Humans vs. zombies was a live action tag game played on run by Union Southampton staff, who had planned it since February. Over 150 people signed up, with about 40 taking the bandannas which marked them as a player. Zombies tied them around their heads whilst survivors wore their’s around an arm. The game originated in the USA, and challenges survivors to find supplies around campus. These included food, Nerf guns and ammunition. A direct hit could paralyse a zombie for 5 minutes.
The game started at 10:00 on campus with Patient Zero said to be on Highfield campus, close to a previous incident in Glen Eyre. 8 days later, another outbreak was reported at the Winchester School of Art. Union Southampton employee and game maker George said, when asked if Jesters could be the source of the outbreak: “I wouldn’t like to speculate, but if there was to be a source of such things…”
By 13:00, the infected had the upper hand. Despite their speed and firepower the survivors had taken several losses to the infected and food poisoning. One zombie in camouflage clothing used bushes by a building to sneak behind a large group of survivors, achieving total surprise. However they were saved by the fact that zombies were clearly identified by a yellow band on the head. A zombie admitted to me that she could not spot her prey easily, the survivors armband was more discreet.
Worryingly George said that the zombies had shown surprising intelligence by using social media to form a hive mind and hunt as a pack. The survivor’s Nerf guns had issues with accuracy, rate of fire and ammunition availability, so were of limited use. Supply drops have been located near PokéStops to ensure that they were well-known, however one survivor was almost infected whilst playing Pokemon Go.
Infected students were used as guinea pigs for an experimental cure. Attempts to distribute this cure produced a rush where it was dropped, the newly cured had some trouble escaping those still infected, who felt betrayed, despite their own desire for salvation.
At 15:20 a survivor from a team of four that had attempted to reach the Hartley library made it back to HQ. Five zombies had pushed them back due to the survivors’ lack of firepower. Despite this setback he was confident he could survive, however “…the main issue is getting food“.
Boredom and stress were major issues for ex-zombies trying to survive, one ex-zombie said “you have no worries as a zombie”. This led one survivor to say: “I don’t trust them [the recently cured], since the cure is “experimental””.
Rumours filtered through HQ of humans deliberately infecting themselves, clearly madness was setting in. Two survivors passing through HQ say “it’s easier with just 2 [in a group], you don’t have to watch out for anyone“. They later learned that it was good to have someone watching out for them. By 16:05 radio parts needed for evacuation had been dropped at Hartley. A group of survivors were then ambushed at the library by zombies bursting from the undergrowth.
As one survivor, whose Nerf gun had jammed, succumbed to the infection, a colleague covered the group’s retreat, facing down 2 zombies while his companions frantically reloaded. The zombies neutralised, the group slipped away.
At 16:24 I nervously joined 2 recently infected and disoriented zombies, hoping their confusion would protect me and their company would allow me safe passage. Two survivors exited the union, Nerfs held proudly ahead of them. However with horrifying innocence they wandered into the zombies’ embrace. The infection quickly finished its sickening work. I tried to forget what I had seen as they joined our confused progress. Soon, some survivors were spotted near the Physics building, they fled towards the health centre and separated. The survivors entered the physics building, desperately shooting a pursuing zombie.
As they passed I heard how one of them had been infected behind the health centre. They laughed bitterly. At 16:47 the site of the helicopter evacuation was announced, the redbrick area. Sensing this via their hive mind, the horde gathered. The sabbatical officers prepared to rescue those they could, arming themselves with the remaining Nerfs.
At 16:57 the helicopter began its approach, following the path of the valley. Three survivors followed, and turned onto cycle path uphill towards redbrick, desperate to head it off. The horde swept downhill forcing the survivors back.
The helicopter banked round garden court to land by the Stag’s head. Its crew laid down covering fire, forcing both me and the zombies to the edge of the redbrick. A warning was issued that the helicopter only has fuel to land for 2 minutes before being forced to return to base.
The horde hissed in agitated anticipation.
At 16:59 the tension snapped. Half a dozen survivors broke cover near garden court and sprinted for the helicopter evacuation point. The horde surged forward, desperate to cut their prey’s escape route, blocking my path. The sabbatical officers were forced to fight hand to hand to hold back the tide, desperately backpedaling as the horde broke over them like a wave.
The survivors dived into the helicopter, firing wildly to suppress the onrushing horde. As the final survivor prepared to board, one particularly lithe zombie sidestepped the valiant sabbatical officers and made a wild lunge towards the survivor. Both men were 1 metre from their goals. After 7 hours of fear, dread and rage, it all came down to 1 metre. Air became water and time froze in horror as the zombie tackled the survivor as his colleagues looked on.
When the clock struck 17:00 the sabbatical officers tumbled backwards into the helicopter as it lumbered skywards. A desperate trio of survivors exploded from the plaza cafe, stumbling through the heart of the crowd and knocking me to the ground.
As the helicopter passed overhead, an angel of hope in a god-forsaken city, they reached up with beseeching arms, as the horde dragged them to down to their fate.
I gazed up in despair as the saved ascended, and the damned descended on those left behind…