“If everybody dies of this thing, and it’s just the two of us, with Judith and Carl–my children… I won’t have you there.”

Daryl stumbles upon a glittering object up ahead on the road. “Is that jasper?” asks Michonne. Daryl spits and cleans the new-found treasure with his fingers. “Mm-hmm,” answers the busybody. “It’s a good color. Brings out your eyes,” says a smiling Michonne. “It’s for Miss Richard’s husband’s grave marker,” he elaborates. Michonne reacts with awe realizing that Daryl, out of all the sweat, tears, and bloodshed he have survived through, finds the time to know each person’s name at the prison. “You stay in one place more than a couple hours, you’d be surprised what you pick up,” Daryl reasons as he resumes leading the group to West Peachtree Tech’s veterinarian college. Time is ticking.

It’s not uncommon for anyone else to go on a run with Rick to collect food outside the perimeter. This time, however, Rick asks Carol. “OK. I don’t mind,” she responds. The day before Carol had confessed she was the one who took David and Karen’s life. Karen, the former Woodbury resident and a soldier who had proved she can hold her own ground against walkers, keeping the fences in check, and notably the soul mate of Tyreese, confined to the bed with a high fever and coughing had a chance, however slim, had a chance to recover. The blade that Carol always carried reminded her, day and night, to never stop fighting the undead. “You fight, or you run,” is her mantra, and running was out of the question. Carol’s blade had never taken a human life before. Tending to Karen’s illness with a bucket of water and cloth, wiping away her sweat and blood-filled mucus, Carol had come to the conclusion that there is always a remedy. The blade viciously penetrated into Karen’s spine. Carol dragged the motionless bodies outside and burnt them.

Daryl’s group arrives at Big Tony’s Express Mart where they jump start a Chrysler Town & Country. The campus looks larger than what is shown on the brochure for visitors. Moms and dads and starting freshman hugging their luggage and flocking to the excitement of living abroad for the first time is now decorated with dead leaves, overgrown grass, shattered windows, and old newspapers loitered by the unpredictable Georgia wind. Everything that was once is now a ghost town. As they carefully enter Lab 232, Bob instructs the others to grab anything ending with -cillin or -cin.  He continues, “We’ll dissolve the pills in the IVs, put ’em right into the bloodstream. Dosage will be tricky but considering the time we lost…” Daryl and Tyreese interrupt Bob with bags of medicine and medical supplies. Hershel was right. With all these bottles it would be like winning the Georgia Powerball. Daryl’s chuckle at the thought quickly dissipates at the crack of moaning. “Walkers,” Michonne covertly motions with her left hand. It’s too late–they, and the new breed of infected, see the survivors racing toward the stairs. They make it to the end of the hallway only to be ambushed by more walkers. “Shit, the exit’s jammed,” panics Bob, thrusting his right shoulder to the door for a miracle. “Then we’ll make a way out!” Daryl shouts. Tyreese effortlessly throws a fire extinguisher to the windows, making an unorthodox exit. But there is a six feet jump to reach the next building. Only Bob lands the wrong way that his backpack dangles from the edge. Landing a couple of inches further he would have been killed. He wrestles with the dozens of walkers grabbing the backpack full of priceless medicine. “Just let it go,” protests the others. They see Bob won’t comply so they help in the tug of war game.

THUMP… 

The backpack echoes off a thick glass sound. Daryl’s tone grows menacing. “You got no meds in your bag? Just this? You should have kept walking that day.” Back at Big Tony’s when Daryl and Bob were maintaining the vehicle, Bob confessed that drinking had helped him ease the quietness of being the only survivor in his last two groups, and this is what had gotten Zack killed back at Big Lots. To his credit, Bob resisted looting the liquor that day, and Daryl commended his actions. This day is different. “Don’t!” Bob defensively yells with his hand about to unholster the pistol to stop Daryl from shattering the Crown Royal. Tyreese and Michonne glue their eyes on Daryl as he goes straight up to Bob. The two make eye contact; one pair of green eyes triumphing over the other in a fierce showdown. “I didn’t want to hurt nobody. It was just for when it gets quiet,” sobs Bob. “Take one sip. When these meds get in our people, I will beat your ass into the ground. You hear me?” threatens Daryl as he hands the bottle back to Bob.

The drive to find food and other valuables is a long one. It’s only appropriate to build the prison that’s intended to hold murderers awaiting lethal injection and the lucky for-life inmates as far away as possible from a civilized community. As a result, the commute is understandably unpleasant, even bearing more weight because of what has come to light. Carol sits in the passenger seat of the Hyundai Santa Fe looking directly ahead of the dirty windshield. “Maggie wanted to come, you know,” Carol breaks the silence. “Someone had to stay back, watch over things,” Rick immediately responds. “Someone you trust, you mean.” A brief uncomfortable pause. “They would have drowned in their own blood. They were suffering. I made it quick. We needed the bodies gone. We needed to stop it from spreading. They were the only ones who were sick. They were a threat. I was trying to save lives. I had to try. Somebody had to.” Indifference shadows Rick’s usual sympathetic persona. “Maybe,” he emits.

