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Desert Sky

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It's been more than two years since it all started and yet, Beth has never seen so many walkers at once. It's as if one of the horror films Shawn loved so much has stepped down from the TV screen and decided to become real life. Although, this life has outdone any horror story one could possibly imagine.

But you can't pause it or close your eyes when it's particularly scary. You have to face it.

The worst thing is, Beth – the girl she used to be – would have been afraid. She would run, hide somewhere and wait it out (probably pray) – like some of those people in church did. The girl she has become can't do that. She knows that God is not going to help them right now. Creator can't protect them from the beasts that know no mercy. No one but themselves will.

She is scared though. Fear boils somewhere deep in her belly, it runs through her veins like electricity, and she feels it in every breath she makes. For some reason, it reminds her of how anxious she used to get when she'd have to sit an exam at school. How her fingers would tingle, and it would be a little uncomfortable to write at first. Oddly enough, she still remembers the quotes from King Lear that she learned back in her sophomore year.

But she's not at school, and this is not an exam. There is no retakes here. She might be scared, but she ignores it.

The way Rick walks as he leaves the infirmary reminds her of a serial killer from Hitchcock's movies. Slow, patient, with a slight swing of his hips, not a single move wasted. He holds the hatchet like he's about to chop some firewood, not decaying flesh. As if he is not about to risk his life. (For the hundredth time today.)

Beth hears Michonne shouting something at him, but she doesn't pay too much attention. Rick might have had his crazy moments, but this time, she agrees with him. They can't just sit here and do nothing.Nothing will come of nothing. That she knows.

So, she slowly takes her long knife from the kitchen aisle and trails behind Rick. They shall express their darker purpose.

(About time.)

Beth suddenly thinks of Daryl. She has no idea where he is or if he's still breathing. She just hopes his incredible survival skills don't let him down. He can take care of himself – she knows that much. As she nears the first walker, she remembers she hasn't seen Maggie for a while. She hopes her sister is safe. Well, as safe as one can get in this… situation. Or should she call it hell?

She notices how surprisingly calm she feels. If she dies tonight, she will be ready.

Her hand swishes through the air, and she slams the knife down onto walker's skull. Pulls it out. Moves to the next one. Then it's just routine: hit, pull, move, repeat. Kill, to put it simple.

She thinks of it as dance moves: just keep going, trust your muscles, don't think of it. So young, and so untender? So young, and so ready. Anything it takes.

For mom. For Shawn. For daddy. For Noah. For Deanna. For Lizzie and Mika. For Jessie and Sam.

But more importantly, for Maggie, and Daryl, and Carl, and Judith, and Aaron, and anyone who still has a chance. For herself, too.

The fire is so unforeseen that she thinks it's some sort of mirage at first. After all, she has seen so much blood tonight she might have gone nuts. But then, she spots Daryl. At first, he is on the top of a lorry, but he quickly jumps down to the ground and joins the others. Seeing him alive feels like a kick to her lungs, and suddenly, it's like she starts breathing again. She realises how tired she was feeling because the knowledge of the fact that Daryl is alive fills her with sudden strength. And she starts moving faster, hitting harder, with more precision to it. And she just keeps repeating the moves until she forgets about everything, and all she can feel is her hand holding the knife and her feet pressing to the ground. One after another.

And then, another billion of walkers later, it's over.

The silence feels so unusual and foreign that it appears strangely unsettling.

Everyone is calm around her, either cleaning their weapons or just sitting down and staring at nothing in particular. Tara keeps pacing back and forth on the porch, and it sort of irritates Beth. She reminds herself everyone has their own way of coping.

"Beth?" she hears someone's voice, and it sounds strangely muted, like there is cotton in her ears. Or as if she is under water.

She thinks of summers she spent swimming in the pond not far from her family's farm. How Shawn would say that there were monsters in it, just to keep her away. Beth didn't believe it. She knew monsters only existed in books or comics.

She had no idea how mistaken she was.

Beth feels someone touch her shoulder lightly, and she jumps. Her head whips to look at Aaron who is now standing beside to her. He is dirty, just like everyone else is, and it doesn't suit him. It suits Rick and Daryl and Michonne, but not Aaron. But truth be told, after the way Alexandrians showed undeniable courage last night, no one can treat them as someone weak and ignorant of the real world's threats outside those walls. Not anymore.

He takes her hand and starts pulling her towards the infirmary. Beth furrows her brows and doesn't ask anything, but the way her face changes is enough.

"You need stitches," Aaron says – still muted – and points to her shoulder.

Beth look at it and notices that there is blood. Not walker's blood, it's her own, and it is slowly sliding down her skin, mixing with walkers' blood, sweat, and dirt. She doesn't even have time to contemplate why she hasn't noticed it because it suddenly starts ringing in her ears. It's loud, and the wound burns like hell.

She doesn't make a sound and follows Aaron to the infirmary, where Denise starts stitching up her wound. And then she is done, and Denise says something to her, and Beth nods in response even though she hasn't caught a word. She is too busy looking at Daryl.

As soon as Denise lets Beth go, she rushes to him and almost throws herself at him. Her arms settle around his neck, and her shoulder hurts, but she doesn't care. He is alive, he is here, and he is hugging her back. He is actually fine. She lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding, and then two tears slide down her cheeks. They are so refreshing and they feel like raindrops from the desert sky.

I don't cry anymore, Daryl.