It was shortly after the annual F. Gregory Gause III Lecture on the Middle East and Stuff that the end of the world came. Some said the distinguished visiting lecture had looked a little under the weather, although most in his audience had attributed it to his distaste at having been asked about the possible role of political culture in the Arab Spring. In any case, the rest is well-known to the surviving remnants of humanity: a little after 4pm that afternoon, the University of Vermont professor had bitten a Canadian Border Services agent near Lacolle, Québec, thus marking zero-hour of what would become the world-wide zombie apocalypse.
Soon civilization tottered and collapsed, its streets overrun by ravenous hordes of undead.
The Inter-Uiniversity Consortium for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies was well prepared. It security system, with its intricate system of locked doors and waiting rooms, was largely impassable to undergraduate students, let alone zombies. It was well-stocked with left-over pizza, coffee, and other essentials of survival. Preoccupied with thesis writing or comprehensive exam preparation, some of the graduate students there had initially failed to even notice the near-extinction of humankind for several months.
Eventually, however, they would have to sally forth from their secure surroundings into the deadly new academic world awaiting them outside. “Publish or perish” had come to acquire a new, and far grimmer, meaning….
All graduate students start at ICAMES. Each must secretly select one book from the following list:
- Max Brook, The Zombie Survival Guide.
- Nathan Brown, Constitutions in a Nonconstitutional World.
- Ronald Brown, Homemade Guns and Homemade Ammo.
- Jason Brownlee, Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization.
- Richard Curtis. How to Prosper in the Coming Zombie Apocalypse.
- Chistopher Davidson, After the Sheikhs.
- Mark De Lisle, The Navy Seal Workout: The Complete Total-Body Fitness Program.
- Michael Herb, All in the Family.
- Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies.
- Amaney Jamal, Of Empires and Citizens.
- Robert Kirkman et al, The Walking Dead: Compendium One.
- Erik Kuhonta, The Institutional Imperative: The Politics of Equitable Development in Southeast Asia.
- Marc Lynch, The Arab Uprising.
- Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes, Go the F*ck to Sleep.
- Fiona Ritchie and Peter Sabor, eds, Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century.
- Lisa Wedeen, Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria.
To win, they must find this book and safely return. Books may be found at SSMU/Shatner Building (1), MISC (1), the Bronfman Building (1), the McGill Bookstore (3), the Institute of Islamic Studies Library (3), Redpath Library (2), and the Social Science and Humanities Library (5).
Andrew starts in the Leacock Building. He must find 6 supplies, then either exit the McGill campus in his red Mini, or return to Leacock.
Samuel L. Jackson starts at the corner of Peel and Sherbrooke. He must rescue everyone, of course—he’s that kind of guy.
Susan Dodsworth provided overwatch from an upper floor window with her keen vision and trusty Webley revolver as Kedra Hildebrand and Islam Derradji carefully exited the front door of ICAMES, and Merouan Mekouar, Bruno Marot, and Greta Messori slipped out the back. While the Interuniversity Consortium for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies had been otherwise well-prepared for the zombie apocalypse, its supply of research materials was limited and the internet had long ago ceased to function. They all needed books, and—slavering hordes of murderous undead or not—a trip to the library was in order.
Kedra checked the door of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada adjacent to ICAMES. Locked! Moreover, her efforts to force her way in soon attracted the attentions of a zombie near Syrian depanneur across the street. Before it could reach her, however, Algerian soccer thug (and MA graduate) Islam brought it down with a well-aimed rock to the head. The abomination fell awkwardly in the middle of the road, groaning its last groan.
A few moments later, Susan emerged from the front door of ICAMES. Turning to her friends, she had an idea: “We really need to head over towards Leacock, and help rescue Andrew!”
They had realized some weeks earlier that the Department of Political Science’s resourceful administrative officer, Andrew Stoten, was trapped in the Leacock Building. From signs he had held up to them from the roof they also knew he was low on supplies, and had several forms they all needed to fill out if they ever planned to graduate from university
“You’re right!” Kedra readily agreed.
“Pffft, I’ve already graduated” Islam muttered. Ignoring Susan’s suggestion, he started to head south down Peel Street instead. A few weeks before the living dead had descended upon Montréal the city had begun work on the road, digging it up to lay new water pipes. The construction equipment provided useful cover and hiding places.
Islam stopped for a moment to search a dump truck. Inside it he found a crowbar, and a stash of hollow-point pistol ammunition. Anywhere else this might seem an odd combination, but given the widely-reported links between the Montréal construction industry and organized crime it hardly seemed surprising at all.
