Rick had to admit that it would be nice to have some real meat again. He didn't for a moment believe that that jackass, Dean, was going to be any help, though. No, Daryl Dixon was an excellent hunter. These boys tried to call themselves hunters, but they weren't like any hunters he'd ever seen. If you ask Rick, though no one had, he thought those Winchester brothers were criminals for sure. He could smell a criminal miles away. Likely thieves, possibly smart enough to be con men. Possibly even killers. Whatever it was, it was bad news. Truth be told, Rick was just grateful that Daryl had come back from the run at all. That was the only reason he let Daryl go off alone with that Dean guy that morning. Rick hadn't wanted him going off with them at all, but he was glad that Sam had stayed behind. He'd been ready to insist upon going too, but Daryl could hold his own against one guy.
Rick wasn't a fool. He knew those two kept asking questions about him. And that bothered him. Who are these guys, to come into my house and start investigating me? Worse yet, he almost suspected that Daryl put them up to it. Daryl, whom he trusted above anyone. Why? Rick wondered. Now, Rick knew he hadn't been all there since Lori had died, but he wasn't that bad. Calling in strangers to poke at his private business? Not cool. But Rick wasn't the boss anymore – by his own doing. He couldn't very well kick them out, although he wanted to. Vampires, ghosts, angels...those boys were on drugs or they were plotting something. He just didn't know which yet. So Rick was resigned to letting them come in and do their little investigation. But Rick would do one of his own.
He had woken early, hearing Daryl and Dean talking in low tones as they left. Daryl liked to leave out around four thirty or five when he hunted. Rick quietly got up after they left. The brother was likely awake as well, so he would have to save a search of their cell for later. Instead, he went to grab a bowl of cereal and wait for Michonne. She was an early riser, too. Rick knew she usually woke before everyone else, did an hour or so of exercise, and then went outside to do a perimeter check. They took turns trying to beat the other one out.
She arrived not long after. Rick nodded and sat back, simply waiting. Michonne occasionally glanced at him as she heated up some instant oatmeal and threw a handful of nuts and raisins in it, only speaking once she sat down opposite him. “What's wrong?”
Rick shifted in his chair and popped his neck. “Well,” he said quietly, “to be honest, I'm not real sure about these guys.”
“Come on, Michonne. Vampires? And I know they're targeting me and Daryl for something.”
Michonne's brows rose. “You don't believe us about the vampires? Don't believe me? After all we've seen? You should talk to Daryl more. He was turning into one. It's true.”
“I know something happened to Daryl. He looked sick. These...these so-called vampires could have been accomplices. Daryl said they gave him a cold soda and were looking at a map they had all crossed out. I think these guys slipped him something. I don't know what they were really looking for, but I think they're trying to use us to find it. Or maybe they just decided to take us instead.” Rick pushed his empty cereal bowl aside and leaned across the table. “And we just let them right in.”
Michonne cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. After a moment, she said quietly, “All right. I can see how you'd think that.” She sat back and smiled. “That's the cop in you. But I'm telling you, I was there. I saw it. I killed three of the things myself. It's true.”
Rick began shaking his head, but Michonne continued. “No, it's true. So whatever Daryl says happened after, I believe him. We've had a hard enough time keeping this place safe from walkers and people. If this other stuff is out there, better safe than sorry.”
“It's not that I don't believe you...”
“Yes, it is. It's just that you didn't say it. I get it. Still, making this place a little safer never hurt, right?”
“I just don't know that letting them in was the safest thing.”
“Come on,” she said, scraping her bowl. “Let's take a walk.”
It was a fairly calm morning. Still chilly, so they'd brought their coats. Or, Rick had brought his coat and Michonne her cloak. There was a small buildup over by the east tower, but nothing like what they'd battled the day before. The morning fence crew would be able to handle it in plenty of time. Rick figured that he and Michonne had killed most stragglers in the area after the herd at the fence had been taken care of. It would take a few days before a big pack gathered again.
“They did a good job securing the fence yesterday, but we're going to need to devote a full time crew to fixing up the far side now that the weather's gotten nicer.”
“We weren't very successful on our last run though,” Michonne said. “I should take another crew out.”
