Part OnePosted on 2012.11.05 at 01:54
He can’t afford to lose his mind. Rick’s so grief-drunk he doesn’t even seem like he knows what’s going on around him. T-Dog’s gone. There’s no one else right now. But he can’t lead either. He can’t tell the group what to do. So when Hershel points out that the little one can’t exactly eat spam and canned peas, Daryl volunteers.
Maggie volunteering to cover him is unexpected and he wants to tell her no. Glenn and her father certainly do. But he does need someone to watch his back and she’s quick and a smooth shot. And he sees in her eyes that she’s looking for a kinetic solution to whatever she’s feeling too. He nods his assent. And they go.
When Maggie swings her leg over the bike and puts her arms around him, Daryl’s skin tingles. Her grip is light, just enough to keep her on and he begins to see how this trip might be a bad idea. Because all he can think about is Carol.
She didn’t always ride with him. It isn’t a comfortable way to spend days even if you are used to it. But he liked it when she did. Her arms were always tight around him, first out of terror when they left the farm, then just out of nerves because she’d never been on a bike before, and finally just because it felt right. Once, to tease him, she’d let go completely and Daryl had almost driven them into the median before he realized that her hands were in the air and she was laughing in his ear. It was the first warm day of spring. They didn’t see a walker all day. They were warm and full and Daryl laughed too.
That strip of fabric burns in his pocket. He should throw it away, doesn’t know why he hasn’t thrown it away. It doesn’t belong to anyone anymore. Just a wadded up, bloodstained, piece of trash. His fingers itch to touch it, but he can’t reach his pockets with Maggie behind him. He can’t bang his hands on the handlebars either or scream into the wind, not that he would anyway. But he can feel the rage clawing in his chest, so he tightens his grip and drives faster.
As the wind whistles in his ears, Daryl fights against the voices in his head. They read out the names to him over and over; the images flick like a slideshow behind his eyes. Mama, first, when he was just a boy, vanishing like the wispy traces of a good dream. Pop next, his corpse letting Daryl know the world was ending. Merle, Sofia, T-Dog. Carol. None of them leaving him with even a last moment of guilt to hang on to. Not snatched from under his fingers, not two seconds too late, not a left instead of a right at the fork. There was nothing he could do. For any of them. And that kills him. Always so good at taking care of himself, but he never even gets a chance to save the people who matter.
And on top of it, he’s going to have to watch a kid die this week. None of that “miracle of life” bullshit. Not “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” Fuck that guy. They haven’t found any formula the eight months they’ve been on the road and they’re sure as hell not going to find it now. This baby killed its mother and it’s gonna take a chunk outta the rest of them before it goes. And once it’s finished with their hearts, it’ll come after their flesh.
Who needs hell when you have a world like this?
Daryl draws in a breath through clenched teeth and if Maggie notices that his shoulders shake, she doesn’t try to sooth him. There was a light down that hallway. He keeps thinking that he should have gone through. He should have yelled out her name. He should have found her. Even if- Especially if.
Carol, of all people deserves to rest. The thought of turning a corner and seeing her there makes the bile rise in his throat. The thought of someone else doing it is unthinkable.
He vows to do it when they get back. When they get back and deliver the formula. They have to do it. The sense of purpose helps quiet his mind and he starts to think strategically. Where do people even buy baby food? Which places are the least likely to have been picked over? He’s still thinking when Maggie squeezes him and points over his shoulder.
Next Exit: Wal-Mart
It’s as good a place to start as any.