Chapter 1: A Good Man
I opened the door to the RV and slammed it shut. I collapsed into the chair and wiped the sweat from my forehead with my arm. I looked down at my hands. They were caked in dirt. I wiped my hands on my pants. I put my elbows on the table and held my face in my hands. Closing my eyes, I let my mind run free. I saw her beneath my eyelids. Her small, fragile body sauntering towards us. There was a distance behind her eyes. Her short blonde hair was now matted and muddy. I quickly opened my eyes to clear my mind of that image. The inhuman sounds that came from her mouth rang in my ears. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Cherokee Rose I'd picked for her sitting on the table in the beer bottle. I felt a sadness welling up in my chest. I'd failed that little girl. I'd failed her. I let her become one of them.
I got up from where I was sitting and picked up the bottle. I looked at the flower carefully. I held one of the delicate white petals between my index finger and my thumb. I chuckled at my stupidity. How is a flower supposed to help a woman who just lost her daughters to a bunch of flesh-eating bastards? I closed my eyes for a split-second and I saw Sophia again. This time, though, she was alive. Her hair bounced as she walked next to her mother. Ed walked behind them, making sure they didn't do anything worthy of a new bruise. I violently forced my eyes open again. I felt wetness on my cheek. Am I crying? I quickly wiped my face and sat down on one of the beds and clutching the bottle in my hand. I couldn't let anybody see me crying. Daryl Dixon doesn't cry. I stared at the flower and traced the thin lines on the petals with my thumb. I felt my eyes beginning to sting when the door to the RV opened.
I quickly blinked back my tears and looked down the narrow hallway to see who had just entered. Carol shuffled in and closed the door softly. She sat in the same spot I had been sitting not five minutes earlier. She didn't even look in my direction. Her eyes had the same distant look that Sophia's had, with no life in them at all. Although I was in plain view, I doubted that she even knew I was there. She rested her head on her right hand. Suddenly, her shoulders slumped and her head fell into her hands. Her back heaved and she finally looked up. That's when Carol's eyes met mine.
Her light blue eyes stared directly into mine. Tears ran steadily down her face. The whites of her eyes were now a light pink. I saw fear in her – like I would hit her or something because she was crying. She looked so vulnerable. So weak. She broke her gaze and turned to wipe her face as she looked out the window.
I stood up, bottle in hand. What the hell am I doing? What am I supposed to say? As I approached Carol, I saw she was trembling. I knew I could just walk out of the RV without saying a word to her, but my guilt was eating away at my conscience, and I gave in.
"Hey." Hey? You're watching a woman break down, and you say 'Hey.'?
But Carol was unphased. She still sat lifeless, limp. For a second, I wondered if she'd even heard me. She looked down at her hands, still shaking.
"Carol, please look at me." I felt weak as the words spilled from my mouth.
I knew I was going to regret what I was about to say. I swallowed hard. Her eyes turned up to meet mine. A wave of pain rolled over me. Sophia had the same small features she did. I inched a little closer to the door.
"I-I'm sorry." I paused, embarrassed. Damn my stuttering. "I'm sorry. I let 'er down. I let you down. It's my fault that she's… she's…"
I couldn't say anything more. I looked at my feet. My throat formed a lump that wasn't there before. My head was throbbing.
"You did everything you could. Daryl, you nearly died to save her. Sophia-" she paused. "It would've meant so much to her." She looked at me long and hard. "Daryl, it's not your fault. It never will be."
The pain in her face, in her eyes, it killed me. The sadness I felt quickly boiled into anger. I hated myself for hurting her. Why does she think I did all these great things for her daughter? I'm the failure! I'm the one who let her die!
"But I was the one who left her night after night. All alone." Anger dripped off my words.
"We all did. You can't blame yourself for this." The tenderness of her voice irked me.