“No, not until these Winchesters are long gone. We all need to stay close. You said we need to fortify against anything, so we stay and fortify.”
Michonne gave him a look, but she didn't argue that point. “They're trying to help.”
Just then, a bleary-eyed Carl came bounding down the steps. “Dad! Can you come in for a bit?”
“What's wrong, Carl?” Rick asked, running across the lot. His hand unconsciously hovered over his belt even though he'd quit wearing his gun months earlier.
“It's okay, Dad. It's just Judith. She's really fussy. Beth has her, and she fed her and got her changed and everything, but she just keeps crying.”
Rick slowed, his heart returning from his throat to its normal place in his chest. “Yeah. All right, let's go see your sister.” He turned back and saw Michonne give a short wave before she continued her walk around the perimeter.
It was still early, but more people were up thanks to Judith's crying. Beth had her out in what had become Cell block C's sitting room, and a handful of people yawned as they drank instant coffee at the far tables.
“Sorry,” Rick said sheepishly as he reached out for his daughter.
“It's what babies do,” Ms. McLeod said, laying a sympathetic hand on his arm. One of the older residents from Woodbury, Ms. McLeod rose early and fixed breakfast for both cell blocks when there was hot food to make. “Can I get you some coffee?”
“No, thank you,” he said, frowning as Judith continued to squall. He laid the back of his hand across her head. “Does she feel hot to you?”
“I thought so,” Beth said. “Should I go wake up Dr. S.?”
“The doctor is already awake,” Ms. McLeod said. “I saw him before I left D.”
“Thanks. Yeah, maybe I'd better take her over there. You said she's already eaten?” Beth nodded. “Good, thank you. Carl, see if you can get some more sleep.” He adjusted her blanket and swaddled her a little tighter, then took a flashlight and headed down the hall to cell block D.
Poor little Judith fussed the whole way there, making Rick pick up his pace a bit. He bounced her, and she gave a couple good burps that settled her for a minute, but she was soon crying again, her hands frantically fighting the blanket she was wrapped in. “There, there, honey. We'll get it all taken care of.”
He didn't know whether the baby felt extra hot or if he was just extra worked up, but suddenly the shadowed halls of the prison felt far too cold. His hairs stood on end as gooseflesh overtook his entire body. He shivered, then shook it off and increased his pace to a run.
“Dr. S!” he cried with relief, forgetting that it was probably only six or so in the morning at best.
“Rick, what's wrong?”
“Judith can't stop crying. I think she feels pretty warm. Can you take a look at her?”
“Certainly. Bring her in.” Dr. S. led the way to his cell. He turned on his battery lantern and pulled out his med kit. “I'm out of thermometer covers, so I'll have to take her axillary temperature. Here, unswaddle her so the blanket doesn't overheat her. Let me have a look at her while we give her a second to cool off.” Dr. S. took Judith and felt her head, neck, and back.
“I had her swaddled up because she kept throwing punches. She's been fed, changed...she's usually in a great mood when she wakes up.”
“Punches, huh?” The doc looked at her as she angrily waved her hands around. “There now, calm down, sweetheart. Let me take a good look at you.”
Judith sniffled, but Dr. S. had a calming manner to him. Her crying soon settled to whining, and she tugged at her ears. “Does your little ear hurt? Can Dr. S. take a look at it?” the doc asked in baby voice, rummaging with one hand as he felt around for his otoscope. “See how she keeps waving around and tugging at her ears? She probably either has an ear infection or she could be teething. Babies pull their ears and can sometimes get a low grade fever when teething. How old is she now?”
“Seven months. She has a few teeth already. She was fussy, but never that bad.”
“Back teeth can be harder. Here now, let Dr. S. see your ear...”
The doctor was careful as he slid the tip of the otoscope into Judith's ear, even as she jerked and flailed at the feeling, but she still resumed squalling. Rick sat next to them on the bed and tried to hold her still, but that only made her scream worse.
Somewhere outside, Rick heard glass shattering. He jumped up and grabbed his flashlight, readying it to use as a weapon. Judith screamed louder, and then, to his surprise, the glass and bulb inside the light just busted open. He could hear more breaking in other cells. “See to her! I'll check it out,” Rick said as he ran down the cell block.
