You weren’t sure of many things.
But there was one thing, in this moment, you were absolutely certain of.
You were completely screwed.
It was sometime in the afternoon, you were alone, and your truck had decided it was time for an early departure. You’d been pretty confident that your pickup would last another fifty miles, but going along with the theme these days, it met an early demise.
The pickup wasn’t yours — you’d stumbled upon it a couple weeks ago in a deserted parking lot. It was pretty banged up — the green paint chipping, scratches and dents, a streak of blood here and there. But in a rare stroke of luck, you’d found the keys in the glove compartment and a full tank of gas.
In light of everything you had been through, some good fortune was well deserved.
You slammed your hand against the steering wheel as the truck rolled to a stop, steam seeping out from under the hood.
Putting the truck into park, you shut off the engine, taking a deep breath. You turned the key, hoping to hear the engine turn over. “No, no, no, c’mon baby,” you murmured as the truck sputtered for a moment, before ultimately dying out.
You yanked the key out of the ignition with more force than necessary and threw it at the windshield, it clattering onto the dashboard.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” you sighed aloud, pinching the bridge of your nose.
The smell of exhaust floated through the open window, the steam becoming thicker. You shoved the door open and hopped out of the truck, coming to a stand in front of the hood.
After some jostling, you popped the hood open and took a step back, coughing as you ingested some smoke. A few moments later, the smoke settled and you approached the car once more.
You had no idea what you were supposed to be doing. Sure, you knew how to jumpstart a car or check the oil, but other than that, this was unfamiliar territory.
Sweat dripped down the back of your neck as you swiftly pulled your hair up into a high ponytail. You shrugged off your flannel, feeling much cooler in just a white tank top, and tied the extra layer around your waist.
With a huff, you placed your hands on your hips and stared down at the mess of metal, unsure what you were even looking at. You didn’t know what to touch without making the situation worse.
You sighed heavily. It was going to take you ten times longer to get to downtown Atlanta now — and that was if you even made it that far on foot.
The last you’d heard, Atlanta was a safe zone — the military had set up camp in the heart of the city with food, medical supplies, and weapons. Heading there had been the plan and you would’ve arrived a lot sooner if —
You felt a pang in your chest, tears springing to your eyes as you quickly grabbed the necklace hanging around your throat — a feeling of calm instantly washing over you. It was a long silver chain that fell just beneath the collar of your tank top, two objects strung through the coil.
Your parents wedding rings.
Your mom had died first. Right at the beginning of the end. It was during the time when no one had any idea what exactly they were up against — had no idea that a bite meant ‘game over’.
Your dad followed just a few months later. After your mom passed, your dad just sort of…faded away. Part of you shut down after his death. Like if you didn’t acknowledge the loss, it didn’t really happen.
There had been a herd…the two of you surrounded…and your dad just…he just let go — provided himself as a distraction long enough for you to get away. You’d managed to push through the herd that’d been distracted by your fathers shouts.
Once you’d stumbled out into the open, you spun around, desperately searching for your father. And there you’d spotted him, the first wave of walkers finally closing in on him…tearing into his flesh…
But he didn’t scream. He didn’t cry.
The weight of someone’s sacrifice is a heavy burden to bear.
After your father was taken down, you’d ran back to the car, feeling as though reality was nothing but a blur. Just as you were about to start the car, a glint of light drew your attention.
Hanging from the rearview mirror was the chain your dad used to wear — your mom’s wedding ring strung through it. And it took a moment before you realized his ring now hung next to hers.
Together again at last.
Part of you felt like your dad knew that he wasn’t going to make it — the run was going to be dangerous, a possible death sentence. That’s why he left his ring. He wasn’t cut out for this kind of world and it was only a matter of time before he lost the last thing he had left — you.
You squeezed the rings in the palm of your hand, grounding yourself, before letting them fall back into place on your chest.
Now was not the time to deal with your trauma — you had a broken down truck, about thirty miles to go, and nearly two hours until nightfall.
You leaned over the engine, trying to figure out where exactly the smoke was coming from. If you could just get the truck started again, all your problems would —
“My, oh, my…an’ what’d we have here?” a voice suddenly rang out, causing you to jump and turn.
A man you’d never seen before was standing just a couple feet behind you, staring at you in a way that made you feel incredibly exposed.
“Now what’s a pretty lil’ thing like yourself doin’ all the way out here in Bumblefuck, Georgia?” he cooed, sneering at you.
Struggling for words, you slowly inched backwards, cursing yourself for leaving your gun in the truck. Rookie mistake.
