Last night I met Bill Murray again. It was the second time in the past few months. This time, we were at an outdoor wrap party.
I made my way over to him as he was walking down the city street which had been closed off and slipped my arm into his. He greeted another fellow next to him and turned to greet me, but paused a short moment. I couldn't tell if it was excitement or surprise in his voice when he said 'Well, hello to you!', but it meant all I needed to know.
'Do you remember me?' I hid my giddiness well.
'I do!' he confirmed.
I smiled wide. The last time we had met was during an awards show. I found myself seated in the same aisle, but several seats down. Whispering to each person in turn that I could not see for the large head in my way and asking politely if they would switch seats with me, being this was my first awards ceremony. Graciously and miraculously, they all obliged until I had found myself seated next to Bill Murray. We shared some jokes, some smiles, and we seemed to silently agree that the several hours we sat next to one another would have seemed like several more had I kept my original seat. After the ceremony, we were ushered out and I was too embarrassed to cling to him longer. I left him behind without sharing my name or why I was there.
We walked through the streets, arms entangled, greeting others and laughing. Then the music lowered. A man in a tuxedo stood on the balcony three or four floors up on a skyscraper in the center of the street. He greeted everyone, to which Mr. Murray had a rude reply. The crowd chortled in unison.
The man spoke in length, but the echo of his voice reverberated on the speakers so that his words were difficult to understand. Men on the ground level began shouting numbers up at him. I realized I was standing in the middle of an auction.
Bill turned to me and placed his hand on mine as he carefully slid his arm away. "Excuse me miss." He pointed at me and smiled. "Don't go anywhere."
I smiled politely and nodded as he took three large steps to another suited man and spoke softly in his ear. The man nodded with a look of concern, or was it anger. I could not tell. Bill moved on to shake hands with a very lovely lady behind him then and the next time I looked, the man he had whispered to was gone. I suddenly felt very insecure. That woman he was speaking with was much prettier than me and Bill was among people who understood and knew this event. The embarrassment which had overcome me at the rewards ceremony a few months back had returned and I looked around to find an escape.
An arm slipped in mine, startling me. I turned, and it was Bill with his most charming smile. He leaned in to whisper in my ear.
"I need to leave. Would you come with me? Or would you rather run off again?"
He was unhappy about my departure last time... I blushed and agreed to go with him. We walked a slightly quickened pace to the edge of the closed road and he helped me into a limousine. I began to try to explain what had happened the last time, how I got to be sitting next to him and why I had left the way I did, but my mind was betraying me. The thoughts kept jumping to the tuxedo on the balcony and the suit Bill had whispered to, and I had to keep pausing my story and restarting. He listened politely, or didn't listen at all. I was too embarrassed to meet his eyes and find out.
Before I was able to finish, we had arrived. He held out his hand for mine and I gave it to him with an empty feeling in my stomach and, what I could only imagine, a sad look in my eyes. He lead me down a half flight of stairs where he unlocked an orange-red door with one hand. It opened to a beautiful apartment. The decor was contemporary with grey and black designer rugs, an orange-red sofa, and orange-red lamps hanging low from the ceiling. Bill lead me towards a couch and began hurrying through his rooms. Unsure of what to do or say for fear of annoying him, I sat quietly on the edge of the couch and watched him.
I heard the turn of the lock then. "Bill?" I called out and his head emerged from the doorway to the room he was in. He cursed under his breath, hurriedly but gently grabbed my wrist, pulled me around the couch, and into the room. He shut and locked the door, turned, and in a moment I was in his arms. He held me against him, breathing as quietly as possible, and we listened to someone fumbling through the room outside. Then they came to the door which hid us. I looked up at Bill, his eyes shut in painful realization. The doorknob jiggled, a voice cursed, and a frustrated punch sounded on the door.
"Bill!" The voice was eerily familiar and a chill ran down my spine. 'What is he doing here?' I thought. In a moment of panic, I moved to break Bills grasp on me and get us out of there, but he kept me there. I turned my eyes back to his and showed him the most pleading, rushed look I could muster... but he only kissed me. It wasn't a lovers' kiss fraught with passion, but a loving kiss. The kind that says 'I need you here right now'. But it was broken when the door burst open. Bill hugged me tight, keeping his back towards the door, but I could see the man enter over his shoulder.
There he stood. Thick, black leather boots, cargo pants, wife beater, tactical vest, short hair, and an arm... an arm made of metal with a long spike on the end of it. The butterflies in my stomach, whirling from the sudden kiss, had dropped dead and piled as high as my throat. My eyes burned and I shut them. As long as I'm in these arms, I'm safe.
"Merle?" Bill said softly, "I don't have anything you want."