He saw a few of the Woodbury ladies screaming and running. One was shaking broken glass from her hair. He reached out with his left hand to grab her as she ran by. “What is it?” he cried.
“I don't know! All of the lightbulbs just started busting one after another.”
“Is someone using the generator?”
“How should I know?”
A quick sweep of the block showed nothing that he could see. Rick asked one of the men, Noris, if he would find a couple folks and go check out the generator. “I'll be along just as soon as the doc gets done checking out Judith,” he promised.
Rick went back to the doc's cell and tried to pick up all the broken glass from his flashlight. “Didn't see nothing,” he told the doc.
“That's weird. Well, I did, before my scope broke, anyway. Poor little Judy's ears are pretty inflamed. I think that's her problem. I don't know that she has a fever. I think maybe she was just hot from the blanket, but she fights too hard for me to get a good reading. I didn't want to upset her worse. Do you think you could hold her arm down?”
“Sure, give her here.” Rick cradled his daughter against his chest. She seemed fine until the doc tried to press the thermometer under her arm. Then she resumed trying to punch and squall.
Another icy chill came over him, but it wasn't just him. Rick saw Dr. S. hunch his shoulders and shiver. In fact, he almost thought that he could see the doctor's breath, though that was ridiculous. It was still chilly in the early spring mornings, but their breath hadn't even been showing outside. It must have been a trick of the odd blue light from the doc's lantern.
“That's it! Just another minute...” the doc tried to encourage Judith. Rick struggled to hold her arm still with the thermometer underneath, but Judith kicked off of him and arched her back. He hated when she did that. She was stronger than she looked. He was always afraid he was going to drop her.
She kicked again, her crying getting louder. Suddenly a force seemed to grab him by the shoulders, and Rick instinctively released the baby as he was flung across the room and out the cell door. He landed all the way across the floor, rolling up against the wall. He stood and rubbed his sore neck, then saw that Dr. Subramanian was knocked out against the far wall of his cell.
Rick ran into the room, afraid of what he might find, even though he could still hear Judith crying. She wasn't screaming anymore, just giving small hiccups. She had fallen upon the bed and was now pushing herself up. She stopped crying as her chubby little hand found the thermometer and then stuck it in her mouth. Rick shifted her closer to the wall, just above the doc's head where he could keep an eye on her.
“Dr. S! Dr. S, wake up!” Rick shook the man, but he had apparently hit his head against the wall. “Caleb!” Rick yelled. “Doc, come on. Wake up!”
“What's going on?” Rick turned around to find Sam Winchester standing in the doorway. Rick sighed. Someone must have gotten him from cell block C.
“I don't know,” Rick admitted. “Judith's sick. We were trying to take her temperature, and then there was like this, this explosion. I blew that way,” he gestured past Sam, “and the doc this way. I think he cracked his head pretty good.”
Sam began rummaging through the doctor's things. “What happened just before that? Did you hear anything? Maybe smell anything?”
“What the hell are you doing? Don't mess with his stuff.”
“Ah ha! Here.” Sam opened a small bottle and waved it under the doc's nose. Rick sniffed as the scent of ammonia permeated the small cell. Dr. S. began to rouse.
Judith wrinkled her nose and resumed crying. Rick quickly picked her up and took her out, rocking her in the sunlight streaming through the high windows. Someone was sweeping up the broken glass from the old lights. Noris returned, Karen and Julio behind him. He shook his head. “Nobody's on the generator. It's quiet in there. Still have all the gas.”
Rick frowned. “Thanks, Noris.” He rubbed his eyes and tried to clear his head, keeping Judith bouncing in his other arm.
Dr. S. followed Sam out of his cell. “What happened?”
“That's what I'd like to know,” Rick said, staring at Sam.
Sam raised his hands. “Me too. Look, why don't you tell me what happened – exactly – just before you were knocked out.”
“Now listen here,” Rick said quietly, covering Judith's ears. It was mostly to stop her from clawing at them, but he kept his voice low to avoid scaring her. “None of this crazy stuff started happening until you showed up. Now, I don't believe in vampires, and I don't believe in angels. I don't know what it is you're into, but I want you to pack up and take it far from our people.”
