The idea behind this story came from "The Purgatory theory" video on youtube by Ryan Hollinger. Check it out, it's a really great theory and video.
The must smells of old, burnt wood mixed with the humid aroma of the recently fallen rain.
Clementine edged forward on the balls of her feet, smearing the muddy ground beneath her as she stared tentatively into the night. Standing, she stepped backward and took a seat on the fallen log that served as a bench.
Around her the world was drenched in the previous evening's rain, though the sky above was clear and salted with stars. Sodden trees stood as sentinels around her, casting dark shadows all over the place and leaving their little campsite clearing the only spot illuminated by the moon.
Beads of condensation formed on and dribbled down the metallic surface of the pistol in her hand.
The weapon was huge in her hand; even now that she'd entered the earliest stages of puberty. Oversized or not, she knew it well. Knew every scratch that marred it's shiny surface, every kink that ocassionally got in the way of it firing. She was proficient a marksman as she needed to be. Not that she wanted to be, but survival necessitated that she feel the dull ache of the kickback every time she pulled the trigger. An echo of the first time she'd used the weapon, and the life she'd ended mercifully with it.
She glanced to her left. Not ten paces of Christa was sleeping beneath the makeshift tent they'd erected with an old tarp and a pair of sticks. Her sleep was light, broken up by equals parts brief snoring and fitful turning.
Since losing the baby….she didn't sleep much. Even when Clementine took her shift on watch.
Sleep is where people go to escape, to forget the troubles of the world for just a little while. Yet sleep had a way of tormenting you that not even the waking world could.
For the third time that hour, Clementine checked that there was a bullet ready in the chamber. Couldn't be too careful.
Satisfied, she let the gun fall back into her lap. A sigh escaped her lips.
Times like these were when she felt loneliest of all.
It was a feeling that permeated her entire existence nowadays. She wasn't alone in the literal sense. Christa was with her, in body at least. Loss had a way of breaking down the spirit. Eroding it, not snapping it, until only a shell remained. They stayed together out of necessity. Two people had a better than chance than one. Yet there was an iciness between them now. A sense of blame and guilt and loathing.
Whether she'd admit it or not, part of the woman blamed her young companion for Omid's death. She'd left the gun on the counter, let it out of her sight, and one gunshot later, their company had been lessened by one. It was just as well, because she could never blame her more than Clementine blamed herself.
Just another person whose death she'd caused. Lee, her guardian, friend, and almost father, and then Omid, who'd been there to help her pick up the pieces.
Reaching over, Clementine opened her backpack and pulled out the thin scrap of photograph. Her most prized possession.
Lee's smiling face stared up at her, and her lips pulled upward a little. God, she missed him.
He had been her everything. And their time together had ended with a bullet to the brain. An image that would never leave her.
"A good man, wasn't he?"
Her gaze snapped upward, drawing the gun and levelling it in a split second.
A man stood on the other side of the fire, hands shoved in the pockets of his dark jacket.
Clementine's mind raced. How the fuck had he snuck up on her? Hours ago they'd purposefully surrounded the immediate camp with clumps of twigs and dead leaves. Anything that could snap or rustle to tell of an approaching assailant or bandit. This guy had shown up literally out of nowhere.
"Who are you?" she asked, steel in her tone. The pistol was aimed at his face. No answer came, just a pensive look from perhaps the blandest, most indescribable set of facial features imaginable. "ANSWER ME!"
Her eyes darted to the tent and Christa.
"She won't wake," said the man. "There's no one here now but you and I, Clementine. I've come to talk. To you alone."
Despite the overwhelming creepiness the sentence would normally have given off, there was no hint of malice.
"Who are you?" she asked again, uneasiness mixing with anger and the strange aura of serenity the newcomer gave off like a springtime aroma.
"A friend," he said simply.
Lowering himself to the ground, the man took a seat on the mud covered ground. His dark slacks made the added hue hardly noticeable. He pointed to the photo of Lee, which had become crumpled somewhat between her hand and the pistol grip.
"A good man, Lee Everett. You miss him, don't you?"
"How the hell do you know Lee?" the question seethed out of her. All common sense said she should pull the trigger now and blow his smarmy face to bits. Yet…. The man smiled.
"He and I are similar, in a way. We are of the same being, yet we were chosen for different functions." His head cocked sideways. "Do you trust me, Clementine? Rest assured, I mean you no harm."
Slowly, she lowered the gun. Why was she doing this? Letting a stranger tell her what to do, when for some reason Christa was unresponsive and out of the loop, trapped in some bubble of perception? Did she trust him?
For some reason, she did.
"I…I think so." she said just above a whisper. "But…who are you? How do you know Lee?"
