Yes, it's time for yet another Zombie LARP blog! You can read about my previous LARPing adventures here and here. Also, thanks go to Oliver Facey who took a lot of the photos you see here and Thomas Greenwood, who took our Morris dancer's team photo. You can also read my guest blog What I Learned by Actually Role-Playing at Zombie LARP over at the zombie LARP website.It was a cold winter night and I was ready for a peaceful night’s sleep. I had put on my Super Ted pyjamas, and had read a bedtime story to Mr Fluffy Duck. The two of us were spooning up, waiting for slumber to take us, when suddenly the windows blew open and I noticed a gaunt and terrifyingly pale figure looming over the foot of my bed.
The figure, a sallow waste of a human being, raised a single, quavering finger towards me and intoned “Christopher! MEND YOUR WAAAAAYS!”
“Tom?” I asked, started. “Is that you? The Hello Bear bassist plus regular punching bag and butt monkey for my apocalyptic fiction blog?”
“Indeed, it is I, back from the grave with a terrible warning!” Tom groaned. “Also, I really wish you’d stop introducing me like that. I mean, I thought we were friends dude.”
“You’re not dead. I mean, at all. How did you get into my room?” I asked. “Is this about that photo of you looking like a chimp that I keep trying to get to the top of your Google results?”
“Question me not!” Tom boomed. “Tonight you will be visited by three spirits. Mend your ways! Mend your ways! Mend yoooouur waaaaaaays...” he said, drifting back through the curtains.
I sat, alone in the darkness except for Mr Fluffy Duck.
“Are you still behind the curtains?” I asked the darkness.
“No,” said Tom.
I lay back in bed, trying to get some sleep and ignore Tom’s mouth breathing from behind the curtain. And that was when the first ghost visited me...
Later that evening I was woken by a sinister looking black man standing at the foot of my bed.
“I am the Ghost of Zombie Christmas Past!” declared the apparition.
I sat up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes and said, “Really? I mean without even beginning to dissect the phrase “Ghost of Zombie Christmas”- That’s what you decided to go with? Not its origins in vampire myths, or the fear of the great plagues, but plantation owners worries about Haitian Vodou?”
The sinister looking black man said nothing. He simply waved a hand, and the vision began...
Jingle All the Way
By the head of the Friar’s Mall Morris Men
The 34th annual performance of the Friar’s Mall Morris Men was, on balance, not the most successful of our annual performances. The turnout was lower than it had been in previous years, several of our number had unfortunately passed away in the days leading up to the dance, and an attempt by some company called BioFlex to introduce a new holiday had unfortunately the mall had been taken over by a vicious horde of undead cannibals.
We found ourselves allied with a band of heavily armed survivalists. Now the Friar’s Mall Morris Men have played some pretty tough crowds in our time, but these guys seemed particularly reluctant to be saddled with a people dressed in ribbons and bells who made a habit of shouting “Hey Nonny Nonny!” at inappropriate moments.
Talking amongst ourselves we decided that, despite our best intentions, Morris dancing was not actually ideally suited to a combat situation. All we could do was wait until the right moment, then draw the horde towards us with our highly choreographed pagan fertility rituals.
The plan to nobly sacrifice ourselves to save our fellow men failed however, due to one crucial flaw.
It turns out Morris dancing is fucking badass.
Somehow the four of us made it out alive, and went on to have a very merry Christmas...
As the image wobbled and faded away, I looked up at the Ghost of Zombie Christmas Past and said “I really don’t get the point in that... Why were they Morris dancing at Christmas? Isn’t that more of a May Day thing? I really don’t see what I’m supposed to be learning here. It’s almost as if this is some sort of poorly constructed framing device your using to crowbar in a bunch of Zombie LARP stories...”
But the Ghost of Zombie Christmas Past was already gone.
I tried to return to sleep, but as I turned over in bed I was disturbed by wafting smoke crawling across the room, I coughed and sat up, to see the smoke begin to clear. In the midst of it sat a kindly looking old man with a white beard and a greying ponytail.
“George A. Romero? You’re the Ghost of Zombie Christmas present?”
George nodded sagely.
