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Beth continued to sing the song softly to herself as she gathered up the sticks and twigs to help supplement the wood Daryl had gathered for their fire. Even though he had told her to stay put in the hunting cabin they had stumbled on several weeks before, she couldn't allow him to bear the entire burden of their existence. This was the least she could do while he hunted to keep them fed, and she hadn't wandered too far from the little log structure, had she? Her wandering thoughts and preoccupation had distracted her from her song, so she quietly picked it up again.
"If I die young, bury me in satin..."
She had a feeling that very soon, the words of the song would become the story of her life, but she found solace in the comfort the positive tone of the ballad encompassed. Beth paused her song when she heard footsteps behind her. Not having been accompanied by the stench of decay, she knew that Daryl had found her and not a walker. She took a moment to gather her thoughts before she turned to face him and explain; she had hoped to return to the cabin before him to avoid such a conversation.
"I know you told me to stay put..." Her thought trailed off as she turned and found not an angry Daryl but three gaunt strangers with danger reflecting in their eyes.
They all had guns in hand, but they didn’t brandish them aggressively as she posed less than a threat. Beth felt her stomach drop as the largest of the men took a few steps towards her and smiled charmingly. She dropped her armful of kindling, forgotten, to the ground and took two tentative steps backwards.
"Hey there, pretty girl...who would’ve thought that such a beautiful voice would belong to someone with the face of an angel." He spoke as an educated man might, a man who in a different world would not be dangerous to her, but their world drove people to such horrendous acts of barbarism. His tone was, however, one that a hunter might use to calm a frightened animal before he went in for the kill.
Beth was frozen. She should run...or should she? She realized so many times she was not built for this world. While she was frozen, the stranger had made it within an arms length of her with the other two closing the distance.
"A pretty thing like you shouldn't be out here all alone. You need someone to protect you." He reached out to touch her hair, and she jerked away sharply, reaching for the knife at her waist.
"I'm not alone. Daryl is hunting," Beth asserted with the most confident voice she could muster, her hand closing on the hilt of her blade.
"Awww sweetheart, I wouldn't do that if I were you," the stranger suggested, his smile broadening.
Beth considered her options, but not quickly enough. She found herself flat on the ground, the air gone from her lungs, unable to speak or scream or even cry. She thrashed about and made contact with her attacker's face a few times before he had her weighted down and ordered one of his companions to pin her arms above her head. The final of the three moved behind the man on top of her to get a good view of the action, smile spread from ear to ear.
This isn't happening...This isn't happening...THIS ISN'T HAPPENING she screamed inside her head as she willed her breath to return.
"There now sweetheart...calm down...shhh...that's not so bad, is it?" He whispered, his face just a few short inches from hers. He reached out and tucked a stray blonde lock behind her ear.
Just then, Beth's lungs finally began to work again, short, ragged gasps replaced by the deep intake of autumn air. She released the loudest screech she could manage, no doubt setting off a thunderous throb in the ears of the man on top of her. She was repaid with a backhand across the face that resulted in falling stars in her vision and left the strong taste of iron and warmth of blood in her mouth. She could only pray that Daryl was close enough to have heard her because any chance for her to get out of this situation alive without Daryl's intervention quickly disappeared.
"Is that how you wanna play this you stupid little bitch?!" He screamed at her. Beth couldn't tell if he was angry or inflamed by her outcry, but something burned bright in his eyes.
"Daryl! Daryl...Daryl Help Me!" Beth hoped hard that if she continued screaming, Daryl would be able to locate her. She cringed and attempted to thrash as she felt rough, angry hands fumbling with the button at the low slung waist of her jeans. "Daryl...Daryl!"
"Go on, scream for your little high school sweetheart," the man pinning her arms above her head laughed out. "We'll make zombie chow outta him when he gets here and write a tragic end to your little teenage fairytale."
* * * * *
Daryl smiled as he tucked his fifth squirrel through his belt. They might be dumb with a brain no bigger than a walnut, but they were smart enough to stay out of the mouths of walkers...just not quick enough to dodge his bolts. And at least Beth liked squirrel fried up all nice and juicy...or if she didn't, she didn't complain none about it. He couldn't say that about many girls like her he had ever met...not that he had met many girls like her in his lifetime...and then women in general didn't like squirrel, why he didn't know, probably because they were just so damn complicated...the women, not the squirrels.
Five is enough for today. Best not take more than we need, Daryl thought to himself.
The squirrels supplemented by the remaining dry goods they’d found stashed in the cabin would keep them fed in meat until the day after next. As he bent to reload his crossbow, a squirrel jumped into a low branch just above his head and started chattering angrily at him. Looking up, Daryl quickly spotted the fat red.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah...I hear yah. Keep on screaming, your day's comin'!" Daryl answered the complaining creature.
A scream...one not from an animal...rang out through the woods and set everything to silence.
"Beth..." Daryl breathed to himself as his heart hit the ground.
Without a second thought, he set off through the woods in the direction of the scream at a full run. He reached the edge of the tree line at a tiny clearing where he saw Beth and her situation before she called out for him again in terror. He thanked whatever power was out there listening that Beth was surrounded by the living and not overtaken by the walking dead. He wasn't too late.
"Daryl! Daryl...Daryl Help Me!"
Three men...one armed...two with guns on the ground.
"Go on, scream for your little high school sweetheart. We'll make zombie chow outta him when he gets here and write a tragic end to your little teenage fairytale."
Two focused on Beth, the lookout not even watching...Dumbass... They're all ready to die.
There was nothing left for Daryl to do but what he did best.