Shelter from the Storm
Written August 2013
Rated a very strong R
Synopsis: A routine supply run turns dangerous as Daryl and Carol find themselves battling against Mother Nature … but the storm brewing within their shelter might be more intense than the one raging outside.
Disclaimer: The characters and universe herein were created by Robert Kirkman et al. The series is produced by AMC and other corporations. No infringement is intended.
“Come on, Carol; daylight’s burnin’.”
“Just a minute.”
Daryl rolled his eyes as he readjusted the crossbow in his arms. Women. If it was him, he would’ve wiped the whole shelf into his bag and been done with it. Probably why she came along in the first place, he thought. He didn’t know the first thing about weddings.
Glenn had proposed to his girl with a walker’s ring, and now the prison was all abuzz with wedding planning. It was stupid if anyone asked him, which nobody did. What the hell kind of life could you have if the dead were walking the earth? And what good was ’til death do you part’ when you weren’t likely to live another year?
To him, it was pointless. But Rick said a wedding would boost morale, and with those pansy-ass Woodbury people with their little tea parties and barbecues, he really wanted them to feel at home. Daryl thought they were delusional; Rick saw them as their future. As usual, Rick won, and Daryl offered to pick up whatever they needed for the party – to spend some time away from the chatter more than anything. Maggie prepared a list of supplies, and Carol damn near demanded to go with him on the run. Whatever. She wasn’t a thorn in his side like most people – more of a maddening itch that just wouldn’t go away.
Their group hadn’t collected supplies this far north before; the road traversed a densely wooded area, and the walkers often came from that direction. He, Rick, Tyreese, and Michonne had scouted the area over the past month, finding a few small towns along the way and marking them on a map if they looked promising. The first few runs had proven fruitful, but each time they cleaned out an area, they had to go farther away the next time.
In happier times, Livingston – an ironic name if he’d ever heard one – maintained a population of 73 according to the wooden sign they’d passed on their way into town. It was forty minutes off the main highway and basically consisted of one gravel-coated street flanked by a bar, bank, general store, church, and meeting hall. All of the houses could be reached by traveling down single lane dirt roads that branched off of the main street. On the north side of the road, the buildings were backed by a thick area of trees. The south side also had some woodland that cut sharply to a ravine, farmland nestled at the bottom.
Since the area was unexplored and most of the places they had stopped hadn’t been picked over, he figured the town would be teeming with walkers. He gazed up and down the road again, standing in the doorless entryway to the general store. Nothing. No people, no animals, and no walkers.
It was damn near eerie.
“Still got a few things left on my list,” Carol said, approaching him with a backpack full of supplies, “but I’m pleased with what I found here.”
“The real list or Maggie’s hair-brained idea of necessities?”
“You may not care about the wedding, but it means a lot to a lot of people, especially Maggie.”
He pulled a face and grabbed her backpack. “Did you find any cigarettes?”
“Oh yeah?” He pointed over her shoulder to the shelves behind the cash register. “Then what’s that box over there?” An entire carton of smokes with his name on it, he reckoned. He slid past her and hopped over the counter. It had been a while since he’d had a cigarette, even longer since he’d had a really stiff drink. Apparently looters were more concerned with alcohol than bullets; they’d found plenty of ammunition on their trek north, but even Livingston’s bar had been completely raided of liquor. He reached for the carton of Marlboro Reds, nearly salivating with anticipation, and opened the end. Empty. “Shit.”
Carol put the backpack on the counter and rustled through it, pulling out a crumpled package of Newport Mediums. She offered him one of the two cigarettes still inside. “Found this.”
“Menthol? Hell no.” He spun the backpack around to him. “What else do you have in here?”
“Most everything from the list.”
“Yeah, you said that already. What exactly is missin’?”
She laid the paper on the counter, smoothing out the folds. “Couldn’t find any oatmeal, water, kids’ books, extra t-shirts, or lingerie.”
“Lingerie? What the hell do we need lingerie for?”
“I thought it might make their weddin’ night special.”
“Ain’t nothin’ Glenn hasn’t seen before.”
“Yeah, but…” She shrugged a little, eyes downcast. “It should be special.”
He was about to tell her how ridiculous she sounded, but movement outside of the store caught his eye. “Shit. Walkers.” He lifted his crossbow and headed toward the store front as Carol withdrew the pistol from her belt holster.
“Was wonderin’ when we’d see any.”
“Aw, fuck…” He nodded toward the west. “It’s a fuckin’ herd.”
She sidled up behind him to look out the long window. A massive pack of walkers shambled down the road that dissected the town. “There’s gotta be at least fifty of ’em.”
“Fuck,” he said again. The herd came from the direction of their truck. A couple of walkers lingered by the vehicle, but most of them continued on their path. “Ain’t no way to get past ’em. Gonna have to wait ’em out.”
“That could take hours. Days.”
“Ya got a better idea?” She said nothing, of course, and crouched down on the dusty floor. He chewed on his bottom lip. “Didn’t mean to snap at ya.”
She waved off his apology. “Just want to make it back in time for the weddin’.”
He resisted the urge to roll his eyes again.
Time passed slowly, although without watches and clocks, there was no concept of it anymore. Just day and night. While it was still day, clouds had moved in, obscuring the sunlight and casting a gloomy grey over the area. Then the rain came, first a gentle trickle then a steady pour. The sky grew darker, making it harder to see the walkers passing through town.
