This week, faculty and graduate students at McGill University’s Interuniversity Consortium for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies sat down to hone their all-important zombie survival skills. Unlike past years, this time the scenario was not set on the McGill campus but rather in the terror-inspiring town of Thesisville.
The nine players each were assigned individual and/or collective goals.
Lady Penelope, English aristocrat and big-game hunter, had decided that the areas west of town had become too dangerous, and that they should instead try to find a safer refuge to the east. With her was her loyal gamekeeper (and, so it was rumoured, secret lover) Jock McHaggis, as well as her prize-winning horse Archibald.
Claire--head prefect at Miss Congleton’s School for Girl—was heading in to town with junior students Polly, Lucy, and Samiha. Back at the school one of their fellow pupils had become deathly ill, and it was essential that they find a first aid kit, medicines, or a doctor as soon as possible.
Private Eye Dick Bogart had seen it all before: dames, undead, a world that had lost its mind. He was heading into town with one thought on his mind: to kill zombies. Accompanying him was The King, an itinerant Elvis impersonator in search of food and an audience that didn’t want to eat his brains.
Food was also uppermost on the mind of Laurie Kraft, the hypoglycemic former Olympian. A skilled markswoman and all-around athlete, her abilities tended to fade when her blood-sugar went low.
Finally, two members of the faculty of Thesisville University approached from the west. Dr. Nina Putin—engineer, physicist, and experimental geneticist—was anxious to cross town and move west, although she would not explain why. Dr. Putin claimed to be close to finding a cure to the Zed-virus, but her abrasive personality and maniacal mad-scientist laugh led many to conclude she was more likely to have been the cause of the epidemic rather than anyone’s future saviour. With her was Prof. Ginger Barton, the noted feminist anthropologist. Her objective was simply to survive—and, if possible, expose the roots of global patriarchy.
* * *
Dirk and The King started by approaching the back door of a once heavily-fortified post office, now largely in ruins. As they did so, however, the King spotted movement to one side. “Zombies, thank you very much.” he warned, “They’ll be trying to step on our blue suede shoes.” Dirk nodded “The other way isn’t much better.. there’s something approaching fast.” It was a fearsome runner zombie!
They decided to head in that direction nonetheless. Dirk gunned the runner down with a burst from his Tommy gun, but not before it had lightly wounded The King.
“Oh, now don’t be cruel,” muttered The King, as another group of zombies shuffled out of a nearby strip mall and started to shamble towards him. He shot one down with his pistol, but the others soon tore him apart. Dirk looked grimly at the bloody sight, before mowing down the hungry undead with a burst of automatic weapons fire. “Elvis has left the building….”
* * *
Dr. Putin and Prof. Barton did little but argue as they approached the city. Faculty meetings had always been like this, and the apocalypse had done little to smooth the tensions. Finally they agree to part ways—Putin headed a little to the south, while Barton passed through a small gas station before heading down the main road into town.
Sticking together might have been a better idea. Not long thereafter, Prof. Barton found herself pursued by a small pack of shufflers. They caught up with her, and killed her. She would later rise from the dead as one of them.
* * *
Meanwhile, Claire and the girls approached some commercial buildings, intending to search them for medical supplies. One building was intact, and yielded up some food supplies. The other was barricaded. After considerable time and effort Claire finally managed to pry the door open, only to find a single well-armed female cultist inside. Using her leadership skills, the head girl soon convinced the mysterious hooded figure to join their group.
As she did so, they could all hear shots in the distance, and the howling of a pack of feral dogs.
* * *
Lady Penelope and Jock arrived at a small farm. As her Ladyship looked on impatiently, Jock forced open the barricaded door of the farmhouse. “Ye rest in haur a minute, m’lady. Ah hink i’ll gang check it ‘at barn.” he said in his thick Highland brogue. “Very well,” replied Lady Penelope.
She searched for a few moments, but soon gave up. She had people to search for her, after all–it was not really appropriate for a woman of good breeding to be opening cupboards and poking about in dusty possessions. Instead she peered out the window, and took occasional shots at a pack of hungry-looking dogs in the distance. It was hardly stalking wildebeast on the Serengeti, but it would have to do.
Jock wandered over to the barn and opened its big doors. Like every barn ever in the history of zombie apocalypses, it was full of zombies. He shouted out for help, but was soon brought down by the hungry pack.
Lady Penelope went outside to see what the noise was. Jock had been bitten! And good help was so hard to find! She mounted Archibald and rode off.
Moments later, Jock rose from the dead. With vague memories of her ladyship still animating his undead actions, he and the group shambled off in pursuit of the now-distant rider.
