An Abnormal Number of Disastrous Events
He heard it. It was there. But he could not believe it.
At first he had confused it with the walker's dry gasps, but now that the majority of them had passed, the sound was crystal clear.
He had no doubts.
That was a stomach growling.
A stomach, for God's sake...
With his face still pressed against the raspy and hot surface of the pavement, Glenn squinted his eyes looking for the source of the noise. But it was obvious. As much as he wanted to be wrong, that kind of sound only came from a functioning human stomach, and even though the food had been specially crappy lately, no one in the group was hungry. That left just another logical explanation then. And the other two were too far for him to hear... It had to be. Jackie.
His vision moved around the walkers' feet, around their bloody sneakers, their broken heels and their twisted ankles, examining the bottom of the vehicles. He found her under the white semi they had been working on, her tiny frame pressed against Shane in a way that impeded him from seeing her face. But he could see Shane's eyes: a pair of desperate, scrambling pupils that followed the walkers' movements with too much fear and anxiety.
Glenn swallowed hard. If he could hear the constant vacillating rumble of Jackie's stomach, the walkers would not take long to notice it too.
He slid a little closer to the side of the car he was under and carefully peeked into the direction the walkers came from. The movement was quick and he only managed to see blurs, but it was enough for him to tell that there were just a few of them left. If Jackie's stomach cooperated, maybe, maybe, she and Shane could stay hidden for a little longer.
Just a few seconds of silence. That was all they needed.
A walker passed right next to his nose, and Glenn found himself resisting the urge to jump back. He swore in his mind and pressed his jaws together making sure not a sound came out of his throat. Damn, was he close. At least close enough for him to perceive the grassy but acrid smell of the walker's pink and gray running shoes, which were slightly concealed under her dirty and tore black yoga pants...
Ah, yoga pants...
To think that a few weeks ago, he would have probably been checking her out as she ran under the shadows of the trees, the smell of pizza and the sound of his red moped all around him while turning into Piedmont Ave during a calm summer's day... He had seen so many of them, with their perfect manicures and their shinny hair, wearing matching sports bras and heavy eyeliner. And now they were just walkers, nothing but discomposing structures, mindlessly walking around, with the bodies they had so cautiously perfected peeling away from their rotten bones... The thought immediately made him nauseous.
As the walker slowly made her way north, he receded a bit more into the car's cooler shade. Their moans were becoming softer now, their steps lazily fading away somewhere up the road. Good.
Just a few more.
No more than a pair...
A few seconds more and they could all make it.
A few seconds more and–
Suddenly everything was moving too fast: There was a low grunt, five dead feet moving in Jackie's direction, the thump of a kick, a pressed scream, his legs moving, two predator eyes, blood all over the yellow screwdriver, Shitshitshitshitshit, his heart pounding, a punch, heaviness, a putrid hug, a hungry moan. And then a loud shriek from the other side of the road, the eyes looking away, Shane running in his direction, the sound of wood cracking, a walker laying motionless on top of him with the butt of the rifle piercing its brain, the walker being pushed away, and finally, as if he had awaken from a dream, Jackie's big teary eyes aligned with his.
"Glenn, you... you... Oh! My hero!" She planted a heavy kiss on his forehead and grabbed the sides of his face with excitement. "I could not believe it! You were thooo brave! Like a knight without a thtallion and a flat head for a thword! Oh! And you thaved me! You thaved me! I owe you thoooo big!"
Glenn closed his eyes, the back of his head feeling like it had been smashed against a concrete wall.
Or a street...
"Wha– What happened?" he managed to say as he used his elbows to push himself up with Jackie still on top, a confused frown on his face "...And what happened to your S's?"
"What happened? You thaved m–!"
"I think he got that part," Shane intervened, kneeling down next to him. He shook the sweat away from his face and chuckled. "Did ya get a concussion or somethin'? You saved our asses, man. Took down two walkers with the screwdriver. I finished off the third one," he pointed at the walker with the pink and gray running shoes, chunks of her head splattered all over their surroundings. Glenn gave a slow sigh when his eyes noticed her matching sports bra. "That one was a close one though. Woulda eaten you if it hadn't gotten distracted... And Jackie just bit her tongue."
Jackie pouted. "It hurth th'o much! Thith ith all your fault, Th'chane. What am I gonna do if it get'th thwollen?"
Shane snorted, bothered by Jackie's lack of gratitude, but sighed in resignation after giving it a second thought.
