The Walking Dead (Eternityinblue and Iikaitlyni)
Georgia was, at the best of times, not a fun place to go backpacking. Properly clothed and outfitted, well supplied with water and food and portable shelter, the miles of hiking and camping trails could at least be made tolerable. Beyond that luxery, though, and it quickly became a nightmare. Add to that swamps, bugs, and uncertain terrain, it became a death trap full of quicksand and gators.
Throw in an unknown number of walkers who wanted to eat you down to the bone, and it officially became Hell.
And it was through that hellish wasteland that Daryl Dixon, armed only with a crossbow, knife, and the strength of his arm now traversed. It was by no means his preferred destination, all things considered. He'd much rather be back at base camp with a blanket and a bear. Hell, above all he'd want to be back five years ago before the damn outbreak happened. But all of those things would leave Sophie-defenseless, terrified Sophie- out on her own. And for all his faults Daryl wasn't too keen on that at all.
Then again, if he stumble-felled into one more mire of swamp water and ooze, even his slender patience would break. How the hell a little girl would have gotten out this far alone he'd no idea. He himself had almost broken a bone out here twice. Still, kids were tenacious, especially scared, and he had to hope that the little girl had the courage and sense to keep moving.
Which, as shadows continued to fall over the backwoods, Daryl was beginning to see he had too much of. Here amid the cyprus swamps and mossy, meandering streams, he'd wandered farther then he'd intended. There was no making it back to the farm, not before nightfall. And it was dangerous and stupid to try to traverse these 'trails' after dark. The walkers would keep moving, that was sure, but if humans wanted to stay in one piece it would only be through a camp. Which meant he had to find a decent place before too much longer.
Grateful now for the denim and flannel he'd donned that morning- hot and clinging in the noon sun, but perfect for the chill of night-, Daryl aimed his steps east. It would give him the most light for longer, as well as putting him on the right track towards the farm. He'd seen a clearing a few hundred yards back...
"Damn swamps. Never givin' a man a fuckin' break. Gonna break my dang neck before I make it out of here."
Ever since the outbreak all one could do is move. Move from place to place and try to make sure they had enough supplies to survive. Staying in one area to long was much too dangerous. Walkers could pop out anywhere and hordes could come through at any time. Traveling around was just as dangerous but in a way it seemed less than the former. Not to mention you could run out of supplies and places close by to get them if you stuck to one particular area for a length of time. There were many other factors, but that was the main one as far as Scarlett Puckett was concerned.
Supplies was the main concern right now. With it being only herself she didn't have to worry nearly as much about food and water as when she'd been with her small group. Mostly she just had to worry about survival. One by one the group had been picked off and then at the very end she had gotten separated from the few that were left. Now all she could do was hope being on her own would bring her more luck than the months she spent with the people whom she hardly knew, except for her one friend that she knew from the old life before everything went to hell.
With her small backpack of supplies, she needed to find a town and try to scavenge for more water and food. Anything that could keep her from starving and make it to another day. The only other things she had was a dagger and a pistol with a silencer. Her fathers uncle had been a collector of weapons, and while it didn't seem as though he survived through the initial outbreak she had at least been able to get these from his house. These and as much food and beverages as she could carry. Where everything else went she wasn't really sure.
Here soon she was going to need to find more ammo as well. Everything just seemed to go rather fast, it was very frustrating.
Walking through the woods she didn't know exactly where she was as far as cities or towns went. Yes she was in Georgia, but to pinpoint a specific location after being in the woods a couple days could really get one turned around.
Her feet was light as she walked through the woods. Every so often she'd step on a twig and make a sound, but she tried not to very often because walkers could be anywhere.
With night coming Scarlett was kind of relieved. The hot Georgia weather could be stifling. That was a big reason why one ran out of water so quickly; because of the heat. This was why she stuck with her light flowing blue blouse. It was the one that attracted the heat the least. Keeping a lot of clothes was much to hard so she only had two other shirts aside from what she was wearing and a couple other jeans apart from the ones she wore. Anymore than that was just to much to carry when you had to worry about supplies and carrying them.
