Time stood still for those few minutes. Those few minutes it took for Rick to finally put Sophia out of her misery. It seemed like it took hours. Carol's screaming of her daughter's name, was all I could hear and it brung me back to reality.
I didn't need to keep holding her back. I didn't need to keep my arms around her. But I needed to be held back. This little girl, I could have died trying to find, was a Walker now. And after a few more torturous minutes, Rick fell to the ground.
"Sophia!" Carol hunched over in my arms, face almost in the dirt. My breath hitched and for once I let myself cry. Not many tears would even attempt to drop, but enough came out.
The group trickled away from the dead bodies. Lori holding onto both her husband and son. I looked to T-Dog, knowing what had to be done. I stood with Carol, as she was motionless in my arms.
"Get a shovel. We gotta bury her, before the heat gets to be too much." I said and T-Dog and Andrea agreed. Glenn walked off to go tell the others of the new plan. Like Hershel said, we'll take care of our own, he takes care fo his. We bury Sophia, he cleans up the rest.
"Who's taking her body?" Andrea asked, grabbing Carol away from me. "I will" I volunteered, against my better judgement. I could ehar carol mutter something, but I didn't understand any of it.
I knelt beside her lifeless body. Her broken little body, that was bloody and not fully decayed. Sophia was the only thing keeping me with the group. I couldn't just knowingly leave, knowing a little girl was lost out there. But here she is, lying in a bloody heap in the dirt.
"You don't have to." Andrea said, putting a hand on my shoulder. "Yes I do. It's my fault." In some way, it ate at me, that I couldn't save her. It was my fault, for not being able to find her, safe and sound. "Get off of me." I shrugged Andrea's hand off my shoulder.
I slipped my arm under her legs, and they felt weightless. I put my other arm under her arms. I stayed like that for a moment. Only letting myself wallow in her pitiful expression. Her eyes, if not for discoloration, looked normal.
Her head rolled to face me, and I visibly flinched away from it. I could see the bite wound on her neck. Like she had been grabbed from behind. My heart shattered more when her hair fell against my arm.
I held that girl, like she was my own. I stood, not facing the others. "Daryl," I heard Dale come towards me. "I should'a done somethin' sooner." I said, unaware if they could hear it or not. I kept my head low, staring at the ground in front of me. And pushed past everyone.
Carol clung to her daughter's arm, tripping over he rown feet. "Daryl. Please you don't have to be the one to do this." Glenn tried to stop me. and I didn't blame him. Not only was her blood on Rick's hands, methaphorically. Her blood was on my hands, literally.
"Shut up, Chink. And get out the way!" I spat near his feet and he jumped back. T-Dog found a spot, near a fence, by the fields. And he dug. And kept digging. Carol collapsed to the ground again, next to the makeshift grave.
I hugged Sophia closer to my chest, not wanting to let her go. In the short time I've known her, she's grown to have a special place in my heart. But that's all gone now. It felt like I've been hollowed out, and was about to loose it.
"Daryl." T-Dog said and motioned to the fresh hole. Her body fit into it, almost like it was meant to be. "Sophia baby." Carol grabbed her little hand and brung it to her chest. "Mama loves you. Please don't leave me again. Your all I have." But her pleas meant nothing now.
Then that was it, my vision blurred, as I stepped back from the group. I looked down at my hands, blood on my palms. My shirt sticking to me, partly from sweat, and partly from blood. "Let's get you cleaned up some." Lori offered, hugging her son's head.
"Stay with your boy. I'm fine." I turned my back on them all. I never thought it would affect me like this. There was always the thought that Sophia might be dead. But seeing it become truth, crushed my insides. I felt like a pretzel, being twisted without any consideration.
My feet started moving before I could think about where I was even going. I ran back to the barn, stepping over the carnage. I slammed the doors shut behind me, barely any light coming into the run down place.
It's not my property, but to hell with Hershel. I hit whatever I could find to take my anger out on. Everything bubbled over in that moment. Merle being left for dead. Merle coming back to haunt me, like it's my fault he's out there right now. The day Sophia ran away, but I had to shake the thought away. The look on Carol's face, when the sun hit Sophia's once soft face.
I heard the doors open, but ignored them. Hay was flying and landing at my feet. "Daryl stop." It sounded like Dale. Who was he to tell me to stop? "Fuck off!" I yelled and punched the wall. A hole appearing when I pulled my hand away. "Just stop. Please."
I snickered and walked out with them. I numbly stepped over all the faces, of the Walkers. They stopped being people a long time ago. Contrary to what Hershel and his messed up family thinks.
Carol was still sitting by where we put Sophia. Rocking back and forth, hugging herself. I couldn't take it anymore. I ripped my shirt off, exposing everything to the whole camp. Some of them gasped about my obvious scars. I wiped the blood off my hands on the shirt, and threw it to the ground.
No one followed me back to Carol's side. "Carol, I'm sorry." I sat beside her, on my knees. The fresh dirt pile, making my stomach churn. "It's not your fault, Daryl." Her voice cracked and she started sobbing again.
Comfort is not something I knew. I've never had anyone there to tell me things were okay, or give me a shoulder to cry on. But we both needed comfort at a time like this. I put my arm around her shoulders, and she leaned into my chest.
I didn't know what to do now. So I started doing what I've seen others do in situations like this. I patted her back and hid my face in her shoulder. I couldn't let anyone see me cry. That's one rule Merle had drilled into my mind. But none of Merle's lies, meant anything now. He's gone too.
I bawled, worse than a baby when it's first born. Carol's hands ran over my back, ghosting over the old scars. She just cried harder, and started shaking. My eyes were starting to sting, but the tears wouldn't stop. I tried to sniffle them back in, but failed. And failed miserably.
Just like I failed Sophia.
Daryl was not as heartless as his brother. If that were the case, he wouldn't be sitting there crying, like he was. If he was as bad as we all thought, he wouldn't have volunteered to be the one to carry her body. He wouldn't have held Carol back from hugging her daughter, and getting bitten.
"It's okay." Maggie hugged me tighter, but it didn't comfort me. She wasn't with Sophia from the start. She didn't live with her, protect her, get to know the little girl. No one except us understand, that it's not okay. It'll never be okay again.
I glanced over to Rick and his family. Carl passed out from either the heat, his wound, or the sheer sight of everything. Lori hugged Rick's head, keeping him from looking to Carol and Daryl.
It felt so strange, almost surreal. We all thought Sophia could possibly be dead, but no one but Shane, wanted to admit to it. We all thought that if we didn't think about her dying, she would show up alive. It was all a fruitless attempt at keeping Carol calm. And look at her now.
Daryl didn't need to blame himself, no one needed to take blame. It's not like Daryl didn't try to save her. He even almost died looking for her. He was all ready to go, guns blazing, back out the next day. Rick did what he had to. But if I know Rick, this is his breaking point.
"Maggie. Nothing's okay." I hung my head and squeezed my eyes shut. Tears flooding down my face, just thinking about Sophia. God, her lifeless face, was permanently etched into my mind. "I know." Maggie whispered and kissed the top of my head.
This is a reality we must face head on, each day. Hershel has got to be the stupidest piece of shit I've ever met. They weren't people, and they weren't sick. They weren't in need of help. All they wanted to do was chew his face off. Maggie realized that her father was wrong, when she was attacked.
"Sophia!" A scream ripped through the silence and everyone flinched away. Carol's pain has become our pain. And that's a big burden to carry.