Sunday, 6 November 2011

A Ran With A Zombie

I recently spent a night in South London being chased by zombies... it was terrifying, but then that's South London for you. It was part of a yearly event called 2.8 hours later. It was in all seriousness one of the best nights out I have ever had. Here is my tale.
Fear has a name, and that name is Bermondsey.
News had reached us that the dead had risen, other than that details were extremely thin on the ground. What we did know was that the Human Resistance had set up an information point in Bermondsey Square. Upon arrival in the area we discovered that news hadn't just reached us but also other survivors of the initial outbreak. Fortunately the Resistance were doing a fantastic job of organising the panicked mob, unfortunately this meant over an hour of queuing, fortunately this meant there was time to pop to Sainsbury's and purchase some beers. One of the benefits of the zomb-o-calypse is that no-one really bothers to maintain standards so it's fine to be drunk. I opted for Stella Artois as it seemed like the best alcohol for fighting, well... anything if we're being honest.
Reassuringly violent
After finally reaching the front of the queue we were told that this area while this area was the last safe-zone it wasn't were the Resistance were based. Unfortunately these brave souls who'd offered to stay behind could only direct us in the direction that the other survivors had gone and not their current location. As soon as we left the safe-zone me, my friend and the band of survivors we'd teamed up with, met a girl who. judging from her emotional state, had been severely zombed at. We attempted to calm her but to no avail. It was clear this girl was going to be of little use, we asked her for any information and left her to her fate, harsh but that's the tough reality of post-outbreak life. After about five minutes walk we spotted our first zombie. He was shuffling about up ahead on the right-hand side of the road. We went the left to skirt round the slow moving chump. We went cautiously. We got level with the shuffling beast when it seemed to catch wind of us. It ran at us. Fear like I have never felt coursed through my veins. We ran. Suddenly there was a second zombie in a doorway to our left. A second burst of speed got us all to safety.
It was almost exactly like this, well... a bit
We continued along unscathed other than a massive fear of corners and doors. At the end of the road, we spy another survivor. He's a cook of some sort armed with a pan. We go we talk to him and he tells us his tale. The outbreak got to him and his family before he knew what was going on. His daughter's sick. She has been bitten. We see her through the window and she spits up blood onto the glass. He's in a state and doesn't know what to do... It falls to me to explain the terrible pragmatics of the situation. He agrees. Before the grim scene can unfold we ask him for help and he points us to the next port of call on our journey. We leave him to take care of his family tragedy and make our way along the road. By now the survivors from other groups are starting to bunch up. This is useful as it makes the zombies unfocussed and easier to slip past unscathed. After dodging a few here and there we find a large group of the uninfected up ahead. People are looking for clues, various crews navigators are comparing notes and checking this is the right place.
In fairness South London's signage leaves much to be desired.
We suddenly become aware of zombies. We head down the road with an eye towards doubling back down another street. Our navigator discovers a route... it involves an alleyway. I take the lead with everyone following a fair distance behind, ready to run if the situation turns. Fortunately it's safe and we get back to the area we need to search. Rumours are circulating among the humans. Some say there is a sign in the area, others that the map co-ordinates are off. Suddenly there is the sound of snarling and footsteps. Panic, confusion some of the herd (for that is what you call a group of prey) scatter. I turn and see a group of survivors laughing heartily... Yes that's right that old chestnut. I can happily confirm that several of that group got bit. I decide to search the back alleys for clues, as I do this I realise I've become that guy I hate in all horror movies. Another of the group decides to join me. The alleyway leads to the courtyard of a complex of flats, which itself leads on to a road where we can see the undead chasing harried groups back and forth. When we reach the road we realise that a simple left turn will bring us back to the group. Before we have time to assess the situation one of them is running straight at us, my companion breaks left I'm forced to retreat. I am now forced to take the alley again, this time alone... Don't shout "Are you a dead?" At strangers in a dark alley in London... it confuses them
Zombies may be fake but rapists are very real... so don't go into
the alleys of South London... seriously fuck South London
It only takes me a few terror filled minutes to rejoin the group but it fells much longer. Each step a new exercise in fear. When I do catch up with the others they have decided to follow some other survivors, they've heard word of a multi-storey car park further along the road. I join them and we soon find another survivor, he says his girlfriend is trapped inside the building and asks for our help. We agree and are deciding on our plan of attack when it happens. I'd noticed the herd behaviour before, but when the noise starts and I look round to see a human stampede it hits me how we've slid down the food-chain. We turn and flee into the parking structure. The first three floors are fine. Then we see one, it's running straight for us. I duck and weave and manage to evade the beast. At this point my heart was pounding. After the third floor we end up huddled in a stairwell. There's clearly movement on the staircase both above and below us.
This is how I remember it... but then I'd had a lot of Stella.
