Author's Note: Hello all! So I just finished watching season 2 and I just couldn't resist trying my hand at a Daryl/OC story. I know, I know there are a lot of them (trust me I read most of them) but I really wanted to try my hand at it and bring something a little different to it. Basically, I wanted to try to write a heroine that somehow survived so far in the crazy walker world without also being a crazy skilled gun wielding bad ass chick (not that I don't love those). Expect a slow build between the two, trying to keep Daryl as in character as possible. So here we go, here's the first chapter. Daryl will appear soon I promise! Let me know what you think and if I should continue.
Cassandra tapped her pen against her desk impatiently. She was about a third of the way through the first draft of her thesis and she was completely blocked. Usually putting her laptop aside and jotting down a line or two by hand was enough to get her brain working again but today it just wasn't cutting it.
It probably had something to do with all of the craziness going on outside the walls of her dorm room. A week ago there had been a story on the news about some new kind of virus that had been documented in New York. Since then it had dominated the news programs every night, listing a strange range of symptoms from extremely high fever all the way to aggressive and violent behavior.
It wasn't that she and her classmates weren't concerned about the rapidly spreading outbreak; it was just that it all seemed very far away from their lives. There hadn't been any cases reported in Boston or Cambridge and everything coming out of Washington was saying that a vaccine was in the process of being synthesized.
"My theory is that it's a bunch of people tripping on bath salts," her friend Bryan had joked a few days ago as he cooked Raman in the dorm's common kitchen.
"Bath salts aren't contagious," her roommate Jessica pointed out tossing a bag of chips across the countertop into Cassandra's waiting arms. "It's probably a mutated form of the bird flu."
"Well, I don't care what it is unless it gets me an extension on O'Brian's paper," Cassandra joked, pouring the chips in to a bowel.
"True that," Bryan agreed, much to the girls' amusement.
Their eyes met over the countertop and both burst out laughing.
"Don't ever say that again," Cassandra managed to get out between bouts of laughter.
Cassandra shook herself out of her memories and looked back down at the blank paper in front of her with a sigh. Her mind was still completely blank.
"Great," Cassandra muttered, resuming her pen tapping.
Cassandra jumped at the sudden loud noise and dropped her pen watching it roll away and disappear under her bed.
"And this day just keeps getting better," She mumbled to herself as she rose to answer the door having deduced that a knock was the source of the noise.
The door swung open before she could twist the knob revealing a panicked looking Jessica.
"Jess, what's wrong?" Cassandra asked, one hand going out automatically to rest on her friend's shoulder.
"It's here," Jessica said, her voice breathy as though she had run all the way there.
"What's here?" Cassandra heard doors slamming and saw other students from her floor spilling out into the hallway.
"The virus," Jessica answered sharply, her voice trembling. "They're moving everyone to the south and east auditoriums. Come on."
Her hand shot out and yanked Cassandra forward, knocking her off balance and almost knocking her off her feet.
"Jesus, Jess, hold on! Why would they move all the students to the auditoriums?" Cassandra felt completely out of her depth and it wasn't a feeling she enjoyed, nor was the fear that was starting to creep up on her.
"Not just the students," Jessica stopped trying to pull Cassandra with her long enough to look her friend directly in the eyes. "Everybody. The government's declared it an official shelter, everybody who's close enough to try is supposed to get here, we have to go now."
Cassandra allowed herself to be tugged after her friend into the sea of people flooding down the dorm's hallway but she still couldn't process what was happening.
This just didn't make any sense.
If the virus had spread to Cambridge the most logical thing to do was tell people to stay in their homes, do their best to avoid contact with others to restrict the spread of the disease. It made no sense at all to round everyone up in one place. All it would take is one person who had come in contact with the infected and everyone would get it.
They had reached the east auditorium and filed in behind a rush of other people. Some seemed as afraid as Jessica while others still seemed to think it was all a big joke. Cassandra didn't know what she thought, not anymore.
The inside of the auditorium was awash with chaos. It was already packed so tightly with people that Cassandra felt a bit lightheaded as she allowed Jessica to elbow their way towards the center of the room. Claustrophobia was a fear that Cassandra had dealt with all her life, crowded spaces, elevators all just a panic attack waiting to happen.
"Jess, Cassandra!" Bryan's familiar voice rang out over the melee and Cassandra whipped her head around relieved to see her friend rushing toward them.
"Bryan, this is crazy," She told him struggling to keep her voice calm. "Why would they gather us all together like this if there's been an outbreak here? Contain the situation, that's disease control 101…"
She trailed off at the look on Bryan's face.
"You don't get it," He shook his head continuously as though he couldn't believe what he was saying. "I saw one. They're not trying to contain the outbreak, they're trying to protect people from them, the infected. The National Guard is all around the perimeter but I give them about ten minutes before they're overrun, these things…I don't…we've got to make a run for it."
"What?" Jessica's voice cracked and she was noticeably shaking now. "No, we have to stay here. The military can handle this, we're safe in here."
"Have you guys lost your minds?" Cassandra blurted, nearly having to shout now to be heard only a few feet away. "They're just people, sick people, even if it does make them more aggressive they're not going to get by the National Guard!"
"Listen to me, guys," Bryan gripped each girl by the shoulder. "Those are not people, the National Guard is not going to stand a chance, and we are going to die if we don't get out of here."
It was ludicrous. Ridiculous. The stupidest, straight out of a bad horror movie speech she'd ever heard. And she believed it. Every word.
