The soft tune of a piano song floated through the house, filling every room, easing away the darkness lurking in every chipped board and splintered door. For a moment, everything was as it should be. The house was warm, safe, a home for lost souls escaping from the shadows outside. Even the candle lights seemed to sway with the song that played from the mourning room. Each piano key bringing light to the shadows, and soon, it was almost impossible to believe the world had ended. Everything felt new and bright.
A soft voice accompanied the tune, singing a song that promised better days and youthful dreams. Morgan rose from his sleep without feeling the need to sit up and watch out for the dead. Instead, his eyes drifted to the doorway, his mind soothed by the music.
He rose, abandoning his shoes and coat, walking out, past the preserved dead man who lay peacefully in his coffin, into the hallway, looking to the mourning room.
A small figure sat at the piano, hair shimmering gold in the warmth if the candle light, voice unlike any he had ever heard,
"...And pine for summer, And we'll buy...beer to shotgun, And we'll lay in the lawn, And we'll be good."
He walked in, glancing toward the coffin, suprises to see Rebecca sitting on a chair close by, Jess beside her, her head resting on her mothers shoulder. They seems so calm and peaceful, he longed to join the momentary bliss the girls voice had cast upon the room, but he had too many questions. Time was against them. He gave Rebecca a nod toward the girl and she blinked, awakening from her reverie, nodding back at him. She knew they couldn't stay like this. She was still trying to tell herself his wasn't a dream, that it was true she had woken up to find the girl sitting at the piano.
Morgan came to the girls side, conflicted over what he should say, though she seemed to notice him as her fingers slipped a key and her eyes darted to him. Momentary alarm subsiding into a softer expression, calm and curious.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake everyone up..."
He smiled, shaking his head, sitting on the closest chair as he addressed her, "no, that's fine. Were just glad your up. I'm Morgan."
Her smile faded, her mind suddenly clouded as she began to try and piece together her memories. Names and faces and feelings floated about in her conscious, but none were clear, all fleeting and faded like fireflies drifting blinking in the dark of night. Fireflies. They stirred up memories. Memories of a barn, of an older brother, of a jar filled with the tiny fire creatures that she watched for a while before insisting he open the lid and let them free. Jimmy. Jimmy was her older brother... And he'd died on the farm. Her families farm. Jimmy, Maggie, her mom. All gone.
Staring at the man beside her, she opened her mouth to speak, frowning, eyes teary as she held a hand to her forehead, "I...I'm...I can't..."
He held out a hand and placed it on her forearm gently, "That's okay, don't worry... How's about you tell me what you can remember and... And I'll help fill in the blanks."
She nodded, suddenly looking determined, her fingers tracing the bullet scar on. her forehead as her eyes widened. Suddenly, the last week was clear as day. The hospital, the officers, that man who tried to... To use her. The doctor who made her kill the injured man. Carol. Some people tried to save her, people whose faces she couldn't remember. Then, something happened. Something...
She touched her scar again, fingers trembling, "I got shot... At the hospital, I got shot by... Someone. They took me, they kidnapped me, I was..."
She looked around, recognising the room. The piano. The chairs. The crucifix on the wall. The coffin. Something in her mind told her that coffin was missing something.
A sad smile crept to her lips, "I was here... With someone. Walkers attacked and I had to run..."
Rebecca stood, eyes wide in awe, voice unsteady, "you left the note..."
The girl turned and nodded, apologising, but Rebecca just shook her head and urged she keep trying to remember. After a long silence, filled with her pained sighs, Morgan decided she needed help.
"How about you tell me about your family."
He regretted that question. Her eyes were teary as she looked at him, suddenly seeming older than she was, "All gone. Maggie, Jimmy, mom...My daddy... Hershel Greene... He was a good man. Never let the world change him... Up till the day a man called the governor cut his head off and destroyed our home."
Jess shivered and Rebecca suddenly felt cold. The governer. Woodbury. The names were mentioned a while back, a community that took people in. Not long ago, she had met a couple on their way to Woodbury, they'd said it was under the governors control. Not long after she'd met them again, corpses lying in the road near the old prison, bullet holes in their broken bodies. If it hadn't been for her mistrust of the promised safe town, she might have taken refuge in its walls. When the group known as the whisperers started frequenting the areas around the house, lurking around the road, she'd been horrified by the thought that they might find them. She still feared that they might find them. If Morgana and the girl left, chances were they would find them on the road... Rebecca shivered and focused back on Morgan, who was giving the girl time to come to terms with her altered mind.
After another minute, he pressed on, "what about a man called Rick Grimes?"
She smiled, a face clearing as she gave a name to the man who seemed present in a lot of her memories. Rick Grimes. An ex cop who came to the farm, he saved them, he lost his wife, he tried to save the prison... She nodded, "Rick and Carl. Dad let them stay on the farm, then it burnt and we went... We went to a prison. Rick...He was like a dad to me. I used to look after Judith when her mom died."
She began to wince, holding her head in her hands, pulling away when he tried to place a hand on her shoulder. There were other people. An Asian boy with a cap, a woman wielding a sword... And a cross bow in the hands of man shrouded in mist... She suppressed tears, shaking her head violently, "I'm missing something... I'm forgetting people... Names..."
Rebecca took hold of her, resting the girls face in her chest, calming her down, promising she'd have answers soon. Rest was needed, and food and water... But Morgan knew the longer they waited, the further Rick would be. He didn't want to be the type of man to use an injured girl for his own gains, but he needed to leave before he lost all hope of finding Rick. Besides, as alone as she may seem, someone in that group must miss her and need her. Her voice alone, singing out in the darkness, had made him rise up and believe in hope, even it was for a second. Someone like her wasn't let go of easy.