* * *
Laurie Kraft was hungry. VERY hungry. And if she didn’t find some food soon, things were going to get worse.
Moving cautiously through the city, she surveyed the buildings. Most were clearly ransacked, several in ruins. She did, however, spot an ice cream van. The ice cream would have long since melted and spoiled, but she might find cones or snacks still inside.
But no. The van was empty. And the gnawing inside Laurie’s stomach was only growing worse.
“RATATATATAT! Bang! Bang! RATATATAT!” she heard shooting in the distance. It seemed to be attracting every zombie for miles around too. She was about to head off when a blonde woman with a haughty expression, machine-pistol and sword approached her. “I am Dr. Nina Putin.” she said. “Would you like to serv.. would you like to join with me?” Laurie shook her head. She liked to do things alone.
* * *
Dr. Putin gave the woman an dismissive wave, and continued down the road. Moments later she felt her footing give way as an improperly-closed manhole cover shifted beneath her. While she did not plunge into the dark sewer below, her ankle was now twisted. “Damn…” She continued to hobble toward westwards.
* * *
As Laurie had correctly surmised, Dirk‘s habit of shooting at everything that groaned—while leaving an ever-growing mound of zombie corpses—was also attracting even more attention from the undead. He headed towards a shopping mall, zombies in pursuit—only to see another large pack headed towards him. Uh oh.
In the nick of time he broke into a Tim Hortons, and barricaded the door behind him. He was safe–for now!
* * *
Continuing on her way—despite the limp—Dr. Putin headed down a small alley between two large buildings. Suddenly a small child with sunken, hollow eyes and bloodied teeth leapt at her. She hated children, too!
* * *
“Look, there’s a helicopter on the roof of that building,” said Polly to her friend Samiha, as they explored a large apartment building. “I bet you can’t hit it!”
Samiha carried an M-72 light anti-tank rocket, one that the girls had brought from their school’s remarkably large arsenal of small arms and light weapons. “Bet I can!” replied Samiha, never one to back down from a challenge. If head girl Claire was here she would probably say something about staying quiet and being responsible and not wasting valuable ammunition—but she and Lucy were off talking to the cultist a few buildings to the west. Samiha pulled the weapon open, and took aim at the target…
* * *
“Shoo!” Dr. Putin screeched at the undead waif as she sought to chop the zombie’s youngster’s head off. “Get away!” The creature was remarkably lithe and cunning however, and none of her sword blows would land clean. Things were starting to look a bit grim….
* * *
BLAM! The M-72 fired. The rocket flew true, and impacted the helicopter in a spectacular explosion. Everywhere zombies and survivors turned to look…
* * *
Dr. Putin was cornered, her back against the wall. As a loud explosion detonated on the roof of the building behind her, the zombie-child moved in for the kill—only to be suddenly impaled by a fragment of rotor blade falling from above.
The scientist smiled. She could continue now with her work, and prepare for the final experiment..
…until, that is, two tons of flaming helicopter wreckage tumbled on top of her. All went dark.
* * *
The nearby sound of a helicopter exploding soon attracted growing hordes of undead to the centre of town. As Laurie Kraft turned a corner she encountered two of them, then another. She gunned down one, kneecapped another, and then slipped away—but not without being lightly injured. No problem—how bad could a small bite be anyway?
* * *
As Samiha slipped out the back of the apartment, Polly went out the front, headed deeper into town. Perhaps she could find some medical supplies in that ambulance down the street?
As she had been taught she waited patiently at the crosswalk for the light to go green before traversing the seemingly-deserted streets of post-apocalyptic Thesisville…
…but perhaps she should have looked both ways before crossing, and over her shoulder too. Had she done so the young schoolgirl might have seen the large pack of zombies shambling down the street behind her…
…moments later, she was beset by the pack and brought down. She too would eventually rise from the dead to join the ever-growing host of undead abominations that infested the city.
* * *
In the distance, Dirk Bogart heard the BLAM of a rocket hitting its target, the CRASH of an exploding helicopter plunging to the ground. This distracted the zombies long enough for him to slip out the back of Tim Hortons and into the heavily barricaded fortress that was Stinky’s Pizza. Stinky was still inside, too–dangling from a rope. “I know how you feel, chum,” Dirk muttered as he cut down the very dead corpse and coiled up the rope for future use. “I have those days too.”
Just then he heard another noise: the distinctive wail of a schoolgirl’s dying moments. It was just too much. “Damnit, if I only had a grenade…” he said to himself as he peered out a window into the streets beyond.
Wait, what was that? By god, it was a grenade! Dirk was having one of those one-in-1,296-chance days.