"It's starting to get dark," she mumbled and knew walking to much longer wasn't a smart idea. Traveling in the dark was much to risky. One was more prone to make noise and alert walkers during the dead of night.
"I'll just have to hope I find a town tomorrow," she sighed and turned her attention to finding somewhere to rest and sleep with one eye open.
The swamp was getting deeper. On either side of the growing mass he could make out the small streamlets that fed the marshy area. Tall Cyprus trees dominated most of the landscape, except for a small dry center. An island of sort, a raised areas created by sediment deposits over years and years of flooding. It'd be sandy and full of small pebbles and swamp detritus, but it'd also be dry. Even if he couldn't risk a fire, Daryl'd prefer not to kip in six inches of mud. Levering his crossbow on one shoulder, he set off to look for a decent crossing point--and froze.
That same weapon dropped into his hands, lodged against his shoulder and lethal in a matter of seconds. He dropped into a one kneed crouch, quick eyes darting form movement to movement among the trees. There was no tell tale groaning, no mindless stumble in the immediate vacinity, but some out of place movement had brushed against his hunter's instincts. It hadn't forzen at his movements, so he ruled out deer. Nothing came stumbling out of the woods after him, so walkers were gone too. That only left a cougar-which he really didn't want to deal with- or...
In his former life, the idea of calling out to a stranger, issuing what equaled a death threat probably would not have been par for the course for him. Merle, yeah- his brother had a temper- but Daryl had never really been the super violent one in the family. Still, things were so different now. And that meant every damn thing was changing. Even the reaction to strangers.
"I can hear ya." His voice was pitched low, not meant to carry far. Perfectly audible to humans but, as he and Rick had learned, hard for the walkers to detect. "Come out an' let me see ya, 'less you want an arrow to the throat."
The woods had never really been Scarlett's favorite place. That had always been a couple of her cousins thing. The idea of being out and where no cell phone service or any type of electricity could reach had always been a turn off. Now that phones were basically useless it didn't really matter in the least. Maybe had she tried to go joking and camping a little more often as a kid she wouldn't have as hard of a time keeping track of where she'd already been and kind of mentally marking things. It made her want to scold herself that she hadn't tried to learn more survival skills whole growing up. Self defense classes could only get one so far in a world filled with walkers that could only be killed by some sort of wound to the head.
The blonde couldn't be too sure how much longer she had walked. There didn't seem a point in carrying watches or anything of the sort anymore and so why not just go by the sun as to what time of day it was? Maybe having one would be nice though. Knowing the time, or date, or something might make one feel slightly normal. How things used to be.
A slight noise came from her right causing her to tense but she forced herself to keep walking. If it was one of them dead freaks it would've been trying to come at her already most likely. Maybe it was just an animal. Scarlett would've preferred if that were the case. Nowadays everything seemed to be a threat. Walkers, the potential danger of other humans, anything and everything. It did make her wish she could have found her group again. There was safety in numbers. A female all alone- by herself- in a world like this, was just asking for trouble.
The voice caused her to stop dead in her tracks. Well shit. This was just what she needed. It was almost night and she had to go run into some other living person. A living person might've been slightly better than the dead ones, but you really couldn't trust anyone these days. Her hand itched to grab the pistol at the small of her back, or even the dagger strapped to her leg under her jeans, but she had to resist. He might shoot her before she had the chance to grab either one.
Hesitantly she came out and towards the voice. Just up ahead she could make out a person and they did indeed have a crossbow loaded and pointed in her direction. "I'm just passing through," she stated and didn't and to say too much. She couldn't let him know she was all alone or had anything of use that could be taken. Nope. Other humans couldn't be trusted anymore because it was survival time now and she couldn't let herself be one of those weak people that get trampled over.
