He remembered daydreaming about an apocalypse. Not the kind ending in spilt blood or a plague or some biblical prophecy, but one ending in silence; solitude. The kind depicted in sci-fi films about the end of the world, one man left to survive on his own. The earth is quiet, no car honking or chattering of people in neighbourhood cafés. The sound of a stereo at a neighbourhood party, and the sirens of cops that were called after noise complaints; they ceased to exist. Nothing except the sounds of nature and the absence of most human life. Maybe a growl or two if you’re lucky.
He believed this was his reality at times, that he really was in that b-rated sci-fi movie (the one he wasted the twelve dollars on that he saved up with his friends, the oldest of the group sneaking the gaggle of 11 and 10 year olds into the PG13 movie,) whenever he got too comfortable with the silence and having himself as the only company he had. But as always he had to brush away that peaceful certainty and dive into the apocalypse that had begun both in blood and plague, on top of the religious end of times. That was at least what his church had been preaching prior to the outbreak, anyway. He’s reminded that the dead ruled over man and the world he had once known it as was taken and tossed carelessly into a bottomless trash bin God labelled “Oops,” never to be seen again. It was kind of sick in a way, not that it mattered. His faith had been burning out since the end of times started to appear on the news and on street corners, the homeless held signs with bible quotes and prepared for the worst. The once blazing bonfire of faith dwindled into steaming coals of doubt.
Before the apocalypse, his church was raving about the end of the world, and “Judgement day is coming! Cleanse yourself of sin!” was the only thing he heard for weeks. Needless to say his little 11 year old brain was oblivious to it and instead continued to play with the other kids, colouring in pictures of cartoon white-washed Jesus. Then the broadcasts started popping up in the middle of his shows in the morning during breakfast as his parents were getting ready for work. So much for Rugrats.
Fast-forward to few months ago, his group was taken by the dead. Him and his group were just about to begin thriving. They had put up fences that could hold a small group of walkers from caving it in around a plot of farmland, which had a cycle where a few people would circle the fences and keep watch, day in and day out. Years of desperation and pure drudgery finally paying off. The day everything was destroyed, (Y/N) was with a little girl, picking out ripe vegetables from the garden while her mother washed clothes a couple yards away. The day seemed as normal as any other, as normal as it could be. The little girl, her name was Samantha but he called her Sammy because it made her giggle, had been picking only the reddest of tomatoes in the garden while he told her that it was okay that they weren’t entirely ripe, that they could be a little green. “We can have them sit out for a day, they’ll be fine then,” he’d say, a playfully exasperated sigh on his lips.
Her unsuspecting mother was watching them, a melancholy smile on her thin lips, her eyes pensive. She was happy that even though there weren’t many little kids Sammy’s age, that her daughter still had someone to play with, even if that person was a nineteen year old boy who had to kill his own family to keep them from turning. He’d fall in love with the ragtag family of theirs and would be welcomed in with open arms and cared for for as long as he needed them after he was torn from his real one.
When they first found him, 7 whole years ago, (Y/N) was crying- no, bawling his eyes out, laying in a thick pool of blood, a mallet in his hand from his dad’s shed while his parents laid carelessly on the floor next to a dead walker, just a gory lifeless pulp. It happened in seconds but whenever he replayed it in his mind, it lasted hours, haunting him when he couldn’t seem to get to sleep in the ominously quiet early hours of the morning. (Y/N) had left the front door open after running into the house with the childlike aura still floating around his short stature, he had found a flower in the yard. Their lawn wouldn’t grow anything except mediocre greenish yellow grass, his father was somewhat ashamed of it because in this neighborhood, your lawn was the first thing others would see and the suburbia dream land of bullshit wanted to keep it’s image clean and presentable. They tried and tried, fertilizer after fertilizer, yet nothing. The lawn was barren of life. He never gave up, even after his father had and just accepted the raised eyebrows and looks of distaste that would be thrown his way. In a fleeting few moment of happiness, (Y/N) gushing out how something finally grew, a walker had followed him into the house, then stumbled towards the kitchen as he babbled. One thing led to another. His parents were only trying to save him.
His father slit his own throat out of impulse after being bitten, which left his mother to scream and hit her husband's chest as blood ran from his neck like a broken faucet, (despite the pain in her arm from her own bite,) for leaving her like this. Moments later she then too sliced across her neck with a hunting knife, the same selfish desire to die before turning in her eyes.
“I’m sorry, (Y/N).”