“C’mon, darlin’. I ain’t gonna bite ya,” the man purred, taking a step closer. “Unless ya ask me ‘ta,” he finished with a wink.
“I’m not looking for trouble,” you managed to squeak out. It seemed like the right thing to say.
But the man just laughed, loud and bellowing, as he rubbed a hand through his buzzed gray hair.
Your heart pounded against your ribcage. “What’d you want?” you finally asked, feeling your back hit the front of your truck.
The man feigned innocence. “I’m jus’ tryna get ‘ta know ya. Is that a crime?” he shot back, his eyes darkening.
You swallowed the lump in your throat as you began to maneuver around the truck, towards the drivers side door — where you could easily grab your gun.
“Why ya runnin’ from me? I asked ya a damn question, woman!” the man called after you, his voice threatening.
Then suddenly, he was closing the gap between you.
You spun on your heels and ran for the door, reaching inside the open window for the gun you’d left on the middle seat.
But right as your fingertips grazed the handle, you felt the man wrap his hand around your ponytail and yank you backwards.
You cried out in pain as he spun you around and slammed you into the truck, keeping one hand wrapped in your hair and the other pressed against your throat.
Your breath came out in huffs, a tremor racking through you. The man ticked his tongue disapprovingly. “Jus’ what in the hell were ya thinkin’, sweetheart?”
You glared at the man — deciding to let your rage override your fear.
“Whatcha hidin’ in there?” the man questioned, nodding towards your truck. “Let’s take a looksie, shall we?”
The man turned his attention away and you used the opportunity to slam your heel into the top of his foot. He howled in pain and released you, giving you enough space to throw a solid right hook, connecting with his jaw. He stumbled backwards as you spun around once more, reaching desperately for your gun.
You grabbed the handle just as the man got his footing. The moment you turned around, he launched himself at you, slamming you back into the truck.
He slapped the gun away, a single shot ringing through the air. You grunted from the exertion, fighting with all your strength, but quickly found yourself overpowered.
Within seconds, he had wriggled the gun from your grasp and threw it to the side, pinning your arms on either side of your head. He chuckled, slightly out of breath, a gleam in his eye that told you he had truly enjoyed the little scuffle.
“Damn, girl. Ya got a nice arm on ya,” he rumbled, his voice deep with a southern drawl. “I like ‘em feisty,” he whispered, before spitting a glob of blood onto the pavement.
“I don’t have much. Take it all. Just leave,” you urged between heaving breaths. “Please,” you added for emphasis, hoping the man show mercy.
The corner of his mouth quirked up into a smirk as he looked you up and down, hovering a moment too long on your chest. He suddenly let go of your hands and pulled out a hunting knife from his belt.
Holding the blade towards you, he bent down and scooped up your gun. “Ya know, I think I’m feelin’ mighty generous today. I think I’ll jus’ take a couple things an’ then I’ll be on my merry way,” the man spoke, almost like he expected a ‘thank you’.
When you remained silent, he went about his business. The man tucked your gun into the waistband of his pants and opened the door to your truck, rummaging through your belongings and throwing the things he didn’t want onto the pavement.
You stared off into the trees, standing motionless. Part of you wanted to fight back — he was vulnerable with his back turned to you. But he was stronger, faster, and now had not one but two weapons.
Objects could be replaced. Your life on the other hand…
The man slipped out of the truck, empty-handed except for a water bottle he’d found and his hunting knife. “Ya weren’t lyin’ when ya said ya didn’t have much,” he grunted, cracking the bottle open and taking a long swig. He screwed the lid back on and threw the bottle onto the ground. “Ya ain’t got shit, girl.”
You remained silent. He once again looked you up and down, almost curiously, before his eyes settled on your neck.
“Gimme that,” he stated, pointing towards your necklace with his knife.
Your hand immediately came up to clutch the chain, your heart stilling. “Please…” you finally whispered. “It was my parents,” you finished, as if sentiment would make a difference.
The man scoffed, towering over you intimidatingly. “An’ now it’s mine.”
You slowly lowered your hand, willing yourself not to cry in front of this horrible man.
He reached for you, his hand hovering just above your chest. His fingers lightly traced the top of your cleavage as he fished out the bottom part of the necklace. He puffed his chest out, clearly pleased with himself.
You clenched your hands into fists to stop yourself from clawing his eyes out.
He examined your parents wedding rings in the palm of his hand. “These some mighty fine rings ya got here,” he stated with a low whistle before pulling the necklace up over your head and sliding it over his own.
