Thanks for the reviews MunkieMagic and Leyshla Gisel! Glad you've enjoyed what I've written thus far and hope you like this second chapter, as well. On a fairly good roll at this point, and hope to keep it going. New episode in T minus 24 hours!
Leave some thoughts after the beep!
Ellie waited until she heard the sound of the horse's hooves turn the corner before pushing herself away from the wall she leaned on and ran to her next hiding spot. She had been following the man for what seemed like an eternity, but could only really have been no more than ten minutes. Keeping silent and hidden, moving in quick and sporadic spurts, definitely didn't help time pass more quickly. With each passing second, Ellie's anxiety also increased.
When they had passed the first multi-story building into what could officially be called downtown Atlanta, Ellie began to consider she had made a mistake of deciding to the follow the man. The tall buildings around her blocked out large portions of the sky and mild claustrophobia crept into Ellie's mind. She had grown so accustomed to traveling through the woods and rural back roads, only occasionally choosing to explore the small towns she came across, usually when her food supply was dangerously low. Now being in the heart of such a large city and knowing full well what it most likely contained all of her own choice caused her to rethink her sanity. Her heart thudded loudly in her ears as she peered around the corner of the building at the back of the man as he continued his journey towards the center of the city.
Where was he going? What did he think he would find? She queried silently, confusion creasing her brow. Ellie took a deep breath in an effort to slow her heart rate to a more reasonable speed. Her hearing cleared and she breathed a silent sigh of relief that the city remained silent, though its tomb-like quiet unnerved her to the core.
A noise broke the silence. At first Ellie thought she was hearing her own heartbeat because of how soft and quiet it was. But as it grew louder, she knew she was not alone in hearing it and was coming from the sky. The man yanked on the reins of the horse to stop it and turned his face quickly towards the sky, looking around. He seemed to spot something ahead of him, as he suddenly spurred the horse into action with a yell, his heels digging into the horse's flanks. Ellie shot forward after him her knees immediately protesting the sudden exertion. But as she moved, she realized quickly she would never catch the galloping horse. She slowed until she came to stand next to a tank that sat stoically in the middle of the street, bodies of the dead surrounding and covering it. Ellie leaned her weight into the tank through a hand placed on the massive tire treads and took a moment to catch her breath, closing her eyes and rubbing her forehead with the opposite hand.
A headache was threatening to overtake her head and she knew it was due to dehydration. The adrenaline running through her veins from the sudden speed burst definitely wasn't helping the throbbing dissipate. Perhaps it was for the better, losing pace with the horse. She had her plan she had to stick to and herself to look out for. Case in point she was almost out of supplies, down now to an expired granola bar and quarter of a bottle of water when it came to food. She didn't even know who this man was and for all she knew, he could-
The scream that came from the horse tore through the air and snapped Ellie out of her thoughts. Her eyes flew open and her head shot up in the time to see the horse rear up, the man waving his arms wildly in attempt to subdue the horse with its reins. A new sound met Ellie's ears: groaning.
"Oh shit!" she swore, her heart immediately dropping into her stomach. Ellie whipped around with every intention to flee the city from the direction she had entered, but was halted immediately by the few dozen dead that shambled towards her, already nearly to her. She had been so concentrated on the damn man she had let her guard down and let these freaks catch her unawares. There was no way she could fight through their ranks and get out in one piece. Ellie quickly examined her surroundings, desperation mounting as the distance between her and the dead lessened as quickly as the number of options she had available. A particularly loud groan that sounded nearly on top of her made Ellie's decision for her. She instinctively threw a leg on top of the tank's tires and scrambled to the top. She pushed the body of a dead soldier off of the hatch and yanked it open, nearly toppling off the tank with the effort. Right before she lowered herself inside, the man on the horse came speeding back towards her, followed closely by a horde. His terrified face was the last thing Ellie saw before slamming the hatch shut above her head.
The sudden muffled silence inside the tank was at once overwhelming. The interior was dimly lit and the air stagnant. Ellie crouched and eased herself slowly to a sitting position against the wall, her hands out to her sides as she scooted backwards. When her right hand caught on something that moved with her momentum, she stifled a scream and snatched it to her chest as if she had been burned. The corpse of a soldier sat silently against the wall next to her, his eyes blank and staring. He looked to have been dead for some time, as his skin had lost its colour and patches had begun to fall away. She scooted quickly away by a foot and stared at him hesitantly for a moment. The soldier remained still.
Gunshots rang from outside, each closer than the next. Ellie pressed her ear to the side of the tank in an effort to better hear what was going on outside. She could hear the groaning of the dead even louder, even from inside the thick metal walls. Something hit the side of the tank causing Ellie to jump back from the wall. There was a scrabbling sound, and more bumps sounded now from underneath her. She realized that someone, or some thing, was underneath the tank. Gunshots sounded from below her, their close proximity sending vibrations through the metal.
