Heartwood

Seemed like nearly every time he came through the clearing someone else had added a comment to Merle's tree.

TWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWD

Daryl had buried Merle in the woods. He doubted Merle gave much of a damn where his sorry carcass ended up; despite Merle's physicality, really his body had just been the shell that had carried him, and briefly carried something else, around. But despite that, Daryl knew he'd have had plenty to say if Daryl buried him in the prison grounds, in the growing graveyard that consisted of the corpses of people Merle had mostly despised. "Spent enough time behind bars, Darylena, and now you want to lay me to rest – rest! Huh! – in this dump? Next to those mighty fine sheeple you like to consider friends? Jesus, bad enough that I got taken down by a one-eyed man, last thing I want is to lie round where people are gonna be singing Kumbaya!"

After putting down the walker that had once been Merle, Daryl had lingered at the grain store for a while, trying and failing to pull himself together. Every time he thought he had it done, a massive spout of emotion would come gushing up from inside, overwhelming and crippling, and he would find himself gasping and helpless on the ground. After a while the stray walkers started getting too interested, after all he and Merle were the freshest things around, and he'd had to start killing walkers to keep himself alive and Merle's body somewhat intact.

He'd driven the car Merle had "liberated" over to the body and loaded it onto the back seat, then driven away along the highway, foot down, music blaring, and his free hand around the neck of a bottle of Jack, crossbow on the front seat beside him. He'd stopped at the prison long enough to pick up a shovel and deter Rick from joining him. Merle would have cut Daryl's balls off before he'd let him have "Officer Friendly" help out at his burial.

After driving some distance from the prison, Daryl laid the body on a tarp from the trunk, and dragged it into the woods surrounding the correctional facility. In a sunny clearing, he buried Merle beneath a large old white oak, out away from the roots, and tamped the soil down hard. The digging was cathartic and afterwards he felt light and hollow, staring-eyed, as if he had been walking for days on low rations. He took out his small knife and carefully carved "Merle Dixon" into the bark of the tree at about eye level, adding Merle's birthdate just below the name. He liked the idea that maybe in about a hundred years someone might come by and wonder who the hell Merle Dixon was.

TWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWDTWD