Rebecca was tired. Tired of the dead walking the earth aimlessly in search of victims. Tired of pretending to believe help might still come. Tired of being a doctor who couldn't help anyone because there was no cure for a bite. Medicine should have stopped something like this form happening in the first place. What good was she without a clue as to how she could fix an illness that defied every type of modern medicine? The question didn't let her sleep much. She was tired of waking up shaking from visions of all the people shed failed to save.
Most of all, she was tired of fighting to survive. If it wasn't for her daughter, Jess, maybe she would have joined her partner and slipped a rope around her neck. It would have been quick and easy, maybe even merciful but... No. No, he was selfish. He didn't care that Jess would be in danger. Didn't care that Rebecca needed help. Nope, Mitchel just went to the hall, tied a rope around the railing and let himself hang while she scavenged for supplies. Coming home, she found him swinging to and fro while Jess cried and tried to pull him down, clutching at his shoes. She took a sip of water from her flask, wishing it was something fiery and alcoholic, pushing it back into her satchel. The Forrest was a dangerous place to be in the dying light of day, but Rebecca had heard people. Living people. A cry of grief, car engines, and a baby. The sound of life.
Jess was at home, safe, and the sounds urged Rebecca to find out if anyone needed help. She shouldn't have left. Their house had been broken into by walkers a few weeks ago. How they got in she wanst sure but there was a note saying thanks and some empty jars in the kitchen. Whoever stayed must have run when the dead swarmed inside. Jess had begged her to show her the river, so they took the car and left. They'd gone fishing and caught a few big ones, staying in the old cabin where the Johnsons had once lived, finding some helpful supplies. A first aid box, some alcohol in a flask, a dozen cans of beans and some books for Jess to read. The momentary bliss of the outing ruined when Mr Johnson came banging at the door, undead and hungry. Jess screamed when Rebecca crushed his skull with her shovel, almost having a seizure from the shock. Jess was only twelve, with a heart condition that meant moving from here would be too dangerous. When they had a radio, back when it started and there was still power in these parts, Rebecca had heard an emergency broadcast. Come to Washington. If it hadn't been for Jess and her heart, they'd have left a long time ago.
Stumbling on some undergrowth, she sighed and looked down at her hand. The smallest finger on her left hand was missing. Torn off in a trap some hunter had left in these woods. Luckily, she didn't have to worry about being stared at these days. Living people were scarce and any who were alive we're usually scarred from accidents much worse than hers. Who knew, maybe nine could be a lucky number. That was the number of walkers in the house when they got back. She drew them out to the Forrest, into one of her pit traps, all of them falling in, looking up at her as she set them alight. It took a week for them to fix the house back up but all the treasures they saved were safe in the basement. Jess didn't leave the house much anymore, but Rebecca tried hard to make food stores last, and left her daughter with a gun. These days, children needed to be protected, and sometimes it meant handing over to them the means of ending life.
A mans voice echoed through the clering, coming from behind the trees ahead of her. She was close to the road and the sound of engines running and fading away told her they were gone. Damn. Maybe she was a fool to come all this way this close to dark. They left and she couldn't hear the pained cries anymore.
The sun was starting to decend rapidly, but Rebecca's instincts told her she needed to keep going, to see if anyone needed her. People left other people behind all the time. What if the baby was there, what if someone was bit or... Anyhow, she'd take the dead and give them a proper burial. It wasn't right they should join the walking corpses or be feasted on.
Pulling out her radio, she called for her daughter, relieved to hear her timid voice answer, "Mom are you ok?"
"I'm fine, I just need to check something out I'll be back soon. Stay in te basement and call in if you hear anything."
"Mom... I heard a mouse..."
Rebecca smiled, climbing over a log, moss staining her jeans a she hurried out of the Forrest and onto the grass that bordered the road. Sure enough, the outline of a car and a red truck were there, in the distance.
"Be there soon Hun. Just keep dinner ready."
Strapping the talkie to her belt, Rebecca pulled out her shovel, spotting a walker emerging from the trees. Just one. A woman, dressed in a torn poppy print dress, jaw hanging open.
"Rest in peace," she said as the shovel made contact with the dead woman's skull, spraying blood onto the dry grass as she fell. Only when the dead woman was still did Rebecca look around.
Thy hadn't camped here. No sign of anything different... Then, she saw it. A grave. A mound of Fresh soil with a battered sherif hat atop of it. The marker was a poorly fashioned crucifix that... Moved.
Rebecca ran toward it, shovel ready, expecting a walker to rise up but... Nothing. It was risky but she began to dig, glancing around every few seconds, praying the sun could linger a little longer as te world began to burn with the dying light.
Come on, just a bit further. A growl came from behind her. They were coming. Digging deeper, she used her hands to free the body from what earth was left. The grave was shallow and the body was small. A pale arm was first to emerge, Rebecca's finger grasping the wrist. The pulse was feint, almost non existent, but it was there. She pulled hard, freeing the body, a head and bloodied hair appearing. There was a gap around the marker, wide enough for this poor dying girl to breath. The face was muddied and scarred, but a bullet hole through the top of the forehead was clear. Rebecca glanced behind her, the walker close but far enough for her to give the girl a quick study.
"Hey, hey, sweetheart, can you hear me?"
No response. A slight twitch of the fingers. The angle of the shot, the exit wound... It was hard to believe she was still alive, but she was. Brain damage likely. Internal bleeding should have killed her by now so maybe the shot just went clean through without bursting anything. She'd need stitches, pain relief, dined gang... To carry her back would mean risking her own death at the hands of a walking corpse, but Rebecca wasn't about to leave this girl to the rotting corpse that was on it's way.