Meanwhile the two women finally forced their way into MISC. Searching the building, Susan found a book—although not the one she was looking for—and a box of stale Timbits. There were no Canadianists to be seen anywhere, however. Perhaps they had been ripped apart by the undead while on a search for fresher doughnuts (or debating fiscal federalism)? Demonstrating the common sense for which Australians are known, she also picked up a heavy cast-iron skillet laying on the floor of the research centre. It might prove a useful zombie-bashing tool.
* * *
Meanwhile in the alley behind ICAMES, Bruno and Greta slowly began to head towards the Shatner Building. Meroun, however, spied a feral dog rooting amid the rotting garbage and corpses beside the Faculty Club. He flashed it one of his trademark smiles. The dog looked up, and barked. Then another dog appeared.
Soon there were nine of them, each looking even hungrier than the one before. In what could only be described as a textbook example of an informational cascade, they all started to trot toward Merouan, teeth bared.
“Do you need help there?” called back Bruno, a sneer in his voice. He had seen Merouan’s type before. They rarely survived World Bank boot camp, and those that did soon broke in the field, unable to face the brutal realities and unpredictable terror of stakeholder consultations, strategy papers, and donor coordination meetings. He spat on the pavement with scarcely-concealed Gallic disdain.
“No, I’m fine.’ Merouan replied. he fumbled with the safety catch of his replica AK-47. “There, there, nice doggies…you wouldn’t want to bite a man in a beret, would you?”
The largest of the dogs growled, its ragged teeth glinting in the afternoon light. Merouan closed his eyes, and pulled the trigger, firing a long burst of fire at the menacing canines.
When the echoes died down, however, it became clear that Moroccan post-apocalyptic-hipsterism was no substitute for knowing how to actually handle an assault weapon: He had missed them all. Merouan backed up hurriedly, firing another burst. “Umm, yes. Yes, Help sounds good. HELP!…” The lead dog snarled, and lunged at the doctoral student.
At that very moment, Kedra stepped into the alley from the back door of MISC, and calmly fired her shotgun. The dog fell dead at Merouan’s feet.
“And THAT is the way we do it in Montana,” she grinned matter-of-factly, pumping another round into the chamber for emphasis. All she needed was some mountains, a wildfire, and beer, and it would be just like home.
The rest of the feral dog pack quickly retreated southward down the alley.
The noise of the gunfire soon brought new problems, however. No sooner had Bruno walked into the SSMU parking lot when he spotted a small group of zombies shuffling towards them. With survival instincts honed by the brutal experience of working for an international financial institution, he raised his own shotgun and gunned down first one then another of the creatures. Kedra and Merouan hastened to join him. With a pack of hungry dogs nearby and zombies on the prowl, it seemed sensible to stick together.
Or did it? Greta unholstered both of her pistols, and headed instead towards SSMU. Breaking a rear window, she climbed inside the darkened building.
* * *
Looking out from his Leacock office window, Andrew contemplated his next move. For weeks he had survived on scavenged snack foods from the vending machines in the basement. Now he was down to his last bag of “crisps.” What to do?
The McGill rescue helicopter was no longer an option. Through the first months of the apocalypse it had periodically arrived to shuttle senior administrators from the James Administration Building to the secret McGill University survival bunker at Mont Saint-Hillaire. Never, however, had it made the slightest attempt to alight on the roof of Leacock. Perhaps rescuing administrative staff didn’t seem terribly cost-effective, especially with class enrolments down so much with the end-of-civilization? It didn’t matter now, anyway: the helicopter had crashed into the Redpath Building two weeks ago when an infected Dean had suddenly tried to eat the pilot’s brains.
He could make a break for it in his car. The red Mini was parked outside on Dr. Penfield where he had abandoned it in the initial days of chaos and mayhem. A large herd of walkers constantly milled about in that area, however, making it too dangerous to reach.
In the end, his own hunger and the sound of shooting forced a decision. The graduate students from ICAMES, it seemed, had left their refuge for some unknown reason. Was it the mold again? A flooded toilet? A leaking roof? The fools–did they have no idea of the paperwork involved when students were devoured by cannibalistic cadavers? Taking his department-issue 9mm Browning automatic pistol from his desk drawer, Andrew went down the stairs to the ground floor, unlocked the doors, and carefully made his way south out of the building. There seemed to be no zombies between Leacock and the Institute of Islamic Studies, so he decided to head there. Perhaps he could find something edible in the rubble. Thereafter, he would try to join up with the ICAMESians.