"Fine. I'm sorry. But don't cha come to me when a bunch of walkers start chasin' after you again, we clear?" he warned.
She offered him an offended look in response, stood up, and turned her face away from him. Shane promptly ignored her and stretched his arm, helping Glenn get up on his feet again.
Once standing, Glenn slowly rubbed the back of his head, his fingers exploring the place that caused him so much pain. He wiped one of his hands on the side of his jeans, since they were dripping walker blood from the recent killing, and had started to clean the few pieces of dead flesh that were stuck onto his shirt when a loud shout from behind startled them all:
Jackie was almost knocked out of her shoes by her friend's desperate hug before she could make one full step forward. Donna looked relieved as she squished the brunette's head around her arms.
"You almost gave me the biggest heart attack of my life, you moron!" Donna momentarily stopped the hug -letting Jackie breath a little,- checked the shorter girl's body for any wounds or bites, and then scowled at her. "Don't scream my name like you are being eaten alive and then look like you just got out of a freaking spa!"
"Donna, what are you talking about? I'm hurt! Look at thith!" Jackie rolled her bloody tongue out "And if it hadn't been for Glenn'th totally unexpected heroithm I would be freako food right now! You are lucky to th'ee me alive,"
"I am, aren't I..." Donna rolled her eyes. "Whatever, I'm glad you are well."
"Is evertrhin' alright on the other side?" asked Shane, who, as his tone demonstrated, seemed to treat the blond girl with more respect than her short friend.
Donna turned her eyes to him with a worried frown, bit her bottom lip and looked down. Nobody needed to be a psychologist to know that meant no good news.
"Sophia..." she murmured, slowly stroking her arm.
What happened next was completely in the spur of the moment.
Before he could get any more details from Donna, Glenn was already sprinting through the median and going around the cars looking for the rest of the group, the sun hitting his face, his hat blown somewhere far. He hadn't realized it before, but it made so much sense. That shriek that had saved his life probably had had a reason behind it. Sophia had been found. That had to be it. Oh shit. Was she dead? Or a walker? Or alive? He had to know. He had to know now, and then help her, and do something about it, and kill every single walker around her, and, and... anything, it didn't matter. He just had to find her. Now.
He hit the side of a silver convertible with too much energy and spun to the side of the road, smashing his left shoulder against the ground.
"Shit! Shit, shit, shit!"
For some reason, as he laid there, his blood-covered hand pressing the place he had just injured, he felt guilty. But why, he wasn't sure. He knew he could have not helped Sophia even if he had wanted to, that there had been no possible way for him to even know she was in danger before she screamed, but her cry had saved his fucking life. As if by fucking destiny. She had saved him. And Jesus, he was starting to sound like freaking Jackie, but he had to do something. He had to return the favor. He had to save her too.
He stood up, stumbling against a red truck and taking clumsy steps, and ran more until his ears heard Carol's hushed cries of desperation ("My baby! My baby!") as well as Lori calling his name and saying something in a distorted and distant voice, like they were all under water, where he couldn't really tell what it was that she meant.
Her words sounded weird. As if she was speaking in another language...
As if it wasn't Korean...
He shut his eyes with anger.
English dumbass, he told himself. English! She is speaking in English.
But by the time he finally got it, her "Glenn? What are you doing? Your hand's... GLENN?" it was too late for him to stop. He jumped the guardrail like he was on amphetamines and continued his run down the ditch, urgently clinging with his hands to any tree he could find for balance. Everything around him seemed unstable and moving, but he was going too fast to care. He had to find her.
"So–!" He didn't even had the strength to shout her name, instead, his call sounded more like a violent choking sound. He leaned against a tree, unable to stop his legs from shaking, sweat cascading from his forehead. "Sophiaa! Sophi–!"
He collapsed on the ground, his breathing uncontrollably rising his chest like not enough air was reaching, like he was an angry bull or something. What the fuck was going on? Next thing he knew he was being lifted and then carried by two men, his arms hanging around their shoulders and his feet barely scraping the ground's dirt. The world was spiraling around him, the shapes of the trees melding and combining with the ground and the sky, and he could feel the density of his stomach and the effort it took for it not to puke everything out. His mind felt as if it was clogged with ice, or like there was a cannon constantly detonating inside it. He couldn't have moved a muscle even if his life depended on it.
The two men were talking to him, but their voices were slow to reach his brain, and even when they did, they were unintelligible. There was a thick accent in one, a worried tone in the other.
