The Fall of Humanity
The Truth Hurts
Two days after leaving the burning wreckage of the CDC behind, the caravan was driving on the highway, mostly without having to dodge stalled cars and wreckages, when they reached yet another large car graveyard, and Dale’s RV broke down in a small discharge of steam about one third of the way into it. In the front of their small procession Daryl got off of his motorbike, and went back to check on what the problem was before going off to see if there was anything in the cars littering the road they could salvage. At the back of the convoy everyone in the last two cars got out as well. Buffy called everyone to her and they gathered in a loose half-circle in front of her after she had a short conversation with Dale regarding the status of his RV.
“The radiator hose on Dale’s RV has broken down again. While he and Glenn tries to fix it the rest of us will be going through the cars to see if there’s anything salvageable. The priorities are water, dry food, canned goods, medicine, and weapons. Bladed weaponry, crossbows with arrows and bolts, anything blunt that can be used to kill walkers are the most important. However if you find guns and ammunition then take those as well. Lighters, lighter fluid, matches, and similar things are a priority as well. Candles. preferably not scented ones; we don’t want unwanted attention. ”
Before she got the chance to continue with her impromptu orders, T-Dog cut in. “We can siphon fuel from the cars.” Buffy nodded, it was a good idea.
“Of course, fuel is also in short supply and we need to get it when we have opportunity. Remember to mark the fuel tanks so we know if it’s gas or diesel, and store them in the appropriate cars.” T-Dog gave her a nod back and then enlisted Shane and Andrea to help him.
“Remember to pair up and always keep your buddy in sight. Make sure that one of you is keeping watch over the other if you need to do something where you can’t do it yourself, and that you have a knife or sword ready to use at all times. You never know if there’s a lurker or fifty somewhere. Make sure that you check under the cars for crawlers. It only takes a few seconds of inattentiveness to get bitten or scratched.”
She looked over the group making sure she made eye contact, and then added, “If you find something you want or need you may take it, but keep in mind that we have very limited storage space.”
Then Lori added her two cents, “Are soap, toothpaste, and deodorant on the priority list?”
“Yes, but it’s below the things I already mentioned.” Buffy got nods and affirmative replies from everyone and they split into teams. They were being amazingly cooperative, but in her experience most people wanted someone to tell them what to do. If for no other reason than so they had someone else to blame later when things went wrong. This was especially true in a crisis, and this definitely counted as that.
Dale and Glenn were obviously a team as they worked on the RV. T-Dog, Shane, and Andrea was a second as they went in search for fuel. Rime joined Carol and Sophia in scavenging, while the Grimes family did the same. Which left her with Amy and Daryl. Unknown to everyone else both Buffy and Rime had their bottomless backpacks and they had every intention to fill them up with as much as they could.
The three groups who were designated to go and scavenge returned to the cars to get bags and backpacks to carry their loot in. As Buffy’s little group walked away she saw Dale in her peripheral view as he climbed on top of the RV to keep watch while Glenn worked on the engine, and she nodded to herself in approval. A high vantage point was important, especially when there were so many obstacles everywhere.
Over the next hour she managed to find a number of water bottles; some of them were even still sealed, but most of them had been opened and had various amounts of water in them. She poured what she could into the largest bottles but threw the smaller and empty ones in her bag as well when Amy and Daryl were looking elsewhere. The search also yielded a few dozen cans of food, several first aid kits, and various weapons, but very few bullets. Which was unsurprising since there were actual dead corpses in some of the cars and the rest were empty of any kind of human presence - alive or undead. Meaning the rest of the occupants had either gotten up and shambled away or they had driven away.
As far as she could hear from the other groups their searches were turning up pretty much the same thing. Except for one thing; Shane found a van with Lipsey Mountain Spring Water printed on the side almost right next to where the RV had broken down. It had water tanks meant for office water coolers, which brought up the question should they take what they could fit into the cars and the RV, or simply take the entire van? A quick debate and it was decided to wait and see how much supplies the rest of the search turned up and then make a decision when they knew how much space they had left, if any.
Nearly an hour later, as Buffy was head first into the trunk of a car trying to find something useful, she suddenly heard the tell-tale sound of shuffling feet in the distance and abruptly pulled her head and upper body back out. Turning her head quickly around in all directions to pin down where the sound was coming from, she saw them in the distance towards the back of the cars behind the convoy.
“Daryl, Amy.” Buffy said in a low voice. “We have incoming walkers behind us.” Inwardly she cursed at herself for not having come up with a plan for situations like this yet, and added it to her already long mental list of things she needed to get done yesterday. “Move slowly towards the Grimes’ and get them to come over here.” Movement, and especially abrupt movement, got the walkers attention almost as fast as loud noises.
