The Darkest Storm
Punching in a Dream
Darcy wakes with a jump and the shivering feeling of a cold sweat that drips from her hairline. She bolts upright in her sleeping bag, breathing sharp and fast. Brushing her loose chestnut waves back from her face where it is stuck with the clammy sweat, she swallows hard, playing the nightmare back in her mind over and over again.
Frowning in disbelief, her eyes scan to the soft light trickling in through the mosquito-proof holes of the tents window. These dreams that have been through her mind ever since the start of the apocalypse were now back again, after so long.
The dreams aren’t anything special or groundbreaking. Darcy wasn’t one to hack into her thoughts and decipher each and every little thing, because what did it matter anyway? Besides, walkers in every which way direction trying to tear her apart with their grimy disgusting hands isn’t really a dream: it’s real life.
But, needless to say, that doesn’t mean that her carefully eyeing the man sleeping across the way in the same tent doesn’t raise some suspicion of what chaotic and comical nonsense her mind perked up today.
Darcy blows out a huge breath of air and closes her eyes, taking herself through the dream once more.
Darcy stood in the sun, the wind blowing her hair lightly as the dirt, which now became a part of her flawless features covered spots of her face. She was tired, and her eyes scanned her surroundings – in seconds the field had shifted towards darkness and death, the bodies of the lost encircled her as they lay quietly for the time being.
Darcy held her bow as she watched in silence, not even the wind made a sound or a cricket could be heard. Completely still, her hazel eyes viewed them one by one as the bodies got up and stared straight back at her.
It was up until this point the dream had been seen before. Darcy would usually see herself try and flee, only being caught by one of the walkers in a failed attempt to escape. Only this time, a hand enclosed around hers pulling her to safety and into a friend’s company. As they ran together, distant screams began to filter through Darcy’s mind. The more she concentrated, the louder they became until she finally jolted awake.
Darcy once again glances over at Daryl who sleeps soundly with his back facing her direction. It was him who pulled her to safety, and she watches him with confusion before standing up and exiting the tent to get away even if for a moment.
Stepping into the morning light, Darcy squints and brings an unsteady hand up to shield her eyes. A quiet voice makes her turn her head, seeing Carol standing near the edge of the cliff with her arms crossed and overlooking the view.
“You’re up early.” She says.
“Couldn’t sleep.” Darcy mumbles.
“Me either.” Carol shrugs. “It seems to be happening more and more now. Especially with Ed gone.”
“I’m sorry.” Darcy says sincerely, taking in the expression on the broken woman’s face.
Carol laughs slightly, trying to make light of the unpleasant situation. “You think I would get more sleep now that I have one monster out of my life.” She rubs her nose. “Just have to deal with the dead ones now.”
A silent minute passes. “How’s your daughter doing?” Darcy’s voice is just above a whisper. “Sophia, right?”
Carol sighs, nods, and turns towards the view. “Coping. Just like the rest of us.”
Darcy kicks the toe of her boot into the dry dirt beneath her shoes. “It’s a stupid question.”
Carol shakes her head. “No, no it’s not.” She smiles sweetly. “And thank you, you’re the first to ask. Everyone just assumes she’s fine, that we’re better –“ Carol stops herself, thinking. “We are in a way. We’re…better. Just like how Daryl’s better with Merle gone –“
“How do you mean?” Her interest sparks.
“You would know if you knew him. He wasn’t good for Daryl.” Carol says before suddenly turning to Darcy. “I for one am glad you’re here.”
Darcy sits in the bed of the once older Dixon’s pick-up truck. Her right foot dangles off while her left knee is brought up to her chest. She boringly stares off into space with her right elbow placed on the edge of the truck with her chin resting in her palm.
“Ya gonna help or just sit there all damn day?” Daryl growls from behind her, tossing the packed-up tent in the back next to his brother’s bike.
