Everything had gone wrong.
When everything had seemed to be going right, when death was no longer a constant companion, when the opportunity to – as Rick had so very neatly put it himself – actually live instead of just survive had been given to him, everything had gone wrong.
As he walked over a cracked road devoid of people, cars, roamers... friends... Rick realised that he probably should have never got his hopes up. This plague, or act of God, had reopened Pandora's Box and now not even hope remained. Every time something good was handed to him – Judith, the prison, Jessie, and now the safe zone – it was cruelly snatched away from him, and that greedy, rotting outstretched hand took with it more than he'd had in the first place, more than he'd known that he had.
The smoke from the bomb seemed to be stalking him, constantly imprisoning him in a shadowy circle. How long had he been walking for now? How much longer would he be walking? It didn't occur to Rick that this smoke was unnatural. If he'd managed to survive that close to the centre of the bomb then the smoke shouldn't have extended all the way out here. It didn't occur to him because only one thing played on his mind: Carl. His boy was hurt, sick, probably confused, but most importantly was alone in this vicious world. Carl had survived the blast; Rick knew that at least: he'd seen the child in the distance, a silhouette in the smoke, running off in this direction. No call or scream had reached Carl though, or if they had then he had ignored them, possibly warped by fear or sadness, or maybe he'd just given up at last.
Rick had lost one child already. He didn't know what he'd do if he were to lose his other one.
And so he stumbled onwards, crossing the border into what must once have been some town. It had probably been prosperous before the disaster. As he passed the small set of grey houses on his right, he supposed that the people of what was quite a small town were kind to each other, enjoying each other's company for dinner, going to the cinema together, piling their earnings together for an annual holiday to someplace hot (and yet just as free of roamers as their very home). All of those sorts of things that survivors of the human race could only dream of nowadays.
"Carl," He breathed for the hundredth time, as though that would work. The boy was long gone but Rick refused to admit it. His son was somewhere in this town, he had to be, and Rick would search every building until he found him.
He stopped, looked at that small set of houses, and stepped forwards to begin his search.
No theory, no crazy belief, no religion (or lack of it) had ever suggested anything quite like this.
Andrea spluttered up water for who knew how long before she could finally open her eyes. She was dazed for a long time, both unwilling and unable to do anything aside from stare upwards into the fog-veiled sky. She remembered the bomb, yes, but she wasn't worried about the others. She did not wonder how she'd got here. She did not wonder what she'd do next, what she'd do when the roamers finally inevitably came to claim her as one of their own. All she thought, for the time being, was that she'd been so very close to joining Amy, and she did not consider whether that was a good or a bad thing.
She laid there for only-God-knew-how-long before any feeling returned to her shivering limbs. She slowly sat upright, looked around at her surroundings to locate herself on some very small beach somewhere she'd never been to before. In front of her, its tides still washing up and brushing her feet was some vast lake, though the fog prohibited her from seeing very far into the distance.
Now she began to consider questions regarding her actual situation. She must have washed up from that sea, or that lake, or whatever it was. How, though? The last thing she remembered was the bomb. The blast had been so loud, louder than anyone could ever imagine, and it had decimated the whole community. It was a blast so deafening that it felt like it ricocheted across all of her memory, it seemed to be the one thing that mattered: it was the sound that had apparently destroyed her later memory, getting her somehow to this strange beach.
Andrea's shaking hands pushed against the sand and she stood. She grimaced; her clothes were soaked with something thick and it was making her shiver. She felt like she couldn't walk around in them but there no way in hell was she gonna strip off – she knew she might as well be in a horror movie, and yeah, she was blonde, but she wasn't going to be the dumb, naked, girl. She'd gone through too much to have both her body and her self-respect stripped to that.
Compromising, she took off her jacket and slung it over an arm, now only wearing a thick vest on her top. She turned, looked up at the silent, fog-filled sky, and started walking. She could not see her way through the fog but she walked onwards, knowing there was something to find, and somehow she figured it wasn't roamers.
