22 February 2013 - 04:48 PM
Following the time jump, we find the group has found sanctuary in an abandoned prison. The winter was a hard one and it shown on their tired faces. Vanessa left to find Lizzy and Andrea got separated in the woods. No one knows where Vanessa has been those lost months but the memory of it will prove to be difficult for her to process. We find the group around the camp fire in the newly taken prison yard when a shadowy figure walks to them.
“Hold it right there!” Rick yelled pointing his revolver. Daryl was at his side with the bow and Glen with T-Dog stood at the ready as if rehearsed. “Get your hands up!” The hood shaded the person’s face and Rick wasn’t taking any chances. “Sorry, but we don’t take to strangers coming into our camp unannounced.”
“And what about friends?” I spoke and could see recognition on his face. I took off my hood and smiled even though Rick didn’t smile back.
“Vanessa?” Glen asked, he soon ran to give me a warm hug. I laughed.
“Holy shit! Vanessa!” T-Dog followed him. The rest of the group was on their feet and moving towards me while Rick hung back. “What happened? Where have you been?”
“I’m so happy I found you all. You’re pretty hard to track.”
“Especially when you don’t want to be found.” Rick said with coldness to his voice. We all stopped and stared at him. “I’m going to walk the perimeter.” And with that he left. What the hell? I thought. Not a hello or even a drop dead. I could tell by the group’s reaction that this was nothing new to them. It must have been a hard winter.
“Anyway, I’m glad you all made it off the farm only….” I looked around the camp and saw a few faces that were no longer there. I didn’t want to know the details and they didn’t seem to want to divulge them. This was the way of the world now. Familiar faces now and then no longer there.
“Lizzy?” Glen did ask as we sat down by the camp fire.
“No. I didn’t find sign of her. I had reopened my wounds trying to catch up to her. I ended up passing out somewhere in the woods. Hours later when I came to, she was long gone and I was just lucky a horde of walkers didn’t find me as a late night snack.” I think back on that day over and over again. Was there anything else I could have done differently? I would have gone back to the farm but didn’t quite make it there; I didn’t want to relive that memory so much.
“It’s been a hard winter, for us all.” Lori, whose belly was very full, told me how they lost two at the farm, how Andrea fell and how they met back on the highway. She also spoke about Rick killing Shane just before the horde attacked the farm. I didn’t say but I wasn’t surprised. Shane killed Randall and could have used this opportunity to try to kill Rick. It must have been hard to have to kill your best friend.
But she also spoke about the infection being in everyone. That’s how Randall died, everyone is infected and when they die, they don’t stay dead. I did say that was surprising.
“Whoa. There’s not much I can say to that.” I spoke. To lighten the mood, I brought out my bag to pass up some supplies I was lucky enough to come across. “Well I don’t have marshmallows but I have some things that could help.”
“We don’t need your charity.” Rick walked back into camp at that moment. He had a strained look on his face.
“It’s not charity. Its supplies for the group, I’m only trying to help.” I had a hard edge to my voice; I was getting a bit defensive now.
“Well, we don’t need your help Vanessa. We made it just fine without you.” He stood just beyond the circle of light from the fire; close enough for me to see the anger in his eyes. Was he angry at me? I was just about to stand to confront him when Hershel halted me with a weary hand on my arm.
“Alright, that’s enough. We’ve got to get some rest, big day tomorrow.” Hershel tried to diffuse the situation.
“What’s tomorrow?” I asked.
“We’re taking the prison.” Glen spoke. The statement hung in the air. This prison was huge, when the world went to hell, I’m sure it was full of overcrowded inmates and underpaid guards who would have fled to be with their families the first chance they got. How was a small group going to take on all of that? I was going to ask as much when the group bedding down silenced me. There was no campfire talk, witty banter, or humorless jokes; everyone went to sleep as if commanded at the same time save for the sentry.
