1: The Bridge

"Well, hello! Heh… hello... howdy, uhh, beautiful weather, huh? We're having a, uhh... oh, God, I'm too nervous to talk to her, man, one of you better do this".

"You've been killing zombies for the better part of a week, boy, you can talk to a girl".

"No I can't, I mean look at her, she's an angel".

Zoey, Francis and Louis looked down from the bridge upon four strangers. Zoey imagined that one of them had just tried to talk to her but neither of the three could understand anything being said by the strangers down below. Not the patient type, Francis shouted down from the top of his lungs "Hey you down there, come up here."

Moments later the four strangers were up on the bridge alongside them. A large man who seemed to have had a healthy appetite from before the days of the infection introduced himself as Coach.

"Hi, let me introduce our group, I'm Coach. The fella with the white suit is Nick. The lady here Rochelle and finally this is Ellis."

"I'm Francis, this here is Louis and the young woman is Zoey". "So what are you all doin' up this bridge?", Coach wanted to know. "We barely escaped a massive horde, with three Tanks in it", Francis answered. "We lost a good man down there. Old man Bill, that was his name, he distracted the Tanks and restarted that generator over there so we could raise the bridge. But before he could return one of these damn vampires knocked him down. They killed him. He dropped a few Molotov cocktails on them before he died though. Damn vampires. Especially those big ones."

Zoey sighed when Francis mentioned Bill. She saw the younger guy of the new group looking at her in a strange way. It was as if he wanted to speak to her. His name was Ellis, she heard. He looked handsome but she barely gave it a thought. She wasn't in the mood for talk. Bill's death was starting to affect her already. Francis doing all the talking was just fine with her. The last thing she wanted was some meaningless small talk about the weather or something. But there was something about this Ellis. Though she couldn't quite define it yet.

Ellis kept staring at Zoey until Coach pulled him into the conversation. The groups immediately agreed to stick together. "We wanted to go to New Orleans", Coach said. "But it probably was a bad idea to begin with being that we are still stuck here in Georgia." "Bill wanted us to go to some damn island", Francis said. "And I hate islands as much as I hate vampires". "Those are called zombies", Nick sneered. "Vampires, that's what I said, Colonel Sanders". Francis angrily retorted. Rochelle frowned at the discord between the two men and pulled Nick aside. Zoey was too busy tending to Louis' wounds and Ellis kept observing her. Francis continued "I usually hate army types, but Bill was OK. Even though his island idea was crazy, but he probably came back crazy from 'Nam so I can forgive him".

"Zoey, a beautiful name for an angel", Ellis thought. He was listening in to Francis and Coach but he didn't say much, his eyes were continuously drifting off. Coach was amazed that the normally talkative Ellis was so quiet but didn't give it much thought, the discussion between him and Francis was going well and the men agreed on many basic principles.

"We're stuck here in Rayford, our group is from up north", Francis said. "And I don't think going to an island is a good idea, and neither is going to New Orleans. From what we heard, that place is overrun. After we rest for the night, we should go to the Georgia safe zone some fifty miles south from here. We think that place is still good. We don't know the way around here very well, though." Coach mentioned that he and Ellis were practically locals, both being from Savannah right next door, he also said that Rochelle originally grew up in the South. Nick was the odd one out, an outsider passing through. Coach told the other group all about the four of them missing the last helicopter. "I still can't believe those CEDA people left us for dead. We had to fight our way out of that damn hotel, and through a mall. Our boy Ellis here came up with the idea to take Jimmy Gibbs' car and get out of there. We haven't gotten far though, the car gave out. I reckon the Georgia safe zone is the way to go, as you say". Francis wasn't sure he'd ever heard of this Jimmy Gibbs but whatever, he thought. The car looked nice enough from a distance.