He had been running for a long time and he wasn't about to stop now. For the first time since this whole zombie apocalypse crap had started, Abraham was on his own. No Rosita, no Eugene, and best of all, no Rick thinking he knew best for everyone. Getting rid of this other threat to get the resources for themselves? Really? Like that'd go well, with the scarce resources they'd had. And now look at what was left. Just some now-smouldering town they'd had a pretty damn good chance of survival at. No weapons. No food.
But Abraham had to admit, it felt kind of good to be in control of himself again. No more sucking up to do, no slimy Eugene to take care of, no Rosita to be looking over his damn shoulder all the time for. Sure, he missed Hollie already, but he'd gotten used to losing people you liked nowadays. Now he was a free man and it was going well: he'd not encountered one roamer since getting into this town.
It was weird here, and creepy, that was for sure. It was almost like the atmosphere of the place had scared even the roamers away. Abraham did feel uncomfortable, but discomfort was absolutely nothing like the terror and adrenaline that coursed through his body when he had to defend his safe zone from bunches of roamers. The threat of the roamers really did seem to be gone here, though Abraham was far too smart to believe that they really were just scared of the place because it had some 'creepy edge' to it or something. Nah, there had to be something that made this place desolate of the monsters, and Abraham knew that chances were that it would be bad for him too. He was right.
He kept running forwards, not tiring and not noticing the man with long, black hair who leant against a shop doorway holding a little girl's hand.
She'd been through various degrees of hell before and this time fitted right in.
Michonne sat on the curb, her sword by her feet, desperately trying to patch herself up with pieces of her clothes that she was tearing off. She felt like she might as well be dead: cuts stretched across the whole of her body, she couldn't feel her left foot and she could barely hear anything. Even so, the moan of the roamers was loud. She expected they had followed her. A group had probably been drawn to the sound of the bomb and they'd most likely spotted her fleeing the blast area, pursuing her instead. Michonne knew she didn't have much time. She wrapped one more piece of fabric around her leg and stood upright, all her right on her right leg, picking up her sword as she did.
She limped further into the town, encountering several roamers on the way and dispatching of those that needed dispatching. One time a roamer practically fell on her and would have pushed her to the ground (and probably proceeded to devour her) if she'd not dodged and pushed back. She didn't bother killing that one. She limped onwards, knowing that she could just about outrun the roamers even in the state that she was in. She needed to find somewhere safe, somewhere to stay, even if it was just for a few nights while she healed. She couldn't go on for much longer like this.
Perfection seemed to manifest itself directly to her right.
A hospital stood there, its doors wide open, ready to welcome her. Michonne would have smiled if she had not been drained of the capacity to do so long ago, and approached it. Hospitals were probably one of the worse places to go in a situation like this – if you couldn't handle yourself. Michonne could deal with killing roamers, it was easy. She knew exactly how they behaved and so now found them incredibly predictable. That was how she'd survived all this time. And this understanding of how other creatures acted was why she was – as far as she knew, anyway – the only survivor of the bomb at the safe zone.
She couldn't yet decide if it was a gift or a curse that she'd made it this far.
The first house was empty, free of both resources as well as any sign of Carl. As much as he tried to get into the second house, both the front and the back door would not open. He called out, hoping to get the attention of anybody who was perhaps holed up in the house, but there was nothing, or if there was somebody in there then they were ignoring him. In any case, that wouldn't be Carl, so it didn't matter. The third house was where Rick finally found something, but it wasn't what he was looking for.
It was the first thing he saw when he walked into the house. An envelope on a round dining table in the centre of the room.
Rick walked up to it, strangely drawn by it, and his eyes bulged when he saw what was written on it.
He picked it up immediately, so sure that it was from Carl, and ripped it open. Two folded pieces of paper fell out. Rick unfolded one large piece of paper to see that it was a map of the town. Uninterested, he tossed it aside, and unfolded the second piece of paper. He recognised the handwriting immediately and read the message to him.
I've missed you so much. So much has happened. I've found Carl, and I've got him and Judith. It's not safe here and I can't stay long. If you find this letter then come to us. I'm going to go to the lighthouse. I think it'll be safe there. Use the map to get there. Please don't leave us waiting. Please find us soon.
I love you,
The handwriting was Lori's.