This left their youngest child at the mercy of finishing them off. Now, no, he did not exactly kill his parents, but in his mind he did. The walker came in only because he didn’t close the damn door. Because he didn’t close the door, his parents were as good as dead. The 4 other siblings, old enough to hunt according to their parents, didn’t find out until they had dragged a deer home to find that their little brother was gone, rescued by the group who had heard his anguished screams, and their parents dead on the floor of their childhood home. He hadn’t seen his siblings since, or knew if they were even alive for that matter.
He can imagine the screams from his sisters and his older brothers panicking and blubbering, “How could you leave us like this?” The cuts across their throats evident.
The peaceful setting of your second home came to an end with one abrupt, stealthy bite into Samantha’s mother’s neck. He watched the scene, everything moving in slow motion, horror in his eyes as he rewatched his family getting infected. Samantha was screaming, her mother yelling that she loved her. Sammy beat on (Y/N), pounding her little fists into his chest and head. But, he was frozen in fear just as he was seven years ago. The tear and snot covered child screamed bloody murder while the watchmen shot at the large lumbering crowd of walkers who toppled the fences effortlessly. Their bullets weren’t of much use.
Sammy, at the beautiful age of seven, was then ripped away, receiving the same ending her mother endured. In a brief flashing moment of clarity, (Y/N) slipped his knife from his belt and rammed it into the base of the corpse’ skull. At seven, (Y/N) was going to church bake sales. At seven he was learning how to play video games that his older brothers bought with their allowance. At seven he was still weary to learn how to ride a bike. At seven he was not fearing death like Samantha; not left to be torn to shreds by walkers because even though she was screaming, no one would listen.
This is my fault.
Watching the distress on Sammy’s face reminded him of the same expression he had when his parents had been bit, a screaming 11 year old with gore splattered on his skin and begging to the God he still half-heartedly believed in to bring them back. Except now he was a man without a god. A man who froze up when disaster could have been averted.
(Y/N) cradled that little girl while bullets ricocheted around the both of them, the deafening sound of gunfire and garbled growls ringing in his ears. He almost didn’t notice he was sobbing as he tried to coo at Sammy, let her know her mommy was waiting for her in heaven on the fluffiest cloud, the one she pointed out yesterday while the both of them picked flowers from the patch of flat grass near the barn. That everything was going to be fine and she wouldn’t have to endure this pain much longer. That he loved her with all his heart and that she was the little sister he never had. Incoherently murmuring these soft words through broken sobs that were dripping with spit and mucus, he noticed her head fall back limp, the small hand that had gripped his dirty tee-shirt with such desperate force had relaxed. Sammy’s face no longer showed pain, instead showing peace.
She was gone.
Most likely everyone else in that ragtag family of his was dead after he left. Hyperventilating, he sprinted to the closest road where a car was stored in case of emergency. He had managed to escape, escape with nothing but the clothes on his back and the bag he had at his side. It was something. Even though the car which would’ve been his saving grace was gone, that he’d have to set out on foot and hope for the best, he was okay, or as much as one could be. His bag had a gun, a few rounds, a protein bar, a half-empty canteen, and a little note card in a plastic tag saying “This bag belongs to: (Y/N),” and “If found call: blank,” His name had faded over the years, and was a grey-blue smear at this point, but the telephone number he hadn’t even written down before shit hit the fan because he couldn’t remember his home telephone number for the life of him.
Over the months he estimated had past since he was last with his group, he judged about three, (Y/N) managed to gather bits and pieces of food and supplies, all of which were hastily shoved into the messenger satchel after realising he wasn’t alone in the crumbling stores. (Y/N) did his best to conserve ammo, he believed he’d only used 3 bullets so far, and that was only when situations became dire. Although he knew one bullet for sure was because he forgot to put the safety on, nearly taking his damned foot off. If using the gun could be avoided, there was a rather hefty hunting knife on his belt at all times, a dull one at that.
He didn’t entirely know where he was going or if he even had a destination in mind in the first place as he wandered. But nonetheless, he walked the abandoned streets and scavenged what he could. If he correctly counted the days like he thought, it would’ve been the first of October, maybe the second. Although he probably could’ve guessed that by the way the trees shook out their green pigments in exchange for their fiery hues.
Noticing an old forgotten crossroad, he glanced down the other directions and decided on the one which seemed to lead to someone’s old hometown they kept trying to visit but never found the time to to his left. Maybe he’d find some mom n’ pop stores that weren’t bare to the bone. Find some matches, or whatever.
Crows snipped at something in the middle of a crosswalk. Gross. Pharmacie, bank, hardware shop, diner, corner stores and a family grocer. Lady luck be with him, he really needed it. His stomach begged for something, anything, so he hoped dinner would be hiding somewhere. He went with his best bet to find food, the grocer. The day grew late and he would just have to explore the town with haste, not to be caught outside at night.
