Daryl pulled his jacket a little tighter around his body as the truck headed south into the city. Max had been staring at him the whole time they’d been on the road, just cleaning his gun and looking at him. It was unnerving. Daryl noticed Harley’s head perk up. The dog stood uneasy in the moving vehicle and sniffed the air. Daryl put his hand to his gun and scanned the trees as they flew past. He expected to see zombies. However there was nothing around them but trees and shrubbery. Harley looked to his left and Daryl did too, just in time to see a single shoe on the side of the road. Before he even understood what he was doing, Daryl pounded on the back window of the cab.
“Stop the truck!” He said over the roar of the passing air.
“Why?” Corrigan shouted over his shoulder, taking his eyes from the road.
“Just do it!”
Corrigan maneuvered the truck to the side of the road, and Daryl hopped down onto the ground. He could remember Felicia’s animalistic screams, fuelled by a gut wrenching combination of physical and emotional pain.
“I told you to let her go!” Daryl had said.
“How could I let go of my dying daughter?” Felicia demanded, she seemed oblivious to the blood pouring over her from the vicious bite in her neck.
In the present, Daryl and Harley moved towards the small red shoe as Max yelled out, “What the hell are we even doing here, bro? Let’s get moving!”
“Shut up, Max,” Daryl muttered as he looked down at his daughter’s shoe. He squatted and stared at the dark red spattered highway. Blood, everywhere. Even more than he remembered.
“Daryl,” Corrigan said as he approached him from behind, “we need to keep moving.”
“Just leave me alone!” Daryl noticed Felicia’s clothing by the trees, shredded and drenched with blood. What had happened to her body?
“She’s our daughter!” Daryl could hear Felicia screaming out from the past. “I won’t let you do this!”
“We have no choice!” he had said and he recalled the tears that he choked back that night. As if their memory had been a summons, the same tears threatened to pour free now as he turned the little shoe over in his hands. “Wendy’s already dead,” Daryl said, “and so are you.”
“Dude!” Max called from the truck bed, snapping Daryl back to the present. “I don’t know what you’re doing but let’s get a move on!”
“He’s right,” Corrigan said, sounding a little more patient with the strange behaviour. “We don’t have time for this, whatever it is you’re doing.”
Daryl walked to the tree line, broken branches littered the ground and he thought he saw something shining in the grass.
“No--” the memory of his wife said, “No, Daryl, don’t.”
He slowly bent over and dug amongst the green blades, feeling the cold metal with his fingers.
“I’m your wife!” He could remember the tears glistening on her face, how they mixed with the blood that spouted from her torn neck. He remembered the way her sad expression turned angry as he pointed his gun at her. “What gives you the right to decide who lives and who dies!” she said through clenched teeth.
“I don’t have to decide anything, It’s already been decided for us.”
“I swear, if you kill me, if you kill your daughter... you’ll regret it!” Spittle flew from her mouth as she begged and threatened him. Daryl could feel the power in Felicia’s voice, even now, days later. Her jade eyes bore into his soul and he could still sense them watching him. He grabbed hold of the bullet in the grass and examined it. He remembered the way the recoil from his gun seemed more intense that night as he fired into the skulls of his wife and daughter.
“Seriously, man, what the hell are you doing?” Max stood up now and Corrigan grabbed hold of Daryl’s elbow, spinning him around.
“Daryl. Are you okay?” Corrigan asked as the older man wiped his wet eyes.
“Yeah, yeah I’m fine. Let’s just keep going,” he said, leading the way back to the truck.
“Finally.” Max huffed as he plopped back down. Daryl ignored the man and gazed through the trees, which had witnessed his gruesome acts. It felt like there were angry eyes looking down on him, judging him. He shook it off as he climbed into the truck and Corrigan started driving again. Eventually they came to a roadblock of abandoned vehicles. The truck couldn’t get any closer to the city so they climbed out and onto their bikes.
“What about him? Should he really be coming with us?” Max asked, pointing at the German shepherd. “Absolutely. He’s been a great partner,” Daryl said as he scratched Harley’s ear, the dog panted, tongue lolling out of his mouth.
“Can he keep up with us?” Corrigan asked.
Daryl laughed. “He’ll be just fine, kid.”
“Whatever, let’s go.” Max took off on his bike, followed by Eden and then Corrigan.
Daryl sighed, shook his head and started to trail after the three of them. He paused for a moment when he realized Harley wasn’t keeping up and turned his head back to the dog. Harley circled, then whimpered, intent on the road they had just come from.
“Harley?” Daryl called and the dog began to whine. He turned to his master and Daryl thought he recognized grief and longing in the dog’s face. Harley threw back his head and howled a dirge into the night sky. Before Daryl could comfort the dog, there came another sound from the forest. It was louder than Harley’s howl and it sounded almost metallic. It rang through the trees, growing louder as it did. There was hunger and desperation present in that shriek.
“What the heck was that?” Max demanded, stopping his bike. Following his lead, Eden and Corrigan slowed down, looking around them in the darkness.
“I don’t know,” Daryl said as his hand strayed to the grip of his holstered gun, “but I don’t like the sound of it.”