Carol sat in silence while Daryl maintained vigil at the window, making sure the walkers kept on walking and didn’t deviate from their relatively straight path. She knew the drill and didn’t complain. She was just happy to get out of the prison.
She enjoyed her roles as teacher, chef, and laundress. But sometimes she wanted more. This run was the perfect opportunity to practice her ever-developing combat skills. It was with Daryl, who she trusted more than anyone at the prison – except when it came to wedding supplies, which was another reason she was happy to go. He probably would have taken one look at the list, declared it frivolous (or some colorful synonym), and thrown it out.
She wanted a chance to prove that she was more than a stereotypical woman and could do more than a stereotypical woman’s work. She was strong with a knife, could use a rifle and a hand gun, and had been learning about edible and medicinal plants, thanks to a book Daryl had retrieved a few months back. She was more valuable than people thought, and she was tired of being underestimated.
She glanced up at Daryl and smiled at him, although his attention was focused elsewhere. He never underestimated her. He knew she was strong, knew she could fight. He wouldn’t have taken her on this run, alone, if he thought she would be a burden. She wasn’t going to let him down. So she sat quietly and waited, focused on the sounds that the herd made as it moved through town, hearing the rain slap the ground as it fell, listening for anything that didn’t fit.
And that’s when she heard it. Something slight and almost imperceptible over the noise, like a ticking or chittering. Not a walker sound. An animal?
Daryl heard it too. His body tensed, finger nearing the trigger of his crossbow. Carol readied her pistol and stood. Her heart hammered in her chest with apprehension. Whatever it was, it was getting closer. Daryl brought up his crossbow and took aim at the doorway.
It took them a moment to realize the sound was coming from a raccoon which had tentatively sought refuge from the rain inside the store. Daryl silenced it with a perfectly placed shot to the head.
But they weren’t the only ones to hear the animal – or maybe they were, and it was the smell of death that drew them near. Several of the passing walkers shifted their bodies to face the store and started toward the fresh kill.
Carol jerked her head away from the window. “Guess we’ll be taking the back door.”
She hoisted the backpack over her shoulder, securing her gun back in its holster, and headed for the rear of the store. Daryl followed, pausing only long enough to fire an arrow into the hazy eye of a walker who had breached the entrance.
Carol yanked the door open and found herself face to face with a walker. She let out a yelp, instinctively kicking her left foot into its chest, and dropped to her knees. Daryl’s arrow flew overhead and landed in the walker’s skull. He pulled her up then handed her a knife. “Move.” Five walkers now crowded the front entrance with more trying to shove through.
The rain assaulted them the moment they stepped outside. It was coming down harder now, drenching them within seconds. Carol blinked through the rain that stung her eyes. Visibility was mediocre, but there was no mistaking the human forms of the living dead that stumbled toward them. “Daryl!” She gestured to the oncoming group of walkers with the tip of her blade. Apparently the herd was bigger than they initially thought, or some of them had broken off and gone behind the stores instead of down the road. Either way, there were at least ten headed their way, and they had taken notice of them.
Together they raced away from the store, sliding across grass and mud and fallen leaves. Carol dodged branches as she ran, her outstretched hand pushing them away and helping to block the rain. She could hear Daryl behind her, muttering curses and occasionally firing an arrow.
A flash of lightning illuminated her path for an instant, and she cried out as she nearly stumbled into a walker. She thrust her knife into its face and kicked it away to remove the weapon. She couldn’t see any others, but she could hear them, even over the rain. The moaning and snarling sent her adrenaline into overdrive.
They had to get out of here.
Every step deeper into the forest was another step toward danger and away from safety. Even if it hadn’t been raining, the forest here was so thick that most light wouldn’t get through the trees on a bright day. She’d found a kerosene lantern in the store, but it didn’t do them any good without fuel, and there wasn’t time to stop and fix it up. They were truly running blind.
Without warning, Carol lost her footing and starting slipping backwards, but instead of the expected thud on the ground, she felt herself continue to fall. The shock and immediacy of it took her breath away, and she reached out to Daryl as she slid.
She squinted through the rain to see him, belly to the ground, gripping her arm as she dangled from … what was this? She chanced a look down and saw nothing but blackness.
“The ravine,” he said as if he could read her mind. “It drops about twenty feet.”
“Shit.” She swung her other arm up and thrust her knife into the ground for support. She was glad she hadn’t dropped it.
“Can ya stand on anything? Climb your way up while I pull?”
She relaxed her legs and carefully searched for secure footing. The cliff was actually slanted, and she felt a lot of tree roots, but they were slippery from the rain and mud. “No, the—Daryl!”
A walker lunged forward, hands ready to tear into flesh. Daryl pitched to his side and lifted a leg up, catching the walker in the groin and hoisting it over the ravine. She could barely make out the outlines of three other walkers closing in on their position. Daryl rolled onto his stomach again and grabbed her arm with both hands. “Fuck. You gotta get up now.”
“Not enough time.” She pulled her knife out of the ground. “See you at the bottom.”
For a moment, she thought fear might have flickered across his face. For himself or for her, it didn’t matter; she was terrified enough for both of them. “You live through this, I’m gonna kick your ass.”
“Lookin’ forward to it.”
And with that, he let go.
End of chapter 1