Concentrate. The task seemed to drain all his forces. Concentrate.
"-re we go. Glenn, right? We gotta take you back, man. You don't look well at all,"
"He's got a concusshun, all right."
"Darn... Is he gonna be okay?"
"Dunno. Jus' keep yer eyes open, chinaman. Sh'dn't take enny chances with this,"
"We're almost there, buddy."
Soon enough he could hear more voices around him, closing in and then going away, the tips of his shoes brushing against the firmer pavement underneath. He was thrown onto a soft surface, his body sinking in it, and had a wet t-shirt placed right under his hairline. His body was limp and his head felt empty of thoughts. The only thing that he could perceive was all the people frantically moving and speaking around him.
"Can someone do something about this walker? I can't move with it around."
"Here, Andrea, let me wipe the blood. Do you want some water?"
"Daryl, help me move 'im,"
"Thanks, I'm fine..."
"Th' fuckin' bastard."
"Oh, god, what thould we do?"
"...It's gonna be fine, Carol. Rick's gonna find her and bring her back safely, okay? Please don't worry, honey."
"Well, that looks bad... Clean it and wrap it, T-Dog. There's some soap there. That should help,"
"He'll get better, Jackie."
"My little girl!"
"No, wait. Do it like this... Trust me, man. My mom's a nurse. I know the basics,"
"...This fucking sucks,"
Their words blended together a bit more before the lights started to look brighter and the shadows darker. Glenn struggled to maintain his eyes open for a little longer.
But in the end, somehow, everything still managed to look black.
"Ah! You're awake."
There was some rumbling to his side. A chair moving. "Dale, he woke up!"
Glenn looked up, his vision idly focusing on the beige ceiling of the RV. The light of the room was faint and full of orange hues, meaning that the sun was on the horizon, but he was unable to tell whether it was dusk or dawn. He was laying on Dale's bed, its cottony cushions and mattress holding his body in a fixed position. The bed was comfortable, but he couldn't seem to adjust himself to it.
He gave a low groan and stretched his legs with difficulty, starting to realize how much his body hurt, his head, his extremities, his back, and shoulder, and torso. Everything was sore.
He closed his eyes in pain, and when he opened them again Donna had leaned into his path of vision, a warm smile on her face, her blond hair shining reddish because of the sun's position.
"Hey, there. How are you feeling?"
He sighed, exhausted. "Like crap,"
"Well, that's understandable." Her smile became wider. "Are you hungry? Shane made some chicken-noodle soup for Jackie a few hours ago. He was practically begging her to eat something... I can re-heat some if you want."
"Nah, I'm okay." He moved a little, shuffling the bed sheets around him, and slowly pushed his eyebrows together. "How's Sophia?"
Donna looked down, her lips becoming a thin line.
"She's still lost in the woods... Rick and Daryl were trying to track her but it's too dark now." She sighed, worried, but quickly added: "She's alive, though. She must be... We'll keep looking tomorrow."
So there were no signs of her...
Before he could be overtaken by a wave of depression, he heard a pair of steps entering the room and walking calmly to his bed.
"Sorry that took a while, I was looking for the Tylenol," Dale passed a little white container to Donna before she left for the kitchen, and then turned his head down, facing Glenn with a spark in his eyes. "Welcome back. Can you tell me you name?"
Glenn's fatigued expression changed to a perplexed one in a matter of a second.
"What's your name?" Dale's words were pronounced slowly and accurately. Glenn opened his mouth in confusion.
"Do you know where you are?"
"Your bed, Dale... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to fall asleep here. I just-"
The old man laughed softly and sat on the mattress. "It's fine, Glenn. I was checking your brain, that's all. You seem to be doing well."
"Here's some water for the Tylenol," Donna informed as she re-entered the room, passed him a full glass of warm water, and handed him two pills. He moved his head upward and swallowed them in one gulp. Hopefully they could ease the pain. "Are you tired?"
"More than ever..."
He gave back the empty glass to Donna and exhaled some air. "But I'll get better. I wanna go search for Sophia tomorrow."
His words made Donna and Dale grimace and look at each other, trying to figure out how to respond to his resolution. The light had almost entirely faded now, the sun dimly illuminating the tiny room with its last rays, and it formed deep shadows on their faces.
Finally, Dale turned to him. "Just rest for now, okay? We'll see how you are feeling tomorrow."
"Yep. We'll keep checking on you. So if you need anything, tell us."
