Disclaimer: I own no part of The Walking Dead.

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Prologue

The scars stack up along my arm. They cover more and more of my skin as the winter goes on. But I won't stop making more. These scars, these brands, they belong on me. I am scarred, I am branded, and the world – so small and terrible – should know it. It should know what it's turned me into, it should know it's lost me . . . Or found me. Yeah. This world, as it is now, it's found me, and it has me right where it wants me tonight, here on the floor of the boiler room, bringing my scars and brands from the inside out, alone. No, not alone. Never alone. My thoughts, my memories, they're like a second person. Or more than one, even. Lots and lots, sometimes. People I knew. Like Dale, I can hear him gasping. And there's Andrea whispering that low whisper that means it's done. And Sophia cries, and Lori screams, and T-Dog shouts, and the boiler room is filled with it all tonight, isn't it? It's filled with the echoes of their lost voices.

One voice is louder than the others, though. It always is.

"You know I love that little girl, Daryl, you know I do."

My dad's lighter, stolen, is in my right hand and it makes a flame that lights up the room, but only in the most basic way. In other ways, I think, it makes it darker, which is right. And now, in my other hand, my best knife.

"The little girl I knew would never, no matter what, try to spill her uncle's guts all over the floor . . ."

That flame, it plays along my knife's edge, and it's such a good flame, but it's an even better knife, really. The knife is sharp when I need it to be sharp and metal when I need it to be metal. Sharp slices and metal heats. Sometimes I need the blood and sometimes I need the burn. Such a good knife, to do it all for me.

". . . So maybe you should take a good long look in the mirror before you go tellin' me just how far from grace I've fallen."

I never look into mirrors. The others have some. I just never look into them. I don't want to see. And I don't have to. I know now. I know now.

It's ready, the knife. It never takes long to get ready. Down with the lighter, up with my sleeve. Always long sleeves now. Because for the others to see, for my dad to see –

He shouldn't care, but he would. And I won't hurt him anymore. Him or – or any of them.

Except for her. I wouldn't mind hurting her. But I can't let myself believe she's worth it.

Shh, Uncle Merle. Shh, Lori, Andrea, all of you. I'm about to do it. See? Do you see?

No. Because you're all dead.

There's the stack on my arm and here's the knife and I place it and press it, and oh, and my head falls back and I let it happen, I let the burning flood through me, reaching all over. It's not good. It doesn't take the guilt away. It doesn't stop my thoughts that are people. But that's how it should be. I am a murderer and this is my punishment. Voices and scars and darkness. Blood and burns. Me, Sydney Rose Dixon? That's all I am now. This is all I am. This is how I will die.

Sooner than later.