(Y/N) went through the regular procedure: find an entry point, knock, wait to hear if something stirs within, stealthily take out whatever’s inside, then begin the raid. And as he thought, the store was pretty stripped of anything useful. Most stores nowadays were pretty bare, you might find a matchbook and if you're lucky there might actually be matches in it. Figures. Trailing his fingers over the miscellaneous items, he took what was useful. He steered clear of the moldy, decayed, and sprouting produce on the right side of the store. Time to scan for something worth his while. Old newspaper, no. The tube from a roll of toilet paper, nope. A double A battery, probably dead. Aha, a can. Of something. Pray it’s not dog food. He tried to be quick about it as the sun was about to dip below the horizon. One last lap around each aisle ended his scavenge, and now the last rays of sunlight peeked through the grimy windows of the shop.
Great, it’s dark now. He thought. (Y/N) hoped he could at least have had time to look for a house or something to crash in for the night.
Though in the corner of his eye he noticed a door that said,‘Employees Only’ on a tilted sign. Seems promising. It would have to do for the night. With his knife ready by his side he jiggled the door handle. Luckily, it was unlocked. A squeaky twirl of the handle definitely ruined his attempt at keeping this intrusion stealthy in case someone or something was behind the door. To his surprise there was no one, although it looked like there was somebody holed up here for a time, but it was noticeably abandoned now.
Score, couple unopened cans.
The cans, their labels missing or faded unfortunately, were on top of a stubby table next to a bare mattress, unappealing sweat stains were scattered all over it. It was better than a concrete floor, so he shrugged his jacket off, light squeaks coming from the rough leather, then laid it over the bed to cover what he could. His aching muscles strained and attempted to relax. With a huff, (Y/N) plopped onto the mattress, which upon landing to test it, realised it wasn’t much better than the floor and it was comparable to crumbly cinder block. Oh well.
The little office was pretty naked besides a desk paired with an a worn swivel chair, and or course the mattress with the small table. A few photos were tacked to the walls, assumably of the business owners and their families. A soft ache in his heart made him look away. He crawled over to open the drawers. A few more cans, thank God, a change of clothes, ammo for a shotgun, which sadly was nowhere insight. The last survivor here must’ve taken it but absentmindedly forgot the box of ammo in a sudden need to flee. In an attempt to keep himself from meeting the same fate, he rolled the desk chair over and propped it against the door that led through the main shop room. Well, it’ll hold. Maybe not for long but maybe enough to wake up and prepare to leave like the other guy. There was another door on the opposite wall, though that one had a lock on it. Cautiously he peeked out and found that it opened to the alley in between this shop and some mom n’ pop diner beside it. Could be a useful escape route if he needed it. (Y/N) shut it and switched the deadbolt, jiggling the handle to test its strength. Pretty solid.
It was time to hit the hay. Glancing at his watch, it was roughly nine o’clock and he needed to get up early to scavenge the rest of the commons get the hell out of this town. He never stayed anywhere too long, afraid that he’d stumbleupon some wandering group, or worse they stumbleupon him. These days it’s kill or be killed; and no one trusted anyone but their own now.
“Why didn’t you save me?”
“I’m so sorry…”
“You didn’t save me. You let me die.”
“I’m so sorry, please…”
“You killed me.”
“You killed me!
You killed me!
You killed me!”
A gasp, a feverish jolt upwards, and the realisation he was still in the store was the delightful way he woke up that morning. He clutched his chest like it’d slow his feverishly beating heart.
That nightmare made him wake up with nausea every day, reliving the horror of watching an innocent little girl’s neck get torn apart as he fled to save his own skin; usually people have a cup of coffee to wake up instead of reliving trauma. Even if he did start to vomit, there wasn’t much that would come up, forcing him to dry heave out a window with a mock prayer that it would end as soon as possible.
He felt so selfish that he grabbed his bag and just ran after watching his second family being torn apart. He ran and ran until his legs faltered and gave in beneath him, dropping him to his knees in the middle of a long forgotten road before sobbing until he couldn’t anymore. Until his lungs burned for air and his eyes were parched. (Y/N) knew by the time he had noticed she had been bitten it was too late and that he couldn’t have done anything anyway, panic-stricken or not. But every logical reason he had to defend his actions, or lack there of, still left him with a sour flavour on his tongue.
