The Darkest Storm
There is a white fog closing over their camp. Even this close to nightfall, it was humid and hot in the Georgian woods. Darcy wakes from her small, light slumber. She rubs her forehead then her eyes, drowsy and dull. Her hand aches from her encounter with Ty.
“Ya gotta eat.”
Daryl is standing above her next to the large oak tree. Darcy is just within their camp’s bounds, tied around the nearest trees was her rope along with some metal containers and trash they managed to find. It was a perfect precaution if they were to fall asleep and walkers came through.
Darcy glances quickly from the bowl in his hands then up to his face gently illuminated by the trickling embers of the fire behind him. “How much have you had?” Her voice is raspy, as if she’d been sitting in the darkness staring into the hazy abyss for hours without moving.
Daryl shrugs and gives a quick nod that is unconvincing. “Enough,” He says, reaching the food out still for her to take it. She gives him a knowing look and only takes half of the meat.
He sighs disapprovingly, “Take it.”
“When you’ve had more.” She peels back some of the soggy skin and tosses it aside. The meat was still warm from the fire, and she could feel the heat as she inhaled taking a small bite.
Daryl subtly shakes the bowl. “Quit bein’ so arrogant ‘n take the rest.” He shifts.
Darcy looks up to him unphased. “Can you go be an asshole somewhere else please? Like over there?” She points to fire.
Daryl frowns, but the expression is soon replaced with a quick smile and a light laugh. “Fine.”He watches her as she looks away and nibbles on her food. “Keep ya company?”
“Always.” She scoots over and he sits himself next to her up against the tree. They are hidden from the others if it weren’t for Daryl’s left foot laying slightly in the light and his crossbow leaning up against the tree.
“Didn’ need to prove nothin’ to nobody. You know that right?” He asks. “No one blames you for leavin’. We get it.”
“It was more for myself.” Darcy nibbles the last bit of meat off the bone and tosses it to the side. She rubs her hands together and her voice grows quiet, “And I overreacted, I know that.”
A moment of quiet envelops their little space, then. Daryl can hear the faint crackling sounds of the fire carrying on without them on the other side of the tree – a murmur of chatter from Bob and Michonne, the heavy sighs of Ty, and the wind slightly shifting the metal cans along the rope. He wonders, idly, how long they could stay here without being missed.
Daryl finally nods with a frown and blinks. He notices the bloody cuts on her knuckles and his stomach drops. “You got some bandage in your pack?” He asks.
She shakes her head from side to side, almost as if she’s brushing it off. “It’s nothing to worry about.” Darcy glances down and stretches out her wounded hand, knowing it’s what he’s referring to.
“Why don’ you go on ‘n get some sleep?” Daryl gently taps her leg. “I’ll cover watch.”
“You sure?” She asks, leaning her head back against the tree.
“Mhm. Go on.” He shoots a thumb back towards the fire. She watches it while giving no inclination of moving. Instead, her eyes flicker back to his, and they instantly lock weighing heavily with a comforting, familiar feeling. She can’t peel her eyes away. She yearns for his company and closeness.
For some reason when these two people sit together, they stop caring whether they talk or stay silent. They don’t mind the playful banter or grow numb at the small signs, like a simple nod. They are never bothered by they way things are now or how they used to be between them, because they’ve known all along that they would be together through it all. And they never have gotten tired of it. No matter how rough it’s gotten, they’re never perturbed by the things to come or by the noises and distractions around them – it will never seem too loud, too wild, and in the end, too much because of what they’ve already been through to get to the other.
Darcy leans forward hesitantly. In a soft, slow motion, her lips meet with Daryl’s and all seems to be right in the world for just that moment. She feels his breath hitch and senses the same type of relaxed feeling as she does, all the while taking in his scent of rainwater and a hint of cigarette smoke.
When she pulls back, she keeps her eyes closed and their foreheads barely touching. She feels his fingers inch slowly towards hers and soon, she is being gently pulled into him, resting her head along his shoulder.
Darcy doesn’t remember much of what happened after that. The peace she feels sends her to sleep in his arms and for some reason she doesn’t know, there is something different growing in the air around them.
Michonne kicks Daryl’s boot and he jolts awake. He has his head resting on top of Darcy’s, unmoving from the night before. The sun is brightly shining down on them as he squints his eyes up at her. He instantly knows she’s wearing a smirk.
