~ Chapter one ~

"You know Polly; I'm beginning to wonder if I'm going mad. You ever heard that song by Queen?" I give a quick glance around the shop, before my eyes rest on the tinned good. "It was called 'I'm Going Slightly Mad. It was a brilliant song."

I only get silence from my companion. I roll my eyes. "What, now you don't want to talk to me? I'm sorry about before. Walker's were all over the place – I got you back didn't I?"

Still silence. I let out a sigh and instead start to sing, low and quiet beneath my breath. "I'm going slightly mad, I'm going slightly mad – it finally happened, happened, happened, it finally happened, oh yes. I'm slightly maaaad – very slightly mad!"

I grab several cans of food, doing a spin, light on my feet as always. Ever since I was a child I've been agile, well balanced. Unlike my head which is sometimes too big for the rest of my body. What can I say? My ego's the size of the moon.

I pull my favourite Beretta out of my hip holster and point it at Polly's face. She just stares back, blank and uncaring – she knows I won't shoot her, despite our differences. She's the only friend I have left in the world.

"I know you're not happy with my right now – but that'll change soon enough. Look what I found!" I whisper in a sing-song voice.

I hold up the can of beans and hot dogs victoriously. Still no movement. She just sits there and sits there.

"Aren't you even going to say thank you!" I bark out.

I hate the silence. I'd give anything for her to speak. I stare into her eyes devoid of emotion. She knows that it's getting to me, that it's driving me crazy.

"Why won't you speak to me! I need something – anything! Just god damn it Poppy, speak to me!" I shout into her face, still eliciting no response.

I take several deep breaths in an attempt to calm myself. I run a hand through my dishevelled hair and try to ignore the sudden tremble taking over my body.

Hot breath at the nape of my neck has me whirling around. The decaying face of a Walker fills my vision as he shambles forward.

His flesh hands in folds, dripping from his face as if something once clawed at it – maybe himself. His eyes are vacant and empty. They say the eyes are the doorway to the soul – in this guys case, he hasn't got one.

I bring my gun up instantly, smacking him hard in the head. He stumbles back but with a low moan, he moves towards me once more, his movement's jerky and halting.

I let out a small sigh of annoyance and bring the gun up, hitting him with it again and again in the head until finally he hits the ground – and doesn't get back up.

I give my head a little shake, run a hand through my slightly tangled hair and turn back to Polly. "Do you see? This is what happens when you don't talk to me! You distract me."

She doesn't say anything, just gives me this look of silent contempt. With a groan, I place my hands on the handles of the trolley and continue to do my shopping.

Eight bags of dry crackers, four tins of baked beans and two bars of chocolate later and I become aware of the noise of a struggle and low moans.

I turn a corner to find myself facing two Walkers and a man. I watch for a moment as he punches one in the face only to have the other wrap its arms around his neck. But he doesn't let it bite him – oh no. Instead he bends forward and throws the Walker over his head.

It hits the ground a short distance from my feet and I smile a little as it starts to climb back up. I lean across – one, two, three and the undead is officially dead.

I stand back up and wipe a small bead of sweat from my forehead. I turn to find the Walker on top of the man, trying his hardest to eat his face. The man doesn't take it lying down – his hand is pressed into the Walker's throat, keeping him at bay whilst he reaches for some odd kind of contraption.

I don't bother to hesitate; instead I stalk across and grab its head within my hands. One snap later and the body slumps on top of him.

He throws the dead weight off him and I kneel down almost instantly. I grab him right arm first, snapping it out to check on it.

"Were you bit? Tell me, were you bit?" I almost shout the words.

He fends off my hands and shoves me away so that I sprawl backwards as he stands. I climb to my feet, scowling at him as he reaches across to grab the thing on the floor – which I now see is a crossbow.

"Sheesh, a thank you would be nice." I growl.

"I didn't need your help." He states in a distinctive redneck accent.

"Sure you didn't. You totally had that under control." The sarcasm drips from my voice.

"Yeah, I did. Next time mind your own damn business." He fixes the crossbow onto his back.

"You know what, fine! Next time I will. And you know what? I hope they get you and chew on your brains!" I huff and turn back to my trolley and Polly.

He rolls his eyes and starts to walk away. I glare at his back, furious at him for being such a jerk when I risked my life to save him.

"Come on Polly, we've got better things to do than save the lives of jerks." I mutter.

He glances around for a second, just to see who I'm talking to – and then stops to stare, pulling a face. "Who're you talking to?"

"Polly." I indicate to her.

"Polly?" He points to her as well, his eyebrows raised in disbelief.

"Yes, Polly. She's my friend."

"She's a mannequin." He states.

I cover her ears with my hands and glare at him. "Don't talk about her like that."

"But she's not real."

"Yes she is. To me she is." I place a hand over my chest. "She's been my only friend since the shit went down."

He pauses to ruffle his hair, his fingers trailing across his face. "You being serious?"

"Obviously I'm serious. Now if you don't mind, we've got some shopping to finish. There may not be a lot left here – but I'm not exactly fussy."

I turn to leave and as I do, my eyes are drawn towards a sudden oddity – the windows are full of Walkers, all pressing against it, moaning and groaning.

"Shit." I take a step back.

I turn to find the man still in the same spot – although now he's facing the shelves, holding a tin of something in his hand.