An emptiness settled over your chest where the rings use to lay. The last remaining pieces of your mother and father now hung around the neck of a monster.
“Please, you can have anything else, just…just not that necklace. Please,” you pleaded, unashamed. You just couldn’t allow that man to walk away with such a big piece of yourself.
The man chuckled, shoving his knife back into its sheath and pulling out your gun instead.
“Please,” you urged, taking a step towards him, not even phased by the gun now pointed at you.
“Back up, lil’ lady. I’d hate ta’ ruin that pretty face of yours.”
“Please!” you shouted, angry tears forming in your eyes.
“Are ya deaf or jus’ fuckin’ dumb? I said back —”
“I’ll do anything!” you interrupted, holding your hands up in surrender.
The man paused, that malicious gleam returning in his eyes and it didn’t take a genius to know where his mind was at.
“Well, I’ll be god damned…are ya hittin’ on me, sweetheart?” he taunted, licking his lips quickly.
Your body stilled and you immediately regretted opening your mouth.
“Anythin’, ya say?” the man leered, lowering the gun slightly. “Well, how ‘bout ya c’mere an’ take off your —”
“The hell is goin’ on here?” another voice rang out, snapping your head towards the trees.
A second man suddenly emerged, storming out of the forrest and heading straight for the first man.
There was two of them and one of you. Any thought you previously had of getting out of here alive disappeared instantly.
“Nice of ya ta’ join us,” the first man jeered, clapping the second man on the shoulder.
The second man shook off the first man’s hand, eyes darting between the two of you in confusion. “The hell ya doin’, Merle?” the second man snapped, staring at you for a moment longer.
“Jus’ havin’ a lil’ fun with the locals,” Merle brushed off, lowering the gun.
The second man surveyed the scene quickly — the ransacked car, the look of fear in your eyes, the look of triumph in Merle’s — and put two and two together.
Whatever his reaction was, he hid it well, his face turning even stonier than it already was. “Let’s get the hell outta here,” he rumbled, glancing at you once again.
And you could’ve sworn you saw something in his eyes in that split second — it almost looked like guilt.
Merle scoffed, hacking another mouthful of blood onto the road. “I ain’t done playin’, lil’ brother. I’ll catch up with ya,” he grunted, training his eyes back on you.
A chill settled over your bones and you glanced desperately at Merle’s brother, who seemed more reasonable.
The brother locked eyes with you and seemed to understand what you were thinking. He tore his gaze away and shook his head. “Nah, c’mon. Let’s go,” he urged his brother, placing his hand on his shoulder to pull him away.
Merle shook off his brother’s hand, turning to face him head on. “Get on home, Daryl,” he ordered, a sharpness to his voice.
Then he twisted back around and began stalking towards you.
You quickly shuffled backwards, shaking your head back and forth frantically, hands still up in surrender. “No, no, no, please, don’t — ”
“Hey!” Daryl shouted and you suddenly saw him right on Merle’s heels, grabbing his arm and pulling him away from you.
Merle spun around and shoved Daryl off him. “The hell’s the matter with ya!” Merle growled, getting into his brothers face.
“Me? The hell’s the matter with you!” Daryl snarled in return, shoving Merle back before pointing a finger in your direction. “We’re supposed ta’ be findin’ food for our people an’ instead I find ya out here pullin’ this shit? Again?”
You felt sick. You clearly weren’t the first person Merle had tormented.
“Ta’ hell with those people! They ain’t ‘our people’, lil’ brother. Never was, never will be. Me an’ you, Darlina — that’s all we got now.”
You saw Daryl clench his jaw, rolling his eyes slightly, looking thoroughly done with his brothers antics.
He shifted back and forth on his feet, his finger twitching towards the crossbow strapped across his back. You hadn’t even realized he was armed in the midst of all the chaos.
This felt like a private moment between the two brothers, like you’d accidentally stepped into the middle of their lives — and you wanted no part of it.
While the two men were distracted, you began slowly inching away, hoping to make it around to the other side of the truck. From there, you’d take off into the woods — it’d be enough of a head start to hopefully throw the men off your trail.
But you only made it a few inches before Merle’s voice cut through the air. “An’ where the hell ya sneakin’ off ta’, darlin’?”
Your body stilled, head snapping up, eyes locking with Merle’s. And then suddenly, he was raising your gun…clicking the safety off…aiming the barrel at your head and —
Your gaze swung over to Daryl, who now held his crossbow in his hands, the tip of the arrow pressed up against Merle’s temple.