“But you’ve not made a decent zombie movie since 2005... and haven’t made a truly great one since 1985...”
“You shut up!” George Romero said, and blew of a cloud full of cigar smoke into my face.
Thus begun the second vision...
A Very Corporate Christmas
By the CEO of Organiflex
Organiflex is one of the leading companies in the applications biochemical, genetic, nanotechnological and occult technology in the fields of military, industry, cosmetics and nutrition, matched only by the Bioflex corporation in terms of market penetration and Presidential campaign contributions. Often, our two firms have worked well together.
Following notable outbreaks of so-called “zombie” outbreaks, we collaborated to put forward the case that the best way to avoiding apocalyptic pandemics of undead cannibals is to reduce the restrictive regulations on the industry and let the invisible hand of the market prevent the total collapse of all human civilisation.
That said however, we have often objected to the non-competitive practices BioFlex has engaged with, in terms of the subsidies it has received from several governments and world religions, and have lobbied heavily against them while encouraging prudent investment in Organiflex products.
This approach has seen an impressive payoff, and so I saw fit to reward my top staff with a weekend of corporate team building at the Friar’s Walk Mall. Among my staff was Alina Sandu, my Resource Utilization Consultant, Matthew Barnes, our Envisioneer, and the new office boy and corporate butt monkey whose name I can’t remember off the top of my head.
|This picture won't make it into his google results|
No sooner had we arrived at the mall and begun some healthy bonding exercises based around the murder of zombies, when we discovered our long-established rivals, BioFlex, still had a recruitment office operating in the mall.
I took a unilateral decision and decided that the Christmas team-building exercise should experience and paradigm shift into more a hostile takeover exercise. We headed straight over to the recruitment office, carrying a heavy machine gun, and explained how the optimum use of BioFlex resources would be in the realisation of core Organiflex directives.
Unfortunately our utilisation of heavy firepower was disrupted by a band of boy scouts trying to get something called a “pacifism” badge. I explained that Alina had killed boy scouts before, but the scouts were pretty resolute.
As it turned out, there was no need to take out the BioFlex representative, he willingly told us about their project to give over a set of three “White Knights” (products highly derivative of Organiflex’s own “Bright Nite” project) to an apparition known as a “Nightmare” that had taken up residence on the top floor of the Mall.
By Matt Barnes, Organiflex’s “Envisioneer”
"When we've delivered the 'toys', what's to stop these nightmares just eating us?" I asked
"Erm, nothing really." the recruiter cheerfully told us.
Well at least that was now out in the open.
Taking down the White Knight was actually easier than I'd expected, largely thanks to Alina's fully automatic machine gun which she could barely lift, but couldn't half tear through zombie flesh (for a few seconds at least, before it ran out of ammo). We then confiscated his axe and began dragging him upstairs to the nightmares' lair.
I'd now like to introduce you to the most terrifying monsters I've ever had the pleasure to encounter. They're dressed all in red, have horrible bloody masks on, and they DON'T DO ANYTHING. We arrived with our prize, and they stood there, leaving us alone, and cheerfully beckoning us in through a child-sized gap into the murky playpen. Call me paranoid, but there was no way in a million years I was going to go through that gap.
By the CEO of Organiflex
After surveying the situation and observing the overall emotional climate, it was decided a tactical market withdrawal was the best way forward. By this point many of the undead were beginning to gather and I regret to say my staff didn’t rise as well to this occasion as I would have liked- I was forced to kill three zombies with my own gun. The zombies on the other hand, performed admirably, and I left my business card with one of them.
We continued into the bowels of the mall, but soon found ourselves circling around to the children’s play area where the Nightmares were still in residence.
By Matt Barnes
My next encounter with one came a few minutes later, as I came down the main stairwell and suddenly found myself face-to-face with that familiar smiling mask. After warily circling each other a couple of times, it intoned, "Do you like games? What's your favourite game?"
Too nervous to summon a clever, witty, or indeed any answer, I waited for his next move. He stepped slightly towards me.
"Do you like... RUNNING AND SCREAMING??"