Rick walked towards the perimeter to take first watch without having to say it. I wanted to take this opportunity to find out what he has against me so I got up to follow. Hershel’s eyes followed me as I left the comfort of the firelight.
“Rick? Can I talk to you?” I asked tentatively.
“Get some rest, there’s nothing to say.” He didn’t turn to face me but at least he stopped walking.
“I think there is. Just what the hell is your problem? Why are you treating me like this?” I wasn’t going to give up so easy.
“You wanna know? Fine.” He turned to me, his eyes full of fury. “You abandoned us. Just when we needed you the most, you left. How are we supposed to depend on you when you run off at the first sign of a fight and then on top of that, you didn’t come back?” Rick all but spat the words at me.
“What?” I was exasperated. “Is that what you think? I didn’t abandon you; I left to grab Lizzy who ran off into the woods.”
“And then you just left.” He tried to put words in my mouth.
“No, I passed out. When I came to she was gone and I would have gone back to the farm except…” I stopped. I couldn’t get the words out.
“Except what, Vanessa? You thought you’d be better off on your own?” I stayed silent not meeting his eyes. Not getting the answer he wanted Rick continued. “Listen, our so called group is different now. There is no discussions no committees; you do what I tell you to do. It’s how we managed so far and it’s working. If you can do that, then you can stay. If not, then I suggest you keep moving on.”
Rick was serious. His eyes were changed. He was more confident than before but also more frightened although he’s trying hard to hide it. He walked away and I didn’t go after him. From his perspective I did abandon them. I left them to fight a horde on their own and they survived without me. I felt less like a part of the group and more of an outsider.
I walked back to the campfire where everyone was pretending to sleep. We were not far enough away that they couldn’t hear our conversation. There were no words of comfort; perhaps they felt the same way. I didn’t get much sleep that night partly due to the tension as well as the nightmares.
The next day the group rose early. Rick gathered everyone together for a meeting. He talked about the size of the prison and that we planned to take it one cell block at a time. The plan was plausible.
“Daryl, T-Dog, Glen, Maggie, and I will go in formation. We’ll clear out the inner yard.” Rick commanded.
“Where do you want me?” I asked, machete at the ready.
“You hang back and get any that get past us.” With that, the group was off. I was relegated to basic babysitting duty watching the others instead of being on offense. That had to mean something. What the hell?
Rick and the others made their way into the inner yard and closed the gate behind them. Using a circle formation, they effectively cleared out the inner court yard but not without issues. Apparently, there were walkers in riot gear coming after them. Maggie seemed to figure out how to dispatch them quickly.
I walked back and forth on the other side of the chain gate much like a caged animal. I wanted to get in there and fight; to prove to them that I did have their back. I felt the need to show them that I can be a part of the group again but that I wasn’t getting the opportunity. I didn’t get the chance this time as the group made their way into the prison shutting the door behind them.
“This is bullshit. I should be in there.” I said more to myself than anyone else.
“But you’re not. You need to be out here like my dad said.” Carl spoke and looked at me. Gone was that unsure kid from the farm and a young man who has seen too much in his short life stood before me.
“No, you’re right. I want to be a part of the group; I just wish Rick would give me another chance.” I didn’t know how sympathetic my words would be as they mirrored another’s thoughts in the group. I looked at Lori with compassion. I could feel the tension between her and Rick and fear the love they once shared was all but gone. It looks like Lori and I were in the same position of being ostracized by Rick.
It wasn’t long before the group came back out to signal all was clear for us to enter. Carrying what little supplies we had, we made our way inside. The cell block was cold and gray and littered with signs of carnage. I could see the exhaustion on everyone’s faces as cells were chosen like rooms in a hotel. Daryl opted to sleep on the above walkway; he had the right idea. I couldn’t face being inside a cell again. But I didn’t know how much my fear would control me as I began to sweat and my heart raced at the mere prospect of being behind bars.
“Vanessa, are you alright?” Hershel asked softly.