"God, if you still care, help me!" She hissed, heaving the girl over her shoulder, thankful she was light, running back to the Forrest, panic rising as the Forrest grew darker, shadows lengthening. Anything could be waiting for her. Damn her humanity. Damn her morals. The world was full of bad people, she should be as ruthless and cruel as anyone else would be to her.
Rebecca cursed and kept moving, the silence making her heart ache with anticipation, the distant growl of the walker cut off suddenly. She could feel eyes on her and her mind screamed for her to turn around, but she didn't. Run. All she could do was run. Her radio crackled with interference, her daughters voice calling to her. The Wilkie talkie fell to the floor but she left it, she didn't have time to spare and no walker would be eager to steal it. Rebecca took a shuddering breath and kept going, the feint silouhette of the house appearing through the clearing ahead. Almost home. The bark of a dog in the distance made her smile with relief. Snow was nearby, he would be home soon. That mutt was useless at most things, but having him around made her feel like maybe, just maybe, she could have her old life back.
The limp girl shook a little, and it took her a second to fix the position she was carrying her, hurrying up the porch steps, hammering at the door. Jess answered without hesitation and Rebecca wanted to yell at her for not checking, but instead she hurried to the morgue room, lying the girl down, ignoring her daughters questions as she threw her bag to the floor and tore off her jacket, unlocking the medicine cabinet.
"Jess, get water and a towel. Clean her up. We have to be fast!"
"Here boy, wait up!"
Morgan cursed as a low branch lashed out and scratched at his cheek, ducking low, squinting into the dark. Damn dog was white as snow but seemed to blend into the shadows. He knew the road was nearby and that Rick was most likely miles away, but this dog was not letting him stray. Everytime he moved in another direction it came running back, pulling his trouser leg with its teeth, jumping about like it was going crazy. It was too late to start up the road to Washington, and to go searching for a car in areas he didn't know, about as stupid an idea as they came. If this dog had an owner, or had a place to stay at least, then it was Morgan's best bet at surviving. Walkers were scattered, he'd taken two down a while ago. None seemed to be about as they reached a patch of Forrest that was almost clear, the trees thinking out till he was standing on grass, a graveyard before him, a house up ahead. The house looked deserted but the dog was running up to the door, scratching, howling like it was calling for someone to let him in.
He crouched low, behind a gravestone, watching. The dog whined and barked again. Best scenario was this may have been a place Rick's group staid in before they left, maybe he could find more clues, some food, a...
The door opened, a small figure dressed in white emerging, petting the dog.
"Snow, come in you silly dog."
Morgan clutched the grave, closing his eyes, memories of his boy burning across his mind. He wiped his eyes, counting to ten, trying to calm himself. The kid was about the same age his boy had been when... No way a kid was here alone. There could be a group of hostile people in there, ready to shoot him dead. He couldn't risk going in blind, but he wasn't the type to break into a house where a kid was.
That's when he saw it. A black rectangular box just a few metres away. He grabbed it, resting against a grave, the feel of it reminding him of how Rick had always tried to reach out to him, before he lost it. Morning broadcasts, always hopeful they'd meet and help eachother survive.
He took a breath, pressing down on the side button, voice wavering as he spoke, "I...I need to talk to whoever is in the house. Hello?"
A minute passed, the moon appearing, accompanied by a dozen stars that shone too bright. To think people wished on those things. He'd give anything to believe prayers and hopes could do anything anymore.
"We have guns. If you try and attack, your dead."
A woman's voice. She was trying to sound strong but there was a fear behind her words. If there was a man there, he'd have spoke. A mother and daughter, maybe. Or sisters. He felt a little of his old humanity return.
"I swear on my life, I'm not here to hurt anyone. Your dog led me here. I'm just looking for my friends, they left earlier today."
Silence. The voice was less defensive when a reply came.
"They went up to Washington, right?"
"Yeah. Man called Rick. They leave anything behind?"
"You could say that. Leave your weapons on the porch and stand away... Please."
He didn't expect such a brisk reply and got up swiftly, taking the gun from his back and the machete from his belt, placing them on the porch, backing up just as the door opened. The woman stared at him, studying him. She was middle aged, most likely younger than him by a good ten years, hair dyed red, her hands covered in soil, her shirt stained with blood. There was a tan to her skin, but her cheeks were smeared with mud. Morgan could see she'd be digging, and shed taken down a walker in the process. The silence was deafening. She took his weapons inside, closing the door.
Shit. He cursed. Had he just been robbed. The sight of another person dumbfounding him...
The door opened, the woman holding out a hand. It took him a moment to realise what he needed to do, shaking it, smiling at her. She didn't return the smile, nervous.
"I'm Morgan. I know your not gonna believe me but I mean no harm to you or your girl."
"I know. You don't look like they do."
He frowned, confused, as she shrugged, "I mean the men who usually look at me like I'm a piece of meat. Plus, what kind of killer asks to be invited in."
He laughed, handing her the Walkie talkie, which made her smile. Letting him in, she hit the kitchen knife in her belt, pulling her shirt down, alarmed when Jess came running into the hall, staring anxiously at Morgan, holding her daddy's revolver. He didn't seem alarmed, smiling.
"You hurt us, I'll... I'll..."
Morgan nodded, "you'll stop me hurting anyone. I know. My son was the same... Tell you what, you have this and give the gun to you mom." He retrieved a boiled sweet from his pocket. Strawberry. She gave him a wary look, taking it slowly. He had to stop himself from lingering on the memory of his son, eyes burning from the repressed tears, looking to Rebecca.
"You said they left something behind."
She nodded, holding up her muddied hands, "actually, they left someone. Follow me."