I am so sorry! I don't have a good excuse other than life happening. I'll be updating more often and I'm promising some drama and new characters!


34:

Welcome to the freak show

How far would I get without someone there to watch over me? A mile? Maybe two? I had no supplies, I was angry, I was hungry, and I was starting to feel the drowsy after effects of being angry. I hated what I did to Daryl. He was my only piece of normality left. Why did I do it? I knew Cassie was dead. The Cassie I loved was dead. Her eyes were glass. Her hair was unkempt and dirty. She looked nothing like the girl I used to love.

I had a knife and that was my only line of defense - just a stupid knife. I tried to not let it bother me. I tried to keep my outlook positive and just take note of my surroundings.

Unlike Daryl, I wasn't a hunter. I wasn't a tracker. I was lost in the woods. For all I know, camp could be right behind me. But no part of me would know it. I felt like I was sitting bait out in the open. Why did I have to run? I knew she was gone before he killed her. He didn't "kill" her. She was already dead. Her skin was ashy and flaking off just like paper scraps after they've been burned. Her eyes were open. She had no color to her eyes anymore. The blue ocean that resided in her eyes was no longer there. It was a red color. It looked like the color of hate. It was sickening to think about. She still had dried blood around her mouth from her last feeding. Her fingers were caked in mud and fur. She had become a savage animal and I couldn't see that before now.

I wanted to call out to Daryl. I wanted him to find me. But I knew that wouldn't happen. Especially not after what happened. I was ashamed of myself and I knew he would be just as upset. I was a monster. I was a savage beast worse than the walking corpses. I was able to form words. I was able to connect sentences. I was able to throw the first punch. I hurt him in more than one way.

I set off in the direction I thought was north. Usually, that's what my dad used to do when he would take Cassie and me camping. We hated it. But daddy thought it was good bonding so we ate marshmallows and toughed it out for a day until dad said he'd had enough of mosquitos and bears. It was something I used to hate. I would hate when my mom would tell me that I had to look surprised when daddy came home and told us the news. I had to do my best to be happy. I would throw a fit to mom. I begged her to let me stay home. I was already old enough to make my own choices. But mom always said I would miss those days when daddy was gone. I never realized how absolutely right she was.

I sat down next to a huge oak tree. It was pretty but the sap kept rolling down the tree onto my shoulder. It was a beautiful amber color. I watched the sap for several minutes, just admiring the nature that was still happening. It was almost like nature had no idea the world was dead. Trees kept dying, and coming back to life. Flowers bloomed in the spring and died in the winter. Bees buzzed around the small patches of dandelions that would peak through the forest floor.

A ladybug landed on me and became stuck in the sap on my shoulder.

"Guess ladybugs aren't lucky after all, huh?"

I whispered to the small bug trying to escape the sticky prison.

I watched for a few minutes as the helpless bug silently pleaded with me to save it's tiny life. I watched it squirm and wiggle until it had made itself more stuck. I felt bad for it, but I couldn't help seeing myself as the ladybug in the real world. I was stuck in sap. I was flailing my limbs and begging for help, but just like the little ladybug, I was too tiny to hear. Would I make it out of the sticky? Would I come out stronger or would I just give up and let it take me over?

I slowly scooped the little bug up and set him on the forest leaves. He fluttered his wings, but was unable to fly.

"I'm going to name you Oscar."

I said watching the little bug struggle.

"And your back story is you've been injured in a war. You've broken a wing and you can't go on."

The little bug never gave up trying though. He fluttered his wings until he was exhausted. But just as I thought he was ready to give up, he gave one last push and flew off of the ground. He hovered for a moment and then flew off into the trees. I would give anything to be as graceful as that ladybug. Honestly, just to have the determination and strength that tiny bug has would be enough for me. I stood up and stretched. My stomach was growling and my limbs were weak, but I knew I had to carry on. I knew that I couldn't stay in that spot for long.

I walked for what seemed like hours. Of course, time meant nothing anymore. But it felt like I had been walking for miles. I was losing my nerve. I wanted to scream and run back to Daryl. But I knew the chances of him wanting me again were slim to none. So I gathered the rest of my strength and kept moving on. I could hear things walking around me, but I didn't investigate. If I don't bother them, they can't bother me. But I was not entirely correct.