The small family were only four-five cars ahead of them and to the right. As they moved intently towards the other group, Amy in the front and Daryl in between the twenty-something woman and Buffy trying to keep a watchful eye over both of them, Buffy signaled to Shane, as he had noticed the movement from their part of the highway, to get T-Dog and Andrea and do the same. As soon as everyone were close enough for her not to raise her voice she said, “There’s a medium sized group of walkers headed straight for us. We have two choices; hide and and hope for them to pass without noticing us, which is highly unlikely, or we can hide most of the group and then those of us who can fight can carefully pick off the herd from the sides.”
Horrified looks met her options and angry retorts came predictably from Andrea, Lori, and Shane. “No, listen to me. That herd is going to find living, breathing human beings sooner or later, and when they do they’ll eat them alive. If we kill them now it will save someone else’s life later.”
What she didn’t say was that she could’ve killed them all on her own easily, but no one here would have believed that and the world ending didn’t unjustify the need for her to be secret identity girl. Well, part of the secret was already out, but there was no need to make them ask more questions she didn’t want to answer. The last thing she needed was for them to freak out on her. “I’m going out in the open. Choose if you want to fight or if you want to go inside one of the cars for safety, but do it quickly because when I go out there I’ll make sure to attract them.”
Unsurprisingly a hissing argument erupted, but she shot it down fast; they didn’t have time for everyone to say their piece. In the end Lori decided that she and Carl would hide inside a car since they were too far from the RV, and Amy, not really being a fighter either despite her increasing skill with a sword, chose a nearby car and hid inside. Everyone else took a good hold of their best sword, katana, or knife, and then checked that they had a back-up gun and extra ammunition, and then Buffy split them into teams of two; her and Daryl, T-Dog and Shane, and Rick and Andrea.
Rick and Andrea were given the task of getting Glenn, Carol, Sophia, and Rime into the RV were they would be relatively safe, and then they were to guard it so none of the walking dead could enter it or even try something unfortunate. Dale was safe on the roof as long as he didn’t draw attention to himself, preferably by getting down on his stomach so he wouldn’t be visible to the hungry corpses and thereby drawing attention to the vehicle, and it would’ve taken too long to get him down from there and inside. Not to mention that the conversation and movement would’ve drawn the attention of the walkers to them too soon.
Buffy and Daryl would take the left side and take cover between the cars on that side to pick off the walkers who came close enough, preferably without being seen by the rest of the approaching herd, while T-Dog and Shane would do the same on the other side. Once they had downed enough to thin the herd Buffy would go out in the open and the rest of the fighters would cover her blindspots.
Buffy gave the signal and the three duo's split up to get to their appointed tasks. She and Daryl moved quickly and silently towards some cars which would give them shelter, and would also serve as a shield against the rest of the walkers. When they had gotten into position she took note of how far Rick and Andrea had gotten in getting the others into the van. All she saw of Glenn was his back as he was carefully opening the door to the RV. Fifteen feet away Rick and Andrea were collecting the last three members of their group and shepherding them towards the RV while trying to keep out of sight from the coming corpses.
The walkers were still far enough away that they hadn’t noticed the movement up ahead, but that wouldn’t last. She met Daryl’s eyes, took in his dirty face, and the determination in his blue eyes. She nodded at him before she walked in a crouch to the back of the car so she could get a better view of when the walkers would arrive at their temporary shelter. It also gave her a direct line of sight to Rime, Carol, and her pre-teen daugther around the back of the car she was crouching on the side of. On the right side of her she saw as the three of them rounded the front of the RV so they could enter it; Rick was keeping guard on the other side of them. Andrea was bringing up the rear, holding the short sword Buffy had given her in both hands and determinedly keeping watch to both sides and intermittently behind herself.
A quick survey of the left side showed her that T-Dog and Shane were in place behind a station wagon, and that Shane was clearly upset about something. T-Dog had his eyes on the oncoming walkers, and kept changing his grip on the baseball bat he must’ve found in one of the cars they’d been searching earlier. It had dried blood on the upper part so it had evidently been used as a defense against the walkers before.
Then the walkers had drawn up to them and Buffy allowed them to keep shuffling past her on the other side of the car. One, two, three… Men, women, teenagers, but thankfully no children. Most of them wore clothing, a few even had jackets, and some of them were topless. When she got to eighteen she nodded to Daryl and he moved carefully to the front of the car while she got up from her crouch. Number twenty-one got the top half of her head sliced off with Buffy’s Scythe, and another lost most of its head on the downswing. In her peripheral view she saw Daryl stab one in the eye, before quickly moving on to the next and stabbing that one in the eye as well.