Wiping away the cold sweat on his brow, he let out a heavy sigh. It was thick with morning breath and whines from his stomach. (Y/N) hadn’t ate the night before like a dumbass even though the couple extra cans he found would’ve allowed him to.
In the midst of the apocalypse it seemed as if he had aged thirty years despite being a 19 year old. His bones became old, muscles straining to feel youthful without a proper bed to sleep on at night. The musty twin mattress on the floor he slept on wasn’t quite up to par, but it was better than the unforgiving concrete floor. He ‘oughta find a nice home in the rural suburbs with a normal damn bed one of these days, his neck was killing him.
Without any heat, the can of soup he cracked open for breakfast was interesting to say the least. Funny how things tasted so different depending on the temperature. The quarter full canteen of water on the desk preoccupied his thoughts as he stared at it from across the room, happily lapping at the plastic spoon holding a heap of chunky soup. It was the only water he had left after an unfortunate encounter with a walker. The damn thing snuck up on he while he was taking a sip; he ended up spilling it once he recognised the snarl and haphazardly jumped for his knife. Good going, dude. The recent migraines indicated he was dehydrated but his stubborn nature said it was best to ration it. It hadn't rained in weeks so he assumed it would be awhile before it rained again, and only then he could gather some clean water. No one could trust freshwater anymore with the possibility of oozing and water logged walkers at the bottoms of lakes and rivers. Thankfully he was finished with breakfast or his appetite would’ve been ruined with that thought.
The ribbed interior of the can vibrated as he scraped the spoon against it in a greedy attempt to scoop out the remaining scraps. It wasn’t Sunday dinner after a long ass prayer with his family, the ones he’d sneak bites of food in during anyways, but it was pretty damn close. If his mother ever caught him sneaking a carrot or a scoop of potatoes during prayer she’d swat his hand, her brows furrowed while his mother attempted to appear upset with him, but then he’d laugh and tell her that she was the one with her eyes open during grace. Dad would laugh like he hadn’t had a bad day at work, followed by his siblings chuckles. Then dinner would begin like any other night and they’d talk about one another's day. Remembering that middle class suburban dream had him at a loss for words. (Y/N) was a hardened person now. Before he was a little boy wearing shorts and a button down, running with his friends to sunday school. Now he sported a gory hoodie under a worn leather jacket, fingerless gloves that have almost run their course on his now calloused hands, legs clad with blood stained jeans and boots one size too big on his feet, all wrapped up with a cold glare on his face. His mother probably would’ve fainted ever seeing him like this.
It was all pastels and khaki back then. Turns out even in the apocalypse he got some sort of rebellious punk phase. One of his sisters was in the middle of one when it started. She had gotten a nose ring, much to his mother and fathers distaste. (Y/N) found it strange but intriguing nonetheless. Why willingly poke holes in your body? That and his mother said it was a sin to augment the body the Lord gave them. But then again even as a child his faith was weary. He didn’t understand religion but since his family practiced it, he did too. It made sense for the most part back then, but he began to realise that if there was a God, he fucking hated the world he created if he, or she, or whatever had the balls to throw everyone for a tailspin and toss them into an unforgiving shit storm. His mother said he was testing his followers to see if they would stay loyal, even when the dead roamed the earth and ripped humanity limb from limb. Literally. Some sort of cruel joke that was.
Throwing on his everyday ensemble, he stood with a few of his raw joints giving a good snap. (Y/N) shrugged his backpack onto his shoulders, knife at his belt and his gun tucked into the waistband of his jeans. The autumn chill hit him like a slap to the face as he escaped through the alley and into the abandoned street, putting on his gloves after the wakeup call. It was quiet, a couple birds chanted their songs somewhere and the creak of a store sign was swinging in the soft breeze.
Then there was thunder. Maybe it will rain afterall.
But it was no thunder. A roaring truck screeching its brakes as it turned onto his street made him cringe, followed by his own hasty footsteps back into the alley. Slamming, yelling, cursing followed suit after the idling engine was ordered to be shut off.
Great, more assholes, he thought as he crouched behind a couple trash bins. There wasn’t any means of escape, a wall blocked a way out behind him, and going through the store wouldn’t work because the only other door led to the front of the mom and pop business. The diner beside him wouldn’t work either because the only door you saw yesterday was at the front. (Y/N) huffed, half listening to the grunts of men and women jumping out of the truck, and perhaps a car or two, then yelling from some guy barking out orders to tell everyone to search the block and take anything and everything useful. He could hear the smug grin on his face.