I never thought to stop and listen like Daryl would. He would stop us both and listen for the footsteps. The heavier the foot, the more likely it was to be a corpse. They were just walking weight. But the lighter the foot, the more likely it's a person – a living person.

I heard the walking for several miles. Every step I took, there were four steps behind me to match it. It was like I was being stalked. Was I being stalked? But walkers don't stalk. Walkers lunge for the kill. Humans stalk…

Merle had always given me a warning about men in the world today. Ya can't trust 'em farther than you can throw 'em. He always told me to watch for the ones in the bar. He said they would do anything for a thrill. The thought always shot a shiver down my spine. What would any man be doing with me? I'm not as developed as some of the fucking zombies. I was skinny, sure. But who wasn't nowadays? My mother always told me I had a dancers body – skinny waist, manageable chest, and long legs. But I always considered my body to be boyish.

I heard the footsteps getting closer once I stopped. I kept my hand on my knife and turned around to see what was stalking me. I was going to stand my ground this time. I was going to be independent.

"Hello?"

I whispered out. I meant for my voice to sound confident and strong, but it was merely a whisper lost in the sounds of the wind.

"You really ought to know when you're being stalked, darlin."

A man said walking toward me.

He was tall and bulky. His hair was long and greasy black sticking to his face like black scars. His eyes were blue and clear like a midmorning sky in the summer. He had muscles, which were visible through his tank top. He was dangerous looking. But at least he was alone.

"I knew you were following me."

I said defensively.

"I could have killed you several times over."

He chuckled.

"What business is it of yours if I'm walking zombie bait?"

I asked annoyed.

"I hate to see pretty girls hurt. There's so few left anymore. Can't get a decent woman around."

I glared at the man for a minute wondering if he was joking or not. Women were still the most important things in his life?

"Relax."

He said smiling at my confusion.

"I'm just trying to survive. Name's Vincent."

He said extending his hand toward me.

"I'm Kaydence."

I replied shaking his hand hesitantly.

"Pretty name for a pretty girl. You alone?"

Now, instincts told me to say no I'm with a group. But my mouth opened and spit the truth.

"I'm alone. What about you?"

"Was with a group. But they're all dead now."

"I'm sorry."

"The idiots got themselves bit. I don't feel sorry for any of them."

The way he spoke made it sound so cold and heartless, but the emotion on his face spoke otherwise.

"Were they family?"

I asked.

"My wife and son."

"How can you say they were to blame?"

I asked shocked.

"Do you know how to start a fire?"

He asked avoiding my question.

"Not really."

I admitted.

"Can you open cans?"

He asked smiling.

"I can do that."

I took out my knife and started working on opening the unlabeled cans. Vincent handed me three cans and a small chocolate bar.

"Go on. You look like you need a pick-me-up."

Vincent said nudging the chocolate closer to my hand. My stomach begged me to eat but I just couldn't. How could I indulge in something so sweet when I've left all that matters back at my old camp?

"It's not poisoned, sweetheart."

"It's not that."

"Then? You don't like chocolate?"

"No, I do. I just, I cant accept it."

I said handing it back to him.

"Here, we'll split it."

He said breaking the candy in half. He held one half out toward me and began popping the other half in his mouth.

"It's rude to not accept a gift."

I sighed and took the chocolate. I took a small bite and my stomach nearly cried with joy. Before I realized it, I was practically licking my fingers clean.

"Slow down, save room for dinner."

Vincent chuckled.

I smiled back at him and handed him the open cans. It looked like vegetable soup to me. My stomach didn't care what it was I needed it.

Vincent held the cans over the small fire he built and handed me the food once it was done.

"Aren't you gonna eat?"

I asked tipping one of the soup cans back.

"Already did, love."

He said leaning back on the forest floor.

"Then why did you open three cans?"

"Cause you looked hungry."

"Oh no, I couldn't eat all this alone."

I said modestly.

"We'll see about that."

Nearly five minutes later, Vincent was right. I finished all three cans of soup and felt better than I had in ages. I was feeling so heavy though, as if I couldn't walk anywhere. I just wanted to see.

But in this world, you can't sleep. Not on your own. So I tucked my knees into my chest and rested my head.

"Go on."

He said handing me a blanket from his bag.

"Sleep."
He commanded.

I wanted to protest, but my eyes became heavier and heavier.

Soon, I drifted into a dreamless sleep.