One mile outside Alexandria, at the mouth of a creek bed,
was a rock formation deep in the wall of a hillside. Enid had found it and
shown Carl, who in turn had shown Michonne, who had taken Maggie there to show
her, who then showed Carol. It was a beautiful, elliptical cavern, about twenty
feet in diameter, with moss-covered walls that stretched nearly thirty feet
high. Grass and vines grew in around the edges of a natural skylight where the
earth had fallen into the chamber.
Carol could see where rain and other water sources had
poured into the lower floor of the formation, forming a large pool that had
then fed the creek beyond the formation’s ground-floor entrance. Though the
creek was now a sluggish mud trench, the pool in the center of the formation
remained. It was only a few feet deep, with sand and dark rocks forming the
base. It was just enough to cool your feet as you sat on a nearby rock: which
was exactly Carol’s favorite thing to do in this place.
It was quiet here. The acoustics of the rock walls made
every drop of water, every shift in the rocks, every breeze over the skylight
echo throughout the cavern. She loved to watch the shadows shift on the walls
as the sun moved overhead, loved to see the rays of light dance across the
water’s agitated surface. It was peaceful, calming, a solace that she sought
out when Alexandria became too noisy or when her mind needed some reprieve.
It was no secret place, but she seemed to be the only one
who regularly visited the spot. She always came alone, but after the horror of
the past few days, being alone wasn’t the most desirable or safest option.
Besides, Daryl could use some of this too now.
“It’s nice,” was all he said to describe it when she brought
Carol was happy to find her familiar spot near the pool: a
long flat rock that spent most of the day being warmed by the sun through the skylight.
She slipped off her shoes and dipped her feet in the water, reclining back on
the warm rock surface, watching him out of her periphery as he poked around.
There wasn’t much to say. Recent events in Alexandria had
cost them sleep, bullets, and loved ones. The physical damage was still going
on, and in-between the funerals and digging of new graves, sometimes one just
had to escape for a while.
After a few minutes of exploring the space, Daryl made his
way over to where she was, mechanically mimicking her position. When he lay
beside her, getting comfortable and staring up at the rock walls surrounding
them, enclosing them, almost protecting them from the outside world, he sighed
heavily and found her hand. It was the kind of exhale that came up from the
bones and was pushed out like an exorcism. Carol intertwined her fingers with
his, not saying a word.
They lay like that long enough for Carol to see the shadows
from the sun move from one cluster of stones to another, usually a sign that at
least a few hours had passed. Her body felt heavy, and she slipped in and out
of a light doze during that time. Daryl shifted, seeming to jog out of a
similar state, and he gave her a hand a squeeze.
“It’s awesome.” He corrected his earlier statement. “Let’s
come back tomorrow too.”
She tightened her grasp on his hand in return, a small smile
on her lips. “I’d like that.”