DISCLAIMER: This is something I desperately felt I needed to discuss: I am in no way saying I'm anything like the writers. Clearly, I can not and could never write Daryl Dixon like the writers do. They created a beautifully damaged character and I would never try to measure up to that. However, seeing as I adore Daryl Dixon (as I'm sure most of you do!) I felt compelled to write for him in particular. As a writer, there was always something thrilling for me to write for the most emotionally wounded characters. They drew me in. They challenged me.
I tried to write for Daryl and Merle the best I could, and I will continue to try my hardest if this short "sample" chapter receives good enough feedback. I tried my hardest to think like Daryl, and I hope my hardest is good enough.
More to come. Please enjoy.
"I didn't ask for this, baby brother," he yelled over to me. His voice came in crystal clear, somehow, through the raving of the "audience" - whatever the hell they were. People - not walkers, but actual living, breathing human beings - were circling around us; some armed, some just armed with their fury, spitting words at us from the sidelines. My brother, my blood, was standing before me; it almost seemed unreal. I had envisioned so many things that would become of him, but this was not one of them. I spent nights imagining him being torn apart by hungry walkers, pulling vein after vein out from under his skin. I pictured walkers with a full belly of my brother dragging their legs elsewhere, satisfied with their meal; my brother left on the ground, devoured and picked apart like a Thanksgiving feast. All those times, though, I never pictured him alive and well. He was skinnier than I remembered, but he was still bigger than me. His eyes had something to them - sympathy? Regret? I couldn't pinpoint it. I tried to lock eyes with him, but something flashed in his and whatever was in there before was gone. Like a human brain after turning into a bloodsucking son of a bitch, the light in his eyes had gone out. He didn't look scared, shocked or regretful. He just looked like Merle. Big, loud-ass Merle.
The dumbass Governor - is that what they called him? - pressed hard on my back and shoved me closer to my brother, who backed away a couple of inches, as if I was a hungry walker snapping at him. I responded to the Governor's shove with a side-eye glare. I mentally promised myself that no matter what happened right then and there between Merle and I, I would kill that son of a bitch that hired his boys to drag me out there. I would tear the tongue out of his mouth and watch him choke on his blood. I would yank out his teeth with pliers. I would shoot an arrow through every muscle in his body until he was nothing but bleeding, dripping wounds. Those thoughts kept me distracted enough to not let my guard down around Merle. I never admit to being scared - because seldom I truly am, but I was concerned that Merle could get the best of me. He was my big brother, after all. The last trace of bloodline I had left in this world. I couldn't lose that. But Merle wasn't the Merle I remembered. Or maybe he'd been this cold all along, and maybe I'm the one who changed.
The Governor shoved me one last time, and I whipped around to slam into his face. My face collided with his, and one of his boys came around behind me and kicked the back of my knee with his, with so much great force my knees connected with the ground. Naturally, I expected Merle to come to my defense. I could hear his voice echoing in my head, repeating the words I'd heard my whole childhood, any time I'd show up with another wound: What the hell you doin' goin' 'round gettin' yourself all bloodied up, son? You tryin' to make my job harder on me? But you see, baby brother, you're only hurting yourself in the long-run. I ain't always gonna be here to fight your battles and lick your wounds. You need to be a man some day, and that day is today. Today is all you really got. It's all you'll ever really have. Because no one can promise you tomorrow will ever come at all. It was the same speech I had to hear all the time. Sometimes he told it to me with rage and fire in his eyes, disgusted with me for losing another fight with another kid at a junkyard. Sometimes he'd be too high to even look at me, but he still told the damn speech, with slurred words and pauses between each sentence. I could recite it in my sleep. I carried those words with me. Because no one can promise you tomorrow will ever come at all. My whole life he barked at me that I needed to become a man. I was never man enough for Merle. I could chop off my arms and legs and bathe myself in rubbing alcohol, not shed a single tear and I still wouldn't be strong enough or man enough for Merle.
One of the guys - I couldn't see his face - collided his fist with my face. All I could hear was the sound of something in my jaw cracking, even over the chanting of the crowd. I saw Merle's face for just a second, and for one split second he looked... horrified. But he didn't move. With the functioning hand he still had left, he was rubbing his index finger with his thumb. How could he stand there and watch me like this? I imagined he must've really thought I was a fool, sitting there taking that beating like a pussy. That thought got me back on my feet. I was about to rip every prick in that place a new one when the Governor shouted behind me.
"What we have here, folks, is a family feud." He laughed a little. The bandage covering his right eye was beginning to soak with blood. I spit a glob of blood on the ground by my shoe, and my jaw ached at the sudden movement. I bit my lip. No way would I pussy out in front of Merle. "Two brothers who hadn't seen each other in a long time. You see, I believed Merle was faithful to us. I believed he cared for us, and wanted us safe. It turns out he lead him and his people right to our door. I'm supposed to believe you two weren't communicating on the side?"
"Yeah, that's it; we've been meeting up for coffee and bagels every morning before you take your morning dump. How the hell could we have been talkin', you dumb son of a bitch? I ain't heard from him in months," I shouted. Merle stayed quiet. Who was pussying out now?
