embarrassing and childish pajamas which were pink and covered in bunnies. She honestly hoped that everybody would be in their cells by now!
As a thank you, she decided to leave the shampoo and shower gel so that other people could benefit from it too.
Everything was going great, she was now entering cell block c and she hadn’t seen anybody so far. However as she entered cell block c, she cursed under breath as she noticed a woman sitting around the table, cleaning a katana.
‘Hey,’ the woman greeted, ‘haven’t had a chance to meet you yet, been keeping watch,’ she gave Mady an honest smile. ‘I’m Michonne.’
Michonne eyed her pajamas curiously, but didn’t comment even though a small grin appeared on her face.
‘Nice to meet you! I’m Madeleine,’ Mady replied, happy about the woman’s hospitality and her lack of teasing.
‘I know,’ Michonne chuckled, ‘Carl has been talking to everyone about you.’
Mady’s cheeks reddened slightly and both of them started laughing. They talked for about an hour, their voices barely whispers in order not to wake anybody. Mady was really growing fond of that woman, especially when she mentionned that they would make a badass team.
‘I’m going to bed,’ Michonne announced, standing up, ‘I’ve got to get some sleep before taking watch again in a few hours.’
Mary wished her a good night as well, and seeing as there was nothing else to do, she decided to go to bed as well.
She was so happy when she opened the door of the perch and saw nothing there but a pair of shoes, surely belonging to a male due to the size, and a rolled up sleeping bag. Nobody had yet claimed the perch it seemed! It looked more like it was used as a storage room. She hadn’t particularly wanted to sleep in a cell, she prefered big spaces and hated to feel trapped. In comparison, the perch was slightly bigger than the cells and had windows at least.
Unpacking some of her things, including a yoga mattress, a sleeping bag and a fluffly pillow, Mady thought that she had in fact been very lucky to come accross Daryl in the woods, even if she hadn’t talked to him again after getting here.
As she installed herself inside the bag, she decided that she would go look for a thicker mattress the next day, but for tonight this would suffice.
She must have been sleeping for four hours when she heard someone open the door. Being on the run during an apocalypse made you become a lot more alert, even when sleeping. She turned around, still rolled in her sleeping bag, to see who had interrupted her very well deserved sleep.
‘The hell?!’ She heard someone exclaim in confusion and she immediately knew whom that voice belonged to since she had heard the exact same words some hours ago.
‘What the fuck are you doing here,’ she asked Daryl, trying to hide her childish outfit.
‘Goin’ ta sleep,’ he grumbled, indicating towards the rolled sleeping bad. She turned to look at the bag, then back at Daryl and flushed deep crimson.
‘Oh,’ Mady stammered, standing up while still in the sleeping bag, ‘I’m so sorry, I thought no one was sleeping here.’ Embarrassed, she tried to walk towards the door, forgetting the bag and tripped on her own feet.
‘Calm down, woman,’ Daryl muttered, grabbing her by the waist before she could fall. Mady thanked the gods for the darkness in the room because she must have been as red as a tomato by now.
‘Thank you,’ Mady stuttered, ‘I’m just going to leave and then we can forget this ever happened,’ she drawled more to herself than to Daryl.
‘Ya can stay here,’ Daryl answered after a few seconds, letting go of her waist, ‘Don’t want ya falling all over the place tryna find somewhere ta sleep.’
And now, as if she hadn’t embarrassed herself enough today, he was teasing her, making it even worse. She wanted to reply something snarky but nothing came to her mind so she just nodded.
As she was installing herself back on the yoga mattress, Daryl spoke again:
‘Nice pajamas,’ he whispered and a grin was almost audible in his voice.
Mady didn’t reply, there was no point and she would probably only embarrass herself further.
Hiding her face on the pillow, she could hear Daryl undress behind her.