"A friend," he said again. "And I know him because we are the same. The same, but of different Orders."
"Orders?" she parroted, ignoring the back of her mind screaming that this was fooling and she should either shoot him or run. Yet she trusted him. He was good, and somehow, she could tell just by being in his presence.
The man nodded.
"Indeed. I am a Messenger, he was a Guardian. Your Guardian….You miss him still, even these many months later."
"All the time." Not a moment passed when he didn't. The memory of his warm, supportive face haunted her dreams. Twisting further the knife of guilt that had found a permanent place in her gut.
The man's face saddened slightly, his gaze falling to the forest floor.
"'Tis a tragic fate that befalls those chosen to be Guardians. Even more so for their charges, such as you."
Clementine felt her brows furrough. The aura of trust was still there, but that didn't negate the fact that none of what the newcomer had said actually made any sense.
"What do you mean?"
The man looked up, eyes boring into hers. A look of the utmost consternation came, and passed in an instant.
"Do you remember the day Lee came into your life, Clementine?"
"Of course." How could she not?
"You were left with a babysitter, Sandra, while your parents vacationed in Savannah. When Sandra turned, you hid in your treehouse, until you heard a car crash in the woods behind your home. You went to see, and saw Lee, struggling to get away from a mob on a wounded leg. Then you met, and the rest that followed flowed from there. Am I correct?"
She nodded. How did he know all this?
A long pause followed while the man considered what to say next.
"Had you ventured into the forest, you'd have found two bodies in that police car. The officer, who was taking Lee to his imprisonment….and Lee himself."
"….What?" the word came involuntarily. Almost like a vocal tick. The man nodded.
"Lee never left the crash sight, my dear. Not in body. From that point on he was a specter, neither truly alive, nor truly dead. He walked from then on in Limbo, bound this earth by a single purpose. Watching over you." He smiled again. "I have called him your Guardian, but I believe you'll find the term 'Guardian Angel' far more familiar."
She stared. Saying nothing. There was nothing to say. The words rang true despite their absurdity, and the knife in her gut twisted sharply.
"That's not true," she said eventually, voice like gravel in her mouth. "Lee….Lee was wonderful, and I loved him. But angels…angels have powers. If he were an angel, then-"
"Then none of your companions would have perished?" the man finished for her. "Then Duck, Katjaa, Carly, and all the others would have lived? That's not how it works, dear Clementine. Guardians are different that other of our kind. I am a Messenger, sent to tell what needs to be told to who needs to hear it. Guardians on the other hand, are mortal, with no power over this world apart from the protection of their charges. He was not sent to save them, but you alone."
"Why?" she nearly squeaked. Pain shot across her eyes as the first tears in over a year fell. "Why me?"
Why her and not Duck, not Carly, not the others?
Why was she still alive?
"Because, dear Clementine, you carry something with you most don't. A flame. Hope. The possibility that the world may be reborn from the ashes one day. You have a purpose laid out for you one day. One of hope, of meaning. Lee was chosen to safeguard you for this reason, and to atone for his crimes. You were last chance at redemption, and that path brought him spiraling to the fate inevitable of all his kind. Death, by your hands."
Real, bitter anger came boiling through the girl's tears this time. Her teeth ground together painfully.
"What are you talking about!?" she half growled, half shrieked. "What do you mean inevitable?!"
The saddened face of the Messenger met her own, tear streaked and ruddy one.
"All must kill their angels, Clementine. That is the way of it."
"Why?! Why did I have to kill him if he's this 'angel' you keep talking about!?" she was screaming now, not caring in the slightest that it could raise predators and walkers all around her.
"Because you didn't need him anymore," the Messenger replied. "You may desire his presence, it may give you comfort and joy, but you do not require it to survive. Lee had served his purpose, to hone in you the skills you would need to live on. That is why he was bitten. That is why you had to take his life….all must kill their angels in the end Clementine. All. Even you."
He stood and took a few paces.
"Why are you telling me all this?" Clementine asked. Her voice was back to normal, her breathing back at a normal rate, yet the tone in her voice was one of despair. "Does that have some 'purpose' too?"
The only purpose it had served so far was to make her self hatred magnified a hundred fold.
"It does," said the Messenger, glancing back at her over his shoulder. "Though my words may have brought you sadness, that was not their true intention. Lee Everett did not die for nothing, Clementine. He died to save your life, and he did it willingly and knowingly. You were not at fault for the machinations of fate and the cruelty of man….Know this, dear Clementine. You will see him again one day. Whether soon or long into the future, I cannot say. But still, one day."
And the man was gone.
To say she slept when Christa took over the watch would be a blatant lie.
Sleep seemed….meaningless, when held up against the movements of angels and cursed fates.
Haunting, that was the word for it.