Everyone froze. You couldn’t hear anything over the blood pounding in your ears. You held your breath, watching Daryl’s eyes darken as they frantically bounced between you and Merle — yet his crossbow remained steady.
Merle, on the other hand, just chuckled and you were starting to realize that laughter seemed to be his automatic default.
He whistled through his teeth, glancing at Daryl over his shoulder. “Well, I’ll be damned. Look who decided ta’ put on his ‘big boy panties’ today,” he sneered and although his expression was furious, you could almost hear a sense of pride in his voice.
“Drop it,” Daryl growled, voice low and threatening.
“I see how it is. Ya rather side with the skank than you’re own flesh an’ blood,” Merle scoffed, shaking his head.
When Daryl didn’t waver, Merle rolled his eyes dramatically, lowering the gun with a sour look on his face. “Give it back ta’ her,” Daryl continued, motioning towards your gun.
Merle once again scoffed, almost incredulously, and threw the gun off to the side. He then turned to face Daryl head on, his features darkening. “We gonna have ourselves a nice lil’ chat back at the camp, ya hear me?” Merle rumbled lowly, the subtext loud and clear.
Daryl was going to pay hell for standing up to his brother.
And you couldn’t help but feel for him.
The archer slowly lowered his weapon, any emotion he was feeling masked by that same stoic look permanently etched on his face. Merle started to move away, but Daryl quickly stepped in front of him.
“An’ that,” he said simply, pointing at your necklace wrapped around Merle’s throat.
Merle muttered a string of curses under his breath as he ripped the necklace off and threw it at your feet. He glanced up at you and winked. “See ya ‘round, darlin’,” he spat, before storming off.
Even as you watched him stalk off into the forrest, you could still feel your heart hammering in your chest, afraid he’d change his mind and come back for you.
You quickly bent down and picked up your necklace with shaky fingers, pulling it over your head and exhaling heavily — you hadn’t even realized you’d been holding your breath. You clutched the chain and squeezed your eyes shut.
You were vaguely aware of Daryl’s presence, who apparently hadn’t followed his brother into the woods. Your eyes shot open as you opened your mouth, about to tell him off, but something about his expression stopped you.
He was watching you, standing completely still, expression drawn tight — but his eyes…his eyes you couldn’t quite place. He almost looked…sad.
“M’ sorry ‘bout my brother,” Daryl suddenly spoke, breaking the tension between you two. It was the first time he’d addressed you directly and you simply didn’t know what to say. When you remained silent, the archer continued. “He’s a real prick sometimes.”
You scoffed humorlessly. “Yeah, no shit,” you bit back sharply, breaking eye contact with the man.
Wordlessly, you marched over to where Merle had thrown your gun and picked it up, shoving it into the waistband of your jeans. You began scooping up everything that had been thrown out of your truck. You could feel Daryl watching you move about the scene, but he made no attempt to help.
Which was fine.
You didn’t want his help. You wanted him to leave you the hell alone.
A fresh wave of anger started building up inside you as you threw your stuff into the backseat of the truck. Who the hell did this guy think he was? His brother almost tried to kill you and now he was just standing there, watching you pick up the few pieces left of your life.
You spun around, about to tell Daryl where exactly he could stick his apology, when he spoke up once again. “Want me ta’ take a look?”
You paused, confusion spreading over your face. “Excuse me?” you snapped, placing a hand on your hip.
Daryl quickly cleared his throat, the tips of his ears turning a light shade of red. “The truck…I mean the truck,” he clarified, motioning to the open hood. “Maybe I can, uh, get ‘er up an’ runnin’ or somethin’,” he offered, slinging his crossbow off his shoulder.
Your eyebrows furrowed as you stared at the man warily. “Why?” you retorted cautiously.
Daryl simply shrugged one shoulder up, shaking his head slightly. “Least I can do.”
Your expression faltered, some of your anger fading. “I guess,” you finally said, nodding your head once.
The man said nothing else and headed straight for the truck, propping his crossbow up against the front wheel. He exhaled heavily as he surveyed beneath the hood, eyebrows furrowed in concentration.
Daryl began fiddling with different parts, working silently and efficiently. His fingers moved delicately, which came as a surprise considering how he seemed a bit ‘rough around the edges’.
He peeked up at you and quickly did a double take, seeming surprised that you’d been watching him. It could’ve been the Georgian heat, but you thought you saw his cheeks flush a slight pink.