Glenn nodded against the pillow. "Alright. Thanks,"
Dale stood up, ready to leave, and Donna grinned.
"Just make sure you get better, okay? And if you see Jackie, please fake you're sleeping. She's gonna go nuts if she sees her tragic hero awake,"
He formed a light smile. "Will do,"
They smiled at him one last time, exited the room and closed the door behind them, leaving him alone with the twilight's glow and the noises of the group still working outside.
More sooner than later, he was asleep again.
His body was still a little shaky, but good enough to move without falling over and to eat with no need to vomit. His head felt just like always but with a few minor headaches sporadically coming and going, and even though he had discovered a web-shaped, black bruise covering his whole shoulder and part of his arm when he had changed his shirt that morning, he could still say his physical condition was relatively decent. Even Dale had asserted that he seemed good to go after he had asked him another series of questions, which were easily answered.
Of course, Dale had recommended him to rest for a few more days, just to be safe, hoping that he would reconsider his decision to go looking for Sophia in his state. But Glenn firmly passed the offer. After all, he was mortified by his behavior from the day before.
Concussion or not, running after Sophia by himself like a maniac had not only put himself in danger, but everybody else as well. If he was well enough to prove that he could still be an asset for the group and that he could actually help without putting everything at risk, he had to do it. Besides, even though his emotional reaction yesterday had been exaggerated, and why not, obnoxious, there was still a lingering of guilt in his thoughts, and his willingness to help Sophia was greater or equal to everyone else's...
Hell, he was as good as ever.
This time he could actually do something useful.
When he finally got out of the RV around noon, he was received with glad but tired looks. His appearance came as a relief, but there were still more things to worry about. The main one obviously being Sophia.
"Glenn!" Andrea gave him a quick pat on the shoulder as soon as he reached the ground, for what he flinched in pain. "Nice to see you conscious,"
He got closer to where the rest of the group stood taking care of the last preparations before entering the woods, Shane reloading his gun, Daryl cleaning an arrow, Lori packing some water in her bag for the trip that awaited them.
It wasn't until Rick turned to him, as Glenn checked with amazement the great number of supplies they had managed to collect in just one day, that someone finally seemed to fully notice him.
"Glad to see you're feeling better," he said with kind of a forced smile while buttoning up his shirt. He looked more beat and overwhelmed than anybody else. Glenn just nodded. "Think you can help search?"
"Yeah. Dale said I'm good to go,"
"That's good, that's good,"
Rick rubbed his forehead with his fingertips, as if he was trying to remember something, and then put his brown hat on. "Eric's gonna be monitoring ya today, then. He says he know a bit about concussions,"
"Well, everyone who spends some time with Kelso can't help but learn about them..."
He heard Eric's voice before he could see him, his body leaning down as he added some strange items into his backpack. It took Glenn a while to recognize him, probably because it was the first time he had seen him not covered in mud. Eric looked strangely normal without all that brownish liquid concealing his skin.
Behind him, a happy Donna and an euphoric Jackie trotted to where they stood talking.
"GLENN! You are alive!" Jackie gave little jumps in place while rapidly clapping her hands, her hair bouncing up and down, before hugging him so hard that she seemed to be trying to combine his arms and torso together.
"So you are joining us, huh?" she asked.
"That's the plan," Eric responded for him, placing a comforting hand on the Asian's shoulder, which made him wince once again. The boy smelled heavily of bug-repellant and sun-block. "Are we ready?"
"Almost," replied Rick. He rolled a stash of sharp, unused blades of all styles and sizes on the top of a car's hood. They flickered strongly under the noon's light, and Glenn got a little giddy. The idea of using one of them seemed pretty entertaining.
"Here," Rick handed him a small machete and turned around to face the rest. "Everybody takes a weapon."
Andrea snickered at the sight.
"This aren't the kinds of weapons we need," she objected. "What about the guns?"
Farther away, from the shadow of the RV, Shane exhaled an exhausted puff of air.
"We've been over that," he said, trying to maintain his patience. "Dale, Rick and I are carrying. Can't have people poppin' on rounds every time a tree rustles,"
"It's not the trees I'm worried about..."
Shane noticed the sarcasm and looked at her in annoyance. "Say somebody fires at the wrong moment, herd happens to be passin' by. See, that is game over for all of us, so ya need to get over it,"
Andrea answered with a scowl and took a blade, sliding it down with irritation under her belt.
He had clearly missed a few things thanks to the concussion...