Before she fainted, the girl glanced at Morgan and uttered a single sentence.
"My name...it's Dawn."
Daryl was sick of him. The preacher who trembled more than a scared kid. He hated how he cowered behind everyone, how he held a machete like it was heavy as stone, how he looked like he might shit his pants if a tree moved. Most of all, he hated what he said. Hell, every god damn hour he'd be trying to console Maggie with biblical advise that Daryl hated to hear. Crap about Beth being somewhere better, that she died a martyr, that she was a saint and she'd be with god.
No, Beth was gone because he'd failed her, he'd let her get taken and then watched as she was shot by the woman who hurt her. They should never have left the damn shack. Why did they burn it down. That night on the porch, when he let himself think about the past and tell her about his old life, he should have told her they'd stay there, together, safe. Beth wanted to burn it down for him, but he should have seen that keeping it standing was safest for her.
He wasn't one to open up about this kind of pain, but he wished he had someone to talk to. Beth had found a way to make him talk, even when he didn't want to. She got him to talk about all the shit he'd faced as a kid, about how much he missed his brother, about how bad he felt failing her dad. The only person who would understand him was Beth, and she was the damn reason he was hurting.
"Daryl, how much further?"
He glanced back at Rick who was carrying Judith. The cars had run out of gas and they were heading north, hoping to find the roadside motel Abraham says was on the map. He couldn't see much ahead but there was something tall and square hidden by trees to the right, a sign most like. He turned back and shrugged.
Rick nodded, "You okay?"
Daryl shrugged again and walked back a little, asking Sasha for the water flask. As she handed it over, he could hear Glenn trying to get through to Maggie, her eyes glazed over ass he walked without a sound, almost as listless as a walker. Daryl didn't blame her for being upset but she wasn't the one who had looked out for Beth, who kept searching for her. Hell, he'd refused to even consider Beth was dead, he found the hospital, he...
"I-I hope you know, she's at peace."
He glared at the preacher, who had made the mistake of addressing him. It took seconds for Daryl to grab him and thrust him against the nearest tree, ignoring the protest of Sasha and Tyrese as he yelled.
"Don't go giving me no damn sermon.."
"I just... I just want to say I understand, your grief, and maybe with The Lord you might find peace..." There was that face again. Daryl hated that face. Face of a coward scared of his own shadow. Why did a yellow livered dog like him deserve to live? Why was he alive and Beth weren't?
He began trying to talk again, so Daryl pushed him, harder, knocking the air out of him. All the anger and guilt and remorse and pain venting from him as he spoke.
"Only person I found peace with is a hundred miles back buried in the ground. You wanna ask your lord somthing? Ask him why he took away the only good person left in this world?!"
Daryl pushed him aside, letting him fall to the floor, unable to hear what the group were trying to say to him. Instead, he walked ahead, anger fueling him to stray from the others, heading toward a clearing where he forced his knife into a tree repeatedly. With each crack of wood he felt a little of his anger burn away.
Damn them, damn the whole lot. Why should he listen to that crazy priest talking about god, or Maggie acting out because she couldn't stand grieving for the sister she'd abandoned. Whole world had gone to shit and now they were just walking away from what they knew to Washington. Abraham was sure somthing was there but why listen to some unstable military dumb ass and his beliefs.
"Fuck them all," he muttered, not meaning it, the anger subsiding into the numb pain he'd felt since the hospital stand off. Why did he care where they went? There was nothing left for him back there. Merle was gone, Beth too. If it weren't for Rick and Glenn, maybe Daryl may have taken off.
"You'll be the last man standing." Beth's words were like a knife in the ribs. For a girl brought up on country songs and wishful thoughts, she was wise. In fact, everything she said was true. She said she'd be gone someday. She said he'd miss her bad when she was gone. Only thing she forgot to say was why it took her dying to make him realise how much of his future he'd seen in her. It was as though he'd based every hope he had on the light that was Beth Greene, and when that light went out, he was drowned in that darkness he'd been born into. Somehow, that day at the house with her was like a window looking in on the kind of life he wanted. Everything just fit together and he was happy, so happy he was willing to try and bargain with whoever lived there so they could stay safe, together. He'd believed that good people may still be out there. For a moment at least.
Now, he was sure every soul out there was infected with the poison that surged through Dawn and her crew of crooked cops. Beth had made him believe better things, somehow she got to him. Why? How? He didn't know himself. Why Beth Greene meant so much to him was a question that would never be answered, and he drove his knife harder into the wood of the tree as he let himself, for a second, remember her face, that night in the kitchen. That moment her eyes were on him and the world fell silent, before the dead broke down the door and forced them apart.
That's when he heard the someone approaching, pulling his sword out from the hacked oak, walking away, more lost than ever before. It was Rick, his expression more concerned than angry.
"Daryl, I get you angry..."
No. No, Daryl couldn't talk to Rick about this. Not yet. He just said "I'm fine," and walked back to the road, heading north. He had to just keep moving. He couldn't look back. Beth was dead and it was his fault, and his punishment was a life without light.
He began humming a tune, smiling sadly as he realised it was the song shed played at the house. He'd told her to play, that he listened to her only because there wasn't a juke box. Truth was, if he had to listen to only one song fir the rest of his, it was her song.