I didn't need any more encouragement than that, and I set off as fast as my little legs could carry me into the main hallway and past several zombies too slow-moving to come near me at this point. Just when I thought it might be safe to check behind me and slow down, I could suddenly hear running footsteps behind me and the cry of "Yay! Running and screaming!"
By the CEO of Organiflex
As Matthew ran screaming into the darkness, I reflected up on the fact that I’d always been a little unsure of him as employee. He didn’t adhere to the dress code as well as I’d have liked, and didn’t really seem to “Feel the win” as I always encouraged my team to do.
I turned to Alina and suggested that OrganiFlex had been in need of some downsizing for a while now. We turned around and calmly walked away in the other direction.
Rather surprisingly we found Matthew alive and well later. I reluctantly rehired him, and we headed back to the BioFlex recruitment centre. I arrived in, I will admit, an aggravated state. I pulled my pistol on the BioFlex employee, asked why he hadn’t warned us just what the Nightmares were like. At this point, I decided the time for collaboration had ended. I took his desk, and providing what I like to think was the calm, confidence-inspiring leadership that has always been my hallmark.
As I surveyed the room, I noticed a certain young go-getter who reminded me of a young me.
By Dave the Plumber (Of The Zombie Shop)
I switched on the camera we use for the drainage an' that and point it at Jimmy.
"How you feelin' about this?" I ask.
He shifts, all agitated like. "A bit nervous to be honest with you Dave. I've had easier jobs." He looks worried. "To tell you the truth, the blockage in the basement is gonna be a bit of a bugger to clear."
"Too right!" I says, as one of them groaning freaks comes barrelling at us.
We sprint, ending up in a crowd in one the HR geezer's offices.
A posh bloke in a suit trots up and gives me his card.
"I think I like you son,” he told me.
"Alright fella." I tells him. "You need anything sorted; you give Jimmy an' me a shout mate."
All of a sudden things go mental. People runnin' and scream' all over the shop, well messy.
"Jimmy... what we gonna do?" I ask.
Jimmy swings a sawn-off and yells. "We'll give 'em both barrels. Wallop. Sorted!"
"Effing wallop mate." I agree, hefting a crowbar.
"Like you an' me sister last night," adds Jimmy "I heard you mate..." He winks. "I was on yer Mum."
"Cheeky slapper!" I says. "Let's get out of here. Anyone seen Mr Farnell?"
By the CEO of Organiflex
As news that an escape route had opened up spread through the office, people began to flee, including several members of staff I’d thought better of. I realised it was time for me to leave as well, but before I left there was one, crucial task remaining. I turned to the Bioflex representative and asked. “So, we don’t really need you anymore?”
“Well, I don’t know about that...” he prevaricated, as the zombies began to close in on the door of the office.
I drew my pistol and shot him in the stomach, before turning and running. Sadly, in taking the time to eliminate my company’s competition, I had given the zombies too much time to get close. A swipe to my shoulder knocked me to the ground, and the horde enveloped me entirely.
“Wait! Stop!” I cried out, and for a moment, they actually did. I pulled a cigar out of my pocket and popped into my mouth, savouring the taste. “There,” I said, satisfied. “Bring it.”
The image faded as the corporate CEO was ripped apart by slathering monsters, I turned to George A. Romero, confused, and asked, “Was that supposed to be satire?... I mean, it wasn’t exactly subtle was it? It made Land of the Dead look underplayed...
George Romero blew another puff of cigar smoke into my face, and disappeared in a sulk.
I stood, alone in my room, waiting for the final ghost to appear. When nothing happened I climbed into bed... when suddenly a Rage infected zombie leapt through the curtains and ran at me. I jumped from the bed and legged it down the landing, the running zombie hot on my tail, only just making it as far as my apartment building’s lift, as the door shut on the zombies greasy, gore stained fingers, the third and final vision began...
As I watched I saw many a heroic demise as an evil looking creature stalked the halls of Friar’s Walk Mall. I tall, dark figure, dressed in black and white and carrying knifes as long as your arm. Bullets simply bounced off him as if they were made of foam, many a poor soul died at his blades.