"Th' idea is to take the creek up 'bout five miles, turn aroun', an' come back on th' other side." Daryl proceeded to explain the plan of action. "Chances are she'll be by the creek. It's her only lan'mark,"
"Stay quite, stay sharp, keep some space between you, and always stay in sight of each other," reminded them Rick.
They all seemed about ready to start the search.
He positioned his little machete in his pocket, and was looking for a bottle of water near the supplies pyramid when he overheard Donna's frustrated voice. He turned his head to see the newbie trio creating a little circle a little farther away from the rest.
"Jackie, no. I'll repeat exactly what I said yesterday: You are wearing wedges. Do I need to elaborate my point?"
"Oh, come on, Donna! Theth' are the comfieth't th'choes I've got. I wanna help too."
"Whoa. Wait a second. You want to help someone in actual danger?" Eric gasped, both hands over his mouth. "Who are you and what have you done to the real Devil!"
Jackie glared at him.
"Thurprith'ing ath it ith for you, Eric, I am a good perthon."
"You know what? You are right, Jackie. That IS extremely surprising."
"Eric, cut it out! Look, Jackie, Dale just said the radiator's hose is still not repaired. You can help him with that, right?"
"Dale thaid that? But I juth'... That'th not–"
Glenn finally found a water bottle that had managed to stay under the boiling point and stuffed it into his other pocket, happy about his finding. He probably should have gotten a backpack, but he couldn't think of anything else that was of extreme necessity... And yet he sighed at the sight of his extraordinarily stuffed pockets, kind of ashamed of himself. Granted, he did need a backpack, he was just being lazy, and he probably looked pretty ridiculous with the bottle and the machete misshaping his legs in every direction, but hey, he was mentally impaired at the moment... No one was going to judge...
From somewhere in the background, he heard Carl trying to convince his parents of something: "I'm going with you. You need people, right? To cover as much ground as possible...?"
Closely followed by Jackie's: "Great. Even Carl ith going now!"
"Oh, yeah, but look at that; he's wearing real shoes, isn't he? Hmm, how incredibly appropriate..."
Glenn smiled. As weird as those three were, they all seemed pretty nice and spirited. He was surprised they could still find some joy under the circumstances...
He decided that some bug repellent would not be a bad idea and looked around the pile until he found some. He spayed it on himself, its strong smell covering him up, and coughed a little.
"No, Dale. You are doing it for you. You need to stop."
Glenn stopped the spraying and turned around, stunned by Andrea's aggressive tone.
She and Dale were talking next to the RV, her face stiff.
"What do you think it's gonna happen? I'm gonna stick it in my mouth and pull the trigger the moment you hand it to me?"
"I know you are angry at me..." Dale answered keeping his voice leveled. "Let me just clear that if I hadn't done what I did, you'd be dead now."
Andrea didn't even blink.
"Jenner gave us an option. I chose to stay."
"You chose suicide!"
He heard someone gasp like they had revealed the main twist of a HBO drama. Probably Jackie.
Glenn quickly glanced around, just to notice that everyone was solely paying attention to the conversation.
"So what's the problem to you? You barely know me," Andrea continued.
"I know that Amy's death devastated you..."
"Don't bring Amy into this. This is not about her, it's abut us. And if I decided I had nothing else to live for, who the hell are you to tell me otherwise? To force my hand like that!" Her eyes became teary.
"I saved your life,"
"No, Dale! I saved yours. You forced that on me. I didn't want your blood on my hands, and that's the only reason I left that building. What did you expect? What? That I'd get some kind of epiphany on the greatness of life?"
Dale shook his head. "Maybe just a little gratitude?"
"Gratitude?" She looked away, as if that word had been the drop that spilled the glass. "I wanted to die my way, not torn apart by drooling freaks! That was my choice. You took that away from me, Dale."
"But you know better..." she hushed him, her voice full or rancor. "All I wanted after my sister died was to get out of this endless, horrific nightmare we live every day. I wasn't hurting anyone else. You took my choice away, Dale. And you expect gratitude?"
Dale parted his lips, but took a while to respond. When he did, his voice sounded grave and hurt,
"I...I don't know what to say."
"I'm not your little girl. I'm not your wife, and I'm sure as hell not your problem. That's all there is to say..."
Andrea left his side with a firm pace and walked directly to the forest, the rest of the group slowly following after her with no conviction.
Eric looked at Glenn with an uncomfortable smile, shrugged, and then waited for him to join his side before they started their way to the woods.
