This was 2.8 Hours later, as much of a good time as you can have in Bristol while keeping your clothes on. There are probably easier ways to meet adrenaline than driving to Bristol and taking part in a city wide, zombie chase game, but we had no idea before it started that it was going to be So. Much. Fun. There may also be better ways to celebrate a birthday, but my little sister doesn’t think so and it was her day.
The rules of the game are pretty basic: you get a team together (me, my sister, a couple of her mates, Jo and Jo); you rock up to the starting location, get given a reflective arm-band, a map of the city and a health & safety talk about playing nice with the natives and not running in the road. Then you get a grid reference to a safe house and head off into the city. The aim is to make it to each grid reference and finally to the party at the end, without being tagged by zombies along the way.
The zombies are usually hanging out in pairs, either in front of, on the way out of, or outside the safe houses and let me dispel the myth of slow zombies right now. For months beforehand, my sister and I had been debating zombie speed, with her very much in the George A. Romero camp. Then the tickets for the game turned up, with the helpful instruction ‘You will be running for your life.’ Those fuckers were fast. I’ve never sprinted so head down, hard-as-I-possibly-can, in my adult life. Risk assessment… risk assessment… run… feint… pound it… Only when you’re safe do you look round to see who else made it. In fact, if the zombies catch you, they just tag you and you get to keep playing, but even knowing that doesn’t make a difference to the instinctive flight reaction.
We so entirely lucked out because we joined forces with a group of guys, one of whom worked for Bristol Town Planning and whose job was to look at maps of Bristol all day. If it hadn’t been for them, our evening would have gone something like this:
‘Did they say F14 or M14?’
‘I heard F’
‘I heard M’
‘Let’s try F… no, not here. Where’s M14 anyway?’
‘That’s too far away, it must be F, let’s look again’ (Repeat)
‘Ooh, look, Harvey Nichols!’
‘Fuck this, let’s go to the pub.’
Despite our total and comprehensive uselessness, the guys stuck with us for the duration and we undoubtedly had a much better evening because of it. Wherefore big hat tip to Mike, Nick, Tim, and Robert, for services above and beyond.
The safe houses varied from empty office buildings to churches, and it’s a toss up which was creepier. I think the second building was the worst for me; I don’t remember the details but I do remember legging it back up the emergency stairs because two guys from a different team came pounding up saying ‘zombie at the bottom of the stairs’. There was only one way out, though, so down we all went; and then back up, and then back down; and then there was some confused milling about, and hard running, and we were outside, one woman down because she got tagged.
I was much more comfortable outside, with plenty of space around me, but it was astonishing how jumpy we all got. Every dark corner, every alley, every person on the street became a potential threat. As it got dark, the streets emptied and the roads cleared a little. We moved carefully and quietly, taking the more circuitous routes to avoid obvious ambush zones. There were plenty of people playing, and a certain amount of camaraderie, but if you passed a group coming back from the safe house you were heading into, they wouldn’t give away too many details and spoil the surprise.
We didn’t all survive, but as everyone ends up at the party anyway, it just meant some of the team were taken away for a quick zombie make-over, while the rest of us smugly celebrated our survivor status and shared our war stories.