I apologize for how long this post is, but I promise it’s entirely awesome.
When I was in my junior year of college, I found myself in the midst of a zombie outbreak enactment. The way the game worked was this: Humans had Nerf guns to protect themselves from zombies. If you shot a zombie, the zombie went down for 3 minutes before it was able to rehabilitate itself and continue its quest for brains. If a zombie touched you, you became a zombie. In order to survive, humans had to remain uninfected for two hours, at which point they would make their way to the helipad and win the game from the safety of the helipad.
We rolled into the 55 acre park just after sunset. The last light of day painted the hills tangerine and blush as we drove down the winding path between the mounds. It was strangely silent; we heard no birdsong despite the warmth that persisted even at this late hour. Anticipation had us on edge as we approached the heart of the park. Several well-built men in camouflage carrying large guns halted us and impersonally checked our vehicle before allowing us entrance.
As we stood with the rest of humans and heard the rules, we came up with a plan. Our group of 4 would stay together for the duration of the game, safety in numbers. We ambled away from the asphalt and quickly merged with a group of about 30 humans. We decided to make our way away from the exposed, open space of the parking lot, so we headed toward the hills near the entrance of the park. We chatted companionably with the crew we had joined. We slung our weapons over our shoulders nonchalantly as we exchanged strategies and approached our short-term destination. A few small, shrub-like trees dotted the crests of the rise.
After we made it to the hills, we stopped to discuss tactics. Some team members set down their guns for a moment to take a brief rest while a handful of us looked outward. I scratched idly at a mosquito bite which was irritated by the bandolier of ammo strapped across my chest. Night was upon us; the now plum-colored fields below us whispered as an evening breeze rippled through the grass.
Panicked screaming abruptly shattered the calm of the group as a pack of zombies tore through our shabbily established defenses. Instinctively, I sprayed bullets from my machine gun in a protective arc around myself. The automatic mechanism clicked repeatedly, the gun eagerly working the bandolier like a typewriter, left to right. The zombies went down; my inaccurate but plentiful retaliation had worked in my favor. I stared mouth agape at a zombie snarling with ill-intent near my feet; reality hitting hard.
The zombies had demolished almost half of our group in less than 90 seconds.
“What are we going to do?! We have to get away! We can’t stay here; they have less than a minute left before they reactivate!” The group was in turmoil; the immediate presence of danger muddling their ability to function. I could practically smell the fear rolling off of them in waves; it left a bitter taste in my mouth, acidic and nauseating.
I spat my contempt on the ground. “I’m getting the hell outta here.” I announced, not bothering to wait for my comrades to dither anymore. I trotted away, setting out northwest. I came across two tennis courts surrounded by high fences on the west and east sides, low fences guarding the north and south sides. The tennis courts only had two means of egress, which I could see as detrimental if the group panicked again. If everyone was alert and organized, we could make a pretty decent fortress out of it; if we lost our cool we would be massacred. Against my better judgment, I decided to make a stand inside the protection of the tennis courts along with a group of 40 humans I encountered inside the gates.
It was a slaughter. This squadron was no better than the last, dissolving in a pile of nerves the minute the zombies came for us. The zombies poured over the north and south fences; the humans unable to escape as the exits became bottlenecked and spread the infection even faster. People ran to and fro contributing to the mass confusion. All of the jostling prevented me from getting a single shot off. A witless girl slammed into me, knocking me to my hands and knees. I couldn’t die like this.
I lost my nerve and leapt to my feet with too much force, abdominal muscles screaming from overexertion for such a simple movement. I bolted straight toward the northern fence; the zombies were now in the middle of all the chaos. Somehow I made it to the fence unscathed; and I sprang over it in perhaps the only graceful movement I’ve ever made in my life. Gravity reunited my feet with the earth, and I sprinted away without a single glance back. As I ran deeper into the darkness of the evening, the screams of the humans I had left behind pierced the night’s sky.
Swiftly I fled, not even knowing which direction I was running. The ragged noise spewing forth from my throat was sure to attract predators of some kind, but I didn’t stop to catch my breath. Eventually my endurance ran out, and I fell to my knees, trying not to pass out. The world faded in and out as I fought for consciousness, hands clutching the dew-stained grass. Finally my breathing began to regulate, and I staggered to my feet and inspected my surroundings while removing the pebbles embedded in my palms.
Somehow I had ended up in a shallow valley encased in an opaque miasma, alone. The moon’s reflected radiance hazily lit the field; an eerie layer of fog rolled across the grass. Where in God’s name was I? My lean frame formed a small silhouette against the light; my breath creating a visible vapor as I unconsciously shifted the weight of my gun from right hip to left.
I couldn’t hear anyone; how far had I run? I jogged cautiously north, trying to get my bearings. Between the fog and the unfamiliar territory, I had no idea where I was in relation to the rest of the humans. Absolutely no signs of life penetrated the silence of the dell. Surely only 10 minutes had passed; I couldn’t be the only one still alive…could I? Male voices interrupted my reverie.
“Watch your six! Watch your six!”
Five men in all black appeared on the eastern horizon, fast and fluid. Their guns glinted weakly in the twilight. I decided to join them until I could find my comrades again. Together, we loped out of the valley and past an abandoned playground structure. I laughed bitterly to myself; this was no place for children. As I listened to the men, I realized that they were zombie hunters, intent on destroying all zombiekind rather than maintaining their own chances of survival.
I was reluctant to join this suicidal pursuit, recalling the cries of the fallen I had left behind. My escape would mean nothing if I were to throw it away on a vengeance-driven killing spree. I slowed my pace and came to a stop as we encountered the only lit structure in the park, a small construction of bathrooms. The quaint stone building seemed out of place, too mundane after the horrible scenes I had witnessed earlier.
I stood bathed in the soft, golden luminescence of the singular light adorning the structure as I tried to make my mind up. Should I seek survival solo or accompany the zombie hunters? They wheeled around the building in a rotating circle, constantly vigilant. Their voices were already fading into the distance as I pondered my dilemma. I heard a strangely repetitive thumping noise, and I turned to face the edifice once more.
Suddenly, a herd of 75 zombies stampeded out from behind the bathrooms, the structure separating them in twain as they passed. The bulb shone on me like a spotlight as they all honed in on the solitary human before them.
“Oh shit.” I murmured to myself; my heart dropped. I pivoted 180 degrees and bolted out of the light, seeking sanctuary in the obscurity of the shadows. Flee! Flee Flee! My pulse pounded out its command as I sought freedom from my inevitable demise. The bullets in my bandolier rattled like a dinner bell as I ran.
I pumped my arms in vain, trying to gain momentum. I could hear the zombies nipping at my heels; but I was still maintaining a slight lead. Ten meters, fifteen meters, twenty meters from the building. My feet danced over the ground, barely landing before lifting again. My gun bounced uselessly at my side; impeding my flight. I could feel myself wearing down. I couldn’t keep this pace up forever. Then a cold hand descended upon my shoulder, and there was nothing left to do but die.