Daryl lowered the crossbow slightly, still wary. Better someone alive then a walker, this was true enough, unless that person was going to try to kill him for his gear. Something about the woman did't strike him as a threat, but the crossbow still didn't leave his hand. It would, he reasoned, be stupid to be overly trusting in these types of situations. On his own, divided from the rest of the camp, he couldn't risk a large attack, human or walker. Even a wanderer, as this woman professed to be, could be trouble if things went wrong. And too much depended on him for things to go wrong.
"Passin' through?" This was the middle of nowhere, and Daryl felt justified in his suspicions. "Passin' through to where? Yer headin' west, straight into more'n fifty miles of swamp. Ain't nothing that way to pass through to. Less you plan on headin' to Atlanta..."
He fell silent at the thought, at the memory of the walkers, and of Merle. The brother he but rarely thought of these days, had already written off. There was pain in those thoughts, and a fair bit of guilt he hadn't worked through yet. He might never have time to work through it. But in the interim, he had to be pragmatic.
"Atlanta's been overrun." he informed the woman cooly. "So's damn near every town between here and it. CDC's gone to hell, aint much left in society. So hows about you tell me what the hell's really going on." A cold thought struck him, and the crossbow tilted up a few degrees. "You ain't been bit, scratched?"
Scarlett didn't relax one bit when he lowered the crossbow a little. Just because he did didn't mean anything. He could still try and kill her and take her stuff. Maybe she should have just tried doubling back towards where her and the group got split up at. But she couldn't wait there forever. A couple days had been more than enough and no sign of them. Suddenly she realized it was probably long past time she try and get out of this state, but where else is safer, she didn't have a clue.
When he questioned about where she was going, she raised an eyebrow. What the hell did that matter to him? She was only one person. Trying to be sneaky and steal stuff from other people wasn't something she wasn't going to bother to do. It was too much time and energy when that energy needed to be focused on staying away from walkers. She was tempted to snap and say how it wasn't any concern of his concern but he went on about Atlanta and how there was nothing around here.
On instinct she took a couple steps back when he raised the now again. "I ain't been bit, or scratched. If I had I'd of killed myself already." There was no way she would allow herself to become one of those dead freaks and unable to pass on to heaven. Then again, if there really was a heaven why would God let these zombies roam around killing people? And then those people turn into even more of the undead? Either way, she didn't plan on becoming one of them and would much rather just shoot herself and be put out of her misery.
"And not that it's really your concern, but I'm just trying to make my way to wherever the next city is. I'd never been to Georgia until the outbreak," she said. Maybe a good place to go would be North Carolina. If any of her family was alive maybe they would be there. That was where they'd all grown up. "Now if you'll excuse me.." she added and started to turn away back towards where she had come from. Her hand still wanted to pull out the gun, but she'd rather not have an actual confrontation. Her ammo supply really couldn't handle killing living people when she needed it for the walkers.
Daryl was more then half tempted to let her go, one more mess out of his hair. But two things stopped him. Well, three really. One, she seemed intent on moving around after dark, and that could bring attention to his own campsite. Two, he didn't trust that she wouldn't try to double back in the dark and try to kill him. And three...
" 'Fore you go," he said, trying to at least take the gruffness out of his voice. Tried, and mostly failed, but at least an attempt had been made. The thought that counted and all that shit. "You seen a little girl anywhere around? Maybe twelve, stick skinny in a pink shirt thing an' jeans? Answers to Sophia? Been hunting for her all around these parts for a couple of days. She stands about yea high-" he held a hand to the appropriate height. "Probably scared near to death. Headed east, last I checked. Ringin' any bells?"