"You call me a dumb son of a bitch, but you're the one who came here with just a few people to take what is rightfully ours. Did you really think you'd stand a chance against all of us? We just want a safe place to live out the rest of our lives, and we won't let you take that from us." He locked eyes with me. "I won't."
Bullshit. Complete bullshit. I was so angry I couldn't even speak the words. I just wanted to scream. I wanted to scream and tear his face apart. I wanted to rip off his bloody bandage and punch the broken, bloody eye socket. I wanted to make him pay for taking Glenn and Maggie; for taking in my brother; for turning him into somebody different. My brother may have been a loud-mouth, wise-ass, racist, sarcastic, derogative drug-abuser, but now he was almost robotic. The brother I knew wouldn't have let some dickhead take him in and make him one of his own. Merle looked out for Merle. Sick and self-centered, maybe, but that was Merle. This was someone different. That old Merle would've stood for his brother, if only just to protect his kin. Blood is blood.
Speaking of blood, I was beginning to pool blood by my feet from my mouth that was running like a faucet. I turned around to look at Merle. That cowardly bastard. All those years of beating on me, training me to become some kind of man he felt was worthy of life, but this is where it lead us? All of that talk, and for what? He used to stand so tall to me. He used to be everything I wanted to be. Everything I thought I needed to be to succeed in life; to get by. I was trying so hard to become something that wasn't worth a damn. Who would've thought the person he tried so hard to change would be better off? If the situation had been different; if my and Glenn and Maggie's lives hadn't been dangling like a piece of thread, I might've even had a laugh. I might've smacked Merle upside the head and taunted him for being such a wuss. There was that seven-year-old boy inside of me that wanted so bad to do that. That seven-year-old boy who was constantly reminded by his methed-out older brother that he was never, and would never be, good enough. But at least I got where I was by saving my own ass. I might've had a little help along the way, but I did fine on my own, too. Merle, on the other hand, he was brainwashed into kissing this dude's ass. It was pathetic. I almost felt sorry for him. I suddenly understood what it felt like to be Merle, looking down on me all of those years.
"What do you say, everybody? Should we watch these two brothers go at it like two dogs trapped in a cage?" The Governor challenged the crowd, and everyone replied with loud cheers. They approved. "Fight 'til the death?" More cheering.
I ain't dumb. I knew it would come to that. Somehow, I just always knew. Our father had no problem raising his fist at us, and in turn, Merle never had a problem taking a swing at me once in a while. If someone else took a swing, Merle was on their ass. But he had no problem when he did it. His fist was the only one that could collide with my face. His boot was the only boot that was allowed to be stepping on my face, shoving my cheek into the concrete. He was only trying to make me into a man, right? The man he thought I ought to be. And that's the man he deserves to see. Isn't that right? All of that hard work and training. May as well be worth somethin'.
"I'm not going to fight him," Merle said under his breath, but just loud enough for me to hear. He was backing down. I couldn't believe it. I'd never seen Merle back down from anything in his life, certainly not a fight. Certainly not a fight with his weak-ass little brother.
"And why not?" Governor shouted, entertaining his minions. I turned my head and spat, and a clot of blood stuck to the ground. "Didn't you bring this on yourself?"
Merle didn't say a word. Pussy.
"Our people want to see a showdown. They deserve one after the night we had."
I was twisted. Pulled between the person I used to be, and the person I'd grown to. The person I used to be was pissed off at the world, pissed off at Merle, pissed off at drooling, hungry walkers and assholes who only looked at me like hillbilly trash. The old me had a chip on my shoulder for everyone around. I wouldn't accept a hand-out from anybody; I could take care of myself. I hadn't noticed it at first because the change was gradual, but I was evolving. I was becoming somebody different, and that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Everyone around me was evolving. Humans were evolving. It wasn't just as cut-and-dry as once you split, you turn into a dead person dragging around looking for human flesh. Humans were evolving while they were still alive. We were all changing, turning into something or someone else. And so was I. I thought I was too dense, my skin too thick, to morph into anything other than what I already was. I was born and raised to protect myself from every possible thing. I locked people out of my life and I looked out for myself. It was so easy. Then I got emotionally attached to these people; I started caring. How is it that my world got darker, but I got... nicer?
The old me wanted to fight Merle. I wanted to prove to him that all this time, I'd been the man he more or less raised. I wanted to show him that all this time, without him, I was just fine. I knew I would be. He should know that, too. I was not a pussy redneck hillbilly. I had grown. I had changed. For better or worse, I was different. But so was he. He was weaker. He was getting kicked around by some dumbass douche that referred to himself as a Governor; a guy who clearly craves attention and gets off on authority. I wasn't going to stand by and be a participant to his circle jerk. We were either going to settle this, this on-going battle Merle and I had our whole lives, or I was going to die beating the shit out of anyone I could. I couldn't stand there any longer.
"Eh, what the hell?" Merle finally said, then shot phlegm on the ground. "I'll fight 'im."
Finally. One way or the other. Something had to happen.