The Darkest Storm
The breaks of the old Dixon’s truck whistle as Daryl slowly presses his foot down.
For what has seemed like days, the caravan has finally come to a halt just outside the C.D.C.
In the growing night’s darkness, Darcy’s form sits a bit more upright in the passenger seat and stares in awe at the building looming ahead. Her right hand is lightly resting in front of her on the dash, and she hears the keys jingle and humming engine suddenly come to a complete silence.
He narrows his eyes as he looks up, too. They both remain quiet and unresponsive to the air around them. It was only after a few seconds that Daryl bites his bottom lip and looks in an unsure manner to Darcy; a quite wondering glimmering in his eyes.
She is the first to move. In the ever-present silence, they open their doors and hop out with the rest of the group sauntering slowly behind. They scan their unfortunate surroundings, suddenly and blatantly aware that the dream they’ve all built up in their minds of the C.D.C crash. It was omniscient in the fact that it had fell quite early in the start of everything.
The bodies of not only civilians, but of soldiers, the frontlines of the impending doom of the world, are strewn about the area. Some shot, beaten, torn apart for all to see. The only sound besides their own footsteps and the cool breeze of the wind is the cloud of flies that find grounds on the bodies, nestling and feeding off of every inch.
“All right, everybody. Keep moving. Go on.” Shane whispered to them, causing Darcy to find her feet again and walk alongside her friend. “Stay quiet. Let’s go.”
Darcy leaned backwards and over to the right side of Daryl as she reached for his red handkerchief that he clearly wasn’t going to use, yanking it from his right back pocket. He turned towards her and gave her a slight smirk as she held it up to cover her mouth and nose.
Darcy shrugged it off as she walked over to Carl, who was separated from Lori, who hadn’t seem to notice he wasn’t by her side. (Where’s Carl?) She put a gentle hand on his back and he looked up to her and gave her a small smile, hiding his worry before moving along with her.
As they grew closer to the building, the chatter from the group picked up. Darcy could make out Rick telling them to ‘keep moving,’ and Shane’s constant ‘let’s go.’
Daryl looked over at Darcy and beckoned her over, she quickly caught up to Lori and put Carl’s hand in hers before she moved along side of him. Lori looked up with watering eyes from the sting of the rotten air, and she whispered a ‘thank you’ and gave her a relieved sigh.
“I’ll take right, you go left.” Daryl whispered, holding onto her arm as he looked around. Something wasn’t right here, and they all could feel it.
Darcy quickly jogged over to the outer edge of the group, bow raised and hastily moving her feet. The adrenaline that came from her fear rushed through her veins, and she would constantly look over at Daryl who acted the same. They met eyes every so often, giving a signal they hadn’t seen anything yet.
They had finally made it to the doors, but they were closed from the world by a sliver gate. Rick rustled with the lock, but nothing came loose.
“Nothing?” Shane asked, breathing heavily before Rick shook his head ‘no.’ Shane put his back against the door and pushed with his feet, a desperate attempt to try and lift the steel frame from its place.
“There’s nobody here.” T-Dog said, saying only what was on everyone’s mind.
“Then why are these shutters down?” Rick said, panting.
“WALKERS!” Daryl yelled, and Darcy quickly ran over to his side, aiming her bow on the oncoming few of them. Her ears were filled with the sounds of guns cocking and both Sophia and Carl’s panicking whimpers.
Daryl took a few steps forward, shooting his crossbow at the first walker, catching it between it’s eyes and falling to the ground.
“You led us into a graveyard!” He yelled.
“He made a call!” Dale yelled in protest.
“It was the wrong damn call!” Daryl approached Rick, but Darcy caught up to him, standing in front of him and holding his forearm with a forceful grip and a stern look to lower his weapon.
Shane came up from behind her, yelling in a whisper and pointing aggressively at Daryl over Darcy. “Just shut up you hear me!? Shut up. Shut up!” Making him back off with the help of Darcy pushing him slightly. “Rick this is a dead end!”
“Where are we gonna go?” Carol cried out.
“Do you hear me?” Shane approached Rick who was still trying to process the closed doors shunning them from safety. “No blame.”
“Rick, we have to move now!” Darcy yelled, turning away from Daryl with one final push and looking at the frantic leader.
“She’s right we can’t be here this close to the city after dark.” Lori said.
“Fort Benning, Rick – still an option.” Shane said, distraught.
“Oh what? No food, no fuel. That’s 100 miles. Darcy was right about this place, who’s to say she isn’t right about that?” Andrea shook her head.
“125. I checked the map.” Glen said out frantically.
Darcy rolled her eyes and approached Rick, “It doesn’t matter who was right or wrong we need a plan and we need it now.”