Heavy boots clomping around in all directions blurred his sense of where everyone was. It sounded like only a handful of guys thankfully. Maybe he’d just have to make a distraction and run. While deep in thought, trying to concoct some sort of plan, he didn’t hear careful footfalls coming towards him until he had but moments to react. He lunged at the poor soul, rather gracefully stumbling towards them, and then latched an arm around their neck, slipping his knife from his belt before pressing it to their neck.
Ouch. Sick burn. The greasy haired man he strained to hold wore a scaly scar across their face. He winced at it.
“Listen man, I don’t want any trouble. Just let me run and y’all will never see me again,” he hushed into their ear, knife still firm against the man’s surprisingly calm pulse.
“You’re going to regret this.”
That was the last he heard. In a split second his blade clattered to the ground, and his face was being shoved into the rough pavement, scuffing up his cheek. He growled to deter from the fact he was scared shitless. The blond took him by the hair with a sharp and bony grip, then bent one of his arms uncomfortably behind his back.
“Fuck off man!” Similar to a child being carried out of a store by their parents, he flailed his legs around while he was dragged into the street, making a bigger fuss than he probably should have. All eyes were locked on him. “Dude! I said I’d take off I swear I don’t have jack shit, just let me go!” A sharp kick was delivered to his back after briefly being let go, pushing him into a submissive kneel. A string of curse words left his lips while he panicked, nonetheless there was a composed scowl on his features. He’d encountered guys like this before but it was easy then, he just ran away and hoped to god they didn’t see him or he actually had means of escape. Maybe his luck had just run out. More assholes gathered around him, guns aimed at his head. This was it. His faith in God was gone but for a brief passing moment he thought about seeing his family in heaven. Though after all he’d done in the end of times, he was positive that was not where he were going. “Come on man- I’m just a nobody let me go-!” a blow to the head made him cry out with a hiss, shutting his attitude up in concern he’d get hit again.
“ Shut up ,” the greasy blond man snarled through his teeth, shoving the blunt icy tip of his pistol against his temple.
“Well, well, well! What the fuck do we have here, Dwighty?” A new voice put emphasis on each syllable with a stomp before stilling.
He had the same question. Who the fuck was that? (Y/N)’s vision was slightly fuzzy from the misleading tears in his eyes that were from pain pulsing from the back of his skull rather than fear. Eyes glued to the pavement, he didn’t dare look up at the booming voice in front of him, assumably the one and only man in charge.
“Just some kid.”
“A kid huh?” He heard the sound of the man scratching his beard.
“Fucker jumped me.”
A hearty laugh. “Really? This ‘kid’ jumped you?”
(Y/N) had the urge to look up but instead only glanced over, noticing a dull light being reflected off of a barbed bat. Jesus Christ I’m going to die. A few gentler steps were taken towards him, his heart galloping in his chest and his eyes darting between the two boots in front of him. A soft chuckle left the guy in charge.
“That true, kid?”
He said nothing, worried he’d say the wrong thing, bringing his untimely demise quicker than he had intended, by a barbed wire baseball bat no less. What a psycho. A harsh gloved hand yanked at his chin, a half cry half gasp slipping from his throat, it turning into a quiet growl towards the end, regretfully so. A fiery twinkle in the man’s eyes sent a chill raking up and down his spine.
“Speak when you are spoken to, kid,” His firm tone sent chills raking up and down his spine, a hiccup followed suit with tears dripping down to the man's glove.
“I-I was just going to leave man, I really don't want any trouble. I don't have much, just take my bag and you’ll never see me again,” the embarrassing quiver in his not-so-intimidating voice made him flush. He squared his jaw and blinked feverishly, attempting to appear composed. Obviously it didn’t work because the man only grinned some more. The different groups he came upon during the apocalypse slowly chipped away at the confidence he had left. The confidence that spilled blood onto his hands without falter, except when it came to those he cared about. But he didn't care, did he? Not about himself. That is what he was afraid of. Giving up, forfeiting his fight and letting death take over and control a cannibalistic vessel he used to call his body.
“Hey- calm the fuck down kid, I’m not going to hurt ya.” Finally mustering up the courage to stare him point blank in the eye, he brushed off his undying desire to give it all up right now, allowing a murderous twitch in his eye before their gazes connected. (Y/N) swallowed harshly, eyes trailing up the body of the now crouching man before him. “I was just gonna say that was pretty badass, I don’t know about you snottin’ all over the place now, but tryin’ to take down one of my top guys? Takes some mighty guts.” Snotting all over, my ass.
His toothy grin sent a different kind of chill down (Y/N)’s back. The kind that made his heart flutter and his cheeks flush with heat.
“ I’m Negan. ”