"Oh but you do!" His boots fell heavy on the floor as he circled around us. "You've had it all along." His last footfall came short as he reached our side. He had only just noticed me. 'As long as I'm in these arms, I'm safe.' "Who's your little girlfriend?"
Bill didn't answer him. I opened my eyes and turned just enough to see him standing there, leaning on his back foot, his elbow braced against his side with the rest of his metal arm raised, and a grin, that shit eating grin as if he had just caught an animal he had been hunting for days. 'As long as I'm in these arms, I'm safe.'
"Come on in fellas!" he called, "I've got him here... and he's got a surprise for us too."
Four, six, too many footsteps to count. The arms around me were wrenched away behind Bill's back. The same to mine. He looked at me with sadness, or anger, or defeat in his eyes, I couldn't tell. He said nothing. Merle continued to instruct the men to take him out. Bill kept his eyes on me till they walked him backwards out of the room and he disappeared around the doorway. Merle replaced my view then and spit sideways onto the floor. He leaned down a bit until his nose was mere inches from mine. He was blurry through my tears. "Hey there C". In an instant he stood, I could see the shadow of his metal arm raise on the floor and come back down. I heard a clang as it smashed into my head and all was blackness and silence.
I awoke laying on a cot. There were no sheets on it and I had been changed from my evening dress to a small grey T-shirt and sweatpants, but my underwear was the same. I was in a tent. Only the cot, a bucket, and a styrofoam chest was inside. Strangely, my head didn't hurt, but I rubbed where I had been struck. A patch of my hair was missing and I felt the bumpy stitches and scar tissue. I rubbed gently, counting each ridge. One, two, three, four, five, six, but the bumps melted into one another and it became impossible to count. I sat up and stood, hunched over for the height of the tent, and reached out to unzip the door. I paused, suddenly remembering who I was with, but heard nothing. Just wind, birds, bugs, and the crackling of a fire. I unzipped and stepped out into the sunlight, stretching my back.
"Good mornin' sleeping beauty!" Merle was sitting on a chunk of concrete in front of the fire with some kind of animal on a stick. I looked around, but saw no one else.
"Principle photography is over, Merle. What are you doing?"
"That's not what's important." He watched me as I sat on a log across from him. "What's important is us."
I rubbed my eyes so my disbelief couldn't be seen. We had wrapped on that storyline back in August. Yes, we had something between us, but the writers decided to end it and had me escape him in the season finale. It hadn't aired yet, for all I knew it was still in post production, but this was insane. He can't possibly have thought it was real. He's an actor too, isn't he? He still has that thing on his arm, though, and who knows if he's sharpened it or not. My best bet is to play along till I can get away.
I let my arms drop to my knees. "Why'd you hit me?"
He shrugged. That's it. That was his answer. I would have smacked him. I would have stabbed him. He had the weapon, though, not me. I caught myself showing anger, but quickly fixed my face.
"Well, I'm here now." I pushed myself up and walked around him to rub his shoulders. He let out a little moan of approval and I leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Make some for me, I'm starving to death." I stepped back into the tent and left him to make me some food.
Inside, I opened the chest. I was hoping to find my cell phone, though I couldn't imagine why it would have been here. I had left my little bag at Bill's apartment. Bill... I wonder what they had done with him. Who were all those people with Merle? I suppose they were extras from the Woodbury set. I wondered if he would be taking me back there. I'd play along till then and I could use someone's phone to call Daryl.
Fiddling through the contents of the chest, I found a tactical belt, a couple handguns without ammunition, some make-up, bits of hard plastic which had once belonged to something else now broken and missing, and some paper... A script or a list, it was hard to tell by the format of it. Six pages, I counted.
"You like that?" Merle had poked his head through the tent flap.
"What is this?"
"That's my plan for my brother when I find him. I'm going to do all sort of horrible things to that little prick."
I dropped the stapled papers back into the chest and stood staring down at it. It was half filled with useless bits of things, it may as well have been empty. Even so, it was less empty than I had felt at that moment. I loved Daryl. He felt the same about me. I was just a minor character with barely a name and only a tiny bit of screen time, but Daryl had talked the writers into having me escape Merle and fall in love with him in a twist of cruel irony. Merle's character had everything Daryl's didn't growing up in this fictional world and he wanted to have everything Merle didn't by his end - his arm, his place, his men, his love. I thought it was brilliant and, luckily, the writers did too. They agreed to have me escape by the end of the season and they would develop my character over the next. Daryl had his biggest smile when he told me. I loved him so much.