Arriving at the Institute, the ruins at first seemed empty. But no sooner had Andrew stepped into the building than a zombified corpse rose from the rubble. He fired at the creature twice, slowing it down but not stopping it. With a groan it grabbed at his leg, biting deep through his impeccable Savile Row trousers. “Blimey,” he muttered, “that’s not cricket”—with any zombie bite, he knew, came the risk of fatal infection. Still, never one to panic, he drew the commemorative silver-plated letter-opener he had received from the university for five years of faithful service, and plunged it deep into the zombie’s skull.
With the creature now well and truly dead, Andrew began searching the ruins. Food supplies, alas, were nowhere to be found. He did, however, find several books that might be worth bartering. As he collected them, he heard a sound outside. A small child could be seen, approaching from the direction of the library. In one hand it held a tattered teddy bear. In the other, it clutched a well-gnawed femur.
It was a heart-wrenching moment, but Andrew’s time in the Department of Political Science had given him a steely resolve. Taking out his letter-opener once more, he threw it expertly at the tiny harbinger of hell. Or, perhaps, somewhat less than expertly—he missed. He stumbled backward, almost tripping over a scorched copy of volume 3 the New Cambridge History of Islam. The thing grew ever closer. Fearing that a gunshot would only attract the walkers on McTavish, Andrew called upon his pugilistic skills to put down the creature down.
* * *
As all of this was unfolding on campus, a screech of tires could be heard on Sherbrooke Street. A blue convertible skidded to a halt, and out jumped a tall, muscular man with a grim expression and a very large shotgun. Samuel L. Jackson had arrived to save the day.
He surveyed the scene with growing anger. A little up Peel Street, a group of four zombies could be seen milling about in the road. Two other groups were further down the east, towards the Roderick Gates. He swore with frustration:
Enough is enough! I have had it with these muthaf*king zombies on this muthaf*king campus!
There was no point using the shotgun—it would just attract the other herds. Instead he charged into the nearest group, slamming the butt of his weapon into the head of a zombie until it collapsed on the ground while all the time quoting Ezekiel 25:17:
I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy My brothers…
He then battered a second in the same way. The zombies, however, clawed back, injuring him seriously. Could the great Samuel L. Jackson really come to his end like this, brawling with the undead on a Montreal street corner?
From his hiding place behind a parked car, Islam watched the unfolding fight. He could attempt to save Jackson. Then again, if Jackson died he could scavenge his weapon and ammunition. In the end—and only after considerable debate— he decided to help. He stood up, and gestured at Samuel L. Jackson to quickly retreat from the undead.
Jackson was not amused. He wasn’t one to back off from a fight.
Islam took a hand grenade from his pack, and waved it at Jackson to clarify his intention. With this the iconic movie hero had a quick change of mind and ducked behind a nearby building. Moments later he was almost knocked off his feet when the blast hit. Where there had once been a herd of murderous walkers there was now only a small smoking crater in the pavement, and an assortment of severed body parts.
He stepped forward to thank the Algerian thug, but Islam had already vanished. Survival, he had come to believe, depended on hiding in shadows and staying as far away as possible from those who might attract zombie attention.
* * *
Greta picked her way carefully through the ruins of the Shatner Building, hoping to find a copy of Ritchie and Sabor, eds, Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century. Discovering what seemed to be a switch for the emergency lighting in the ballroom, she turned it on—only to accidentally start up the emergency generator, sound system, and disco ball. “Call Me Maybe” started to blare loudly, attracting three zombies into the building before she could shut it off.
Taking aim with her one good eye and two good pistols, she gunned down the first, and wounded the second. They rushed at her, clawing and biting but thankfully only wounding her lightly. Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! She fired again and again, until the walkers fell to the floor. To her delight, one seemed to be an English student, and had the very book she was looking for shoved in its bloodied pack. She took her prize, and headed out of the building the way she had come.
* * *
The commotion in the Shatner Building was bad news for Bruno. The music and then the gunfire attracted a procession of shuffling corpses from up and down McTavish Street towards the parking lot where he stood. Given his limp (an old World Bank injury sustained while debating post-conflict urban reconstruction), he had little chance of outrunning them. Instead he stood his ground, bringing down one after another with well-aimed blasts from his shotgun. The pack of feral dogs continued to stalk them as well, looking for a moment of weakness—although Kedra dissuaded them from approaching too closely by shooting two more. Merouan’s shots continued to go wild.
Unfortunately, two of the undead made it through the hail of fire. Kedra was badly injured, while Bruno found himself in fierce hand-to-bloody-hand combat with an undead Microbiology postdoc in a lab coat.
Hearing the ruckus, Susan ran out to help. Although she only had six shots in her pistol, she made every round count.
