I always thought that, if the zombie apocalypse happened, it’d be like in the movies. Something that huge and terrifying, something like that—the world can’t just pick up where it left off, you know? There’d be years of hiding and fighting and trying to find a cure, and maybe there wouldn’t be one, and nothing would ever be the same.
I’d day-dream about it, sometimes. Dad always said I watched too many movies. But I’d imagine myself, in some ratty, torn up outfit, leading a rag-tag bunch of orphaned kids, looking for a haven, living on old twinkies and stale soda that the looters had left behind because who drinks that Shasta stuff anyway?
I prepared, too, just in case, which is probably the reason Dad said I was paranoid. I kept a kit by my bed, with add-water dinners, and pocket knives, and a massive first-aid kit. I even asked Dad to teach me to shoot a gun, but seeing as how he’s a vegetarian-ex-hippy living in San Francisco, that didn’t go over too well.
I’m Rosemary, by the way. Rosemary Rose. What kind of parents name their kid Rosemary when they’ve got Rose for a last name? Not the point, yeah, yeah, but still, I promise it ties in, a little.
Back to the Zombie thing. I’d always imagined it like in the movies, and that show where the grass is always neat and trim even though there’s this crisis going on? It’d be forever. The end of the world, lasting years and years and years, and leaving this massive scar on anyone who witnessed it and lived.
It didn’t. Last years and years, I mean. It didn’t even last one. The Zombie Apocalypse, as they’re calling it, lasted exactly thirteen minutes, and I was smack dab in the middle of it.
Ok, back to my name, just for a minute. Rose, as in, Clan Rose, of Scotland, which is so tiny it’s a wonder they weren’t swallowed up, but they weren’t. Dad is huge into family history, so every year since I can remember, he’s dragged me to the Scottish Games at the Alameda fairground, an hour away from home. And, since he runs the Clan Rose tent, we have to get there at six AM. Yeah, yeah, I know, zombies. I’m getting there, keep your pants on. I’m telling a story here.
The Games are actually pretty cool, for a couple of reasons. Number one: Meat. Dad’s a vegetarian. I am not, and the Games have some of the best food, much better than mystery meat at the school caf. Scotch eggs, meat pies, bangers, turkey legs, even haggis, which is not that gross. Better than quinoa. Reason 2: if you grow up in SF, the only way to stand out is to be bizarre, which for me, means costumes and props, and the Games have great stuff. Bodices, Fairy wings, shoulder mounted robot dragons, enough buttons and patches to cover a couple tents….It’s kinda hard to run in a bodice, which was a problem with the whole Zombie thing—I’m getting to it, what are you, five?—but reason three negated that: weapons. Booths and booths of ‘em. Swords, maces, morningstars, axes, glaives…it’s sweet. You have to be eighteen to buy one, though. Still, everyone at the Games either has a weapon, or is within a few feet of one.
So anyway, I was at the Games, looking at earcuffs, already sweating because it was like 90 degrees at 9 AM, and I was wearing this bodice which was a little too tight, but still looked awesome. And suddenly there was all this shouting from outside the vendor building, real shouting. At first I thought that someone was already drunk on whiskey and had started a fight, but it wasn’t that kind of shouting, not the laughing kind, but the oh my gosh, earthquake/fire/Godzilla kind of screaming, the panicked kind, and people were rushing through the Young California Vendor’s building but not out the other side. They weren’t running from, they were running to, and they swept me along with ‘em, scattering pretty sparklies on the ground and I couldn’t even breathe. We ended up at this one booth full of swords, the kind that have real sharp blades, and the vendor starts shouting at them.
“No, no! Hands off!” he went, and he was this big scary guy in a bright purple kilt, all tatted up with biceps like my head. But he didn’t get a chance to ask what was going on as these people grabbed for swords and moms shoved their kids under tables, because then, then, they came in.
The Zombies, I mean.
I could tell they were zombies, even though their clothes weren’t rags and they didn’t have missing limbs (at first). It was in how they moved, stumbling, and the blood around their mouths and their skin--waxy and blue, like if they were underwater. And the way they were shouting for brains and flesh.
Cliché? Maybe, but are you gonna argue with a zombie?
So I was right there, next to this glaive taller than I am, and I ignored the “must be 18 to touch weapons” sign and grabbed it, and then, bang, the doors burst open and there were more people, some zombies, followed by Not-Zombies, and it was like in Lord of the Rings or Narnia, this huge battle, right in the middle of the vendor’s building, and I was back to back with Purple Kilt. One of the zombies got real close, her arms all cankerous and blotched, and I swung.
Glaives are heavier than they look, so I missed her head, but I cut her pretty good, and it smelled sick. She staggered back and tried to grab me, and then some guy behind her with a sword took off her head. I’d never seen that happen in real life. Some guys came running in with a caber, the big telephone pole things that people toss, and used it like a ram, knocking into zombies so that people like my rescuer and Purple Kilt could get them. I charged into battle, my heart like the pipe band’s rattle drum, hardly able to breathe I was so terrified. The tight bodice didn’t help. It was nothing like what I’d dreamed, there so much chaos, and blood…
It was right about then that I passed out. So much for glory.
When I woke up, it was nine fifteen, there were cops in hazmat suits everywhere, everything was trashed and I wanted to puke but I didn’t because I hadn’t gotten my scotch egg before all hell broke loose. They told everyone that no one was allowed to leave the fairgrounds because of contagion and there had to be a quarantine and stuff, so I booked it for the Rose tent where I found Dad, and he just looked at me, all covered in blood and hugged me.
“I told you so,” I said, because I had told him so, that Zombies were real and someday he’d be glad I was so prepared. He made this noise, like a laugh and a sob all together, and we just sat there in the tent with the other Roses who came to be with family.
They made announcements over the loudspeaker system, and my cousin's pipe band played Scotland the Brave while some General or Corporal in the army made a speech, about how this medical facility two miles down the freeway had been doing tests, and then, poof, Zombies, and they’d gone after the nearest group of people, us, and how certainly we had all saved the world by stopping the…yadda yadda yadda. It went on, and the bagpipes drowned him out a little.
Some soldiers, also in hazmat suits, came by to get our names to match to the ticket records so they could see how many people were dead, and told us that if we needed food or blankets, we could go to the big arena where they did the caber toss, because a plane would be dumping supplies there pretty soon.
“Like in an hour? You mean we aren’t on our own, left to fight for our lives?” I asked. The guy laughed.
“You watch too many movies,” he said.
The pipe bands competed, and the sheep dog trials. Life went on. There wasn’t much to do except go on with the Games, since no one could leave. People called family to assure them everything was fine, it was all over. I counted six news copters in the air, too, but mostly people on the ground just tried to pretend it was one of the staged, living history things. It got hotter, the ice-cream stands sold out, little kids cried….just like every year. The Young California Vendor’s building was off limits, but there were still places to shop. I got my meat pie--at twice the normal price, ugh—and bought a book. Unicorns. I was sick of Zombie stories.
So there it is, “how I survived the zombie apocalypse/ helped contain the zombie virus and saved countless lives, etc, etc, etc.” I got a medal, everyone at the Games did. Some people wrote books, about how if it’d been any other group of people but Scotsmen/women, the world’d have been doomed. I’m not sure about that, but it certainly didn’t hurt. And let me tell you, it made one heck of a “What I did over my summer vacation” essay.