The next ten minutes or so consisted mostly of her stabbing and chopping the head off of the walkers, with kicks and punches thrown in here and there if any of them came to close. All the while she was careful to keep Daryl in her sight in case he needed help, and she noted he was doing the same with her, but he was thankfully holding his own. On the other side of the road T-Dog and Shane were fighting back to back with Rick and Andrea. The animosity between Shane and Rick seemed to have been temporarily forgotten as the heat of the battle appeared to have caused old instincts to flare up while they fought for everyone's lives.
Absently Buffy noticed that Andrea’s stance had improved a little, as had her grip and handling of the short sword. Dale was still on the roof and had thankfully had the foresight to get down low so he would be less of a target, but he had edged closer to the boundary of the roof so he could see the fight below. The rest of the group had luckily chosen to stay inside the RV, and for one reason or another were keeping both quiet and out of sight. Buffy suspected Rime’s influence in those particular decisions; she could be very reasonable in her explanations and demands when she wanted someone to do something. Buffy had her own personal experiences with those after years of travelling on and off with the woman.
Eventually there were only a few walkers left and she whistled sharply to get their attention. They groaned in greeting and moved towards her straight away. She smiled and walked over while spinning the Scythe from one hand and over to the other, before returning it to her right hand. The impromptu show was both to stretch her hands and fingers but also to make sure the undead didn’t lose interest in her and veer off towards the other group of fighters. When she was about seven feet away from the the closest walker she swung her favorite weapon in an arch from the ground and up, slicing the walker’s head off from the lower left side of its head and vertically upwards. The next two had the top of their head cut off. The last one had its head cut off from the right side and down on the left side.
Buffy took in the sight of the five people who had chosen to fight alongside her against the oncoming herd, she visually checked them over for bites, scratches, and other wounds, but other than what she assumed to be dead man’s blood by it scent they came across as unharmed as far as she could see and smell.
Turning towards her fighting buddy, she asked, “Are you hurt?” Daryl gave a gruff negative answer as he was already cleaning the blade of his knife with the cloth he kept on him at all times.
She turned towards the other four and rephrased her question a little. “Are any of you hurt in any way?” To her relief she got the negative replies she had been hoping for from everyone, but Shane went on a tirade asking her what she’d been thinking engaging a herd of all things. Before he could get into a full rant he was cut off by Dale. Who to everyone’s surprise actually defended Buffy’s decision.
Buffy smiled at the older man; his defense of her actions was very much appreciated, especially since he didn’t approve of violence in general. However there was still more work to be done.
“We need to check the perimeter before we relax, there can still be lurkers or crawlers in between the cars. Stragglers, too.”
“We need ta check the bodies, too.” The last came from Daryl, who had come up beside her after finishing cleaning his knife and putting it back in its sheath. His eyes met hers and seemed to say ‘you shouldn’t have been able to do that’. She hoped her own eyes telegraphed ‘don’t ask’ back to him. But it was only a question of time before he or someone else would demand answers. She needed to tone down her Slayer-ness to avoid more suspicion.
After even more arguments from Shane, all of which were shot down by Buffy and Daryl, they split back up into the pairs from earlier and swept the area. There turned out to be five lurkers, one crawler, and three stragglers; all met their permanent end on something sharp and shiny or something blunt.
Afterwards Lori, Carl, and Amy were collected from the cars up ahead and brought back to the RV. Glenn, Rime, Carol, and Sophia came out of the van and they ended up having an impromptu council meeting right then and there. Just as the quarrel was about to reach shouting levels Buffy interceded again.
“Which part of ‘the walkers are attracted to loud noises’ make you people think a shouting match is a great idea when we’re out in the open, especially when we’ve just had to kill off a herd? For all we know there could be even more stragglers just around the corner.”
The glares sent her way at that from Shane, Lori, and Andrea would’ve been impressive if she hadn’t spent nearly two decades being threatened by various demons and vampires, all of which were much more dangerous than an unstable former police officer and two barely trained women. All their effort gained them was a raised eyebrow.
“Listen up, all of you.” Buffy said as she raised her voice so everyone could hear her. “Someone has to kill the roaming herds. If we let them keep walking they’re going to find some other survivors, and chances are they’re going to eat them. Alive. While they’re begging for mercy, for their lives, for the lives of their fellow survivors.” The Slayer looked each of them in the eyes. “Think of the number of people in Atlanta before the infection began. Think of the number of people of Georgia. Think about the number of people in the United States. Or the number of people across the north border to Canada or the south border to Mexico.”