Finally, there was a brief lull in the action. Merouan reloaded his weapon, while Susan used her medic skills to patch up her friends as best she could. On a whim, Kedra checked the pockets of the dead post-doc, only to find a precious vial of experimental zombie anti-serum. That could prove useful if any of them were bitten.
Greta, having found the book she was looking for, walked back to ICAMES. She paid little attention to the drama unfolding only a few meters away.
Another group of zombies appeared, charging towards the brave graduate students. Bruno fired at them to the last, until he was torn apart and devoured. This was too much for Merouan, who, with completely uncharacteristic bravery, leapt onto the roof of a car and shouted in anger and anguish:
As still more zombies approached, this time from down the alley, he fired dozens of rounds from his assault rifle, wounding one lightly in the foot.
“Kedra, there’s Andrew! We need to go NOW!” Tugging at her friend, Susan ran across McTavish to greet Andrew, who had emerged from the Institute of Islamic Studies carrying a small cache of books.
“G’day, Andrew.. you’re looking a bit thin.” said Susan. “Would you like some Timbits?” They quickly negotiated a trade, with Andrew giving her in exchange a copy of the book Go the F*ck to Sleep that he had found in the Institute.
“Hey, I wanted that!” complained Merouan as he crossed McTavish and spotted the book in Susan’s hands.
* * *
While all this was going on, Islam cautiously made his way to the Social Sciences and Humanities Library, avoiding the occasional group of walkers along his route. When he reached it he broke in, and began searching through the stacks for a copy of Samuel Huntington’s Political Order in Changing Societies. Outside he could see a few zombies wandering outside the Redpath building, but he was unconcerned. His zombie fighting strategy was, as a general rule, to avoid fighting zombies.
Samuel L. Jackson spent a few minutes unsuccessfully trying to patch his wounds, swearing louder with each failed attempt. Finally he abandoned the effort, and instead decided to head in the direction of the earlier gunfire. As he made his way along the alley behind the Best Western hotel, he found an abandoned yellow mountain bike in the road. Perching his shotgun on the handlebars, he mounted up and began peddling.
He had only gone half a block or so when he heard an agonized scream. Someone had died! That f*cking pissed him off too–goddamn muthaf*cking zombies! He lifted his shotgun and fired angrily at a zombie drooling outside the bookstore.
In most un-Samuel L. Jackson style, he missed and fell off his bike. He was immediately pounced upon and devoured by the zombie—which, in an odd twist of fate, had been in its earlier life one of those McGill security guards that insist people dismount from their bicycles when on campus.
* * *
Distracted by negotiations with Andrew then squabbling with Merouan, Susan hadn’t seen the latest group of zombies approach until it was almost too late. Suddenly she found herself locked in a life-and-death struggle with two, while a third attacked Andrew and Kedra. For his part, Merouan seemed strangely unmoved by Susan’s predicament—calculating, perhaps, that if she was felled the book would be his.
Kedra was more loyal to her friend, rushing over to help once she and Andrew had slain their own rotting opponent. It was too late, however. Susan went down.
“I think this might be a jolly good time to run,” suggested Andrew. “I have my car just parked up there.” He and Kedra began to run towards the Mini. Merouan, however, stopped to retrieve Go the F*ck to Sleep from Susan’s corpse. It was a bad choice: before he could leave, she groaned, looked at him with the blank stare of an all-but-dissertation zombie, and grabbed his leg. Merouan emptied his weapon into her, and then started to run towards ICAMES in a panic, screaming like a child of post-structuralism. Hordes of zombies converged on the noise, overwhelming him.
Kedra and Andrew looked from outside the Leacock building at the carnage on McTavish Street, before averting their eyes in horror. Kedra hopped into the Mini, and tried to start it with Andrew’s keys—somehow setting off the car alarm, and immobilizing the engine. There was also the slight matter of a zombie in the back seat.
With this, they scrambled out of the car and into the Leacock, quickly barricading the doors behind them. While they hadn’t escaped campus, they were at least alive.
- Islam Derradji: still searching the library for the right book (survives)
Susan Dodsworth: killed by zombies on McTavish, returned as zombie, grabbed Merouan, shot by Merouan
- Kedra Hildebrand: wounded but intact in Leacock Building (survives)
Samuel L. Jackson: ripped apart by undead after bicycle accident Brunot Marot: slaughtered by zombies in Shatner/SSMU parking lot Merouan Mekouar: eaten by horde of walkers in the alley behind ICAMES
- Greta Messori: found her chosen book, safely returned to ICAMES (winner)
- Andrew Stoten: returned to Leacock Building with supplies, and survives zombie bite with aid of experimental vaccine (winner)