* * *
Lady Penelope stopped her horse, and looked back. It was Jock—now a zombie, but ever faithful, scrambling with a pack of undead across the stream to be with her. “Oh Jock…” she sighed.
However, it would have never worked. Her family would have never agreed. And he did rather smell of whisky and haggis. Resolved to continue, she urged Archibald onward and cantered down the street.
* * *
Dr. Putin stirred. She was still alive! Her vision was fuzzy though, and her right arm dragged at a grotesque angle. Moreover, a group of undead had begun to gather around her, looking at her in reverence.
Suddenly she realized what had happened—she had come back as one of them, but with her consciousness intact! The experiment had worked! She was no longer the merely mortal Nine Putin. She was… the Zombie Goddess!
She started to shamble in the direction from which the rocket had come, revenge on her mind. She groaned as she did so, attracting an ever larger pack of walking dead around her with every murderous step. “Come, my children, come.. this world shall be ours!”
* * *
Dirk Bogart could see the zombie packs growing ever larger. “Come here you bastards,” he shouted, letting loose a burst from his Tommy gun. If he was gunna die, he was gunna die hard.
Sure enough they approached. He pulled the pin, and held the grenade with one hand while firing his weapon with the other. RARATATAT…. BOOM! As the zombies finally felled him, the grenade slipped from his dying hand and exploded, ripping apart a half-dozen or so and wounding many others.
* * *
Claire and Lucy pressed forward, their newfound cultist ally scouting ahead. They heard shouting, and a burst of fire. Moments later the cultist emerged from a nearby building, having gunned down three of the foul abominations. “I didn’t think I would survive that,” she said with relief. “Oh, you’ll die soon enough,” responded Lucy matter-of-factly. She was, after all, psychic.
They could see someone moving in the distance. A fellow survivor!
* * *
Laurie ducked into a store, and tried to bandage her wounds. Then she saw some movement outside. A woman riding past on a horse! A few moments later she saw more movement. This time it was two school girls—one very young, the other in her late teens, together with a strange woman in black and red robes. She stepped out to speak with them.
“Do you have any food?” she asked. Her blood sugar had begun to dip dangerously low, and she was starting to feel a bit woozy.
“We do,” replied the teen. “Do you have any medical supplies?”
“Yes,” said Laurie, “a first aid kit. Shall we trade?”
As they bartered, the cultist opened up the door of a nearby big yellow taxi to check what might be inside. Waaaa arghhh! It contained an reanimated baby, which had clawed its way free from its baby seat. It was about to attack when Laurie—still in the midst of the barter—cooly drew her pistol and shot it in the head.
“Thank you. I was sure i would die that time!” said the cultist.
“Not yet,” commented Lucy, “not yet—but soon.”
* * *
Laurie took a few bites of the stale foodstuffs, boosting her blood sugar. She then headed back the way she had come, using the buildings to hide her movement from the murderous creatures that roamed the streets.
* * *
The other girls headed back in the direction they had come too. By this time, however, the Zombie Goddess was on the prowl, calling an ever-exapnding horde of her “children” to join her. The mob found Samiha cowering behind a building, and attacked.
Others converged on Claire, Lucy, and the cultist. “Run, Lucy, run–get these back to the school,” urged Claire as she gave the young girl the medical supplies.
“I’ll lead them away!” shouted the cultist. “I’m dead anyway!” Bravely she headed towards the farm, distracting some of the undead. Claire tried to start the taxi, then a dump truck, then another car—all to no avail, for none seemed to have the holy automotive trinity of keys, fuel, and a working battery. As the undead grew closer she drew her shotgun, gunning two down.
Lucy—running as fast as her little legs would take her—managed to leave the area shortly before the mob arrived.
A few minutes later, the cultist rejoined Claire. The two sheltered behind the wall of a store.
“Perhaps we’re finally safe?” wondered the cultist. “Not so much,” sighed Claire as a huge mob of undead came around the corner at them. GRRRR ARGHHH BRAINZZZZ!!!
Distracted by the feast of human flesh, the zombies fail to notice that Samiha was not quite dead. Wounded but alive, she crawled away.
* * *
Lady Penelope continued her ride through the city. Groups of zombies were beginning to converge on her position. Would she make it, or would she and her horse be torn to pieces?
Unlike Jock, Archibald did not let her down. The horse galloped past the undead, and despite wounds safely carried her ladyship to safety beyond the city limits.
* * *
Laurie Kraft woke up the next morning with a strange fever. That small bite she had received the day before looked red and infected.
And thus it was that Thesisville would claim its final victim…