The man! He was probably trapped, she thought. There was no way she could help him. She was just as trapped as he. Unbidden tears flooded her eyes, threatening to spill over. She cursed her curiosity for getting her into this mess and now she was going to be witness to another person's demise. Ellie bowed her head and pushed her hands up over her hairline to the back of her neck, tears now spilling down her cheeks. In the midst of her despair, she froze. Directly before her was a handle to a hatch in the floor of the tank. The tiny glimmer of hope that bloomed in her chest was all she needed. Ellie leapt forward, grasped the handle, and yanked upwards.
Rick looked to his front and then his rear before turning to his front again. He was completely surrounded by these – monsters – their grasping, outstretched hands nearly reaching him. As he watched the dead began crawling at him, decayed skin sloughing off on the rough pavement with every movement. A brown haired woman, alive only some time ago, dragged herself towards him. His stomach instinctively turned as he heard the exposed bone of a knee cap scraping on the asphalt as she moved closer. Rick pointed his gun and shot once, hitting her directly between the eyes. He shot off a few more rounds, hitting forehead after forehead of those reaching for him.
He paused, his breath coming faster as fear rose painfully in his throat. There were too many. Rick could barely see nearby buildings from his low vantage point as the horde surrounding the tank was so thick. Momentary clarity overcame Rick's mind as he watched the dead come closer. This was it. He had come so far, tried so hard to find his family. He would die not knowing whether they survived or suffered a fate similar to what he was facing. Rick turned onto his back and closed his eyes as grief washed over him. He brought his pistol to his head.
"Lori, Carl, I'm sorry," he murmured, tightening his finger on the trigger.
"Wait!" A feminine voice rang out. Rick's eyes opened to the sound and locked with the mismatched pair that peered down at him. The woman crouched inside the tank directly above him. She held a slender arm out towards him, the fingers open, beckoning him to take them. Rick automatically forgot his grief and grabbed the offered hand, throwing his body weight upwards and into the opening above. The woman slammed the hatch door shut the moment he was through and she sat down heavily on top of it, almost as if her added weight would further keep out intruders. Both survivors sat panting and studying each other for nearly a minute, each gathering their wits about them.
The woman who sat before Rick was slender, but he could tell by her toned arms, she packed a lot more power than he could see from the surface. She was dirty – filthy probably a more accurate description. At some point recently she had tried to put some effort into cleaning herself though, evident by a face far cleaner than her clothes, even with the stray dirty smudge. Her golden hair, tied in a high ponytail that rested over her shoulder, too looked to have been washed recently. But what had caught Rick's attention initially and continued to captivate him were her eyes: blue and green stared back at him. Her left eye was a sparkling sky blue, while her left a clear, mossy green. Framed by long, delicate lashes, they were easily the most striking feature he had ever seen on another person.
"Are you ok?" the woman asked, finally breaking their shared silence. Her voice was soft and lilting, an accent different from the familiar Southern one Rick was so accustomed to. Rick nodded. "You haven't been bit or anything?"
"No," Rick answered. The woman nodded in satisfaction.
"I'm Ellie," she offered, holding out her hand to him once again. Rick took her hand and squeezed it once before releasing it.
"Rick Grimes," he returned. A smiled played on Ellie's lips as she looked him up and down once.
"Should I be calling you Officer Grimes?" she asked, motioning towards the badge he wore on his shirt pocket. He briefly shared her smile.
"Deputy, actually. But really, just Rick."
"Well all righty, Just Rick. Now what?" Rick was stumped at her question and he could tell by her expression, she had no idea what came next either. He looked around himself and started briefly at the dead soldier seated directly behind him.
"Don't worry, he's dead. Er- completely dead. Hasn't moved since I've been in here," Ellie assured. Rick studied the soldier for a moment and spotted the pistol still in its holster at the dead man's hip. He reached forward and unhooked it. As he pulled away, the dead man suddenly animated and lunged for Rick, mouth gaping and arms reaching. Ellie shouted in surprise and Rick reacted automatically by firing the pistol he had just taken once in the soldier's face. The blast was literally deafening and both Rick and Ellie doubled over, clapping their hands to their ears.
"You idiot!" Ellie snapped, once the ringing in her head had subsided enough for her to think clearly. If she had suspected an oncoming headache before, there was no doubt at this point that it had arrived. She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose with two fingers. Rick looked at her apologetically and seemed about to say something before the tank radio crackled to life.
"Hey you. Dumbasses. Yea, you two in the tank. Cozy in there?"