Sam shoved his hands into his pockets and stood tall, throwing his shoulders back. “I'm not a threat to you or your people, Rick. We're just trying to help.”
“I don't need your help. Now, I've got a sick daughter to worry about. Why don't you go somewhere and consider what I said?” He stared at the boy as he passed. He stopped and spoke in Dr. S.'s ear. “Are you okay?” Dr. S. nodded. “Can you help Judith?”
Dr. S. swallowed. “Yes, of course. I'll need to check for a respiratory infection, but I don't think she has one. The good news is, she may not need antibiotics. The bad news is, if this doesn't clear up in a couple of days and she does need antibiotics, we don't have any.”
Rick took a deep breath. They had already raided every store and pharmacy in the area. That last run had really needed to be more successful. It was a huge waste of gas with little pay off. Now they needed to branch out in another direction, and he really didn't want a crew leaving with these two holed up in the prison.
“Look,” Rick heard Sam begin behind him. The kid hadn't taken his sincere advice. “We have a pretty good med kit. I don't know what meds are good for babies, but surely we have some antibiotics we can share. Not enough to fully stock you or anything, but enough to help a kid if any is okay for her.”
Rick bit his lip. He'd just told the bastard that he didn't need their help. Now, it seemed he did. He had to put his children before his own pride. He turned around and considered the guy. “All right. We'll let Dr. S. take a look at it then. Thank you.”
“She may not even need any. Let's finish examining her. There are some natural remedies we can try, too.” He led Rick back into the cell. To Rick's relief, he saw Sam turn and head back toward the door. The relief was short lived when he stopped and started talking to one of the residents. Rick shook his head and focused on his daughter.
“Let me listen to her breathing,” the doc said, fishing out a stethoscope – thankfully not busted - and warming it with his hands. Apparently he didn't do a good job, or maybe she was just feeling too touchy, but Judith startled and screamed as soon as he placed it on her back.
“Honey, it's okay,” Rick said, smoothing her hair and bounding her gently.
“She sounds good. I'll see if Hershel has anymore mullein. If we have any dried garlic left, we can try making an oil that might help. If she gets a worse fever or doesn't improve in a day or two, we may need antibiotics.” Dr. S. pursed his lips. “Really, we need antibiotics anyway. People get sicker when the weather starts to warm more than they ever do in the cold of winter. Everyone's out in the still–crisp air and cold mud. We should consider this a warning. We really need to get more medicines.”
“We'll plan another run after these guys leave.”
Afterward, he took Judith back to Beth for a while so he could talk to Hershel about ingredients for home remedies. Rick had never gave a lot of credence to all that natural stuff. His own father had been fond of a hot toddy for every little ill for himself, or a spoon of whiskey for the kids. That was as close to home remedies as Rick had ever gotten. Still, now he was grateful that the doc was the kind who knew about stuff like that.
“Yeah, I should have some mullein left,” Hershel told him. “Don't know about the dried garlic, though. Beth or Ms. McLeod might know. We should still have some wild garlic out in the woods though. I can get some of that if that would help.”
“Ask the doc. But don't go out by yourself, okay?”
“I can handle it,” Hershel said.
“Oh, all right.” Rick turned to leave, but Hershel stopped him. “I hope your girl gets better. We might need to think about a med run soon.”
“Yeah, probably. Dr. S. said the same thing.”
“I know where a vet college is. The medicines are nearly the same. It's probably the best shot we have. I'll talk to the council about it.”
“Good. No more runs until these guys go, though.”
“Have you talked to them, Rick?”
“A little. Not any more than I have to.”
“Well, you ought to,” Hershel said. “I've been talking to the angel, Cas. He's got a lot of interesting things to say.”
Rick laughed. He tried to think of a tactful way to phrase what he wanted to say, but he wasn't sure there was one. “Look, Hershel. You're a man of faith, and I can respect that even if I don't share it. I don't personally believe in God or angels anymore, especially now, but I don't discount the slim possibility. I hope you're right. I hope one day me and Lori and Carl and Judy, we're all happy together forever and ever. But given how reality has turned out, I don't see any evidence of that being the case. One thing I do know, though...if God decided to show proof of any afterlife, proof of honest–to–god angels, it sure as hell wouldn't be that guy.”