“There’s, uh, there’s some tools in the back if you need them,” you murmured, crossing your arms over your chest.
Daryl just grunted once, which you figured meant ‘yes’.
You made your way to the bed of the truck, hoisting yourself up and grabbing the toolbox stashed near the front of the cab. Hefting the box back around the truck, you dropped it near Daryl’s feet and took a couple steps back, letting him continue his work.
You finished gathering all your belongings and shoved them back into your pack, wiping the sweat that formed on your brow.
After you were finished getting your things in order, you came to a stand near the hood, leaning casually against the truck. Daryl didn’t seem big on conversation, choosing to work in silence rather than awkward small talk.
But you were too curious for your own good. “So, you’ve got a camp around here?”
Daryl glanced up at you from under his eyebrows, almost trying to gauge your question — like he was deciding whether or not you were a threat. He focused back on the truck and grunted once.
You took that as a ‘yes’.
“Where ya headed?” Daryl suddenly asked, making you pause. You hadn’t expected a question in return.
“The city. I hear Atlanta’s safe,” you finally murmured, staring down at your boots.
Your head shaped up at his response, your heart plummeting. “What?” you whispered incredulously.
Daryl quirked a brow and straightened up, wiping his hands on a red rag he pulled from his back pocket. “Ain’t nothin’ left. Jus’ them geeks,” he rumbled, watching your expression carefully.
“How’d you know?” you demanded, unable to stop the sharpness in your voice.
Daryl didn’t seem to be affected by your tone and continued on. “We got a guy. Makes runs downtown. Says everythin’s gone ta’ shit. Military up an’ left. Or turned if they didn’t.”
Your dropped your head to your chest, hiding the tears that suddenly sprang to your eyes. Atlanta had been a long shot — but it’d been your only shot. You’d been holding on to that last strand of hope that there was something left…anything left.
But the world was truly over.
And that was one hell of a pill to swallow.
You felt Daryl watching you and quickly pushed away from the truck, heading towards the cab. Wiping a tear that snaked down your cheek, you hopped into the bed of the truck, letting your legs dangle off the back.
You toyed with your necklace absently, brushing away another tear, staring off into the woods. Suddenly, you heard the hood slam shut and Daryl’s footsteps quietly approaching you. He came to a stop beside you, resting one forearm on the truck.
You peeked over at him, noticing how he was staring off in the general direction you had been, eyes far away. He stood awkwardly, like he had something to say but couldn’t exactly get the words together, which led him to just shift his weight back and forth.
For the second time, you wondered what this man was still doing here. Trying to make up for Merle? Trying to pay off some kind of debt? Whatever he was trying to accomplish, he didn’t need to suffer through your breakdown with you.
You sniffled, taking a breath. “Why are you still here?” you whispered thickly — not accusingly, more so just curious as to why he was helping you.
Daryl seemed thrown off by your question, looking even more uncomfortable. “I, uh, I don’t know,” he responded truthfully, shrugging a shoulder. “Don’t got no where else ta’ be, I guess,” he shrugged and you couldn’t tell if he was trying to be funny or not.
He didn’t seem like the ‘joking’ type, but regardless, you couldn’t help but feel a small smile creep on your face. His expression remained stony, but there was a shift in his eyes — deep in his eyes, but you could see it.
Daryl suddenly cleared his throat, pushing off the truck. “Try startin’ ‘er up.”
A small glimmer of hope bubbled in your chest and you quickly hopped off the truck. You slid past Daryl, yanked open the drivers side door and jumped inside. Grabbing the keys still lying on the dashboard, you said a silent prayer and shoved them into ignition.
You took a deep breath and turned the key.
And the sweetest noise you’d ever heard in your entire life filled the air — an engine roaring to life.
Your breath caught in your throat as you squeezed your eyes shut, letting your head fall back against the headrest.
It was about damn time you caught a lucky break.
You opened your eyes and looked over at Daryl, who was standing next to the open door, the corner of his mouth quirked up in what you assumed was the closest you were going to get to a smile.
“I don’t even know what to say,” you murmured, catching his eye. “How did you do it? I can’t even believe…you…just…thank you. Thank you so much,” you babbled earnestly, hoping your words expressed how grateful you truly were.
Daryl merely shrugged, clearly not comfortable taking a compliment. “Gonna need a different car soon. The, uh, the engine’s pretty shot,” he mumbled, shutting the door softly, but hovering near the open window.
“Thank you,” you said again, feeling a tightness in your chest fade.