The last thing he heard before entering the dense vegetation was Jackie's "C'mon, Dale. Let'th fix that radiator again..."
The air in the woods was sticky and mosquito infested, but the hike was not all that bad. Except for his chronic headache, of course.
The journey had been silent and gloomy for most of the time, at least until Carl had started walking next to them since, as he claimed, Shane was mad at him. From then on, Eric had made it his personal mission to explain in luxury of details the whole Star Wars saga to the kid, from the beginnings of the poor but hopeful Anakin Skywalker to how his actions would affect the future of the whole galaxy, and mostly, his son.
As they walked along the trees, Glenn couldn't hide his happiness. He had seen Star Wars years ago, and even though he considered himself a fan, Eric's strong passion for the topic was inexplicable. He knew just about every line and the names of all creatures, planets, and characters. To make it even weirder, his excitement was such that it grew extremely contagious, even making the worried Lori and Carol almost as into the story as Carl, who constantly urged Eric to tell it faster.
Although Shane and Rick seemed mostly bothered by it, the tale made their quest a little less disheartening, and for that, they were all thankful.
"And then what? What happened next?" Carl's eyes flickered with enthusiasm.
Donna gave the kid a dazzled look as she evaded a fallen tree trunk.
"Eric, this worries me..." she said. "You are turning him into... into... Oh god, into you!"
"The boy knows what's good, Donna," Eric answered with a smug smile, and continued. "Anyway, Luke introduces himself to C-3PO, a protocol cyborg designed to assist humans in intergalactic communication, and his companion, the small and useful R2-D2. Threepio calls him 'Sir Luke' at first, because of his usual formality (you will find why later on,) but Luke tells him right away that he's just Luke, and when he starts to inspect little Artoo he– OW!"
Glenn observed, almost in slow motion, how Eric walked directly into Andrea, his full body and face hitting against her back. They both stumbled forward, but managed to stay on their feet.
"Watch out," hissed the woman in a pissed-off tone. Eric separated so fast from her that he almost fell back, as if he though she was something terrifying and unwanted, like a poisonous snake, or herpes.
Evidently, her discussion with Dale had earned her some stigmas.
"Uh, I- I'm so sorry, ma'am, uh, Andrea. I didn't see you stopping and–" he was hushed by the demonic glare Shane sent him. Eric gulped, flustered. "What? Is something going on?"
"Eric, look in front," Donna reprimanded him, amazed by her boyfriend's lack of attention.
Glenn and Eric looked up at the same time, their confused expressions an exact replica of the other.
There, slightly covered by the flora, a white and green tent stood firmly on the ground, a few chairs and pots spread around it. It seemed abandoned, but that didn't mean much.
Glenn's soul became a little more hopeful. Sophia could be there.
Apparently, Shane was thinking the same:
"She can be in there..." the man pointed out.
"Could be a whole buncha things in ther'," Daryl retaliated. He took a sharp knife from under his belt and approached the tent carefully, squatting until he was close enough to press his ear against the green fabric. He checked around really quickly, making sure there was nothing behind the olive structure, and gave Rick a sign. In response, Rick called for Carol with a shake of his head, who walked to his side with terrified short steps.
Rick whispered something to her, and Carol nodded.
"Sophia... Sweetie, are you in there?" She started, almost sobbing. "Sophia, it's mommy..."
Carol hesitated as her tone grew more desperate. "Sophia. We are all here, baby. It's mommy!"
Glenn felt his throat becoming dry.
There were no signs of anything.
Seeing no reactions, Daryl entered the tent and came out of it relatively quickly, his dirty skin and small eyes concealing all emotions as he walked to their side again.
"Ain't her," he said, brushing away his sweat and placing his knife back in place in a rough manner. "Jus' some guy. Did whut Jenner said, opted out... Ain't that whut he called it?"
But he got no answer.
Everybody was to mesmerized by the sudden sound of church bells to respond.
They sounded beautiful, faint but clear, and completely out of place.
Rick started running before anyone else could figure out exactly what to do, but they all followed rapidly, all their legs rushing to the same place like they were part of a race.
The feeling of his legs moving so fast reminded Glenn of the day before, and he couldn't help but to get dizzy and wobbly. Luckily, Rick decreased their velocity by the sixth bell sound, and so did the rest. They were all panting.
"What direction?" asked Shane agitatedly.
"I think that way. I'm pretty sure..." Rick continued trotting in the front of the group, unable to stop.