And God, he hoped so. He'd started out hunting for Carol's sake, but the mission had become a personal search for him now. He was deeply invested in the girl's survival, and any hint of where she might be would be greatly appreciated. More, striking up a conversation would kill more time, and he could measure in minutes now how long it would be until darkness fell. The swamp was growing quieter, but he knew that was temporary. Once full dark came, new sounds would replace the old. He was equally familiar with those as the ones during the daylight hours, and the differing in sound actually made it easier to find walkers. So long as he didn't sleep too deeply, it wouldn't be a problem. And with even an uneasy truce..
"You plannin' on moving on tonight?" This time he lowered the crossbow entirely, slinging it over his shoulder and into place. "Gettin' dark now, dangerous going. I'd be willin' to share the place, take watch, so long as we agree not to kill the other. Safer, surely, then bein' out alone in this hellhole."
Scarlett paused slightly. Of all the things that ran through her head, him asking about a young girl had not been one of them. Why a girl would be running somewhere in the woods was not something she wanted to think about. It was the same as thinking about all those babies in the world most likely hadn't made it once everything went to hell. This new world was just cold and hard. Not a good place for anyone really.
"No. I haven't seen anyone in quite some time," she shrugged. It'd been at least a week or so. Scarlett didn't bother to keep track since it really didn't matter all that much. Curiously she wondered if it was his daughter or something. Why else bother risking ones life. Especially when kids weren't likely to keep themselves alive very long.. Suddenly she realized how horrible that thought was. This new world really did change ones thoughts and made them colder, apparently. She didn't really like that or that it was affecting herself.
Suspiciously she watched him out the crossbow back over his shoulder. While unsure if it was a good idea to go trusting a stranger and sleeping while they could steal your stuff and leave you helpless, she didn't really have a lot of options. It was getting dark and it would be equally as dumb to try and move around in the dark.
"I was going to," she said guardedly. "Guess that wouldn't be smart though," she admitted.
"Not genius, all told," he agreed. Something like tension released in him, even as her news was disheartening. He knew that with every passing hour the chances of finding the girl faded significantly, and at this point had more or less given up on finding her that day. If at all. Still unless he had a body- reanimated or not-, he was going to keep looking. If sheltering out in the wild all night with nothing but a crossbow and a stranger was needed to accomplish that, then so be it.He'd spent worse time in worse places, and that was no exaggeration.
Jerking a thumb towards the swamp, Daryl turned and carefully stepped into the dark water. "Best make it out the the spit of land there, 'fore we lose the light. Gators like huntin' best at night, when they can see and we can't. Don't seem too deep."
It wasn't, either. The water barely crept above his calves, and within a few moments he was pulling his boots free from the muddy bottom and back on semi-solid land. There was more then enough room for both of them with space besides, and after a few moments internal debate he decided to kick the boots off. Had to trust the woman wouldn't go running off with them in the night.
"You comin'? Might as well get over with the sun, have time to dry off some."
With there being not much daylight left, there wasn't much she could do that day. Maybe tomorrow she could turn and go a different way to head out of the state. Clearly there wasn't nothing left here, no sort of military safe place that they kept talking about in the radio when this whole thing first started. Now she supposed was just the time to wonder around to different places and just try to survive.
Looking to the swap, Scarlett wasn't to keen on going in there. In thinking about it, going through there wasn't any worse than anything else she'd faced as of late. Watching him to across the water didn't seem all that deep. The most it would go up to was maybe her knees. Stepping into it she could feel the murky water seeping into her shoes. It wasn't a very good feeling but it was better to do that then possibly deal with alligators. "Your a hunter?" It was more a statement than a question. Having uncles and cousins that did that sort of thing, it wasn't hard to tell when someone was into that stuff.
After making it over she took her shoes off so hopefully her socks would dry a little. Setting the backpack down beside them she just had to hope he wouldn't go taking anything. "How long you been searching for her?" Mostly she asked to fill what would become an awkward silence as she looked up to the sun and hoped it'd stay long enough to dry her off. She had thought about changing but then decided against it and could do that tomorrow when she was on her own again.