I myself on two occasions was so overcome by fear that I fled my own team mates to hide in silence in the dark corners of the mall, praying for the creature to pass. Meanwhile, elsewhere there were players in the dark for an entirely different reason...
By Matt Barnes
I had a special event for this run - when I (inevitably) died, I was to come back to life with my eyes gouged out and completely unable to see. Tying a blindfold around my head for verisimilitude, I crept through one of the dark corridors, hoping the first thing I came across was still alive.
As luck would have it, he was, and I clung onto his arm. "Don't worry, I'll guide you through", the disembodied voice assured me. He led me along a bit, and I could tell from the light coming through by blindfold that we must be moving back out into the main hallway.
"Sorry about this", the man mumbled to me under his breath.
"Sorry about what?" I was about to ask, when he shoved me forwards, shouted "Everyone eat him, he's blind!" and ran off into the distance.
As it happened, I miraculously stumbled all the way into a safe room, and in the hope of finding a slightly more reliable guide, asked "is there anyone alive in here?"
There was a few seconds of silence, and then a very emphatic:
"Definitely no-one alive round here."
I didn't survive that run. Can't think why.
By Tarnia Mears
“Well, Father Flexmas doesn't have any concept of good or bad, you see,” chirped the Bioflex employee, “just sort of, alive or dead.”
That's how it started, really. Twelve of us crowded into a small office, demanding to know the whereabouts of the nearest escape route from a man who - given the apocalyptic circumstances - seemed remarkably unperturbed. As it turns out, the exit was not only being blocked by a growing mass of shambling walking dead, but also by the nest of Father Flexmas, Bioflex's latest experimental psychopath. He'd set up camp by the main doors and, whilst he lived, we were trapped. To kill him, we were told, we would have to trick him into eating silver tinsel. Black is his favourite, but were we to mix it with enough silver, he would become poisoned and die.
We searched the complex. One piece of silver tinsel found its way to Flexmas' lair, but we needed more. After nearly an hour of searching, all we had to show for it was a string of black. “If you give that to Father Flexmas,” someone had told me previously, “he will spare your life.”
“If Father Flexmas kills you while you have it,” someone else told me, “he will destroy your soul.”
I don't know who was with me when we left the basement. I had the black tinsel in one hand and led the group into the dim light of the first floor. Father Flexmas was waiting. A tall, round, masked man wearing black robes and a bloody apron, dual-wielding butchers knives. The party split, screaming, and the only thing I could do was throw the black tinsel at his feet. He stopped. “Ah ha ha HA!” He picked it up, and began to walk away in the direction of the main exit – in the direction of his lair.
“We need to kill him, we need to kill him now.” No-one heard me. They were all running in the opposite direction. I might have followed, had I not then seen, leaving C&A, a zombie grasping two long strands of silver tinsel. I beat the creature to the floor and tugged the tinsel from its arms. There were more of them behind me. A White Knight joined them. I was alone. I dodged its axe and hit it back with a hammer, which gave me enough time to sprint towards the still-retreating Flexmas. Near his nest, littered with Christmas lights, was another ball of silver tinsel, a remnant of some other brave soul who didn't quite make it. I picked it up and began to yell. Father Flexmas had reached his nest, but before he could turn around, I grabbed him by the neck, and forced the wads of tinsel down his throat.
“EAT IT, FLEXMAS,” I screamed, “EAT IT!”
He struggled, and wailed – a terrifying, echoing sound – but soon, he was silent. The zombies were upon me, then. I tried to fight, but the White Knight was back, and I knew then that I was finished.
Still, I had done it. I had killed Father Flexmas. When I fell, I landed on his corpse. The tannoy was playing Silent Night as my eyes closed for the final time. Sleep, in heavenly peace... rest in heavenly peace.
I watched as Tarnia lay dying on the floor of the mall. Then, miraculously, I was back in bed again.
“It was all a dream!” I shouted gleefully jumping out of bed. “I’ve learned some sort of non-specific moral! I will change my ways!”
I ran to the window, throwing the curtains open, ready to give Christmas spirit everywhere. The Norwich skyline was burning, and screams could be heard as people ran through the street before being torn apart by half decomposed monsters. I went back to bed.
Merry Christmas Everybody!