“Yeah, yes I just…I just….um I’m not really tired. I think I’ll just sit out here for a while.” I left the cell block and sat at a table in the adjoining room. I sat still and tried to quite my breathing and slow my racing heart. I have to get a handle on this. I tried so hard to forget what happened, but the memories came flooding back.
Time came when Rick wanted to take a group out to clear a path to the cafeteria or try to find the armory. I grabbed my machete in anticipation as the group got ready.
“Carl, I need you here. If something happens you may be the last man standing.” Rick spoke.
“Vanessa, you too. I need you to stay.”
“Wait, Rick I should be there with you. I can help and watch your back.” I protested.
“Can you?” There was nothing I could say to change his mind. They left and I sat on the cold stone floor when Lori came over.
“He doesn’t mean it. He’s not a cruel man, he just…he’s just very anxious. He wants us all to be safe.” Lori looked tired like someone after a long battle.
“What happened between you two? I can tell you’re both…strained.”
“I wasn’t there for him when he needed me. When he told me he had to kill Shane I…I…I didn’t make the situation better.” Her voice caught in her throat. “I just wish I could take it all back but I can’t. Now Rick hates me and Carl…well…Carl hates me too.”
“They don’t hate you Lori. So much has happened for everyone, we’re just all trying to process it…” My words were broken by the sound of Rick yelling to clear the way. The group returned with Hershel on a makeshift gurney and missing one leg. Carol worked feverishly to stanch the blood flow all I could do was hang back. I saw Daryl standing with his crossbow at the ready in the adjoining room when a group of men walked slowly inside. They spoke about being in the mess hall the last 10 months, since the outbreak started.
“Calm down boys.” I walked in and said when voices became raised. “There’s no need for this.”
“You wanna try your luck on the road? Be my guest.” Daryl told them.
“Put the gun down.” Rick strolled in and commanded. Rick told them how there were no more hospitals, no police, no government. How millions have died and the only way to survive is to fight. It looked hard for some of the prisoners to take in.
After a while Rick decided that the prisoners were not going to join our group but we would help them clear out a cell block in exchange for food. Rick, Daryl, and T-Dog went off to accomplish this while I had to wait again.
“How is he?” I asked Carol.
“He’s lost a lot of blood but the flow is beginning to slow down. Other than that…I don’t really know.”
I sat at the table tapping my fingers. They should have been back by now. I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to go. “I’m going to find them.”
“Dad said you should stay here.” Carl told me.
“He’s been saying that a lot, this time, I’m not listening.” And I left down the dark corridor to find Rick and the others. They have been gone too long. It wasn’t long before I could hear a struggle and I walked in just in time to see Rick bury his machete in ‘pony-tail’s’ head. Another prisoner, I couldn’t remember his name, tried to swing on him but Rick knocked the shovel out of his hand. He took flight and Rick took off after him.
“Rick no!” I went to chase them both. Something must have happened but does it justify the deaths of these men? I wasn’t sure but my gut was telling me to stop Rick not so much for the prisoner but for himself.
I found Rick standing by a door with pleading coming from the other side. Rick looked at me with a haunting expression. “They attacked us.”
“Rick, let him in, please. You can’t let someone die like that.” He didn’t move. I went to open the door and he shoved me hard against the wall, my vision blurred for a second.
“No.” Rick turned and locked the door with the set of keys he had and went to walk away.
“You son of a bitch.” I told him. He didn’t even turn around when he said “Yes, yes I am.”
The remaining prisoners Oscar and Axel were ushered to the newly cleared cell block after having been pardoned by Rick who was close to killing them both. This was the first time since I’ve known him that Rick actually scared me. He’s showing a more Shane mentality when it comes to other survivors and I’m not sure if that will be good for the group. This was also the first time I actually thought about leaving. I didn’t tell Daryl or T-Dog of Rick slamming me into a wall, for now I’ll just keep that between us but this place was feeling more and more like a prison and less like a sanctuary.