Staying here isn't going to achieve anything and more survivors are heading towards us. We go up... after three flights of stairs and arm reaches down and I only just leap to one side. We burst out into car-park proper once more. Two of them here and yet more creative dodging gets us to the top where we are free to gaze out over the ruined husk of London Town. I realise my friend Sarah isn't with us. I take a moment to think. Every instinct in my body is screaming at me to leave her for dead, however Sarah is the most fun person I know so I decide to go back. I yell at the others to go on ahead, hoping to turn up unscathed later on, like someone always does. I only have to go back down one floor before I find her... but there is a dead in hot pursuit. We escape to the stairwell entrance on the roof but the survivor there is a diabetic and will not let us in unless we get her sweets, these are strewn about the ramp down to the zombie behind us. We retrieve the sweets while the zombie is distracted pursuing a fresh group of survivors. After we get into the staircase we enjoy a brief moment of safety and get back outside. The rest of the group are still checking the map when we get outside, thus ruining the dramatic tension of what I'd hoped to be a triumphant return. However we are missing one of our number. After much umming and arghing we decide to abandon the poor fellow to his fate and move on.
I'm sure he's fine.
We arrive at a church and discover a priest outside chained to the gates, cursing his false god for this situation... one of my all time favourite tropes. There is also wall of missing people posters which really brings home the human tragedy of our current predicament. He's clearly mid-turn but won't help us unless we try to free him. I get round behind him and give his chain a half-hearted tug. He lets out an inhuman yowl. I take a hasty step back and skip out of his reach in a manly fashion with a small shriek. He tells us that his friend is a butcher and has a lock-up. It's the safest place in London... apparently.
My money would have been on the Tower of London, shows what I know.
Some time later we find ourselves at the entrance to a railway arch. After a few of us have entered the dark, dank and dingy man-made cavern. The door slams behind us. We all jump. The butcher is standing there with the remains of a dismembered zombie hanging from chains. He is holding a hefty cleaver, excellent choice of weapon, and tells us to head to 'The Bell' pub. He also tells us to run straight on and not stop. We run, one zombie leaps out from behind a wall, there are screams and the panic in the crowd is palpable. We run into the open air. There are two of them blocking the road ahead. We utterly fail to obey the butchers instructions and run back round towards the entrance of the lock up. Our navigator, Jill, takes a look at the map and points up the road. There's only one of them. It looks like a safe bet. We start on our way along the road. A group of survivors coming the opposite direction give a shout... "There's three." We turn back we can find another route. I come over all fool-hardy and utter a plaintiff cry of "Fuck this!" and decide to run the gauntlet.
Pictured: My delusional self belief.
I walk slowly with another survivor on either side of me. The first zombie on the right moves towards me. I shove the survivor on my right into it's path... Good to know where my moral line in the sand is. The one on my left breaks and runs forward the second zombie runs straight in front me and chases the other survivor down a side road, I run forward but a sideways glance reveals the girl has been ensnared by a fourth zombie... Shit is getting real. It's just me and one other now I use a car as cover and manage to outfox the undead prick. I wait in the relative safety round the final corner and meet another of our group not long after. As well as having a chat with another survivor in a suit who I've seen a few times that night, he is remarkably unscathed for a yuppie. They usually get it early on. After a while the rest of the group arrives from another direction. It's worth noting that by this point that only three of the seven of us remain un-bitten. Myself and Sarah among the lucky trio.
I was Drew Barrymore... because I'd been drinking.
After some further searching we discover the pub we've been searching for. After knocking on the door and waiting for a minute or two the door is opened by a survivor who I instantly take a liking to. First thing she says "Everyone talk!". While waving a pool-cue. Textbook. We go in and the young lady asks if we've seen her boyfriend. We answer "No". She warns us off of the beer garden, where there is 'a bit of a situation'. She asks how we're doing before apologising for the lack of booze. She tells us to look for a homeless guy just up the road. The door leading to the back of the pub slams open. No-one in our group has a fucking clue what came through that door... it opening and we booked. Jill was trampled under foot and left for dead... although she managed to get out unscathed, which is fortunate as by this point she had the only map.
Without her we'd have been like this... except less
confusing towards the end and a lot more watchable.
The homeless guy is enjoying the nights shenanigans as only a man with nothing to lose can enjoy the collapse of society. He is a bright spark and I thoroughly enjoy his company. Laughing like a drain he tells the location of a mad professor and warns us of a zombie hen-do lurking up ahead. He tells us we can trick them. So off we shuffle best zombie moans at the ready, and quoting 'Shaun of The Dead'. The zombie hen-do are strangely attractive  and a little alluring in an unsettling way. I shuffle forward abject terror filling my heart. I'm between two of them no more than a few inches of empty space either side of me... That's when everyone else runs, fucking the illusion entirely, I duck and lunge away from the undead bitches and manage to get away once again untouched. At this point I'd probably pushed my luck as far as I should... and that brings me to what happened next.
Imagine the reds are you getting eaten by horrible fiends
The Mad Professor was indeed mad he was also surrounded by the dead... it's worth noting that he claimed he had a repellent... He did not. He gave us directions to HQ and then the zombies attacked. I went to dive underneath the arms of one them when a shove from behind shoved me into the arms of the scavenging ghoul. I was bitten. I was infected. I'd spilt my beer. This was the worst tragedy ever. I staggered on to HQ and awaited my assessment by the Resistance officials. I was ushered into a room where mine and Sarah's infected status was discovered. We were then ushered up stairs where the change was made complete with the judicious application of make-up and fake blood. Only one of our group had survived unscathed. The Zombie Disco followed and we had a few drinks before having to shuffle off to the tube.
You will be sorely missed old friend
Overall the best night out I've had in a very long time and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone.

eddie <next time I train for it>

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