‹ Prequel: The Regulator

Made to Suffer

When the Man Comes Around

I pushed the door to the hotel room open with my foot, my baseball bat prepared to strike. My group had come upon the small motel while traveling and since it would be dark soon, we decided to set up camp for the night. The door creaked as it swung open, sending shivers up my spine as I peered into the dim, seemingly empty room. My senses were heightened and adrenaline was coursing through me as I took my first apprehensive steps in, anticipating an attack.

Thankfully, I was met with nothing but stillness from the room. I glanced around the room, my eyes coming to a rest on the bed. Sleeping in a sleeping bag on the ground had taken its toll on my back, I was looking forward to curling up in a nice, warm, plush bed.

"We're clear," John said, popping his head into the room, "We're talking about staying for a while. Randall and Tony found some pallets in the back, we could board up the windows and make this safe for us. Hell, we could probably even build a fence." He entered the room, dropping his backpack next to the nightstand, "What do you think?"

"Sounds good," I nodded, watching as he pulled his jacket off, then sat on the bed to work on his boots.

"Maybe this will end up being home."

"Maybe," I said, moving towards the window. I peeled the curtain back slightly, giving myself a view of the parking lot and the dead milling around below, "Taking a nap?"

"Yeah," He replied, "Join me?"

I leaned my forehead against the cool glass as rain dripped from the thick gray clouds above. John was behind the wheel of the SUV, steering us away from the city. The further out we got, the less of those things there seemed to be, but just as soon as I would put them out of my mind another one would come into view. It would be wandering aimlessly until it spotted us, then it seemed to have a purpose, to give chase.

It seemed like weeks since I'd gone to pick Noah up from school, since everything had started, but it had been just under two days. I hadn't slept, I hadn't ate and my heart was broken. John still hadn't told me everything that happened in the school and I didn't know if it was because he didn't want to upset me or because he was disturbed by the events he'd taken part in.

"Where do you think he would go?" John asked, breaking the silence.

"Daryl would go to our house," I responded, knowing my husband wouldn't abandon me.

"We were there, Raleigh, you saw all those things. If we couldn't make it through in this, Daryl wouldn't make it in his truck. Do, did you have a cabin or anything? Where does he hunt?"

"He wouldn't just leave us," I replied before I realized there wasn't an 'us' any more, just me. John sighed and let the conversation die out as the rain fell harder, "Do you think this is our judgment?"

"You mean like the book of revelation?" He asked.

"Yeah," I nodded, my eyes watching one of the dead stumble across an empty field towards the road.

"Who knows."

Over the next few days John got everyone together and we all voted on staying at the hotel through the winter, John - our unofficial leader - explained that we would have to make supply runs and ensure the safety of the building. We would always have to keep our guard up, he'd said, but maybe we could gain a sense of community and normalcy.

"We can try to make the best of...this," He said at a loss for words.

"Maybe there will be help," Randal piped up, a trace of hope in his voice, "Y-you know, the army or something."

"Ain't no more army, kid," Dave grumbled, looking over at the teen ager with distain.

"We don't know that," John said, "This many people getting sick, they're over whelmed, but I doubt they're gone."

"Don't hold ya breath for some rescue party," Tony added into the debate, "It's every man for himself."

We'd come across Dave and Tony walking alongside the road and ever since we'd picked them up, they had been making me wish we hadn't.

"Either way," John stopped the debate, addressing the 12 of us standing in the kitchen of the hotel, "We will make a stand here."


I drug my knife along the squirrel's hide, separating the meat from the skin in a clean motion. My fire was gettin' good an' hot as I prepared my lunch. I glanced up towards the camp to see Carol headin' my way, I set my teeth and focused on the meat in front of me.

"Hey," She said gently. I grunted in response to her, lookin' up briefly, "We got some lunch made, you don't have to eat out here by yourself. " I didn't respond, I just kept on fixin' my food, "Daryl, please. We need to stick together now."

"I don't want to stick with ya'll, dammit!" I stood up, kickin' dirt on my fire and tossin' the squirrel away from me.

"Then why are you still here?" She asked quietly. I gritted my teeth, running my hands through my shaggy hair, remaining quiet, "We all need you here, Daryl, and I think you need us."

"Yeah, well..." I trailed sittin' down on the log again, lookin' down at my hands.

"You can talk to me, you know," Carol said, she sat down beside me.

"What d'you want me to do? Open up about my whole life?" I asked sarcastically.

"No, but you could get whatever's tormenting you off your chest," She said simply, lookin' up at the sky.

"My wife and son are out there," The words were heavy as I spoke them, playing with my wedding band, "Hell," I sighed, "They're probably dead."

"I'm sorry," Carol said meekly.

"Ain't nothin' to be sorry for," I mumbled, "Lord knows I don't need no pity."

"It's not my pity," She replied, "I'm sorry for your loss, just like you're sorry I lost Sophia."

I nodded, "I've just been hopin' for - I don't know - I been hopin' to find them. I don't want them to be -" I choked back tears, swallowin' my emotions, "Not knowin' is hell. There's days I'm sure I'll find 'em and then there's days when I'm sure they're gone."

She gave me a somber smile, "It's torture. You don't know whether to hold out that hope, or let go so you can move on. You can't do this forever, though. You'll end up losing your mind." I nodded, knowing she was right. I finally looked over at her sittin' there, I'd been talkin' to her like I'd sit and talk with Raleigh.

"I'm sorry," I said, "For the way I've been actin'."

"It's okay, Daryl," Carol said, patting me on the shoulder. I tensed at her touch, but she pulled her hand away as she stood, "Why don't you come eat some lunch."

I walked with Carol back to the farm and into the house, where Glenn was playing guitar and Hershel and his girls were singin' while everyone finished up their lunch. Lori smiled at me and without a word handed me a sandwich, I took a seat across from T at the table and ate.

"There's a man, goin' 'round takin' names," Beth sang, clappin' her hand against her knee to the beat of the song, "And he decides who to free and who to blame."

"Everybody will be treated all the same," Maggie picked up, "There will be a golden ladder reachin' down, when the man comes around."

T shivered, "Givin' me chills, man." I gave him a small nod as Carol sat beside me, her own food in hand. She smiled to me and I gave her one back. I finished up the sandwich and placed my hands in my lap, listening as the girls went on singin' and my fingers played with my ring. I couldn't hold out forever, I wasn't strong enough. I pulled the band from my finger, removing it for the first time in years, and closed my fingers around it.

"And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts. And I looked, and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and hell followed with him," Hershel said once the girls were finished, giving me my own chills.
♠ ♠ ♠
sorry it's been so long! title credit & lyrics belong to johnny cash. :) hope you enjoyed.