Darcy raises her brow but doesn’t move, she doesn’t even blink her eyes out of her stare. Her tone is mellow in itself and as she raises her left hand that holds a small radio she says, “I’m manning the C.B.”
Daryl hops down from the truck bed and wipes his hands off on his jeans. “We ain’t even left yet.” He scoffs.
She stays quiet, deep in thought. Daryl eyes her carefully as he takes a step towards her. He may have only known her for a few days, but the lack of a witty remark back when he was being a complete asshole stops his nagging immediately.
“Ya alright?” He asks.
Darcy sighs and hops down to stand as well. She keeps leaning against the truck. Her mind is somewhere else entirely. “Just couldn’t sleep.”
“Alright everybody, listen up.” The voice of Shane echoes throughout the camp. He stands with Rick, finally finishing their last scout before they move out.
“Those of you with C.B’s we’re gonna be on Channel 40. Let’s keep the chatter down, okay? Now you got a problem, don’t have a C.B can’t get a signal or anything at all, you’re gonna hit your horn one time. That’ll stop the caravan.”
Daryl crosses his hands under his arms as Shane continues, “Any questions?”
Morales speaks up with a cautious, unsure tone. “We’re uh, we’re not going.”
The atmosphere flips in an instant. Eyes turn and focus, confusion and fear rises.
“You go on your own, you won’t have anyone to watch your back.” Shane raises his eyebrows and seems to be out of breath.
“We’ll take the chance.” Morales nods.
“Alright.” Rick places his hands on his hips. “Shane?”
“Yeah.” Shane nods at his partner’s quiet question. He leans down into the police issued bag and pulls out a small ration of weapons he feels is enough to spare.
Beside her, Daryl scoffs and takes a step back. “Tha’s bullshit. More weapons and ammo we need that we’re givin’ away like candy.”
“Can’t let them go with nothing, with no protection.” Darcy says as she watches the scene before her.
“It’s their own choice.” Daryl says.
Darcy turns and locks eyes with the man, “Would you have given any to me if I had left?”
Daryl sighs and scratches his neck. “It’s different.”
“It’s no different.” Darcy retorts. She walks around to the passenger side of his truck, feeling his eyes on her back as she does.
Daryl sits next to Darcy, both leaning on their elbows on the edges of the windows beside them, feeling relaxed yet anxious at leaving their old home behind and moving on to God knows where next.
The group starts their vehicles and moves out on Shane’s command. One by one the five vehicles roll their way out of camp, a sense of odd security being left behind, as well as the loved ones that now rest in the ground as well as the past.
They drive for a few miles out of the Quarry, waving goodbye to the Morales’ family as they take a different route from the rest – whom most likely, are never to be seen or heard from again.
Daryl bites his lip with his thumb pressed to his mouth. He taps his calloused fingers against the worn rubber of the steering wheel, stomach mixed with all kinds of thoughts and mawkishness that he doesn’t know what to do with himself except become curious.
He steals small glimpses of her as her hair bounces around her face. He sees how her amber hues shine in the rays of the sun. Then, he catches himself, finding that he has become totally enraptured by her and it angers him.
Darcy runs her hand through her hair as the wind tousles it around, feeling at ease for the time being as the breeze drifts around her body and delivers her from the horrible heat of the south. Darcy still thinks back to her dream. She thinks about the C.D.C, about Jim, about Morales. She thinks back to Carol and what she’s told her…she thinks about Daryl.
She suddenly sees the bright red break lights in front of them, slowing until they stop completely. Darcy sits upright in her seat just to make out the visible smoke flowing from the engine of the R.V. leading the group.
“Damn trailer.” Daryl mumbles as Darcy hops out of the truck as soon as he flips the keys to turn off the engine. They catch up at the front of the line with the others just as Rick and Dale inspect the damage.
Dale sighs. “I said I needed the one from the cube van.”
“Can you jury-rig it?” Rick asks, placing his hands on his hips.
“That’s all it’s been so far. It’s more duct tape than hose.” Dale shakes his head. “And I’m out of duct tape.”