“He disappeared in front of our eyes, Rick. The whole council saw it.”
“Yeah, well all of New York once saw the Statue of Liberty disappear, but I don't believe Copperfield's a messenger of Heaven either.”
“You really telling me you don't believe in an afterlife? You don't think Lori still exists somewhere?”
Rick frowned. He never should have told Hershel about that phone call. “No, I don't. I think this bullshit life is it, and sometimes it just breaks us,” he said, then stalked out.
Beth had finally gotten Judith to nap. She had to sit up with her, as the baby's ears hurt too much when she laid down. “Want me to take her?” Rick asked.
“I'm afraid to move her,” Beth whispered. “We're fine.”
Relieved, Rick decided to go de-stress in the garden for a while. He'd gotten into a nice routine since the council took over, and he hadn't realized how calm and centered it kept him until it had finally been disrupted. He pulled out the small mp3 player he had found and turned on some Johnny Cash. Remembering what Dr. S. had said about the early spring sicknesses, he grabbed a light jacket and headed outside.
If he judged the sun right, and he was getting fairly decent at it, Rick figured it was about eight thirty or nine. Still too early to worry about Daryl. Judith normally didn't wake until seven, so he had no idea how long she'd nap, since she'd been up so early. Might as well just enjoy what time he had. I'll have to transplant some of the wild garlic and onion. Maybe I'll go out with Hershel. Nobody would have to go out to harvest it if we had some inside the fence. They had planted onion bulbs just a few weeks ago, but they weren't even close to being ready.
He weeded the rows of onions first, careful not to pull the carrots that Hershel had interspersed them with. That was a mistake he'd never make again. Rick felt his tension begin to ebb as he hoed between the rows, and soon enough he was singing along with the Man in Black.
A flash of white streaked through his peripheral vision. He straightened and looked around, pulling the earphones from his ears. “Lori?” he whispered.
He saw her standing down by the fence. The last time he'd seen her, she had looked radiant in her silky white dress, her hair falling in dark waves down her back. She'd been just as he remembered her from their wedding night, when she'd never looked lovelier.
Now, her arms were crossed and her whole demeanor seemed...different. Her hair was a little more wild, her beautiful white dress now looked slightly tattered. Her face looked haggard, though at least she was not a walker, as she had been haunting his dreams lately. Rick set the hoe down and crossed the yard, hurrying as he saw her angry expression. “Lori! What is it?”
“You never keep your promises, Rick!”
Rick was taken aback. “What do you mean?”
Lori's black eyes flashed. “You promised you'd take care of our baby. Our babies. You took her to someone who hurt her. You helped hurt her! She was crying, screaming, and you just ignored her.”
“That's not true. She's sick. The doctor was just trying to diagnose her.” Rick frowned. “He's a doctor, Lori. I found us a doctor just to take care of them properly.
“He made her cry, and I saw you hold her down! What kind of parent does that?” Rick shook his head. He distinctly remembered Lori having to hold Carl steady several times when he'd gotten his shots.
“We do what we have to do to keep them healthy.”
“No! She trusts you, dammit! Just like I trusted you!” Lori seemed to grow before his eyes. “You said you'd stay with us. That you'd never leave us again. And all you ever did was leave! You weren't there when I had her. You weren't there when I needed you! And now our baby needs you, and what are you doing? You're singing In The Jailhouse Now! Is this a joke to you? Promises aren't just ordinary words, Rick! When you make a promise, it means something.”
“Oh, kinda like vows that way?”
Lori's eyes narrowed, and then she grabbed, lifted him over her head, and threw him. Rick hit the ground hard, then rolled back down the slope. As he slid to a stop, Lori flickered above him, then solidified as her hands reached for him once more. Instead of picking him up again, her hands sunk through him. Rick screamed as pain flooded his chest. It felt like Lori had hold of him by the heart, and the pain radiated out through every bit of him. He screamed again as sharp needle pricks shot through him from fingers to toes - and all other appendages.
The pain – and Lori – suddenly disappeared. Rick gasped and opened his eyes to find Sam Winchester standing over him with a crow bar. He threw his hands up, trying to protect his head.
