Disclaimer: I don't own AMC's The Walking Dead, wishful thinking aside.
Authors Note #1: This is response fill for the USS Caryl's "What if" Challenge on tumblr regarding the following prompt: (Scenario #6) "What if, in season three, when Daryl opened the door where he thought walker!Carol was hiding, she wasn't there, not even as a walker? Re-write their happy reunion or detail the discovery of Carol, perhaps even walker!Carol by Daryl?" - As requested by Octoberland.
Warnings: Contains spoilers for all three seasons of the Walking Dead, specifically season three, violence, strong language. Also contains a big divergence from canon circa season three.
Tonight, the Foxes hunt the Hounds
He knew the way the story was supposed to go. Alive or dead, she was supposed to be behind that door. He'd read the ending a thousand times. He knew it by heart, every subtle emotion, every sullied second of it. It was the classic conclusion, the pivotal moment where the protagonist makes that one, terrible discovery that, for good or ill, acts as the story's climax, the final action point before the story switches over to the epilogue.
And he knew what had to be done.
His chest was tight, vice-like and suffocating, as he slammed the point of Carol's knife down on the concrete. Dulling the blade. Anger rose up in the back of his throat like bile, like a sickness, burning all the way up as his hand tightened around the handle. Everything had happened so fast. He'd been too far away, too far away to do anything but run as the group had scattered.
She should'a just stayed put. If she hadn't gone and played the hero, if someone else had been there when her and T-dog had gone to close that gate, she might still be here. She might-
The accusations were weak, even to him. But he clung to them nonetheless. He couldn't stop. He needed an excuse, an excuse not to think about what this meant, about what would happen next. Not just in terms of what was behind that door, but what that absence would mean two hours from now, two days, two months.
He'd always figured he'd be the one to leave her hangin'. Not the other way around.
Karma could be a loose-legged bitch that way.
He bit down on the inside of his cheek until the blood pooling across his tongue threatened to overspill, coloring the back of his teeth as he slammed the knife against the wall behind him. Once, twice, then again, before he yanked himself to his feet.
Stop pussy-footin' around. You know what you have to do. Get it done.
She deserved better.
He dragged the walker blocking the door away, halting the continuous creak-creak from the door in mid-swing, almost as if whatever was on the other side was holding its breath. But he didn't wait to find out, he couldn't. Instead he lurched forward, swinging the door open with a slam as he lunged inside, knife raised.
The darkness was unfriendly.
He looked up, catching a sliver of blue sky through the tiny, barred window set into the opposite wall. He blinked.
There was nothing here.
It was a twist, no, a plot twist, a sudden switch, unexpected and uncertain. The type of turnabout that comes part and parcel with a shit ton of exclamation points and leaves you with more questions than answers. It made him think of premature ejaculation, doing a U-turn at a red light, or running out of coffee on a Monday morning. Because all else considered, he had to admit, that opening the door and finding nothin' just wasn't what he'd been expecting.
He paused in the threshold, the hand holding the knife flagged, impotent, as he squinted into the dark. There were a set of bunks bolted into the wall on the far side, pictures of loved ones and Maxim models taped carefully underneath. Hell, there was even a perfect rack of d-cups taped precariously right underneath a picture of Grandma.
He raised a brow, fighting disbelief, disappointment and relief all at the same time as he looked down at the floor. There was a dark stain standing out against the concrete, almost as though someone had bled out propped up against the wall, waiting for a rescue that would never come.
That was where she was supposed to be. Something in him just knew it. Felt it. Only she wasn't. And that was a good thing, maybe.
It was something authors often referred to as a discovery plot twist, an anagorisis, when the protagonist has a sudden revelation of another character's state of being. He remembered his eighth grade English teacher, Miss Weathers, nattering on about it one day in class, after suffering through an entire unit of Romeo and Juliet. However, as Miss Weathers had also pointed out, such an occurrence could also just as easily be seen as an example of the peripeteia trope, an event detailing a sudden reversal of the protagonist's fortunes.
But still, it begged the question, where the hell was she?
A/N #2: Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think! Reviews and constructive critiquing are love! – There will be one more chapter to this story, I was aiming for a one-shot but reached a natural pause, so this will be a two-shot. The next chapter should be up in a day or so.
A/N #3: Title inspired by Fall Out Boy's new song "Young Volcanoes."