Eric gave Glenn a quizzical look as they still moved along the trees, probably wondering about his state, but Glenn just looked away, evading his pupils. He didn't want him to see the paleness of his face or the effort it took for his eyes to focus. Not now that they had a lead.
"Dang, it's hard to tell out here."
"If we hear them, maybe Sophia does too!" Carol's voice was full of faith.
"Someone's ringing those bells," he heard himself say, even though he was unaware of how he had even been able to talk. Eric probably took that as a positive sign since he finally moved his furtive eyes away from the side of his face.
"Maybe someone found her," Andrea guessed.
"She could be ringing them herself. Come on!"
Rick started sprinting again, and Glenn pushed himself to continue forward even though his whole body was starting to feel incredibly sore again. Maybe it was the heat, or the moving, or the time he had been standing, or that he had been bearing with his headaches for too long, but he could feel the concussion taking effect again.
But he was not going to show it. Not with those bells sounding throughout the woods. Not with Sophia still lost.
The line of trees abruptly ended and they found themselves running through a yellow plain covered with small gravestones, a wooden tall building standing close to the road in front.
"That can't be it!" Donna's voice was so strong that it was able to temporarily break the wooziness of his mind, the pounding sound of all their steps tampering with his hearing. "It has no bells!"
They finally made it to the entrance of the baptist church, and Glenn immediately leaned against the tree outside as Rick, Daryl and Shane walked up the stairs and opened the two main doors, the rest of the group looking like spectators while waiting on the the steps.
He could feel the cold sweat covering his face, the shapes and silhouettes becoming less and less defined. He was feeling it, alright. The same thing he did yesterday.
He sat down on the ground's dirt and felt the accelerated beats of his heart consuming his entire body.
Everything was turning black again.
And it would have, if it hadn't been for half of Eric's Spider-Man water bottle emptying on top of his face.
Glenn's vision tunneled back to reality, hot water dripping from his hair and nose.
He saw the boy standing in front of him, his shape hunched down with his hands on his knees.
"Uff... I- I knew it, man..." Eric crumpled next to him, violently gasping for air. "You're feeling- feeling sick... right?... Uff! I don't remember the last- last time I ran this much!"
For some time, Eric's rapid breathing and the sounds of the killing happening inside the church were the only sounds he could tell apart.
It took Glenn a while to find enough energy to speak.
"Goddammit..." he eventually murmured, fatigued. He let his head fall back, placing it against the tree's trunk.
They heard Daryl screaming Sophia's name from inside the church. Then the group running out. Then the sound of the bells ceasing.
The quietness was demoralizing.
Eric exhaled a long sigh.
"Guess... they didn't, uh, find her..." He opened his red and blue bottle, took a gulp of water and handed it to Glenn. "... Ahh... If you are not feeling well, you... You should probably go back, man..."
Glenn took the bottle between his hands and chugged what was left inside. He momentarily closed his eyes.
"I just wanted to find Sophia..."
Eric gave him a saddened side-look, a little more composed now.
"Look, Glenn, man, I now you wanna stay, but I really, really, think you should go back. Me and Donna can take you. It's not safe for you,"
Glenn saw the group entering back into the chapel from the corner of his eye.
Sophia was still nowhere to be found.
"But..." He had no good comeback, no good reason, so he just threw the empty bottle back at Eric and stood up, trying his best to look fine even though he couldn't quite feel his legs. Eric opened his mouth, horrified.
"Woah, whoa! Glenn, no, please don't do this to me, man. Don't die. Just lay down here. Reaaally slowly. And don't die," he implored, struggling to stand up. Glenn frowned.
"I'm alright, really,"
"No, you are not."
"But I will be any second now."
"...Uh, well. Yes. Probably; I mean, these things do come and go, you kno–" Eric stopped himself, realizing he was not really helping his point. He raised his index finger like he was about to disclose something that would back him up, but then dropped it. Finally, he scratched the back of his head and folded his arms. "Okay... Okay. You swear you are fine, right?..."
"And that you are not gonna die any time soon..."
"And that you–"
"I promise I'll be fine."
Eric contorted his face, as if in deep thought. Then, he relaxed it.
"Fine. You don't have to go back yet." He breathed out, reluctantly. "But only because you promised! Just... try not to run much, though. And always stay in my sight,"
Glenn shook his still wet hair side to side to get rid of the remaining water and smiled. He was feeling a bit better. "Dude, you're starting to sound like Lori,"
"No, you don't understand. I have reasons to be concerned. Donna and Jackie are gonna kill me if something happens to you..." the boy lamented, slapping his forehead. "Donna because Jackie's gonna drive her crazy, and Jackie... I'm sure she's been looking for a excuse to kill me ever since we met. So you better keep your promise."