My cheeks grew hot and my hands balled into fists. Never breaking eye contact with her, I clenched my jaw. Unclenched it. And clenched it again. My eyes began to fill up again. Be a goddamned man. She wasn't even your kid. I turned to the RV door and stood with my back to her. I whipped my head around, expecting her to be afraid of me. I was hoping to instill fear. But instead, she smiled at me. She smiled. It was a weak smile, but it was a smile. I turned my body back to face her and I put the bottle on the table. She looked at it and made a forced chuckle as more tears came to her eyes.
"You're a good man, Daryl Dixon."
I gave her a slight nod and a forced smile. I opened the door to the RV and slammed it shut. I gave her a slight nod and a forced smile, then turned and stormed out of the RV, crossbow in hand. I headed for the woods. Nobody dared say a word. Guess those worthless pussies didn't have the balls to. I didn't even care. All I knew is that I had to blow off some steam, and fast. As soon as I reached the forest, I broke into a sprint. Trees flew by in a blur and my legs began to burn. My heart beat louder and faster as my crossbow thumped against my back. It was almost like a reassuring pat on the back. It comforted me. The faster I ran, the faster the thoughts came.
Why does she care? Why do I care? What would Merle think? Why did she Sophia have to turn anyway? Why did the world turn into this? What the hell do I do?
Both my running and my thoughts were interrupted when I reached a clearing in the trees. Two walkers were crouched over some kind of huge animal, not even acknowledging that I was even there. As they continued eating, I realized the animal was one of Hershel's horses. The sick bastards were taking handfuls of the horse's insides and shoved them into their mouths like it was fucking Thanksgiving. Suddenly one of them looked up at me. He couldn't have been more than 14 or 15 years old. His face was bloodied and half of his was skull missing. The boy kept scooping the remnants of the horse into his mouth. The other one appeared to be an older woman with long, ratty, matted hair. As she noticed me and sat upright, I saw that her jaw was out of place and I saw the huge bite wound on her shoulder. It reminded me of Sophia. Once again, I felt my blood starting to boil.
The boy got up and started to groan. He was shuffling towards me, tripping over his own two feet. Glancing down, I noticed that was because his left ankle was bent at some weird angle. I snatched the crossbow off my back and I grabbed my last arrow. I loaded and I aimed the crossbow at his head. His arms reached for me and he groaned.
"Son of a bitch."
I shot him right between his eyes. He fell backward and landed with a thud. I leaned down to pull the arrow out of that prick's head, when I noticed the other walker was not even five feet away from me. Out of sheer shock and surprise, I stumbled backwards. She moaned and picked up her pace. I scrambled around on the floor looking for something to defend myself with. My crossbow laid near a tree behind the woman, and I didn't have an arrow anyway. My breathing grew heavy and I started to panic. I spotted a huge stick across the way. With all the strength I had, I pushed myself up off my hands and ran for the branch. The walker seemed to get faster, and I seemed to grow slower. I picked it up and swung it around like a baseball bat. It knocked her down, hitting it hit her right on her forehead. When she started screaming on the ground, I felt my temper snap like a rubberband.
"Fucking son of a bitch! " I screamed as I hit the walker's face while it writhed on the ground. "Look at what you did!"
I yelled, with another blow to the head, "Motherfucking bastard! You killed a little girl!"
I delivered another hit the center of the walker's face, causing her skull to collapse on itself. "She was only 12! And you killed her!"
I threw the stick at a nearby tree. "Rot in hell!" I spit in its face.
My breathing was fast-paced and I felt my heart thumping fast against my ribcage. I walked back to the boy and yanked the arrow out of his head. I bent down to really get a good look at him. He had freckles and dark brown hair. The youth in his face mirrored Carl's, yet his face looked exactly like Sophia did when she walked out of that damn barn. Purpled lips and paled skin. I squeezed my eyes shut in an effort to tell myself that she'd be waiting back at camp with her mother. I stood up and put my arrow back in my crossbow. I then slung the crossbow over my shoulder and headed back to camp, trying to think about anything but the little girl who'd gotten lost in the woods.