Sam grabbed him by the arms. “I'm not going to hurt you. Come on! Move!” He pulled Rick through the yard, back toward cell block C.
“Watch out!” Rick cried as Lori flickered before them. Sam swung his crow bar, and she dissipated before their eyes. “What the hell? You see her?”
“Yeah, I can see her. What does she want?”
Rick stumbled, but Sam held him up and kept pulling him along. He found it hard to run and talk at the same time. He could barely breathe after Lori had squeezed out his insides. “She thinks I'm not taking good care of the baby,” he gasped. He struggled not to cry. “She said I don't keep my promises.”
“Woman in White,” Sam said, as if that explained everything.
Lori appeared in front of the door and screeched loudly. Rick tried to stop, but Sam barreled through, swinging his crowbar like a baseball bat. “You really see her?” Rick asked, not sure if that made him feel relieved or more frightened. “I thought she was in my head.”
“Nope. She's real, she's a ghost, and she's pissed!”
“But why? I am keeping my promise! I'm taking care of the kids.”
Sam didn't slow as he tried to explain, and Rick struggled to jog and keep up in order to follow what he said. “Look, your wife is a ghost now. She's stuck here, and that twists them. She can't think rationally anymore. She doesn't know the difference between her baby crying because she's sick and her baby crying because you're mistreating her. She hears the baby crying, she just wants to fix it. Her loving mommy brain is gone though. She's a twisted spirit. We have to set her free.”
“How do we do that?” Rick still had a hard time believing all this afterlife bullshit, but he knew one thing was absolutely true – Lori had been ready to kill him. She wasn't his loving wife who just wanted a little more time together. Not anymore. Maybe she had been at first, but she definitely seemed twisted now.
“You guys said there are no remains?”
Rick swallowed. “No.”
They burst into the cell block, and Sam ran to Ms. McLeod, nearly knocking her over, and took a salt shaker right from her hands. She pulled back against the wall, clutching a carved stone she wore on a thong around her neck, and murmured foreign prayers. Sam twisted the lid off and poured salt across the floor of the doorway. “We need more salt! Do you have more?”
“There's half a box under the cupboard. Probably more in the cafeteria. Big industrial boxes that the prison used.”
“We need one!”
“I'll go,” Rick said, but Sam pulled him back before he could cross the threshold.
“No, she's pissed at you the most. Here! Everyone get in here!” Sam poured a thin line across all windows, then emptied the rest of the box across the doorway into the main cell block. Someone screamed as Lori flickered just outside the doorway. She kept her head lowered as she stared at each of them. She tried to rush through, but the salt kept her at bay. Sam ran up and poked her with his crowbar. “Anyone got any iron? Iron keeps them away. Temporarily at least.”
Rick took Judith, who had awakened in all the commotion, from a very confused looking Beth. “The bars are iron, right? The windows and cells should be safe.”
She reappeared outside the door, this time looking almost normal as her eyes fell upon Judith. She reached out her arms, then quickly pulled them back as the salt border burned her...or something. It was almost like a forcefield. Lori turned her head, and she locked eyes with Carl. Rick couldn't hear her say anything, but it seemed to him that Carl did. “Mom?” Carl took a step forward, then stopped himself. “Mom, I can't.”
She screamed again, and suddenly her skin had an almost grey pallor. Tempests swirled in her eyes. Carl shook his head. “I can't. You shouldn't be here.”
Sam swiped at her again, then paced back and forth. “There's got to be something holding her here. And you'd better hope it's a lock of hair or a wedding ring or something and not your kids, 'cause we can't exactly go around destroying kids.”
“Something's tying her here! Some piece of her. We have to destroy it.” Sam crossed the room and stood inches from Rick's face, forcing him to meet Sam's staring eyes. “What is it? Did she donate a kidney? Do you have some weird hair or nail clippings or something?”
“No! No, I don't have anything!”
“Her wedding ring...do you have it?”
“You want to destroy our wedding rings?”
“We have to do whatev---”
“She's my wife! She isn't freaking Sauron.”
Sam stepped back, gazing at Rick like he was a child. “Give me the ring.”