Darcy leans on her left leg and crosses her arms. She feels an elbow nudge hers and sees Daryl bob his head towards the back of the line. She instantly grabs her bow off her shoulder and has it ready before they even take a step. They’ve taken post as watch for the time being, even if there were no orders too.
Daryl holds his crossbow up over his shoulder with one hand and whispers to her, “Ain’t gonna be sittin’ ducks.”
“I see something up ahead.” Shane speaks up with his binoculars raised; it stops the two from wandering too far back. “A gas station, if we’re lucky.”
The group turns to follow Shane’s gaze, albeit small, they all squint at the small figure of a building gleaming in the heat far up ahead. As they do, frantic footsteps and the R.V’s door slamming open startles them enough to turn around at the sound.
It’s Jacqui; she’s out of breath and extremely worried. “Y’all, Jim – it’s bad. I don’t think he can take anymore.”
Daryl glances with his head down at Darcy, who stares straight back at him with the same knowing look that he wares on his face when Jacqui runs back inside to tend to Jim.
Shane turns to Rick, “You wanna hold down the fort? I’ll drive ahead see what I can bring back.”
“Yeah, I’ll come along too and I’ll back you up.” T-Dog nods.
“Y’all keep your eyes open now, we’ll be right back.” Shane nods back, motioning for T-Dog to follow him and head off towards the hopeful station, but Shane walks up to Darcy first.
He puts his hand lightly on her lower back to pull her away from the group. “You and Daryl keep watch while Rick figures out what to do ‘bout him.” He motions his head towards the R.V., referring to Jim.
Darcy nods, letting him know she’s capable and he returns the quiet communication. She watches him and T-Dog settle themselves in the Wrangler before turning to find Daryl has followed Jacqui into the trailer.
He takes a few steps into the R.V. to see what he can, but comes back out when there wasn’t much new to see. He displays this to her by shaking his head lightly and narrowing his eyes to protect them from the sun.
Darcy waits for him to catch up with her. They walk side by side together with their weapons still armed and ready. Their boots carry a resolute feeling as they march back to the end of the caravan.
They were both thinking what everyone else was: Jim has to know that his odds are definitely not in his favor, especially while the group is still too far out from their hopeful destination. To top it all off, the ongoing and relentless fixes of the R.V., have diminished the slightest sliver of hope for Jim’s good fortune.
Daryl stands towards the left facing of the road as Darcy stands on the right. Something has been on his mind ever since they’ve left the Quarry. What she didn’t know, and neither did Carol, was that he overheard some of their conversation the two women had earlier that same morning.
“Thought ya left.” Daryl mumbles, looking over at Darcy who has her head tilted so she could hear him more clearly.
“This mornin’.” He shrugs and shuffles on his feet while looking back and forth from her to the road. “Just looked over and ya weren’ there.”
Darcy lowers her bow slightly and taps the grip with her fingers. “Bad dream.” She sees Daryl nod out of the corner of her eye. “Why? Did you miss me already?”
He immediately takes a step back and scoffs. “No.” She doesn’t show any budging. Daryl avoids her gaze for a moment longer, but he can’t help himself bringing it back to her once more.
“What was it?” He asks. “Your dream?”
Darcy shrugs, fed up not with him, but everything. “What it always is: being trapped by those damn things and then you just can’t get away.”
Daryl nods but it’s barely noticeable. He bites his lip before lowering his voice to speak again, “That ain’t no dream. Tha’s real.”
Darcy ignores him and shrugs, facing the woods once more. “Just couldn’t sleep.”
“Daryl, Darcy.” They hear their names being called, and they see Rick and the others huddled outside the R.V. in hushed tones.
Waiting to see why they were called, the group suddenly parts, giving Rick, Shane, and the man they carried, Jim, a path towards the woods where they leaned him up against a tree.
“His own choice.” Dale tells Darcy with a resentful smile. “It was his own choice.”