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Exile (Troy Otto)

Snake meat.

"Why don't you come back? Why didn't you stay at the ranch?" He gazed at me with that facial grimace of his.

To be honest, I'd rather not answering his questions, not for now. Moreover, I couldn't think of a good answer and he'd eventually make fun of it, sarcastically. Plus, recurring answers were not my thing.

"I want you to go back." He insisted again, as imposing as ever. I stopped the car in my tracks. "Woah..." He stared at me, speechless.

Troy could have a prompt at any moment, but I wasn't willing to let him decide what I had or needed to do.

''Come on, get off the car.'' My eyes were full of anger, nerves. I didn't know how to get back, I didn't want to make things worse, and Troy knew that his return to the ranch would surely have a very well deserved punishment.

Hw nodded slightly and got off the car immediately.

"I didn't know you had such a character..." And he smiled. 'You can't go back to the ranch, that's what's wrong with you.'

I got out of the car slamming the door, pissed off at his taunt, and grabbed the only bottle of water left in the car.

'You will have to come with me, you decided that. Although I still don't understand why." He continued his monologue, walking beside me while staring at me. I got the feeling that he loved the fact that he wasn't going through this situation alone.

"You don't get it, Troy. If you had stayed quiet and not killed that man, I would be back home by now.' I looked at him, alluded by my anger, and took the backpack from him. I walked towards a wooden house in the distance, in the middle of a desert and surrounded by weeds. 'I'm not going back to any ranch. The only way I'm going back is with you and I'm not going to indulge you."

I pulled my knife from the belt strapped to my hip and looked at Troy. He nodded and we walked stealthily around the place, inspecting what was there and what was not. While Troy was checking inside the house, outside I found a large barrel of water and several boxes of canned food, along with the occasional pack of military food. So, I decided to go back inside the house and let Troy know that, at least, we would have enough to survive for a week.

"I found water outside, also canned food and military food. They look pretty abandoned so I guess nobody lives here." I looked at him, he was standing with his back towards me while admiring a small, long cupboard as he opened it.

'This belonged to the Barren family. One of the founders who built up the ranch, along with my father..." His voice sounded soft and peaceful. He swallowed. 'He was right."

I ducked my head slightly, not quite knowing what to say. Troy had really had a hard life, everything about the death of the four founders had driven him mad. And he blamed it on the Indian nation. We all knew he had zero scruples before all of this, but now that number was in the negative side.

He took the gun from the cupboard, along with all its bullets, and walked out the door. His countenance was serious and he wasn't being very sarcastic, which, frankly, felt rather strange.
Still, I decided to give him his space and try to clean the place up a bit. I put the cans inside the house and picked up some matches that I found on the counter of that small kitchen. I tried to light them, but there was no way. They were wet.


I had been wandering around the area for more than half an hour looking for Troy, night was falling and there was no sign of him. So there were two main thoughts in my odd brain. First, he had grown tired of my presence and had taken off, leaving me to my own devices. And second, he really knew the way back to the ranch and was going to get things messed up again.

I opened my eyes widely as I saw a chair on the edge of the hill, very close to the cliff, and there he was. Sitting there, gazing intently at a gun; as if he were dead in life, I watched him slowly bring it to his head. Aware of what he was about to do, my heart began to beat so fast that I thought it would burst out of my chest.

"No... No, no! Troy!" I ran as fast as I could in order to stop him.

He heard me, and fixed his eyes on me and, slowly drawing the pistol away from his head, I succeed.

"Please... Don't..." My voice sounded agitated, tired. I took his hand and slowly took the gun from him, while staring into his eyes, in which you could see your reflection perfectly.

He was stunned, maybe he didn't know why I stopped him, the truth was that we didn't get along very well. But I needed him with me, and I knew that if he took his life, I couldn't be at peace with myself. Because, to put it into blunt words, he felt the same way I did.

We both stared at each other.

"I... I have found something... something beautiful." He smiled for a moment, and I felt as if my soul was leaving my body.

"I don't want to see it, let's go back to the cabin, I'm very tired and so you are." I noticed his gaze clearly and looked just behind the chair, where a constant noise was coming from. And then I realised.

"They love loud noises..." He admired that horde of thousands of walkers, going in one direction. 'This is nature, that's it... And I know you understand it too, that's why you're here, that's why you wanted to join me. You knew that by joining us..." It was time to cut his speech short, and give him to understand his position in this new world.

"No, Troy. I wish I didn't understand anything; this is not nature, this is an apocalypse and we are here to survive. If I came with you, it was because of a foolish decision I made, I wanted to see what's out there from another perspective. But now I know that destiny put me on this path for one purpose, and there is no other purpose but you." My hands were shaking, but I had to make it clear to him what I was thinking and why.

He was puzzled and cocked his head slightly to one side, watching me.

"I'm going to take that horde to the racho, they're going to like it. It's something... Massive, and they won't expect it." He kept planning his murder mission.

"I'm not going to let you do that.... Enough of this nonsense!" I saw the bag of grenade bullets, next to where their respective lethal weapon rested. I grabbed everything and ran straight into the house.

"No... Hey, wait there!" His voice echoed at the bottom of the hill. He started to follow me, and as expected, he was running much faster than me, due to his height.

At the door of the house, he managed to catch me in his arms and we were, once again, embroiled in a fight, this time over another of his stupid and ill-thought-out decisions.

"You're not going to stop me, not you! Have you heard me!?" He started shouting in my ear, but his voice was slowly breaking. Until he gave up.

"I need you here, Troy. I need you alive..." I whispered. "Please don't go. Don't make any more trouble. Stay with me, forget the past... You are more than that." We were both breathless. I grabbed his hands intertwining our fingers, making him pull me tighter into his arms.

Troy liked the manipulation game, I knew. And he was the greatest player.

"Nobody needs me..." He squeezed me tightly, as if this time it was him who didn't want to let me go. We remained sat on that dirty floor.

I brought his hands to my face and then I kissed the palm of one of them, leaving him speechless, again.

I looked at his right hand and realised that I had smeared blood on it, I touched the corner of my lip, and sure enough, it was bleeding. Probably from the fight we had just had.


We both looked at each other unconsciously as we put those snakes to cook. Calmer, we dropped some blankets on the ground.

"New Mexico? Mexicali? I guess you've never been to Los Angeles either..." I suggested.

"Have you?" I shook my head.

"Never." I whispered and sat down next to him. 'I was weighing first in Mexicali.' I looked at him.

He frowned his eyes in approval and then nodded.

"Why do you care about what happens to me?" I dropped the bottle I was drinking from when I heard his question.

"May I answer that later...? I don't think now is the time."

"A question is not an answer..." he stood, expectant.

"Alright... What do you consider an answer, Troy?"

"We bleed the same. We break the same." He didn't take his piercing glance off me.

"Well, the latter is reciprocal, don't you think?" He smiled at my sarcasm. "You still haven't answered my question."

"You haven't answered mine either." He picked up one of the well-made snakes and cut off its head. I stopped his hand and stood, on my knees, right in front of him.

"We bleed the same; you, Nick, Alicia.... Me." I kept looking at him. "I don't mean to soften your heart, because it's already too soft.... But I know you're scared, the same way I am. And I have the need to... To placate my fears, as I placate yours."



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