Bryan started to guide the girls toward one of the rear exits when a scream broke out from the far corner of the auditorium. Cassandra whipped her head around straining to find the source of the sound but it was hopeless. One scream quickly became a mind numbing array of screams, the kind you hear and then finally understand what "blood curdling" really means.
The crowd surged forward and then back again as people struggled to get away from whatever was happening. Cassandra felt Bryan's grip on her loosen and then give completely and faster than she would have believed it possible she'd lost sight of both him and Jessica.
"Bryan!" She called out, desperation lacing her voice. "Jessica!"
The constant pressure from the sea of bodies surrounding her and the incessant soundtrack of screams had panic surging through Cassandra's body. The urge to vomit was strong and the urge to pass out was even stronger.
Just when Cassandra had started to believe that blacking out was inevitable she spotted the bleachers on the far side of the auditorium. The retracting bleachers had been pulled in almost flush with the wall in order to make room for the crowd of people but there were tiny cracks between them that might serve as footholds and the narrow landing at the top looked just wide enough for a person to stand on.
Without further thought Cassandra gathered all of her strength and pushed her way towards the bleachers. For every step she was able to struggle forward it felt as though she was knocked back two but fear and panic kept her moving. Finally she reached the edge of the room and immediately started trying to scale the bleachers.
The cracks between the bleachers were barely wide enough for her to get her fingers in and the rubber soles of her sneakers constantly slipped leaving her clinging on by fingernails as she regained her balance. Her fingers were bloody by the time she reached the top and it took every bit of her strength to haul her body up and over the edge.
There wasn't room for her to lay her entire body on the top so she dangled one leg over the edge as she caught her breath. Finally out of her claustrophobic nightmare, she gathered herself enough to look down and take in the scene below her immediately wishing she hadn't.
She saw them. Whatever they were, because they most certainly weren't human.
She saw one take down a girl, it's teeth latched around her throat. She saw a pack of them literally tearing a man apart. There were at least fifty of them, spread out throughout the crowd, killing, eating, everyone in sight. Someone had finally gotten one of the exits open but people were crushing each other trying to get out. A few had caught on to the same idea of climbing that Cassandra had but it was too late. One man made it up two bleachers before he was yanked down by his foot screaming and promptly silenced, the blood splatter nearly reaching her perch.
Cassandra couldn't process what she was watching. It was a zombie movie. She was living a zombie movie. This couldn't be happening. It was too awful to comprehend.
"Help my daughter, help her, someone help her, please, help my daughter!"
Cassandra wasn't sure why one woman's screaming in particular stood out to her over all of the chaos but she followed the sound to its source. The woman was towards the back of the throng of people trying to make it out of the exit but she was too far back, she wasn't going to make it.
"God, no," Cassandra's traumatized brain was able to think only those two words as she took in what the woman had clutched in her arms.
A little girl, probably three years old, bawling, clutching at her mother as though she could protect her.
The woman's gaze somehow found Cassandra and her eyes took on a strange, determined look. She shoved her way towards the bleachers and shouted up at Cassandra who was trying desperately to look anywhere else.
"Take her," The woman shouted lifting the child above her head as high as she could manage, the girl still screaming her head off. "You have to take her, take her and get out."
I can't. That's what Cassandra was thinking, what she wanted to say. She was just a child herself, really, despite being 25 and a grad student…in this moment, she was a child.
She didn't say that though. Instead some deeper instinct took over and almost of their own free will her hands began pulling her body around slightly so she could get a better angle. She reached down with one hand, fingers stretching out until they could wrap around the little girl's wrist. She tried to yank the girl upward but didn't have the strength and almost lost her grip on the bleachers.
"Again!" The woman cried, desperation but also determination clear in the gaze that locked with Cassandra's.
Cassandra adjusted her grip on the girl's wrist and yanked again. This time the woman shoved the girl upward at the same time and Cassandra was able to drag the girl over the edge and behind her on the narrow plank.
She glanced back down planning to help the woman up as well, but the sight that greeted her was one of those things dragging the woman away. Cassandra's eyes crashed shut, her brain refusing to process the image it was seeing.
"Momma, Momma, Momma…" The little girl's cries dragged Cassandra out of her own mind. She had to get the girl out.
Cassandra forced her aching body into a crouching position, looking over her shoulder and trying her best to look friendly, knowing she was failing miserably.
"Sweetie, you have to get on my back, ok?"
The girl merely continued chanting, "Momma, momma, momma…"
"That's right," Cassandra answered, her throat choking on the words. "We're going to go find your Momma."
These words seemed to break through to the girl and she scooted over and wrapped her arms around Cassandra's neck. Cassandra crawled forward slowly trying to block out the continuing screams. It seemed like it took forever but it she knew it could only have been a couple of minutes before she reached a window. She beat her arm against it until it shattered, not sure where she had found the strength not sure how the girl managed to avoid being cut by the glass that had found it's way deep inside Cassandra's arm. Ignoring the searing pain, Cassandra hauled herself and her passenger through the window thanking a god she didn't really believe in that the window led to a sloping roof which allowed her to slide down to another level of roof, this one flat and within jumping distance to the ground.
Cassandra managed to land feet first, her knees protesting loudly at the sharp impact but her cargo seemed unharmed. Moans brought her head snapping up in horror as she realized those things were out here too, though not as many as had been gathered in the auditorium.
Cassandra felt a strange sense of calm settle over her, knowing somewhere in the back of her mind that she was most likely going into shock.
"Ok," She breathed out one, twice, one deep breath in and then she was ready, as ready as she ever would be. "We go on three."
Keep breathing, don't look back.
Keep breathing, don't look back.