The prompt word was "closer": Here we have a dilemma. Do we mean "closer" the adverb as in "Come closer," said the spider to the fly? Or do we mean the noun "closer" meaning the person who has to close something, or as in baseball – a relief pitcher who can protect the teams lead in the last inning or two of a game.
(Set in the time between "Still" and "Alone")
"We never get close enough to get a clean shot," Beth said with a sigh, trying to keep the frustration from her voice. She lowered the crossbow. Her arms ached from the tension of holding it in firing position for so long. For over an hour they had been tracking the same deer and it always seemed to be just out of range.
"Ya never will," Daryl said softly from behind her.
Beth turned to face him, blowing the stray strands of hair off her forehead. "Then what's the sense of tracking something if we never catch up to it." The entire morning has been one long exasperating exercise in futility.
"There's more to hunting than trackin' and hittin' your target," he answered, not offering anything else.
Beth couldn't tell from his tone if he was teasing her or scolding. "What?"
"Listen," he said quietly, indicating the trees around them with a broad sweep of his arm. "Just stop talking for a minute and listen. What do you hear?"
Beth closed her mouth. She hadn't been talking in a loud voice, so his comment was a bit harsh, but she had asked him to teach her.
"What do ya hear?" he asked again, scratching his chin while he studied her, waiting for her response.
Beth closed her eyes and really listened. The forest was surprisingly quiet. The breeze rustling through the leaves high above them and the crunch of the fallen leaves under her feet as she shifted her position were the only sounds she heard except her own breathing.
"Nothin." she told him truthfully.
"You'll ain't never gonna get closer to that deer til you stop makin' so much noise. You've scared off pretty near every living thing in the woods for miles."
Now Beth was insulted. "I'm not stupid. I know enough not to make noise. It attracts the walkers."
"Not makin' enough noise to attract a walker ain't the same as bein' silent." He pointed at the crossbow she still held firmly in her hands. "If you're gonna hunt with one of these, you need to be silent. That's the only way you're gonna get within range of anything. Either move silent. Or stand silent and hope something comes to you. Don't talk. Don't whisper. Don't breath. And watch where you're walkin'. The only thing makes more noise stumbling through the woods than walker is a human."
Beth was momentarily taken aback by what, for Daryl, was a fairly long rant. She gulped, shouldered the crossbow, and turned back to find the deer's tracks. Daryl was being truthful. His words were not meant to belittle, but they did sting. She knew he was right. He had brought back enough game to have proven his skill as a hunter. And, when she really thought about it, the only way she knew he was behind her was her sense that he was there. She rarely heard him make a noise, and when he did it was usually in response to something she had said or done. Beth also knew her best chance at survival was to learn as much as she could from Daryl. Both their lives might one day depend on it. She could do this. She could close this deal. She knew that too.
"Now," he said in a much gentler tone, "before you start movin', listen. You gotta train your ear as well as your eyes and your aim. Listen for what you're huntin'. Listen to yourself."
Beth did as he instructed, closing her eyes and really listening to the sounds around her. As they stood noiselessly the tiny creatures around them once again began to rustle and shift. A bird sang in the canopy overhead. A cricket chirruped somewhere off to her left. And behind her, if she held her own breath she could almost hear Daryl breathe. The heat from his body was almost palpable and if he stood any closer she swore she'd probably be able to hear his thoughts. He had her back, like he always did, her guardian, her more. His nearness was a distraction as her heart began to pound furiously. And in that moment she realized why Daryl always hunted alone. How could she ever hear the sounds in the forest when the sound of her own heartbeat was so loud?