“We gotta get moving.” She smiles with an eyebrow raised. Turning away, Michonne leaves the two to stomp on the remaining embers of the fire.
“Hey.” Daryl lightly shakes Darcy’s arm. Instead of waking, she nestles further into his shoulder and unconsciously wraps her arms around his middle. He tenses out of habit and clears his throat.
Looking around first, he glances back to Darcy and brushes a few strands of hair out of her face and behind her ear. “Gotta get goin’, Darc. C’mon.” He whispers and shakes her again gently.
Darcy yawns and wipes away the sleep from her eyes, prying them open to meet the early sun. Instead, she finds a pair of her favorite storm colored eyes and holds back a small smile.
“Time to go.” He reminds her and stands. “Grab your pack ‘n we’ll get the others.”
Bob stumbles through the woods towards them, “Just came back to let you know we’re packin’ up by the stream.” He watches Daryl help Darcy to her feet and grab his bow. “And to warn you…Ty’s in a state.”
Daryl looks to Darcy out of habit and nods, “Just gotta keep movin’ ‘n don’t pull nothin’ else with him. Can’t waste no more time. The man’s gonna act the way he’s gonna, can’t do nothin’ about it ‘till we get back.”
Darcy blinks and adverts her eyes. Picking up her bow and pack next to the tree, she waits a few paces back to start moving behind Daryl and Bob. They soon see Michonne up ahead with the map strewn about the railing, and Ty is washing his shirt in the stream in the same motion over and over again.
The meticulous and repetitive motion of him twisting and rinsing his shirt takes hold of her focus. She watches on, eyes locked and slowly becoming neither unaware nor concerned of what is going on around her. The wind shifts and suddenly, her surroundings slow to a tantalizing pace.
Darcy’s heart jolts. Her senses fade, and her breath rises. Then, as if she has no control, her eyes trickle to the figure past Tyresse walking deep into the woods. The figure that has been taunting Darcy for days is moving right in front of her. She breathes and watches.
He strides through the tall brush in a calming way, letting his long coat flow out behind him. His clothes are completely clean, as if they weren’t worn a day in his life. The eye patch covering his permanent wounds is no longer there, but she can’t shake the feeling of how real her uncle actually seems.
He passes through two trees in a throng and Darcy waits for him to surge it with the other side…but he never appears. She feels an overwhelming sensation of panic as her eyes dart from tree to tree but cannot locate the thing that can only be explained as her mind taunting her once again.
“…Must be a few miles downstream.” Michonne’s voice snaps her away from the spot.
“Sounds like our best chance at finding a new ride.” Bob nods.
“Yo! Ty!” Daryl yells. He hands Darcy the map, thankfully to her, unaware of her shaken state. “C’mon le’s go. Vamanos.”
Darcy folds the map and places it in the front pocket of her pack. She gets her feet moving, hearing them hit the wooden planks beneath her, as she rubs her face with both her hands.
He wasn’t real. Nothing that just happened was real. She repeats.
At the footpath she walks abreast with Michonne and Daryl. Neither of them looks nor acknowledges she is there since the feeling is too familiar. But she hides her shaking and her backwards glance to the spot as to not direct their gaze; instead, her steps are resounding in the encompassing silence of the woods.
Darcy ignores the small makeshift conversations between the others and soon finds herself leading the group in silence entirely. Her heart is beating too quickly.
What if she was wrong? Could it be true? Could the Governor still be out there, lurking, waiting for the right opportunity? If he survived, and was creating another community, another army, would it be better to go back out there, where she might be able to accomplish something, instead of waiting around for him to attack?
But these are delusions. Her uncle doesn’t exist because she would never let him exist. The thought alone snaps her to her senses. Darcy takes a quick glance over her shoulder and gives a small smile that tugs at the corner of her mouth. It wasn’t just her fighting this battle; she has to remember, but the entire prison including the ones walking behind her.
Bringing her focus back to her surroundings in the now, Darcy hardly notices how far they have walked. They have been following a dirt road now, almost gravel but decayed by the years past, and across the way they see a gas station.
The group all stares the same way, squinting through on-guard eyes and twitching hands towards their weapons. Daryl has fallen back a bit, focusing a little too much on something hidden beneath the limbs and vines of the Georgian plant life.