"Hey Sourpuss, you might want to be careful." I say quietly.

"Don't call me that. And why?" He mutters.

"There's a whole load of Walkers out there and they look hungry."

He whirls around and walks across to where I stand, taking a good long look out the windows. "Shit."

"That's what I said."

He doesn't say anything, just turns and begins to walk in the opposite direction.

"Wait!" I call, turning to wrap my arm around Polly and lift her out. "Where are you going?"

"I'm gettin' outta here." He states simply.

I trail after him as he power walks through the shop. For a moment, I worry about my supplies. And then I think, why? It's not like the Walkers have suddenly developed a craving for beans, dry crackers and chocolate – although everything would be a lot easier if they had.

I pull my Beretta out once more, hold it poised and ready. If any Walkers decide to jump out at me again – they're going down.

"See? I told you I wouldn't leave you again." I grumble to Polly.

"Stop talking to that damn thing." He complains.

I roll my eyes and frown at his back. "Stop being mean to her."

He shakes his head like I'm some kind of crazy person and continues to walk. I follow him out because it's the simplest of things to do. We get out, we go our separate ways – it's as easy as that.

A Walker stumbles in front of us and the guy doesn't have a problem with smacking her hard across the face, making her crumble. I jump nimbly over her, whirl around and slam my Beretta into her head.

"Wow Twinkletoes, you sure know how to move." He says sarcastically.

I narrow my eyes. "You weren't even looking."

"I could hear you."

"No way!" I gasp. "I'm light as hell on my feet. You could not have heard."

He shrugs. "I hear good; what can I say?"

"Nothing would be perfect." I offer.

He shakes his head and I could almost imagine him rolling his eyes. We're almost at the back of the shop by now. Is he hoping to get out through one of the back doors?

"You got a name?" I ask him.

"Does it matter?"

"Didn't your mama ever tell you not to answer a question with a question?"

"My mama's dead."

"So's mine, your point is?"

He doesn't respond for a moment. He opens a door and we walk through it – and I constantly keep looking over my shoulders just in case a Walker tries to sneak up on us.

"Daryl." He says finally.

"Tamara." I reply. "And obviously you know that she's called Polly."

He lets out a frustrated sigh that I choose to ignore. He reaches a door and pauses to press his ear to it. I remain silent behind him, only tapping my right foot softly.

"Could you stop that?" He growls in annoyance.

I pull a face at him – but also stop. Instead I just stand there for a few moments, growing more and more agitated as the second tick by.

"Okay, three, maybe four of 'em. You think you can handle that Twinkletoes?" He asks and I get the feeling that he's mocking me.

"I don't know Sourpuss; you think you can keep up with me?" I taunt.

"With you lugging that damn doll around? Easily." He states simply.

"We'll see."

"And don't go shooting that gun off. It'll draw unwanted–"

"I'm not stupid." I interrupt, giving him a filthy look. "I haven't had to use it yet, have I?"

He shrugs but there's something in his eyes that mock me. He holds up three fingers. My own tighten instinctively around Polly and the Beretta. I'm ready.

He opens the door and we burst out – faced with four Walkers. They turn their heads in our direction and let out gut-wrenching moans that make me want to hurl.

I dive straight in, wanting to show this 'Daryl' exactly how bad-ass I am. I smack the first, a seemingly young girl – it's difficult to guess the ages and sometimes, I don't want to – right in the jaw, instantly crushing it with the weight of my throw.

My knuckles burn with pain but the other is already attacking me. I risk as glance towards Daryl. The lucky bastards already used his crossbow on taking out one and now he's using it to viciously beat the other one.

I drop Polly on the ground and snap the male-Walker's neck, ending his life instantly. Then, without even breaking a sweat, I almost dance back to the girl and break out several blows to the head.

"Not bad Twinkletoes." He gives a crooked smile, wiping the sweat from his brow.

I flick my hair and shrug as if it's nothing. "That was easy. Damn easy."

I bend down to retrieve Polly, but her eyes are filled with fury now. "I'm sorry Polly, but I had to kill the Walker, if not – he would have killed you and me."

"But not me?" Daryl asks absently as he retrieves the arrow.

"Probably, but we don't really care about you." I say as politely as possible.

He turns to me as he sorts the crossbow out and gives me a look that tells me he has no idea what to say to that. It's obvious that I'm freaking him out.

"You know, you've got a real problem. How in god's name is your head screwed on? Unless it's just glued temporarily?"

I roll my eyes. "There's nothing wrong with me."

"Sure there isn't." He barks out a humourless laugh. "You're best friends a damn mannequin – you seriously considering that to be normal?"

"Hey! It's perfectly normal when you take into consideration our damn circumstances! Is it normal for you to have the dead get up and walk? Not only that but to eat the flesh of the living?"

"I'll give you that!" He states. "But you're still crazy as hell."

I let out a noise of frustration. "Just leave me alone."

"Fine. You go your way, I'll go mine." And he starts to walk – in the direction that I want to walk.

I pause; feel my jaw tighten out of annoyance. "The problem with that of course is that I have to go in that direction!"

I stalk after him, annoyed that I can't go back the way I came, not without facing about thirty Walkers. He ignores me entirely this time, actually picking up the pace a little.

It's at this second that about six Walkers burst through the window – and go straight for him.