The engine stops in front of a contemporary brick-and-wood two story home suitable for any starting family. “We search for meds. Anything we can eat, we take,” instructs Rick. The house appears to be clear as Rick takes point. He cries out, “Carol!” A walker falls down the wooden stairs almost landing on Carol if it hadn’t been for Rick pulling her back. Carol stabs its head without flinching. Rick is put off by her approach, imagining a helpless Karen had met the same fate as the walker. Two individuals–a girl and a boy about in their late teens to early twenties–come out of the bathroom they’ve hidden in. “Whoa, whoa. It’s cool,” Sam nervously says. “We have fruit,” Sam throws a colorful peach to their rescuers. Rick’s Python revolver yet remains to be lowered.

28

27
I don’t want your peach.

Sam and Gina had met at the Regent Refugee Facility shortly after the outbreak. There was a breach and the military stationed there to keep order were massacred. With hundreds of refugees fleeing from the uncontrollable fire and storming towards the exit in a violent fashion, Gina’s right leg was crippled when she lost her balance and got trampled on. Fortunately, a young guy happened to notice the damsel in distress and swooped in for the rescue. Ever since then the two were in love and inseparable.

Rick is impressed when Carol fixes Sam’s dislocated right shoulder. Having been abused and dislocating her own shoulder when she was married, learning such medical procedures from the Internet seemed necessary. Rick asks, “How long have you been here til we showed up?” “Like, about two days,” Gina answers. “We got separated from our crew a week ago and because of my leg, we decided to play it safe,” she resumes. Carol has an expression of unbelief and lacks to show any compassion after hearing they have a gun with 12 bullets but can’t even shoot–using knives is even more improbable!

“You guys look alright. What’s your setup like?” inquires Gina.

“The ‘skineaters’? We call them walkers,” says Rick.

Rick briefly glances back at Carol as both of them know what is about to happen next.

“So did we pass the test?” the jubilant couple curiously asks.

“We’re in a prison eight miles north. If you come back with us, we can’t guarantee your safety. There’s an illness, a flu. It’s bad,” tells Rick. “We’ve lost a lot. Kids, too,” Carol announces. Gina asks “Yours?” A subtle “No, thank God” alarms Rick.

Rick and Carol move on to the next house, but before they leave Carol recommends that Sam and Gina take responsibility. Their first task is to collect food and meet back in two hours. Rick disagrees believing it to be dangerous, but the new members persuade that they will be perfectly fine. Rick hands over his watch Lori had given him on their tenth anniversary. “You’ll need this.”

“It’s all expired by at least a year,” Carol grumbles as she holds up the drugs. Rick insists Hershel would know what he needs and to take them.

“Did you think it was right? Letting those kids come back with us?” questions Rick while he is digging through random cabinets.

“I think it was the humane thing to do,” Carol declares.

Her answer doesn’t satisfy him. Rick again asks more assertively.

Carol becomes irritated. “Look at us. Digging through drawers hoping that a couple of cough drops and some disinfectants might be the difference between dying and living a couple of more hours. If they’re strong enough to help us survive this thing, yeah, I think you made the right call.”

“And if they’re not?”

Rick’s interrogation irks her. “Let’s hope they are.”

Rick becomes pissed at her rhetoric apathy, and Carol can see that. She approaches him and says “Rick, I killed two people and you haven’t said a word about it.”

“What do you want me to say?” he prompts.

“It’s not about what you say. It’s about facing reality. It always comes for us and over and over again we face it so we can live. That’s what it always comes down to. You can be a farmer, Rick. You can’t just be a farmer.” Carol pauses. “You’re a good leader. Better than I probably gave you credit for.”

“I never murdered two of our own.”

“Just one,” corrects Carol.

“He was gonna kill me.”

“So were they. They were gonna kill all of us.”

“You don’t know that,” Rick confidently asserts.

“If you thought it would save Judith or Carl, would you have done it then or would you have just gone back to your crops and hoped it’ll  all be okay? You don’t have to like what I did, Rick. I don’t. You just accept it.”

As Daryl and the rest are taking the long road back to prison, Michonne tells Daryl that she won’t be searching for the Governor. “Good,” he states. Sam and Gina didn’t make it. The latter got her unhealed leg ripped apart. As for Sam, his body was no where to be found. Perhaps he made it. What difference does it make–the watch is gone with him.

Rick finally remarks: “They might have lived. Karen and David, they might have lived, and now they’re dead. That wasn’t your decision to make. When Tyreese finds out, he’ll kill you. He damn near killed me over nothing. When the others find out, they won’t want you there. And if they don’t make it back, if everybody dies of this thing and it’s just the two of us, with Judith and Carl–my children… I won’t have you there. We’ll keep Lizzie and Mica safe. You’re not that woman who was too scared to be alone. Not anymore. You’re gonna start over, find others, people who don’t know, and you’re gonna survive out here. You will.”

Her arguments and justifications to remain with the group are empty words to Rick.

Carol presents Rick with the watch her abusive husband, Ed, had given her on their first anniversary. She gets into the car and leaves.

Rick drives back home withholding tears in his eyes.

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2 thoughts on “The Walking Dead: Indifference

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