Glenn laughed softly as the rest of the group left the church and walked to them, their faces full of lament. Shane and Rick were quietly talking in the front of the pack, their eyes fixed on the ground.
"I cannot stop yet..." Rick stated just loud enough for Glenn to hear, his voice steady but soft. Shane grimaced.
"We've still have a lot of ground to cover, the whole other side of the creek. We have to search that on the way back,"
"Yes, but maybe she heard those church bells. She could be near by..."
"She could be a lot of–"
Rick stopped, letting the rest move past him, with Shane following soon after, their conversation becoming a whisper. Even from under his hat, his eyes concealed, Rick's desperation was clear. And Glenn could understand why.
It was getting late, and Sophia was still lost...
The chances in their favor were getting smaller with each second.
Glenn looked away into the woods, which now shone with a golden sparkle.
The sun was starting to go down.
Time was ticking away...
"You are splittin' us up," Daryl's voice brought him back to his senses, making him look at two cops firmly positioned in front of him with confusion. "You sure?"
"Yeah," Shane nodded. "We'll catch up to ya,"
"I wanna stay too!" Carl's voice appeared from nowhere with an unexpected amount of confidence. The whole group turned to look at the little boy, shocked. "I'm her friend."
Rick stared at him for a moment, unable to respond, his face full of doubt. Instead, it was Lori who finally gave him permission as she leaned down and placed her hands on his small shoulders.
"Just be careful, okay?"
Carl nodded and she smiled warmly at him, kissing his head. They hugged, and just when they were getting ready to part ways, Carl spoke again.
"But I want him to come too," the boy suddenly added, pointing at Eric as if that was a condition. Shane and Rick looked at each other, completely lost for words. Eric, on the other hand, looked like he was about to faint. "I wanna hear what happens to Luke,"
There was an intense moment of silence.
Everyone was in disbelief.
"He IS turning into you!" cried Donna, putting into words what everyone else was thinking. Eric still looked like he was about to faint, but, this time, because of happiness.
"I– I'm so proud of you, Carl," he said, almost on the verge of tears. Yet he shook his head, trying to concentrate on other matters. "But I still need to look over Glenn..."
Glenn's eyes dilated. How had he ended up in this mess?
"Dad, can we take them? They can help too."
"...Carl, I don't know if-"
"Please, dad? Please?"
Rick dropped his head, not able to resist his son's pleadings anymore. He rubbed his face, as if knowing he would regret his decision later, and groaned.
"Alright. They can come..."
"Whut? Ya're takin' them?" Daryl confronted him immediately, incredulous.
He had a point, Glenn thought. Out of the whole group, a kid, a nerd, and a guy suffering from a concussion did not seem like the best team to take into the forest at nightfall.
"We should be fine. We'll be back by the time y'all get to the highway, you can count on that," he said, looking at Lori straight in the eyes. She gestured a nod gravely.
Rick looked at Carl, at Eric, and then at him. Glenn managed a weak smile.
"Let's go," he ordered right after, starting to move to the east. Shane glowered, but followed him closely.
The other half of the group marched in the opposite direction, giving them comforting looks as their goodbye's.
"Mmm... So, where was I...?" Eric started.
"Luke was checking on Artoo,"
"Oh, yes! Well, it turns up that just at that moment they feel the spaceship shaking, as if it was colliding against something-"
"And what happened next?"
They walked through the graveyard with an agile pace, but gave themselves a second to stand in front of the trees that marked the edge of the forest, wondering what expected them.
Somewhere in there, as Glenn still anticipated, Sophia, and who knows what else, were waiting for them...
Probably longest chapter to date! Haha. Congratulations if you read it all, and I'm sorry it was soo long! There is so much detail in this story that it's hard to fit it all in one chapter. I would divide them into more, but I've decided that I want to have a different pov for each chapter, and making many small chapters would probably end up messing me up...
Anyways, like always, thank you so much for your reviews! They make me so happy! :D So a super thank you to SuperNeos2 for reviewing again! And super thank you to Logan GC too! And of course, I'm also grateful for those who read even if they don't comment :)
Anyways, hopefully you liked this chapter :) The next one will bring some more surprises... ;)