1: Instigation

"Aw shit, Boomer!"

Bile erupted into the darkening sky of Savannah, Georgia, and all over the ravaged white suit of a certain survivor.

"Goddamn it! I'll put a bullet between its fuckin' eyes!"

Through a veil of slime he located the massive infected right beside him. A horde of vicious, flesh-hungry freaks were closing in on him, but he didn't sway from his target. His dark-skinned teammates rushed straight into the scene, the male of the pair shooting wildly with a shotgun while the female followed blasting a submachine gun.

"Nick, get outta there!" the big, Southern man yelled.

"Just taking care of some personal business," Nick disregarded him calmly before pulling the trigger of his assault rifle.

"Nick, no-!" the young woman warned.

The blood of the creature exploded across the entire crowd.

"Fuck!" Nick shouted, turning to shoot the other infected trying to rip him into pieces. Bullets flew in every direction due to his blindness.

"Watch it!"

"I can't see for shit, Rochelle!"

"Maybe you shouldn't go getting stupid revenge on Boomers then-"

"Backhumper! Ro, look out!" came a heavily Southern-accented voice from the other side of the horde.

The jockey snarled and leaped onto Rochelle before she had a chance to react. She screeched and ran as fast as she could away from the onslaught.

"For the last time, Ellis, it's not a 'backhumper', you stupid hillbilly!" Nick shouted.

"I'll call 'em what I like!"

"Could you two stop for a minute and help me?!" Rochelle screamed. "Coach!"

"I got it," The older man unleashed his last bullets on the beast.

"I'm outta ammo," he announced, throwing the gun onto his back.

"I got ya, buddy!" Ellis threw Coach an axe from his own supply.

The four of them attacked the horde headfirst, blasting and hacking away, but it seemed like the swarm was endless.

"Christ in a handbasket!" Ellis exclaimed. "These things ain't never gonna stop!"

Nick grumbled and aimed some shots dangerously close to the mechanic, missing him by inches, but landing the infected behind him right in the face.

"That ain't funny!" Ellis whined. "You damn near got me that time!"

"I was protecting you, overalls," Nick said in a sarcastic tone. "But I won't miss you next time if you don't shut your goddamn mouth."

"Guys, now isn't a good time!" Rochelle announced through a wall of zombies. Coach swung his weapon suddenly, taking off most of their heads.

"I like this melee shit," he laughed, rushing off to inflict some more damage.

"You go with him, Rochelle," Ellis instructed, while switching to a baseball bat and fiercely swinging at oncoming foes. "We'll take care a' this side!"

The fight they put up was painstaking but the infected increasingly took control. The two became swamped by them, bloodthirsty and rotting, until they found it challenging to even find the strength to fight back.

"Nick!" the younger called from the ground. "I need some help over here!"

Nick ran as swiftly as he could towards the incapacitated man, only to be blocked by several foes.

"Bitch!" he yelled, as he hurriedly took them down with his remaining handgun.

He got to Ellis and pulled him up as fast as he could without damaging either of them further.

"If you go down again you're not gonna make it, you hear me?" Nick said firmly. "We... I can't afford to lose you. Yet."

"Oh man," Ellis wailed. "I think I really hurt somethin' just ther- wh- Ah! NICK! CHARGER!"

"Oh fuck this!" Nick shouted. "I don't think I can do this!"

Without further notice, the charger knocked them both back at once, sending them flying into wall and rubble. They were concealed and far away enough for the infected not to notice them, but their situation was just as bad.

"Shit... Nick, I can't move," Ellis groaned. "I hurt so bad I can't see right."

The conman didn't answer. He could feel the blood seeping out of his head. His vision was steadily fading.

"Nick?!" The younger called in alarm "You okay? Answer me, man!"

Ellis attempted to jerk himself upward to assess his teammate's damage, which only resulted in a squeak of agony.

"Ellis..." Nick struggled to answer. "I'm fine, don't hurt yourself."

"Bit late for that now, huh?"

The ends of Nick's mouth curled into a small, painful smile.

"You're bleedin' real bad," Ellis said in worry, managing to turn himself enough to see the older man.

"I'm aware," Nick mumbled. He closed his eyes as a surge of pain went through his body.

"Hey, stay awake!" Ellis warned. "Once, my buddy Keith swallowed some kinda washin' up stuff, ya know the stuff your maw keeps under the sink, like bleach and shit? Well, turns out you ain't supposed to sleep after that or your organs'll fail or somethin-"

"Ellis, not now."

"Sorry, sorry."

Nick found it harder and harder to breathe.

"Listen, Ellis," he said quietly. "I think this is it."

"Naw, it can't be!" Ellis protested.

Suddenly, he began coughing violently. He could taste the blood coming up from his throat. He couldn't move his arm to wipe the blood clinging to his lips. All he could focus on was the metallic liquid that was filling his mouth and all he could see were faint black and grey shapes.

"We're gonna die," Nick's voice was no more than whisper.

He felt so faint from the blood loss that he couldn't even think coherently. Their inevitable death clung to his mind like the bile to his ruined suit.

"Never thought I'd go like this," Ellis murmured. "I mean, it's the zombie apocalypse out here. I thought I'd die doin' somethin' cool, like bein' mauled by one a' them witches. Aw man-!"

Another cough attack interrupted his musings.

"Shut it, Ellis," Nick said, for different reasons than usual, and this time he actually obeyed.

As they lay there, slowly dying, Nick's mind, crippled with pain, turned to Ellis. There was so many things he should have said to him while they were still full of life, but so many of them he would never have even considered saying then. Or now, for that matter. He decided to start simple.

"I don't hate you."

Ellis gave an unintelligible groan as answer.

"I...well, I kinda like you. Alright, I do like you. I like all you three, but you... you're... ah... I know we're dying and it's too late now, but I do..."

This time the reply was less than a gasp of sorts. Nick could feel his eyes welling with tears. The kid was just about to take his dying breath, and he was next.

"All that shit I said to you... I'm sorry, okay? I was scared of getting too close, I guess... Always am..."

No reply. Nick couldn't even feel the tears roll down his face as he closed his eyes again and let sleep take him.