“You see something?” Bob finally asks the question they are all wondering. Darcy doubles back and come up to him on his left side.
“I don’ know, maybe.” Daryl glances over to her and nods his head. “Give me a hand.”
They tare at the leaves, a pile at least six feet high and who knows how deep. Clumps are thrown to the side until Darcy sees a foggy windshield underneath the mess.
“It’s a van.” She calls out.
Daryl trudges over to the passenger’s side. “I’mma see if I can get it goin’.”
Darcy stands back when Bob and Tyresse have joined in trying to clear the van. She can only see Daryl’s feet hanging slightly out of the door, before a large sigh emits his lungs. He climbs out, shutting the door behind him.
“We gotta find us a new battery.” He says.
Darcy puts her hand over her eyes to shield out the sun and glances over the building once more. The entire foundation is covered in climbers, finding the door could be tricky to get inside but once there, she knows there should be a battery. She folds her lips inward and starts to chop away some of the greenery with her knife.
Daryl calls out to her, “Careful,” he throws a thumb towards the window, a walker clawing at it from the inside. “Got some friends inside.”
“Let’s clear a path.” He turns to the group. “See how many we got in there.”
The group walks over to the brush, cutting and pulling the vines to try and find a way inside. Loud hacking and grunting at the branches to Darcy’s left cause her to throw an intimidated glance at Tyresse, who now holds the entire groups attention at what only can be described as hashing out his anger.
“Ay, man go easy.” Daryl stops for a moment. Michonne is between him and Darcy. “Don’ know what we’re dealing with.”
Tyresse has found the door. With his machete, he tugs and tugs at the wires holding the frame together. Whoever or whatever was in there, have been locked in since it all started.
He refuses to let up. Darcy picks at some of the leaves, unintentionally distracted by how much effort Tyresse was really putting into the work. He was angry, she got it. Hell, the whole group gets it. It wasn’t something they’ve never felt before, no, it was felt by each and every one of them every damn day. His frustration and hatred though, that was something different entirely. It was going to hurt someone, get someone killed if it wasn’t tamed.
Tyresse has finally cut the bunches of wires from the lock. Unknowing to the group, the decomposing fingers are lacing through the handle from the inside.
When the tension of Tyresse’s rampage seems to die down, the world turns into an uproar. Arms reach out from all angles, one tugging on Daryl’s collar and another catching itself on Darcy’s ankle.
Darcy jumps backwards, falling to her backside and kicks the walker repeatedly in its jaw. With each thrust, the already rotten teeth begin to fall and its mouth begins to twist in an unnatural fashion. A final crunch crushes the skull. The dark crimson blood pools over and inside Darcy’s boot.
She wipes the sweat from her face and breaths heavily, letting herself fall back completely onto the grass patch. A hand soon breaks her short rest. Daryl fumbles with her arm and pulls her off the ground. He holds her slightly, both hands on her arms but just barely.
They are still alert. Their attention is caught by Ty, still wrestling with the first walker that had jumped up at him from before. But the walker doesn’t catch Tyresse; he catches the walker.
“Tyresse!” Bob yells.
“Ty, let him go!” Michonne commands. She has her katana at the ready.
Tyresse pulls the walker by both arms out of the bushes. The force is too much for him to handle so he falls over, just as Darcy did, now caught by the walker and patting its arms away in a frantic state. Daryl pulls the biter off. In no time, Bob shoots the walker and Tyresse is back on his feet.
Darcy’s eyes peer through the trees, past the small chain-linked fences that were bent here and there. She squints in the setting sun, letting the wind toss the few strands that weren’t up with her hair and framed her face. There she focuses on ribbed steel walls that are stained with rust on a crumpled building to the East.
Back before the start of this all, the building housed a company that repaired, cleaned, and repainted all sorts of fishing and tackle box equipment. In the overgrown yard in front of it, stood the striped shell of the store’s sign and personal belongings of the family who owned it. Most likely, that was a house to them as well.
Around the structure, there were no walkers in sight or signs that they were hunting them. There were no signs of blood splatter, or death. Simply enough, it seems as though the development was just left behind for someone else to come along and make use of their old belongings that were viewed as treasures to them. The sight is so beautiful she almost faints.
