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All You Have Is Your Fire

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Daryl Dixon: “You know, my mom, she liked her wine. She liked to smoke in bed. Virginia Slims. I was playing out with the kids in the neighborhood. I could do that with Merle gone. They had bikes, I didn't. We heard sirens getting louder. They jumped on their bikes, ran after it, you know, hoping to see something worth seeing. I ran after them, but I couldn't keep up. I ran around a corner and saw my friends looking at me. Hell, I saw everybody looking at me. Fire trucks everywhere. People from the neighborhood. It was my house they were there for. It was my mom in bed burnt down to nothing. That was the hard part. You know, she was just gone. Erased. Nothing left of her. People said it was better that way. I don't know. Just made it seem like it wasn't real, you know?” – The Walking Dead, 3x06, “Hounded”

When I was a child, I heard voices
Some would sing and some would scream

“ ‘Come on! It’s my turn!,” Daryl said, reaching out for Hunter’s bike. “Nuh-uh! My bike! I git ta say when you git ta ride, and you git ta wait yer turn.” Daryl reckoned he’d been waiting long enough, and he reached out and grabbed the handle, causing Hunter to fall to the ground—Daryl laughed. “Hey! That isn’t funny!,” Hunter yelled, and jumped on Daryl, hitting him. Daryl shoved him off and jumped up—he was faster than the other boys, one benefit of never having a bike. The kids all yelled and screamed for Daryl to “git back here!,” but he was gone. Of course, they could catch him if they jumped on their bikes, so he was glad that all the action had distracted them. Daryl quit running when he heard sirens, and everyone went quiet as they got louder and louder, moving closer to them. He jumped out of the road as the firetruck turned down the street. Nate jumped on his bike, “C’mon guys!” Hunter, Jake and Chris followed him, racing down the street and out of Daryl’s view. He knew he couldn’t catch them, but he ran as fast as he could anyways.

You'll soon find you have few choices
I learned the voices died with me

When he got there, he suddenly felt very small. He was now completely distracted from the reason he ran there. His eyes hadn’t yet made it to the firetruck’s destination, rather, he made eye contact with each and every neighbor staring at him, one by one. He felt a sudden wave of embarrassment sweep over him, and he felt sick for a moment. “Whaddya lookin’ at, huh? I ain’t did nothin’!” He looked all around then, and he saw several firetrucks, and streams of water, and his house—in flames. “Ma! My Ma’s in there!,” he ran past everyone, towards the house, and he ran until a firefighter grabbed him and held him firmly. He struggled to get away, but the man just covered his view more, to protect his face and small lungs from the fire and smoke, or maybe to protect him from the memory.

When I was a child I'd sit for hours
Staring into open flames

He sat Daryl down when the boy stopped struggling and gave him a blanket, directing him towards an ambulance in the back. For a moment, his eyes were locked on the flames. He didn’t budge. He stared at the monstrous mass of hell that was his home. It would never be the same. What felt like hours of watching it burn was merely seconds. The firefighter nudged him towards the ambulance again and softly stated, “come on, kid, you don’t want to see this.” Finally, Daryl started to wander that way, but found himself headed towards the woods instead—he wanted to be alone. He wasn’t dumb, and he knew that, when his father came back from his hunting trip, he’d be in trouble for not taking care of his Ma. On the one hand, Daryl felt some guilt about it, but he felt more fear thinking of his Dad. He figured they would be visiting her in the hospital for a while, and his Dad would be mad at him every time he saw her. He didn’t look forward to seeing him again.

Something in it had a power
Could barely tear my eyes away

From where he was, Daryl could see the smoke change. He had learned in science class that black smoke usually meant the fire was worse, and, sometimes, when white smoke appeared after black smoke, it meant that the fire was under control. He breathed a sigh of relief, and wondered if everyone was done watching everything now, and if it was safe to go home. He waited about another fifteen minutes before hiking back towards the street. By the time he got home, the firetrucks were gone, the people had cleared out, but there were police officers putting up caution tape and the ambulance hadn’t left. A cop called out to Daryl, “You just keep walkin,’ nothin’ to see here, you get home now.” But Daryl was home, so he just stood there.

All you have is your fire
And the place you need to reach

The cop walked up, “Git outta here, ya hear, boy? Scat.” He didn’t move, and the cop came after him. He looked up at him and asked, “Where’s Ma?” The man looked confused for a moment, but the realization hit him hard, and Daryl watched the man’s body language shift from threatening to sympathetic—he didn’t know which one he hated more. “WELL? WHERE IS SHE?,” the boy demanded, if for no other reason than to get the cop’s eyes off of him. He hated when people looked at him like that. Teachers did that at school, cops did that at home when they came to get Merle or Dad, and even his neighbors, who usually wanted nothing to do with the Dixons, took time out of their busy schedules to look at Daryl like that.

Don't you ever tame your demons
But always keep them on a leash

Daryl couldn’t recall what the cop said or if he stopped looking at him that way, even only two days later. The next thing he remembered was the day his dad came home. Daryl cringed when he saw him, scared of the man, but he walked right passed the boy—as if he wasn’t even there. He wasn’t angry, and he didn’t know if he was sad either—it was like they were in two different worlds, and his Dad couldn’t see him or hear him or, well, anything. In fact, he was like that with everyone in the world. It made Daryl even more uncomfortable than when he was scared of the man, and so he hid from him anyways. Sometimes, he still wakes up thinking about that difficult week, but he still can’t remember those two days.

Lyrics from “Arsonist’s Lullaby” – Hozier