Hi!! I’m really excited for Rylo’s story right now, and my excitement feels really out of place considering what’s actually going on in the story. But anyway.
Sunlight filtering through his eyelids rouses him back to consciousness. Rylo stretches his back and readjusts his position, hoping to doze back to sleep. Then, images from last night come flooding back, jarring him awake. The fire, the zombies, Ravenna, the kid. Oh god, the kid.
It takes a while to build up the courage to open his eyes. Rylo hopes against hope that he’ll open them and be perfectly alone, and the whole thing will have been a dream.
His eyes open to the sight of the little girl sitting in the corner, clutching her knees. Staring at him. A real flesh and blood little girl, with her round green eyes boring into him.
Rylo knows the little girl is probably traumatized, and cold, and hungry, and now he’s stuck with her and all her problems. Rylo groans and mutters a “fuck”, and then lifts himself off the wood floor.
He stands up and stretches, willing the child to stay silent. He’s relieved when she does, and he heads out of the shack to start a fire.
Outside, dew clings to every surface, but Rylo is able to unearth some dry wood rotting away in a fallen tree. The past owners of this charming abode have left behind a stone fire pit, giving Rylo a convenient spot to build his fire.
Rylo glances back into the shack, again hoping the kid would somehow disappear. Unfortunately, she has hardly moved, but Rylo is relieved to see that she is now staring at a dust mote dancing in the sunlight, and is no longer scrutinizing his every move.
He has just barely sat down when he feels a presence moving towards the fire. Hers are the only steps he has ever heard that are quieter than his own. The only sound she makes his her breathing, quickened by her violent shivering in the cool morning air.
The girl warms herself against the fire, and immediately recommences her uncomfortable stare. Rylo shudders and looks away.
As she absorbs some of the fire heat, her trembling slows, and she sits down in the dirt. At no point does she take her eyes off Rylo.
He tries to silently bear the weight of that familiar green stare, but as the seconds move agonizingly by he begins to feel open, exposed, dissected. He’d like to, but he can’t kid himself. He knows how long it’s been since that night with Ravenna, and he knows the sight of his own mother’s eyes.
He shudders, and finally cracks.
Rylo: Kid, you’ve gotta stop looking at me like that.
The girl remains an impenetrable wall, her eyes completely fixed on Rylo.
Rylo: Goddamnit, why do you gotta look at me like I’ve just grown a tail?
Girl: You burned my house down.
Rylo: I might have had something to do with that.
Girl: My mom was in there.
Already Rylo regrets saying anything. He could have spent the morning in uncomfortable but quiet peace, and now he seems to have opened the floodgates.
Girl: You let her die.
Rylo: She let herself die.
Girl: You could have saved her. You let her burn.
Rylo: She let herself burn along with all her fucked up junkie plants.
The girl tenses and raises her voice to a yell.
Girl: My mom wasn’t a junkie!
Rylo: Trust me, I know all about junkie moms. Your mom was a junkie.
Girl: My mom was not! She was a good witch.
Rylo snorts in disbelief.
Rylo: Is that what she told you?
Girl: She could make magic potions and do anything she wanted with the right plants. She could make the zombies get sleepy and forget to be mean.
Rylo: If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Girl: What’s that supposed to mean?
Rylo: It’s supposed to mean that your mom didn’t seem to care that her precious junkie plants that turned the zombies into sleepy slobbering idiots were doing the same thing to you.
Girl: It’s not junkie plants, it’s called aspira leaves. They kept us safe.
Rylo: You didn’t look so safe with your eyes rolled back in your head.
Girl: What do you care, it’s none of your business anyways.
Rylo: Kind of is, I’m your dad. How do you like them road apples.
Rylo: I’m serious, go ask your mom- oh wait, you can’t cause of your wonderful ass-press leaves.
Girl: Aspira leaves.
Girl: You’re not my dad.
Rylo: Am so. Helped make you and everything.
Girl: Even if you are I don’t like you.
Rylo: Great, well, you wouldn’t be the first.
To Rylo’s surprise, the girl seems to run out of things to say, but not before huffing at him and gazing moodily into the fire. She sits like that for some time, blinking back tears, until something rolling towards her catches her attention.
Rylo: Eat that.
Girl: It’s gross.
Rylo: A lot of things are gross. Dying of starvation is gross. Eat.
Rylo stands up and rolls his eyes. He looks down at his own onion and takes a bite.
Rylo: Whatever. If you’re not going to eat, go back to what you were doing. I was enjoying the quiet.
The girl kicks at the onion, sending it rolling back at him. Rylo sighs in exasperation, but refrains from complaining since she has gone back to staring quietly into the fire.
Two more days and nights pass, with no new development. The girl seems content to ignore him, and Rylo carries on in grumbling silence.
He spends his days killing the occasional zombie, digging up wild onions, and shooting at whatever walks or flies by.
The girl spends most of her time inside the shack, pressed tightly into the corner. Rylo only approaches to leave food next to her, which always remains uneaten. He tries raw onion, cooked onion, cooked meat, meat and onion cooked together, and even raw meat in a moment of desperation.
Before going in he always holds an ear to the crumbling siding, hoping to hear a sound other than the girl’s heavy sobbing.
After the third day in a row of picking up barely picked at breakfast off the floor, Rylo’s frustration hits a peak.
Rylo: Kid, there’s enough to cry about in this world as it is. Give it a break.
Girl: Shut up and go away!!
Rylo: Gee, sounds tempting. But if I did that, you would most likely die.
Girl: You think you know everything but-
Rylo: Listen, little girl. If I’d spent this much time shedding tears over every nasty thing that happened to me I’d have died of dehydration long before I was your age.
Through hysterical sobs she shrieks a reply.
Girl: I wish you had!!
Rylo: Cool, okay. Because that’s totally rational.
Running out of patience, Rylo rolls his eyes and stalks off.
The girl spends the rest of her day leaning against the wall, drifting in and out of sleep. She’s incredibly exhausted from not eating, but has no appetite. Crying so much has taken a lot out of her too, and sleep seems to be her only rest from the shuddering sobs.
Eventually night falls, and the darkness nudges her into a longer, deeper sleep.
Rylo avoids the shack until he’s certain she’s sleeping first. He has no more interest in speaking to this frustrating child, and settles to sleep in the farthest end of the room.
Soooooooo yay for impromptu parenthood!! And don’t worry about calling the Maury show, Rylo is definitely the father here. I will confirm that now, much to his dismay. See you all next time.