An Epilogue Isn't Always The End
By the time spring graced us with its presence, we were a ragged-looking bunch. Covered in patches of dirt and dried blood, we still went from place to place, with Rick dead-set on finding us whatever safe haven he had in mind.
We were also a lethal bunch. We found weapons and tools throughout those months, and taught each other how to use them. No one was shy anymore. No one was timid. We knew when to fight, or flight. When possible, we worked smarter not harder. There was a rhythm we'd reached.
All the same, we were exhausted as much as we were glad that winter was over and done with. There were bumps along the way, of course. Lori was struggling through her pregnancy, so we all agreed to ration accordingly. She protested at first, but we didn't want to hear a word of it.
Food was the ultimate factor. There were times where cans of dog food were the only things available. It frustrated me and Daryl to no end. We were the protectors as much as we were the providers. However, we didn't get mad or take it out on anyone. We just kept on going and trying.
Carl and Rick had changed drastically. Rick was in a constant state of bullheadedness that surpassed even me. I was seeing glimpses of his future self more and more with every passing week. Carl was a force to be reckoned with. Still impulsive, but his confidence with any weapon showed. He was often asked to stay by his mother, but it wasn't unheard of for him to cautiously inspect a potential new living space for us.
Rick, Carl, and Lori. There was a problem with these three, one that I couldn't pinpoint. It was family drama, for sure, but with something underlying. Something not good. Rick and Lori barely talked, and Lori still tried to overprotect her son. The bitterness they all shared refused to go away.
It was none of my business, but it was prevalent nonetheless.
The wind rushed to greet us as we sped down the road. I felt the push and pull of the shifting gears, and the lean of every curve we took. We got the motorcycle back. After some quick maintenance at having sat for so long, we wasted no time in hopping on for a ride.
The rest of the group were traveling behind us. None of us had a destination in mind. We were still looking for that one place to call our own.
I was smiling from ear to ear. Not only because I was back on a motorcycle again, but because of where we currently were. I knew this area so well that it made my heart ache with the urge to explore it again. But no. I still wanted to stay in the present, for just a little longer. So, I had to keep my eagerness down.
Daryl knew something was up with me, especially when I felt him playfully nudge my ribs with his elbow. I didn't respond to that, just held onto his waist tighter as we rode.
Soon, our caravan came to a stop. We needed certain supplies and also needed a more specific sense of direction. Carl and Beth took lookout positions while the rest of us huddled over a map.
"We got no place left to go," T-Dog said.
Maggie pointed to certain points on the map. "When this herd meets up with this one, we'll be cut off. We'll never make it south."
"What did you say," Daryl asked. "About a hundred-fifty head?"
"That was last week," Glenn said. "Could be twice that by now."
"This river could've delayed them," Hershel noted. "If we move fast, we might have a shot to tear right through there."
"Yeah," T-Dog said. "But if this group joins with that one, they could spill out this way."
"So we're blocked," Maggie muttered.
"Only thing to do is double back at twenty-seven, swing toward Greenville," Rick said.
T-Dog scratched at his neck. "Yeah, we-we picked through that already. It's like we spent the winter going in circles."
"Yeah, I know, I know," Rick nodded. "At Newnan we'll push west. Haven't been through there yet. We can't keep goin' house to house. Need to find someplace to hole up for a few weeks."
I nodded. "In the meantime, we need to be on the lookout for air horns and duct tape." I almost chuckled at the horrified looks they gave me. "We're gonna keep running into large herds. When we do, we can use the air horns as a last resort. They'll be attracted to the noise. If we position them correctly, it'll hopefully get their attention off of us for a bit and give us an opening. It works in a pinch, but not long term. Um, an alternative are flare guns, but that doesn't keep 'em distracted as long."
"I'll keep an eye out," Glenn said.
"We need water right now, too," T-Dog said. "Is it cool if we get to the creek before we head out?"
"Knock yourself out," Rick said. "Layla, go with 'em. Watch their backs."
I nodded once. We were on speaking terms now, eye contact and all. He knew how much this group needed me, otherwise he probably would've ditched me long ago. That's one way to maintain a friendship, I guess.
Collecting water with Maggie and T-Dog was without event. While I kept watch, they filled up as many jugs and canteens as possible to boil later.
When we made it back to the road, Daryl's arm came around me. "I'ma steal you for a moment," he said. "Found somethin'."
There was a knowing smile on his lips
I almost put my hand over my mouth, my own smile taking over my face. "Hell yeah!"
He led me down overgrown train tracks. A river appeared on our right, cutting through the trees, allowing us to see beyond the fields. My heart was thudding in my chest.
He chuckled at my expression, bumping his shoulder against mine. "Think you said somethin' about a prison."
Taken over by walkers, surrounded by tall chain-link and barbed wire, was The West Georgia Correctional Facility. The prison.
I was finally home.
Please Read, if you have the time: For those of you that have stuck with this story this long, me and my editor thank you. This was technically three years in the making, in terms of planning, editing, and even rewriting it. This was such an odd, bizarre, crazy story, and we're glad to have written it.
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