"You best eat this now 'cause we're headin' out before it gets too late!" Merle called from outside the tent. I stepped out and ate my meat on a stick. The stick had more taste than the meat did, and was probably more tender. It was a shame I couldn't eat it.
Merle had everything packed by the time I had finished chewing my last bite. He carried nearly everything except the styrofoam chest. I thought of picking things out of the chest and dropping them as we went, to leave a trail or to lighten the load or just to deny him of the things, but he walked behind me always and would have seen them drop. When twilight came, we would make camp. He'd stab some animal or I'd pick some passion fruit, we'd eat, and then we'd go to sleep on that tiny cot together. He'd hold my breast as he slept with his good hand, but I'd move it down to hold my rib instead. When he squeezed, I'd take a deep breath in hopes that he wouldn't feel my ribs. He did a couple times and moved his hand back up. I'd move it back down. All in all, I didn't get much sleep.
Finally, one afternoon, we found ourselves looking over the city. It wasn't Woodbury, but the same city Merle had plucked me from. I shook my head, not knowing what to think or say or feel. That night, just before dawn, I slipped from his arms. He made a noise in protest, but I whispered I just had to pee and would be right back. He snored in response. I slipped out, stepped quietly in the leaves till I was sure I was out of range, and bolted. I ran as fast and as hard as I could on the little food I had eaten and several sleepless nights. By the time I reached the city, the sun had risen.
The first building I came upon was a parking garage. I recognized it. I ran up the steps, nearly out of my last breath and then I heard him.
"Cynthia! Come on!" It was Daryl. He had his crossbow and was leaning over the edge of the stairs a few flights up from me. New energy filled me and I took the steps two at a time. His hugs and kisses were at the end of this race and I would make it; and I did. He had stayed on that level waiting for me and I slammed into his body and threw my arms around him. He kissed my cheek hard as if to make up for the time we had missed together.
"Daryl! ... Merle!" I was gasping for breath and still felt like I was getting no air. Daryl picked me up and carried me the last few flights of stairs. He slowed a little as we went into the corridor that lead to the roof, taking the steps two at a time. He kicked the door open, sat me down, and bent over for a breath or two.
Tears immediately filled my eyes. Rick and Glenn, Andrea, Dale, Lorri and Carl, T-Dog, Carol, even Michonne. They hugged me and rubbed my back. Carol had tears in her eyes. Dale hugged me a little longer and a little tighter than the rest. Lorri whispered how glad she was I was okay as she hugged me. Glenn gave me an awkward half hug and smiled sheepishly... and then a gunshot.
Glenn flew backwards, blood spattered everywhere behind him. Carol and I screamed in unison. Rick began spouting off commands, I saw Lorri grab Carl in my peripheral vision, Andrea cocked her handgun, Michonne drew her sword. I stared at Glenn's half-missing face in disbelief. T-Dog dropped to his knees beside him and hung over Glenn's body. 'No...' I thought, 'Maggie...' I gasped and turned.
"Daryl!" He was standing with his crossbow cocked and ready aiming every which way, darting his sights quickly from rooftop to rooftop. I ran over and grabbed his arm. "Daryl, It's Merle!"
"I'm not afraid of him." He shook off my grasp with his elbow and turned his aim to the door.
"You don't understand. You have two pages, Daryl. He has six." That got his attention. "He's going to kill you. We have to get out of here!"
Another gunshot sounded. My first thought was that it had missed, but when I turned, Carol was in Dale's arms, gasping for breath with a punctured lung. My eyes filled with tears. We were target practice on this roof. We had to get down. I quickly turned, but became full of rage when I saw Michonne standing there with her sword at the ready as if it would help in this situation. I wanted to run her through. I wanted Rick to shoot her in her stupid head. Rick...
Rick was letting off rounds of gunshots at the nearest roof. Andrea was standing next to him doing the same. The gunshot had gotten the attention of walkers and they crowded the streets below us in their disheveled and bloodied states. I blinked the tears from my eyes and ran to Rick.
"Rick. It's Merle. He's here for Daryl. Please..."
Rick was the only other cast member who knew about Daryl and I. He glanced over to Lorri and Carl, turned to me and nodded. "Everyone with me!" he called out, grabbed his bag of weapons, and ran for the door. When he reached it, it flew open and there was Merle. He aimed a sawed off shotgun straight at me in his good hand. 'I'm a minor character' I thought as I watched the barrel jerk upwards in slow motion, the fire and smoke tumble slowly from the barrel, and the bits of bullet float towards me. They hit me full force in the chest and I fell backwards.
The landing hurt worse than the shot. I heard everyone yelling far away. I saw grey sky and nothing else. 'I'm expendable' I thought... 'They killed me off before I could be a major character...'
Then I woke up.