“She’s right, forget Fort Benning. We need answers tonight, now.” Lori raised her voice.
Rick raised his hand, “We’ll think of something.”
“We need to get out of here.” Darcy shook her head, turning towards Shane, “We need to move.”
“Okay, let’s go. Come on!” Shane directed the group, who all turned into a panic-stricken state and started to move towards the cars once more. “Everybody back to the cars.”
“The camera – it moved!” Rick said in a hoarse tone.
The group stopped in their tracks, silence over took them and blended in with their surroundings. “You imagined it.” Dale said with his rifle raised.
“It moved.” Rick stated more calmly, approaching the door once more and staring into the camera directly. “It moved.”
“Rick, it is dead, man.” Shane addressed him. “It’s an automated device. It’s gears, okay? They’re just winding down. Now come on!” Shane tried grabbing Rick’s shoulder but Rick pressed on. “Man, come on will you just listen to me? Look around this place it’s dead alright? It’s dead. You need to let it go, Rick!”
Rick shoved his friend away, pounding on the doors with an angry and desperate fist, ignoring that his wife was now screaming at him that there was no one there.
“I know you’re in there. I know you can hear me. Please, we’re desperate. Please help us, we have women, children! No food, hardly any gas left!” Rick stared at the camera, yelling, pleading. Lori stood in front of him and pushed on his chest, trying to pull him away.
“We have no were else to go! If you don’t let us in, you’re killing us!” Rick screamed from the bottom of his lungs ‘please’ before Shane wrapped his arm around both of Rick’s shoulders and pulled him away from the camera, but Rick refused to let it go. “You’re killing us! You’re killing us!”
With a final push, and a defeated leader, Rick was forced away from the hope he had set his final refuge on. He let out a last yell, “You’re killing us!” before the metal screech of the un-opened doors finally gave way, and the bright light emitting from inside shone upon the group.
Darcy’s eyes were wide, and ringing filled her ears as she felt the slight cool breeze of the air conditioned building, calming her every nerve. The group shielded their eyes, but Darcy took a solid few steps forward towards the door all before Daryl placed another firm arm across her chest to get her to stop, and to wait.
“Daryl, Darcy, you cover the back!” Shane called out, making the two hunters to turn without hesitation towards the streets with weapons aimed.
Rick raised his rifle, “Hello?” He called out.
As the group huddled inside the main area, it was hollow, and even just the sound of their breaths were echoing off the walls around them. They finally heard the sound of a gun cock, and Darcy turned towards a lone man with a weapon raised.
“Anybody infected?” He called out from far away across the room.
Rick answered honestly, “One of our group was. He didn’t make it.”
The man took a few hesitant steps forward, “Why are you here? What do you want?” He rushed his words, and it made the group feel uneasy.
Rick breathed quickly, “A chance.”
“That’s asking an awful lot these days.” The man said, moving forward again.
Rick gave a nod, “I know.”
The man looked at everyone in the group who held the same scared expression as he did. They were asking for a chance, just as Rick said, and the tears in some of their eyes reflected just how much they were risking on the situation.
“You all submit to a blood test. That’s the price of admission.” The man said.
“We can do that.” Rick said.
The man finally lowered his gun, “You got stuff to bring in, you do it now. Once this door closes,” The main pointed at the doorway, “It stays closed.”
As the group turned around the grab their things, Daryl stopped Darcy on the way out with another firm arm. “I got it. You stay here, just ‘n case.” He gave her beckoning towards the stranger, and she returned it with an understanding nod.
Within seconds, the men had run out and grabbed the groups’ belongings and sprinting towards safety again and inside. Without caution, the man spoke into a security key-pad, “VI, seal the main entrance. Kill the power up here.”
Darcy whipped her head around, watching and listening to the loud rattling and clanging of the solid metal doors shut, shielding them from the outside. As she listened to the man talk to this so called ‘Vi,’ she was relieved to know he wasn’t the only one in the building.
“Dr. Edwin Jenner.” The man introduced himself, still keeping an eye on everyone throughout the room. “Follow me to the elevators. We can’t be up here once the power’s off.”
As the group huddled inside, Darcy took her place next to Daryl. He still had his gun raised, and she took this time to let her eyes wander over his arms and his chest as he held it steady in his hands. The woman inside of her bit her lip lightly, smirking at how handsome the redneck actually was.
“What?” His raspy voice suddenly broke her trance.
She shrugged, playing it off like she hadn’t been caught checking him out, “Nothing. Just never seen you with a gun before.”
Daryl smirked, “Yeah ya have. Back when you ‘n Glenn got kidnapped.”
