The Darkest Storm
On top of the same table where their weapons lay, Darcy scouts over the hand-drawn map from Hershel. She traces with two fingers to follow the lines of the highways and back-roads as best as she can. Her mind hops from one to the other to figure out how to pinpoint the Veterinary College in the least amount of time possible. The pressure is on. Glenn, Sasha, and five more of their own have been admitted into isolation since last night.
To her left is Michonne who leans casually on both arms crossed, waiting for Bob and hopefully Tyresse to show up any minute now. To her right of course, is Daryl who leans over the map with her while holding out one arm and watching her trail through. He isn’t worried, he knows she’ll get them there just like the destinations before then. He hides his smile and stolen glances towards her as she proves to be too concentrated to notice.
God, how he’s missed these days where everything else seemed to be on the line and yet, the one who made it all worthwhile was standing next to him.
“Found it.” She steps back and taps the spot with a strong finger.
“Watchya got then?” Daryl pulls the piece of paper towards him.
“Tried to get the route as far from Atlanta as I could. Never know what’s going on up there nowadays.” She scratches her head. “Take 78, follow GA-10 towards Macon Highway...it’s pretty choppy but we can do it if the roads are clear.”
“Here’s hopin’.” Daryl scoffs.
“Everything look alright?” Bob has come around the corner, carrying two more gas cans that Daryl asked him to grab for their trip.
Daryl lets his hand fall subtly down Darcy’s back before he turns, it catches her off-guard and she whips her head around thinking he needed something, but he doesn’t. It was just an old way of Daryl saying he was still there, a small memoriam to their days back on the farm.
“Yeah,” He tells Bob. “Zach kept this thing running pretty good.”
“Zach’s car?” Bob asks. His voice suddenly drops.
“Yeah, fastest one we got.” Daryl steps back, noticing it too. “You alright?”
He hesitates. “You really want me coming along?”
Daryl pats his pockets down before pulling out Herschel’s list of drugs, “Wha’s that word?” He points.
“Zanamivir.” Bob sighs.
Daryl furrows his brow and walks back towards Darcy, moving his mouth in a way that tells her he is still trying to say the drug to himself. “Yep, we need ya.”
Michonne bumps Darcy’s elbow and brings her attention back towards the group. She sees Tyresse marching in a steadfast pace around towards Daryl, and because of their last encounter, she’s steady on her feet and next to him in a second.
“You still got room for one more?” Tyresse asks. But he isn’t looking at Daryl; he’s looking to her.
Darcy’s amber eyes glisten in the rising sun as she nods, her hair still being tousled around by the morning wind. “Hell yeah.”
“Good.” Tyresse nods. “Just gotta get my gear.”
With her hands on her hips and releasing a heavy breath, Darcy picks up Daryl’s prized possession from the ground and turns to the man beside her. “Let’s pack up then.”
The crossbow is handed from one to the other. During the exchange, a lingering touch and a defining stare gives both hunters the awareness that this trip will be one of their toughest yet.
Almost no time has passed and everyone withdraws to their spaces in the car. The doors don’t shut yet since it’s far too hot outside to breath without them. Darcy rolls up the map and takes her bow off the hood of the car. She steps around and slides in next to Bob in the back seat to where he will sit in the middle when Tyresse joins them.
Darcy can smell the exhaust fumes from the car already, and it’s starting to enhance her worries that she’s been building up for the past few days. Mostly, her mind was distraught about Glenn, and how much time they’d have until the entire prison was in isolation with no one left.
When a few minutes pass, she was sick of trying to think her way out of the problem and tries to relax. There was nothing more she could do than be in the position she is in right now. She attempts to replay an old mindless TV show or movie that was one of her favorites back in the old world to get the clock moving, but found in her dismay that none came to mind. Darcy accepts that she’s reached the point where there is no turning back or thinking back to those days anymore.
A weight underneath her shifts inside the vehicle. She brings her head up and sees Tyresse quiet opposite of her. He nods, thankful she let him come along especially after their tousle just yesterday, and faces forwards to tap on Daryl’s shoulder to signal everything is set.
“A‘right.” Daryl shuts his door and revs the engine. “Le’s go.”
She wasn’t supposed to be there. No, there must be some mistake.
Darcy looks up to a black ceiling inside the tombs. Her eyes throb as they try to adjust. A cough emits from her throat and a pain takes hold of her body. She looks at her hands, white as snow, unsure of what she was doing back in the prison.
Darcy brings her feet to hang over the side of the bed with every strand of strength in her body. She rubs her face and sniffs the air, but no scent reaches her nostrils. She’s completely stuffed and her head feels as though it’s about to explode from the pressure.
More coughing reaches her ears, but it’s not from her. She steadies herself against the cold cement walls with both hands and stands up at the cell door. Peering through the gates, she sees no one walking about in isolation.
A thud from the next cell over makes her heart race and she jerks back from the door. In the stunned reaction that follows, she’s aware of one sound. An awful gurgling accompanied by an eruption of dark blood when the coughing begins.
Darcy pulls on her cage. She’s locked in. She tries to squeeze her head as far in between the bars as she could, but she’s blocked from seeing anything else other than the body bending forward, spewing out his life…and she takes notice of one thing:
The angel’s wings etched on his leather jacket.
Hershel comes down the stairs with a white rag enveloped around his face. He leans over the body now sprawled onto the ground and unmoving, checking for a pulse at best. Dr. S. is next to him, and he shakes his head.
“Hershel?” Darcy barks. “Is that Daryl?”
Her surroundings start to shake and her vision can’t focus anymore. It’s as if two signals inside her mind are fighting each other. She hears a voice she doesn’t recognize but pays no attention to when she sees Hershel take notice of her.
“You should be –TERM – resting.” He shakes. He acts completely normal approaching her. “Sleep, and we’ll bring you – ARRIVE, SURVIVE – tea to sip on.”
“What?” Darcy blinks, backing further into her cell.
“THOSE WHO – Darcy?” He stops and blinks in confusion. “Are you – TERMINUS.”
“Is that a voice?”
Darcy jolts herself forward and opens her eyes in a second of panic. She sits up against the car window and realizes, much to her relief; it was all just a dream.
“Shh!” Daryl throws back his arm to Bob and twists the knob of the radio.
The voice catches Darcy off-guard and brings her focus on the green lights on the tuner. The voice she heard is the same they are getting off the radio frequency now. She rubs her eyes and adjusts to the real world.
“Where are we?” She asks.
“Just outside Macon.” Bob whispers. “Been on the road for about an hour or so –“
“DARYL!” Darcy leaps forward between the seats and pulls on the steering wheel to avoid a small group of walkers. Daryl pulls back from their shock of the transmission and steers in the opposite direction, hitting two walkers on the opposite side and throwing Darcy back in her seat with whiplash.
“Stop!” She yells, holding her hand out to him as they continue to be thrown in their seats and managing to hit every walker in their path.
The tires screech to a halt. In front of them, they see a hill with corporate buildings resting with no vacancy. Around it, and further up the road, silhouettes of the dead linger towards the five with jaws dropped inside the moaning vehicle.
There is no going through, or around, or even backwards. Hundreds of corpses sweep and surround them with tantalizing slow steps every second they wait to catch their breath.