That same sight snaps Darcy to her senses. Something inside her twists as she remembers where they are and what type of world they now live in. Darcy takes a step forward and notices the crunch of dirt beneath her feet. She spins slightly on her heel, resting her hands on her hips and looking over her shoulder quickly for Daryl to come out of the gas station with Bob. On the other side of the building, Tyresse and Michonne are clearing the car entirely from the weeds grasps.
When the light signals late afternoon, Darcy tears her nails away from her teeth and briskly walks towards the entrance of the gas station, just as Daryl comes out.
“Hey.” She stops. Darcy immediately has his attention. “I’ll be up the road, just scouting for a little while.” It’s too quite for comfort.
“Now’s not the time to be splittin’ up.” He glances over to a wary Bob leaning against the side of the building, holding two packs of cigarettes un-opened.
She shrugs, reaching out and grabbing the carton offered to her. Darcy slips them into her pack. “Won’t be long.”
“Stay on the road.” Daryl warns. “Just need to snap this in and we’re goin’.” He holds up the dry battery.
“I will.” She gives a final nod to both Daryl and Bob, and starts down the street.
Ambling along the pebbled drive was quick and easy to scout for Darcy. There were a few lone walkers, but none that showed signs of upcoming herds or shifts where the group would be their next destination point.
A few were taken down by her bow, but when she sees a small huddle of three to five, she bites her lip looking to the woods and replays Daryl’s instructions. His words are quickly overlooked and forgotten due to safety hazards.
The woods offered to protect her. She moves to conceal herself in it, like she was used to. The derelict and forgotten structure of the gas station could was out of sight and out of mind and could no longer shelter her.
She runs in a long space where the trees move in the warm summer gale. She can hear a small stream rushing off the rocks and leaves in long, sudden spurts. Moving quickly, Darcy jumps into the skinny moving water and follows it through the space, leading her to a much thicker wood that darkens her surroundings with each step she takes.
Small scurries among the trees dart her eyes from movement to movement, just catching the furry, bushy tails that trickle out of sight in the blink of an eye. She readies her bow at one just across the way, firing it too late by a millisecond and frowns at her missed target.
“Your form’s all wrong, my dear.”
Darcy’s heart shrinks and her stomach clenches itself. Her heart beats slowly, as if she is asleep. She experiences a sudden, aggressive onset of nausea and her chest tightens at the sound of the unmistakable voice ringing in her ears. As her thoughts scramble to understand the resonance around her, she pretends to have misheard him.
“Relax, and straighten your elbow.” She hears him click his tongue out of habit. The presence of his nightmarish memory hits her body like a tidal wave as she steps slowly around to face him.
“Go away.” Darcy clenches her hands over her ears. Her eyes are clamped shut, and she quickly drops herself to a crouch low to the ground at the sight of him. “Go away, go away, go away.”
The snickering breaks through the tight spaces of her fingers. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m trying to help you.”
Sensing the footsteps coming closer, Darcy shakily brings her head up just to glance up and under her low eyelids. “You’re not real.”
“Of course I am.” He nods his head and dashes his tongue over his bottom lip with a smile that was none other than mocking. “You’ve been looking for me all this time…well, here I am.”
Darcy lifts herself to her feet and breathes out sharply. Her hair that dangles in her face and moves with the flow of each exhale.
“So,” He puts his hands on his hips and moves in front of a tree tantalizingly. “Where do we begin?”
Darcy shows an unforgiving, evincing smile in return and purses her lips. “We don’t.”
Her eyes instantly home in on her bow just in arm’s reach beneath a bush and she yanks it free. She senses a trap from this, something that will entangle her mind into his being forever and lets her arrow fly without another thought of her own. The arrow hits the tree directly behind her uncle, clearing his chest with no fault or hurt.
And out of nowhere, he is gone again.
Immediately, Darcy can hear soft footsteps approaching. The sudden interaction with her uncle makes her panic and she believes it is him again coming back to taunt her. But this time, she knows someone is behind her. It wasn’t unexpected as before, no, this is real. She’s alerted by, she doesn’t know, a soft shift of the forest floor or maybe just the way the air flows.
In a quick, fearful motion, Darcy pulls another arrow and turns.
From me, to you:
Thank you for being so patient with these updates. I promise, big things are coming by the end of this season. NO ONE will have what I'm planning. Big things readers. Big. Things.
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