297 Days before the lore begins
The young man came onto the stage, standing in front of the audience. He stands next to the closed casket containing Roscoe Gray, a lovely framed photograph of the man propped up beside it for all to see. It seemed the entirety of Monroe was in attendance and many of the weathered, battle-hardened faces were teary eyed. Many had seen Arlo’s bravery in battle and his steely composure in the face of adversity. Standing in front of the town, that usual resolve seemed shaken and his breathing was uneven. He took a moment to steady himself and then began to speak, reading off prepared remarks, unable to look at the audience as he did so.
Photograph of Roscoe Gray
“Thank you all for being here. I think the fact everybody in town is here says more about my dad than I’ll ever be able to. To be honest with you guys, I don’t really know what to say. We’ve all seen so much death in our lives and so many of those folks didn’t get a funeral or have anybody around to say a single thing about them. Even our friends who’d die before we had this place would just be quickly thrown in a hole or left on the side of the road. There wasn’t time to mourn or to respect the people they were. So really, I think the fact my dad played such an integral role in creating this place where we can gather with friends and loved ones and have such luxuries as mourning and funerals is the biggest testament to his character there is.”
Arlo’s breathing becomes a bit more erratic. He noticeably takes a deep breath, steadies himself once more, and continues to speak.
“There’s not a lot of people my age in the world. Most parents who already had kids when all this began weren’t able to adapt to the new world order while simultaneously keeping their kids safe and breathing. My dad was one of those few who managed this seemingly insurmountable feat. Everybody owes their parents for their birth, but I owe him for my life… on more occasions than can be counted. In fact, many people owe their lives to my dad. There were times throughout all this where he had to prioritize our lives and do things that were antithetical to his nature. I think we all know that’s necessary for survival in this world. The thing that made my dad so special is that he always came back to his nature. He never hesitated to help other people, even at great personal cost. No matter what he lost, he always managed to revert back to his optimistic and caring self. He’d go through hellfire and come out singing on the other side. He never showed me fear, although he never made me feel like I couldn’t show him mine. He taught me how to act coolly in the face of that fear. Not only did he ensure I survived when he was here but..” his voice cracks “he made sure to teach me how to survive for when he inevitably wasn’t.”
Arlo takes another moment to regain his composure.
“We were in many groups over the last decade or so, but by the time we got to Monroe it was just me and him. We didn’t say as much, but I think we both kinda figured nothing would work in this new world, that it’d always just come down to him and me surviving while the world burned around us. Many of you weren’t here back then… it was just a bunch of tents scattered around, some people who had found each other. Dad knew it could be something more. In a world dominated by negativity, dad was positive the moment he saw this place.
Dad was never happier than when he was building something up. Even in the world before, dad knew hardship and suffering. I think it’s why he went into construction, because while everything always felt like it was being torn down around him, he wanted to be able to build nice things and create joy. Monroe gave that to him. With all of your help, he was able to physically build up a place that would be relatively safe and comfortable. In doing so, I got to spend quality time with him learning his trade. It was nice to spend time building with him, not as worried about what might lurk behind every corner. But dad did more than build this place with a hammer and nails, he built it with his mind. He took a leadership role within the group, always present and engaged during discussions, speaking his mind and sharing our experiences, helping Julian draft the laws that'd focus on not just security, but also morality. He became a friend to nearly everybody he met. He became a mediator during arguments and a trusted pillar of the community. He allowed himself to open his heart despite all the times he’d felt it break, becoming to this community what he’d always been for me.”
Arlo pauses for a while, looking to the casket. He looks over the audience and then back down to his prepared remarks.
“As you all are well aware, dad was more than just a caring, intelligent carpenter and friend. He was also one hell of a fucking badass. He wasn’t a man who enjoyed killing but he’d done more than his fair share to ensure me and him were kept safe. And he was good at it too. Big, agile, and collected in a fight, there wasn’t much dad couldn’t take on. But he always warned me, time and time again, that no matter how good you were at fighting it only took one slip to put you in the ground. I used to get annoyed at him, how much he’d say it. He wasn’t trying to scare me, but he just wanted to make sure I never, ever let my guard down. I don’t… I don’t think dad let his guard down, I can’t imagine him being anything but alert. I… I don’t really know what happened. He’s killed so, so many biters over his life. Thousands and thousands of them. But I guess… I guess it just takes..”
A tear forms in Arlo’s eye. He quickly wipes it away.
“We may be safer here than we ever were on the road, but the world is never totally safe. It never was. He died defending this place. We’re not ready to lose him.” His lip quivers, “I’m not ready to lose him.”
Arlo takes a deep breath.
“But if there’s one thing dad taught me, it’s how to rise up and face challenges you never would’ve guessed you’d be ready to take on. And I’m sure if we can all remember the lessons he taught us and be more like the man he was then this community will not just survive… it’ll thrive.”
He looks to the casket and tenderly puts a hand on it. It’s beautifully crafted and polished.
“I love you dad.” He looks at the crowd for a moment and then goes to resume his seat.
The ceremony continues with many other members of Monroe eulogizing Roscoe before they bury him in the town graveyard, alongside so many others gone before their time.
A special thanks to Pixie for editing the photo!
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