"There might be a safe room in that building over there on the other side of the river", Rochelle said. The group agreed to go there. Francis and Coach picked up Louis, Rochelle dragged the annoyed looking Nick along and Ellis, all red-faced, found himself walking next to Zoey. Ellis tried to summon up the courage to say something to her but no words came out, and Zoey seemed lost in thought. The two did exchange looks every few moments and Rochelle, looking back at them, noticed the red blushes on Ellis' cheeks. She smiled at the passing thought in her head.

To their delight, they found a safe room in the building they had observed from the bridge. There was room enough for at least a dozen people and there were provisions. Mostly some health packs and rations but it would do. And the stash of pipe bombs would surely come in handy. Coach and Rochelle examined Louis' ankle and were satisfied that the wounds were not too serious. They gave Louis some painkillers which they had also found.

It had been eerily quiet on their short journey from the bridge to the safe room but none of the seven minded. It had been a while since any of them had had a decent night's sleep, and they decided to sleep in shifts. Two of them would be awake at all times. Ellis and Coach took the first shift.

"You're so quiet, Ellis. And you didn't even try to tell our new friends about your buddy Keith neither. Bur what I really want to know is why didn't you say anything to that Zoey girl when you had the chance.", Coach pressed. "I couldn't, like I said she's an angel" Ellis sighed. "Boy you got problems.", Coach said while patting Ellis on the back. "Do you believe in love at first sight", Ellis replied. "Well I never thought this would happen to me but now I do. I should totally marry that girl. Can coaches marry people?". "No, and like I said boy, you got problems", Coach lectured Ellis. Ellis reckoned he was right. He remembered that he and his buddy Keith never had no problems getting girls to go with them, but Zoey she seemed different, not some pick-up for a nice date or something. He didn't want to do anything that might make her think bad of him. Keith would always play pranks on his dates like 'accidentally' falling from a tunnel of love boat and then crying out for rescue. Ellis did chuckle thinking back about it but quickly fell back in the overwhelmed state he had been in since meeting Zoey.

"Please don't mention anything to Zoey about the marrying bit, OK?". Coach agreed to cover for the love-struck young man. He remembered his own daughter's boyfriend, who had been a total gentleman to her. Fortunately they got out with the helicopters, Coach thought. And Ellis would certainly be a gentleman to Zoey, just as soon as he could summon the courage to talk to her.

After some hours, Nick came over to relieve Coach. Turning to Ellis he sneered "So Overalls, you realize that girl is totally out of your league?". "Yeah you're right Nick, a girl like that would never go for a man like me, ain't got nothing to offer…", "It's better this way", Nick interrupted, "Now don't think of anything silly like marriage. Believe me, marrying is the last thing people should be doing. All women are emotional wrecks that eventually end up killing you. And do you know how hard it is to get bloodstains out of a wedding dress? Don't ask me how I know that." Ellis sighed as Francis approached to take up the second shift with Nick, and went to the sleeping quarters to get some rest.

Francis and Nick had taken an immediate dislike to each other earlier that day when they met. Nick looked down upon this greasy looking biker with his vest and Francis loathed the sight of this man with the expensive looking but blood and gore splattered suit. To Francis, Nick looked like a pretender and a con man. But both men didn't want to wake any of the others from some sleep and stayed quiet during their shift. Francis though about how he hated many things, including Nick, but he didn't hate Rochelle. "No definitely I do not hate her", he thought to himself. "And I don't hate my vest either."

As Ellis was about to lie down for some rest, Zoey suddenly awaked with a look of fright on her. And before Ellis could say anything she saw him look and said "leave me alone". Ellis saw her turn over and as he laid down on the bunk next to her clearly overheard her quietly sobbing. It tore him apart from the inside but he could not speak to her, though he desperately wanted to comfort her in some way. Unlike Coach, Rochelle and Louis he couldn't sleep. He turned his thoughts to his friends Keith and Dave. "I miss you guys", he thought. Maybe a similar thing was affecting Zoey. Maybe it was this Bill guy she missed, or someone else. Maybe they had something in common.