"Wait—wait!" Rick stopped digging and put a hand up.
Everyone stopped and looked at him, waiting for him to explain. They already had a few walkers stumble across them but Maggie and Beth took care of it. There weren't any other walkers in sight.
"Why are we stopping? We have to get—" Glenn stopped short once he heard it. Daryl was banging on whatever he was buried in at a rather rapid pace. They could vaguely hear him gasping and choking, the banging slowing down until it stopped altogether.
"He's out of time—" Rick buried his arm into the dirt beneath him up until his face was pressed against it. They had to reach Daryl faster. They still had a good two or three feet of dirt separating him from fresh air.
Everyone fell silent and watched as they didn't know what to do. Rick wiggled his fingers through the dirt but he wasn't finding Daryl. He couldn't even find the box.
"No, no, no…" Rick pulled his arm back up and started to dig frantically. "I can't reach him!"
Tyreese got down on his knees beside Rick. "Let me. I might have a longer reach than you." He dug his arm down into the soil all the while Rick never stopped digging. Rick only stopped once Tyreese claimed he found something.
"I think I got him. I don't know if I'll be able to pull him up though," Tyreese announced.
"Try!" Maggie pleaded.
Once Tyreese was able to get a firm enough grip on Daryl, everyone worked together to help keep him steady and pull him back. Tyreese managed to dig both of his arms down as he grabbed a hold of Daryl by his wrists.
As soon as Daryl's hands made it to the surface, everyone released Tyreese and started grabbing for Daryl. They were able to get him up and out of the hole and onto solid ground. Rick cut the rope from Daryl's wrists while Glenn freed his ankles.
It didn't take a genius to realize that Daryl wasn't breathing. He had lost consciousness at some point while he was still buried, his body completely limp. His chest didn't rise and fall as it should—it didn't rise and fall at all. It was hard to tell what he really looked like underneath all of the dirt.
Maggie didn't say a word. She just pushed her way through everyone and started chest compressions. If somebody didn't do something they would lose him. He needed oxygen before his heart completely gave out on him next, having already slowed and beating a little irregular.
Maggie tilted Daryl's head up to clear his airway and held his nose before pressing her mouth to his and performing CPR. After two breaths, Maggie spit to the side with a look of disgust and resumed chest compressions. "I think he might have swallowed some dirt…"
By the fourth time around the group was beginning to lose hope. Daryl wasn't rousing. He wasn't breathing on his own. And quite frankly, the more time passed, the more they feared he'd come back as a walker. But they were still hanging on by a thread because they didn't want to give up on Daryl.
Maggie suddenly felt a grip on her shoulder before she realized it was Daryl. She let out a gasp just as Glenn grabbed her and pulled her back, both of them falling backward as she crashed into him. It had happened so fast that no one knew what to do, taking a step back and preparing for the worst.
But Daryl hadn't turned. He was still alive.
Daryl fell into a coughing fit, choking on dirt that had lodged itself into his throat. He made a desperate attempt to roll over and onto his stomach as he tried to regain control over his body and breathe. His brain couldn't even register that he was alive quite yet. He just felt like complete and utter shit; his head pounding and his chest tight, the irrevocable urge to vomit overcoming him. After gagging, he somehow fought it off.
"Breathe, Daryl. Just breathe." Rick had gotten onto his knees next to the man trying to soothe him. "You're okay now."
Once the coughing subsided, Daryl collapsed back onto the ground with his eyes shut, breathing heavily. No one said much of anything else after Rick. There were no words to say. They had just about lost Daryl in one of the cruelest ways possible.
"The Governor?" Glenn turned to Beth for an explanation as the girl nodded, tears in her eyes.
"He said for me to tell you guys that he's coming. That this was just… It's just a warning." Beth stuttered. Maggie wrapped her into a hug and rubbed her back in a comforting manner.
It was only obvious that with this being a so-called warning, the Governor was plotting much worse. And the group had a feeling he wouldn't have to wait for them to be separated to attack. Catching Daryl and Beth while they were out hunting was just too easy. And now they definitely couldn't risk it again.
Daryl shakily forced his way back onto his feet as Rick made to support him. Daryl slightly shrugged him off though and Rick took that as his cue that Daryl was fine to stand on his own.
"You think you'll be okay to make it back?" Tyreese questioned him in the most sincere way possible, not aiming to degrade him on his ability.
Daryl only nodded as he rubbed his throat. He didn't even want to bother with trying to talk after all of that.
Beth broke away from Maggie just long enough to turn to Daryl and hug him. "I'm so glad you're okay. And I'm sorry. I should have paid more attention."
Daryl wrapped one arm around her and patted her on the back as if to say "no worries".
Rick grabbed Daryl's crossbow and knife, forcing a smile at the two. The group couldn't be more relieved to know that they were all okay. Rick handed the weapons over to their rightful owner once Beth stepped back.
"Let's go home."
I thought about an... ahem, alternative route I could have taken with this one. (Beth getting bit and well, Daryl not making it. Or the Governor could have stuck around and "let your imagination run wild": he could have easily of taken everyone out then and there.) But decided against it. Because sometimes I like a remotely happy ending.
UPDATE: I'm not going to continue this anymore. So I have deleted chapter 5 and 6. Sorry for those of you who were wanting me to continue.