Disclaimer: I don't own AMC's "The Walking Dead," wishful thinking aside.

Authors Note #1: This exists purely because I was challenged to write something of this ilk. And I think I broke my soul in the process, just saying.

Warnings: Contains spoilers for all three seasons of the Walking Dead, adult language, canon appropriate violence, gore, suicide, canon character death and mature content.


Awareness returned slowly, stubborn and bloodshot as his nails, blunt and chewed to the quick, dug into the dry Georgian dirt – fingertips bruised and shredded as saliva flooded across his tongue. He sighed, grounded - the loose dirt turning flaky and delicate as he threaded his fingers between the roots. The soil was malleable and moist against his skin as he tried to remember how he'd ended up flat on his back in the middle of nowhere in the first place.

He floated - peaceful. Trying to ignore that niggling tendril of doubt that was starting to work its way through him, streaming through him like bad blood, like gangrene from an open wound. Something was wrong, off.

But for the first time in his life, he didn't want to know.

The uneven forest floor speared into his spine, ripe with the scent of crushed pine and the acrid tang of old rain. It was a subtle smell, reminding him of new death and mouldering soil. But it was enough. Enough to bring him back - conscious.

His eyes fluttered open. The movement was unwilling and slow as he blinked, trying to clear his vision, as the forest canopy gradually took shape above him. He held up a hand, a filthy canvas of muted browns and reds as he squinted into the warm afternoon sun.

It was a beautiful day.

He'd been surprised when the teeth had sunk into his flesh. Not agonized or fearful, just surprised. The pain had come later. He'd been out of arrows, out of bullets, cornered, separated - there'd been too many. He hadn't been able to hold them off. His buck knife had been slick, dripping – the air ripe with the stench of old death and rotting flesh as Rick's colt had blasted into early morning chill. Carol had screamed. And then-

His breathing stuttered, nearly choking on his own tongue as a splintering burst of agony lit up his side. Oh. He forced himself to still. Using the pain as an anchor, he tried to determine how bad it was. His fingers stilled when he found the edge, a mess of shredded skin and ripped up fabric. Torn. Broken. Dead.

Fuck. It was bad.

He grunted, unable summon up the energy to wince when the action sent pain whinging down his spine. The sensation burrowed bone deep - splintering as every muscle he'd forgotten he'd ever had throbbed. A fragment of a memory floated through his mind's eye – a half forgotten snatch from the news reports in the early days of the infection. His lashes fluttered as he remembered Jim's screams – dull cries of agony that had filtered through the window of the RV, impossible to block out, grating.

He closed his eyes. He'd told himself that would never be him.

Something moved in the brush on the opposite side of the clearing, tentative but bold. His hand instinctively went for his crossbow before he remembered. He was out of arrows, impotent. His heartbeat slowed.

A few minutes later a bob-tailed doe nosed her way out of the rushes - pretty and dappled, but still growing into her adult coat. Reality fractured, winding in and out of focus as the doe shifted and suddenly it was Sophia – her blond hair glinting as she tip-toed through the long grass.

He hissed, forcing himself to look away as her muted giggles echoed through the forest quiet. He counted to a hundred – willing himself to get a grip as his pulse thudded dully. Christ his head hurt. When he looked back the deer was showing him her tail – leaping nimbly through the brush until suddenly, he was alone again.

Alone? He hadn't been alone for a long time. Not since-

A/N #2: This is my first attempt at such a genre, so please let me know what you think! Reviews and constructive critiquing are love! – I am thinking there will be one more chapter – perhaps two. The next chapter should be up soon!

"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." ― Mark Twain