Daryl nodded once, scooping up his crossbow and slinging it over his shoulder. He took a couple steps backwards, clearly waiting for you to drive off.
But you paused. Now that Atlanta was out of the picture, you didn’t know where to go.
“Fort Benning,” Daryl suddenly spoke, like he’d somehow read your mind.
You turned your head and looked at him curiously. “What?”
“Fort Benning. Hear it’s still up an’ runnin’. My group might be headin’ that way soon,” he offered, adjusting the strap of his crossbow.
You nodded thoughtfully. That didn’t sound like a bad idea. It was basically the only idea.
“Thank you, Daryl,” you murmured, now feeling like you owed him something. “Is there anything…can I give you something, or — I-I don’t have much but — ” you began rambling.
“Nah,” he immediately interjected, shaking his head quickly.
You sighed and locked eyes with him, it still feeling unfair to just leave. “Are you sure —”
“Nah, we’re square,” he countered, his voice unwavering.
And with nothing left to say, you shot him a small smile, put the truck into drive and started forward.
You’d only moved a couple feet when you heard Daryl call after you. “Hey!” he shouted and you slammed on the breaks, putting the truck into park.
You stuck your head out the window in confusion as the archer jogged towards you. “What is it?” you asked, puzzled, as he came to a stop beside you.
“Look, uh…uh,” he paused, eyebrows furrowed as he cocked his head.
You realized that the man didn’t even know your name. “Oh,” you murmured, a bit embarrassed. “Y/N.”
Daryl nodded. “Look, Y/N, if ya want — my group, we’re, uh, we’re holed up by the quarry. End of the road here, ya make a left. Head up the mountain. If ya decide not ta’ go ta’ Fort Benning, I jus’ wanted ya to know where we’re at,” he spilled out, almost in one breath.
You couldn’t hide the shock from your face. That was the last thing you’d except to come out of his mouth. And it was damn tempting. But after your little encounter with Merle…maybe it was best to stick it out alone.
“Thank you. But, I’ll be okay,” you mumbled, barely convincing yourself.
Daryl seemed to see right through you but didn’t comment on it. “If ya change your mind, then. We got food…people…protection,” he added with emphasis. “Ain’t too smart bein’ out here on your own.”
You stopped yourself from asking why he cared so much.
Then Merle’s face popped into your mind. And his “See ya ‘round, darlin’,” echoed in your ear.
“I’m probably safer out here than in a camp with your brother,” you couldn’t stop yourself from spitting out, hearing the venom clearly in your voice.
“He won’t bother ya,” Daryl immediately shot back, resolutely.
“How do you —”
“I’ll make sure of it.”
And you believed him.
Still, you didn’t know him — any of them. And your stubbornness got the best of you. “Thanks for everything.”
Daryl got the hint and nodded once — and you could’ve sworn he almost looked disappointed. You sent him a small wave as he took a step back from the window and then, you began your journey.
You looked in the rearview mirror to find Daryl standing in the middle of the road, watching you drive off. You kept checking the reflection until he was nothing but a speck behind you, before he disappeared altogether.
As you continued down the road, you couldn’t help but second guess yourself — had you made the right decision? Had you made the smart decision? Were those decisions even the same anymore?
So much had happened today — it was a lot to process. But there would come a time to sit and think and feel. Right now, you had be logical.
There was safety in numbers. There were resources at the camp — resources that you just did not have right now.
And there was Daryl. He was the first person you’d come across who gave you hope that not everyone left on earth was a prick. You felt okay with him around. Something you hadn’t felt in a long time.
And then, there was Fort Benning. Another good option — if it was still up and running. Military protection, a community, a fresh start…
But you hadn’t come this far just to give up. You knew how to take care of yourself. You could make it another hundred miles.
Sticking by yourself was the smart decision.
The road came to an end a quarter mile ahead — turning right sent you towards Fort Benning, turning left sent you up the mountain, like Daryl said.
Your head was telling you to turn right — to not let some random stranger who saved your life affect the choices you make.
But deep down, you knew this was a decision you had to make with your gut and not your brain.
The truck rumbled beneath you as it slowed, coming to the intersection. You looked in both directions, feeling your stomach flip flop as your heart raced in your chest. You grabbed your necklace, squeezing your parents rings in the palm of your hand.
You’d made it far on your own. But that could change. Life was fleeting in this new world — nothing guaranteed, nothing secured.
But maybe, just maybe, you didn’t have to do this on your own anymore. You didn’t have to survive alone.
You took a deep, calming breath.
And then, you turned left.