“I don't have her ring! It was eaten, all right!” He saw Carl jerk his head away and lowered his voice. “Just like the rest of her was.”
Sam turned, his gaze following Rick's. He walked across the room to Carl. “Carl? What is it?”
“Hey!” Rick yelled, passing Judith off to the nearest person, which happened to be a wild–eyed Carol. “You leave him alone.”
Carl refused to look at Sam, so the man bent down on one knee, trying to get in the boy's face like he had with Rick. Rick's fists clenched, and the room felt cold again.
“Carl?” Sam said quietly. “Do you have something of your mom's? Something that's maybe holding her here, or that you give a lot of energy to?”
Carl looked at Rick. He had a good poker face, his son did, but Rick could see the glint of a question in his eyes. “Wait,” Rick said, “do you?”
His eyes widened as he looked over Sam's shoulder, and Rick turned around to see Lori flickering at the doorway. He could feel a slight breeze, which didn't help the cold in the room. She was doing something. Somehow she was bringing in a small air flow, and the grains of salt began to roll across the floor. “Rick!” Carol screamed.
Without looking, Sam tossed his crowbar at her. Carol reflexively caught it, then handed the baby to Beth and went to stand between Lori's ghost and the rest of the residents of C block.
“What do you have, Carl?” Sam asked again, his voice getting harder.
Finally, Carl met Sam's eyes, his own narrowing. He didn't look to Rick anymore. “No.”
“She's not your mom anymore, son. She's a ghost. It's a sickness, just like the walkers.”
“I said no.”
Sam shook his head, his own fingers flexing. Rick didn't like how aggravated he looked, and he moved in between him and Carl. “You leave him out of this.”
“Rick!” Carol's voice was calm but sharp, and he looked over to see that the salt line had been scattered about. Lori disappeared, and then reappeared behind Carol. She reached out to give Carol a push, but Carol was faster. She swung, and Lori dissipated into mist.
People were screaming and running back to their cells, and Lori reappeared before Beth before she could make it through the door with the baby. “Here!” Carol tossed him the crowbar, and Rick ran to them.
“I'm sorry,” he said as he swung the piece of iron at her head. “Go! Go!”
“There's no more salt?” Sam asked.
“Maggie and Glenn ran to the cafeteria to get some,” Carol said.
“What is it?” Sam pressed Carl. “We have to find a way to release her!”
“Leave him alone, dammit!” To Rick's horror, he saw Lori flicker back just outside Beth's cell. “Lori, no! Leave them alone!”
“It's the only thing I have for Judith!” he heard Carl yell as he ran down the cell block.
Lori couldn't get through the iron bars of Beth's cell, but she was making Beth's stuff spin around in her room. Beth was curled around Judith, using her arms and body to cover her from the flying debris, as books kept hitting her in the head. “Lori, stop it!” Rick brought the crow bar down over her head.
She was gone before the blow landed. Rick panted and peered in at Beth and Judith. He clutched the bars with one hand and screamed as he felt Lori's icy grip on his heart once again. He tried to swing the iron bar over his shoulder, but the pain intensified. He dropped the weapon and fell to his knees, his breath taken from him.
“Carl,” he mouthed as he saw his son emerge from his cell. “Run...”
Carl shook his head. “Mom, let go.”
Rick fell sideways, but she didn't let go. If anything, she squeezed harder.
“Mom! You have to let go!”
Pain, such explosive pain as Rick had never known, gripped him. His whole body was made up of subatomic shards of pain. A dark shadow began to steal his vision, and his eyes blurred with unshed tears.
And then it was gone. Rick gasped as he was finally able to draw breath again. His head lolled against the gritty concrete as he tried to focus in on Carl. He saw fire, and finally his head cleared. In one hand, Carl held a silver zippo that Rick didn't recognize. In the other, the flaming remnants of a picture, which he also didn't recognize. Carl dropped it on the concrete and wiped away tears as the last corner began to curl up.
Sam clasped a hand on the boy's shoulder. “You did the right thing.”
Carl turned to him, shoving the zippo at Sam's chest. Rick couldn't see his face, but he heard him clear enough. “Shut up,” Carl told him, then ran to help his father up off the floor.