Darcy tilted her head and laughed at the ground, “I don’t usually pay that much attention when I have a gag in my mouth and a gun pointed at me.”
Daryl let out a slight laugh, making Darcy smile before he looked over at the Doctor. “Doctors always go around packin’ heat like that?”
Dr. Jenner faced him in the cramped elevator, “There were plenty left lying around. I familiarized myself.” He looked around the group once more. “But you look harmless enough. Except you” he pointed at Carl, “I’ll have to keep my eye on you.”
As the Doctor chuckled at his corny joke, Darcy dropped her head and smiled at his attempt to lighten the mood. She felt a slight nudge from Daryl’s elbow, and she looked up at him who smirked at her and shook his head lightly in amusement.
With a ding, the elevator doors opened, and the group followed the wary Doctor out and into the white halls of the C.D.C.
“Are we underground?” Carol asked.
“Are you claustrophobic?” He asked in return.
“Try not to think about it.” There was her answer. He didn’t seem to provide any compassion for the woman’s fear, mostly because they all knew there was so much more things to be afraid of nowadays.
They were lead to a large darkened room, and the closer they got to it, the slower Darcy’s footsteps became. Her heart was confused, and it felt like a hollowed hole in her chest. Where was everyone? Where was Vi?
“Vi, bring up the lights in the big room.” Dr. Jenner called out. The room filled with computer monitors and a large screen encircled the group as the lights were called on.
Jenner dropped his head, “Welcome to Zone 5.”
Rick shook his head, and Darcy suddenly stopped dead in her tracks, knowing full well what she was about to hear. She brought herself up against a wall as Daryl noticed she wasn’t next to him anymore. He gave her a wondering expression as she met his eyes and Dr. Jenner continued.
“Where is everybody?” Rick asked. “The other doctors, the staff?”
Dr. Jenner stood in the center of the large room, “I’m it. It’s just me here.”
Daryl looked towards Jenner then back at Darcy, who’s eyes were slowly growing red and watery with every work spoken. She didn’t tare her eyes away from his as he observed her, and it was only then that Daryl understood that Darcy was truly right about this place. And although Darcy had always figured this place was a dead end, she never really realized it until now.
Darcy had hoped she was wrong from the beginning about this place, for once she would enjoy the phrase, ‘I told you so’ being shot at her face. She thought about her family, her friends, even her old friend Jasper as she played their deaths over and over again. All this time, she had hoped they hadn’t died in vain, and yet she stood with the man who was supposed to solve all of their problems, who held no solution. She knew now there wouldn’t have been a hope for them even if they had survived up till now. It was only a dead end, an erupting nightmare worse than before.
“What about the person you were speaking with?” Lori asked, “Vi?”
“Vi, say hello to our guests. Tell them – welcome.” Jenner stared at the group, knowing fully well they would be greatly disappointed with him being the only safe haven left for, well, everyone.
The computerized woman’s voice overtook the room, “Hello, guests. Welcome.”
“I’m all that’s left.” Jenner spoke. In those words, Darcy tore her eyes away from Daryl’s, refusing to let him see her in such a state. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and breathed heavily, regaining her composure and making that the end of her moment of weakness. Daryl watched her as she put her bow over her shoulder and put her hands on her hips, waiting for Dr. Jenner to pass by her as he made his way out of the room.
“I’m sorry.” Was all the Doctor said as passed her, referring to the group but looking awkwardly at her while he spoke. He turned around to face everyone then, a hand brought up to the back of his neck, “I can take you all through here and into another room for the blood samples.” He slapped his arms down at his sides. “Might as well get it over with.”
“What’s the point? If we were infected we’d all be running a fever.” Andrea complained, sitting down in the chair after the group followed Dr. Jenner into the next room.
Dr. Jenner sighed, taking out a syringe and poking it at her skin, “I’ve already broken every rule in the book letting you in here.”
“Show me one person who actually cares about those rules these days.” Darcy mumbled, crossing her arms across her chest while standing at the father edge of the room.
The Doctor glanced over at her with sympathetic eyes, “Let me just at least be thorough.” The band on Andrea’s arm snapped, giving way and Dr. Jenner removed the needle. “There. All done.”
Andrea stood with a grunt, and Jacqui came over to help the woman to her feet. She stumbled, and her face went abnormally pale.
“Are you okay?” Jenner asked.
Jacqui answered for her, “She hasn’t eaten in days. None of us have.”
Jenner scanned the group, looking at the weak and bruised battered bodies of them all. The starvation was clear to him on their faces, all pale even though the dirt clearly covered their skin. Their eyes held a fragile sense of structure, and Dr. Jenner nodded his head before removing his gloves.