Suddenly there were a lot of indrawn breaths and pale faces, and wide eyes looking back at her at the implications. “I’ll admit that I don’t know what the actual numbers were, but I’m sure they were really high. As in the millions. There were a lot of large cities in America, and the vast majority of the people there have no doubt been turned into walkers. When they can’t find living people in the cities anymore they’re going to leave and try their luck in the countryside. Granted the military bombed many of the major cities while they still could, but I doubt it made much of a dent in the long run.”
Buffy took a deep breath and continued, “Think about your favorite TV show and how many viewers it had each week. Chances are it was in the millions as well, and the vast majority of them are probably dead now. Probably walking around trying to find someone to eat. The same goes for the actors on the TV shows and in your favorite movies, and everyone who worked with them. Think about the insanity of Black Friday and the Christmas rush and all the people who came out of the woodwork to participate. So far the herds have been relatively small, but the small herds are going to meet up with other small herds and make bigger ones. Eventually they’re going to be too big for anyone to survive meeting them.”
The silence at Buffy spelling out how serious their problems really were, and how much worse they were going to get, was unnerving. But she pressed on now that she had their full attention. They needed to understand.
“Killing off the small herds we meet along the way is probably going to have even less impact on things than the bombs in the big cities, but we have to do something. As it is it will take decades or longer to make a proper dent in the undead population.” Buffy cast around for another way to try and get the message through to these people.
“Imagine living in some palisaded area somewhere and having a gigantic herd surround the entire place and every single one of them pressing in from all sides with no chance of escape for you or anyone else. There’s nowhere to go and it’s only a matter of time before the wall, fence, or other barriers are torn down by the pure mass of corpses pressing in.”
“Stop it! We get it, please stop. Stop!” Tears were streaming down Carol’s cheeks and she looked terrified. She was holding both of her hands over her daughter's ears, just like Lori were holding her hands over Carl’s ears. Lori herself wasn’t crying, but she looked just as horrified as everyone else.
“I’m not trying to scare you, well, maybe a little. But you need to understand what we’re really up against. This is why I want everyone to learn how to fight, why I want to kill all the walkers we come across. If we’re going to have a chance to rebuild, we need to get rid of the walkers. We need to find somewhere to fortify, somewhere we can grow our own food because scavenging will only be possible for so long. Somewhere with farm animals so we can get meat and dairy products, a large forest for hunting wild animals and finding mushrooms, berries, apples, and such. Somewhere not far from the ocean or a lake or something with fish for a more varied diet… We need horses for transportation because there’s only so much gas and diesel and oil, and the cars themselves are not going to run forever either.”
Buffy took another deep breath after her little babble fest. It felt good to get all of that off her chest. At least now they would keep thinking about it, and try to keep an eye out for what she had said. They might not like her or her methods, but they were interested in surviving.
“Everyone also need to learn the basics of the various skills needed to keep us alive. That means everyone needs to learn how to track, hunt, do basic first aid, field dress whatever game you manage to kill, learn how to fish, prepare the animal for eating, make a proper fire. You all have to learn how to use the different weapons we have, how to treat them before and after use. You need to stop treating Daryl like an outcast. He has more survival skills by himself than almost the entire group put together, and he’ll be the one to teach you the hunting part so at least be civil to him. Because if I have to chose between him and one of you I’ll chose him and Rime and let the rest of you rot.”
Their expressions managed to get even more horrified somehow, while Daryl’s eyes got more intense as he looked her, but they didn’t know she didn’t mean it. Yes, Daryl was worth more than the vast majority of the group, but she wouldn’t leave them behind. She was the Slayer; it was her job to protect the weak and defenseless, but it didn’t mean she had to coddle them. Nor did it mean that they were necessarily all that defenseless either. They needed a swift kick to the backside and hopefully this would suffice to get them to cooperate better.
“Just, please think about it. Really think about the consequences of what we’re facing right now, and what we’re going to face in the future. And how we’re going to survive so we actually have a future.”
When they finally went to bed that night, right there on the congested highway, it was with heavy thoughts on their minds.
This chapter takes place during the Walking Dead episode "What Lies Ahead" (02x01).
This is the expanded version of the 'Watch the Fall of Humanity' chapter 12 (Fight). This story is now complete, but there will be a sequel which will loosely follow season two.