“Let’s get ya’ll something to eat then, huh?” He said, clearing out of the room once more for the group to follow.
As Darcy went to move in front of Daryl to get to the doorway after everyone else had gone, he gently grabbed her arm. “Hey.” He said in a quiet raspy voice, something she grew to quite enjoy hearing. She stopped, and turned her head slightly with an exhausted look towards him. “Ya gonna be alright?”
A smile twitched at the corner of her mouth as she nodded “Just tired.”
Daryl beckoned his head towards the door, “Well come on, let’s get som’in’ to eat. Get som’in’ in ya.”
“I hope there’s alcohol.” Darcy moaned, and Daryl couldn’t help but let out a laugh. He let go of her arm and stood close next to her, watching her readjust her bow as she took a few steps forward and out the door.
He glanced at his shuffling feet then back to the door where Darcy just disappeared. As he did, Daryl couldn’t stop himself from forming a playful smile across his lips, wondering exactly what kind of woman was underneath her strong and enticing exterior.
Daryl sauntered through the halls of the abandoned building, waving a whiskey bottle in his right hand nonchalantly as the liquid made a ‘swishing’ sound inside the glass carafe.
Numbness. That’s all what he wanted to feel as he took another swig of the strong drink, letting it burn his throat with eagerness and ignorance. It slid down smoothly after, making him grit his teeth and breath heavily once it was swallowed.
The realization of what the truth actually was didn’t come as only a shock to Darcy, but it had struck him hard as well. Daryl could only think about survival at this point, and whether or not it was truly worth it. His thoughts also wandered to his brother, and as he put up a weak arm against the wall beside him, he closed his eyes to try and believe that Merle was still alright, still alive.
Daryl let his mind re-wind back to dinner, where Dr. Jenner had graciously given him and the group food, not to mention the stash of alcohol that was currently being drowned out by each and every one of them.
Laughter. That’s all he could remember besides the comfortable atmosphere that the close-knit group had formed over the few weeks. Daryl kept his eyes closed and shook his head, remembering he was sitting on the counter across from Darcy who sat at the table with everyone else. She hadn’t known it yet, but she was apart of their family. Of his family, since they were all he had left now.
Daryl pushed his back against the wall, re-hearing the conversation that Shane insisted on having which killed the entire ambiance of relaxing and having a good time at dinner.
“So when are you gonna tell us what the hell happened here, Doc?” Shane stared at his almost-empty wine glass, the third he downed in only a few minutes. His voice was empty, as were his eyes. “All the – the other doctors that were supposed to be figuring out what happened, where are they?”
“This is why we’re here right?” Shane asked the group after an interruption from Rick. “This was your move – supposed to find all the answers and instead, uh, we found him.” Shane pointed at the Doctor, giving a few weak laughs to show how annoyed he actually was. “Found one man. Why?”
“Well, when things got bad,” Jenner started, “A lot of people just left, went off to be with their families. And when things got worse, when the military cordon got overrun, the rest bolted.”
“Every last one?” Shane asked.
“No, many couldn’t face walking out the door.” The Doctor stared down Shane, “They…opted out. There was a rash of suicides.” He became quiet, “That was a bad time.”
“You didn’t leave.” Andrea tried, “Why?”
“I just kept working, hoping to do some good.”
Daryl sat against the ground with his legs and feet outstretched in front of him, thinking about it over and over again until the sound of the shower from a few doors down suddenly turned on. He looked up, seeing the sudden mist of steam emitting from the doorway, and he figured the person hadn’t realized the door was left open.
Curiosity, or just the mere buzz of the alcohol forced him up and walk down the hallway towards the crack opening of the door, which led into the bathroom the group had showered in earlier that evening.
It was the best news they had heard: warm water = hot showers for each of them.
Daryl slowed his footsteps, tilting around the corner and peering inside the misty room. His heart stopped, seeing Darcy’s back to him as she felt the water with her slim fingers. She pulled her hair up in a messy bun, letting the shorter loose curls drop wherever they may without concern.
Daryl knew he had to look away, but he couldn’t. His eyes were planted on her hands as they moved down towards the edge of her shirt, pulling it up and over her head. As Darcy let it fall to the ground with ease, she stepped out of her jeans carefully, and Daryl let his eyes wander over her body, taking in how perfect she actually was.
Her shoulders were toned and slim, as well as the rest of her body. The Georgia sun had tanned her porcelain skin, and all Daryl wanted to do was roam his hands over her to feel every inch of her body.
With the sound of the water falling down, his heartbeat loud in his ears, and the ache that formed throughout his body towards this woman, Daryl held out a shaky hand and reached for the silver metal of the doorknob blocking his way to her.