Zedtown at Sydney Uni is over for another year and the war stories are already beginning to circulate. Kieran Boyd won his tickets to the Wasteland while attending Dragon Friends. Hear his account of the madness below…
It was a hot day for a zombie invasion. The heat bore down upon us like a disease, growing slowly and then simmering amongst us, sweltering with an unwelcome intensity. That said, I couldn’t say what made me sweat more – the intense temperature, or the fear of impending doom in this deathly wasteland.
Some of us were dressed in bizarre attires, indicators of previous professions and lives. Here a man in hospital scrubs, now torn and certainly de-sterilised. There a group of gymnasts, stretching in the early afternoon sun, preparing for the chase. There were obvious military types with uniforms and berets, mechanics covered in oil, scavengers in scraps and colourful costumes. I even spotted a man dressed as Santa Claus, a sad symbol of hope and joy from a world long lost – perhaps he had already fallen to the madness. But then again, there were many dressed in unassuming clothing, commoners, everyday people who had banded together in desperation.
And almost everyone bore arms, brightly-coloured weaponry for protection, or perhaps offence. From whence these guns had been sourced, I cannot say. I myself had scavenged a nearby shopping centre mere days beforehand, desperately seeking some kind of defence. Gun laws had once kept our land peaceful, but now, with these outbreaks, a couple of pistols and a bandolier of socks were all that stood between you and them, the diseased.
We fell together as a team, a caucus, a faction of survivors. The Water Eaters, we were called. Considering my measly supply of liquids in my backpack, I couldn’t help but chuckle internally. But this group were no laughing manner. There was a clear structure here – we were governed, or guided rather, by a trio of beauties. Sisters apparently, named ‘the Furies’, each with eyes of white and flowing dresses that were reminiscent of the waters that they worshipped. They spoke to us proudly of our plight, and outlined our mission. Go forth, they called, seek out fuel to replenish the shield that protected our stronghold from invaders. Work together, they said, and identifying your fellow water-loving comrades with a secret hand sign. I found myself in an impromptu group of misfits yielding from afar, who had travelled down the coast following a promise of safety and to seek refuge.
Just as we were beginning to feel hope, the Furies told us that already one amongst us had been infected, a traitor in our midst. Immediately our new-found friends became suspicious, but there was no time to deliberate – already the faction was dispersing, sprawling from our central area even as our cries of unity rang out against the nearby buildings. We picked a path and ran blindly.
The chase had begun.
At first, we wandered almost directionless through the area. We knew the general layout of the area that had been sanctioned by the authorities, but were unsure of the locations of the other bases and, more urgently, where we might find that precious fuel. Sometimes it felt like the only people looking out for us, the only source of direction in this wasteland, were those brave men broadcasting news and updates on the radio. I could see people huddled around their receivers, or with permanent headphones, listening out for reports of fresh supplies or nearby activities.
The day became a blur of events that all intermingle.
I was careless, this I confess. Too many times I was brash, and turned a corner with a confidence that would have seen me taken, were it not for my trigger-happy fingers and my trusty pistols. The liked to lurk behind walls, hiding and waiting until a hapless survivor (such as myself) happened to pass their position, and then jump out. I saw one fellow Water Eater converted that way, the look of terror and defeat in his eyes as he was devoured, and we knew for sure his gruesome fate.
A truce was quickly called between the Water Eaters and the Golden Sands, as the beautiful Furies and the glorious golden leaders sought allegiance and unity. The ‘Beach’ Alliance, I heard one yellow-coloured survivor say, and I laughed at this jot of humour in an otherwise tragic day. Once word of this political advancement became known, passed from group to group, it became a relief as a Water Eater to be able to fall in with these yellow-costumed folk, sharing advice and updates without fear.
And yet this pairing of factions seemed to further encourage a fear and even hate for the menacing Red Raiders. We had discovered their base of operations earlier, defended by a line of fearsome female warriors. Now, a group of representatives from the Golden Sands had made their way over in the enemy’s grounds to seek a peace treaty of some sort. I witnessed this meeting from beyond the range of fire, and just as well. Although I could not hear all that was said, I could sense the tension and unease. The fearsome red Damascus X (whose frightful appearance had turned even his hair white) had concluded the negotiations when the red lieutenant shouted “Fire!” and suddenly all formalities were lost. I saw humans turn on humans, darts and the clicking of rifles filling the air as red and yellow representatives fell to their knees. I could only spare a second to mourn the sad state of affairs before rushing forward to restock on darts.
One of the most peculiar encounters of the day occurred a few hours into the afternoon. I was scouting with my reliable crew of Water Eaters, the mighty Dirty Birds, when we followed a pathway into a small courtyard. There, incredibly intact and functioning despite the danger just beyond the surrounding walls, was a bar manned by two burly proprietors. We were relieved as we approached the Wombat’s bar to receive shouts of salutation and offers of refreshing beverages in exchange for news from the outside world. We praised the barkeeps, these stalwart heroes for their unexpected but very welcome service. What I would do now to return there, to that concrete oasis, where I might find refuge and seek rest.
We made sure to check in at the Water Eaters base when we were able, to share stories and warnings with our watery brethren, and to ensure that our stronghold was kept safe. One particular time, I was scouting out the area around the base when I managed to spy a whole horde of zombies at the top of some stairs, lying in wait to descend upon our humble home. I fired two shots into the mass of undead, hitting one of them, and they seemed to retreat, before finding courage again and swarming down the steps towards me. I reloaded and fired a couple more rounds into the group, but knew I needed to get away. Just as I began to move left, a single zombie appeared from the brush, face dripping with molten skin and oozing from green gashes, and gnarled arms held aloft in an attempt to grab at me. I lurched sidewards, arcing to avoid its grasp, and then stumbled blindly towards my fellow Water Eaters. “Zombies!” I cried, and thus alerted to the approaching horde my ever-reliable blue allies turned and dealt a punishing blow to this mob of shambling walkers, who were pushed back and away from our precious base.
These zombies were smarter than normal. I’ve encountered the undead before, from my experiences further afield. Most of these monsters are unshakeable and fearless in their attacks, launching blindly towards their prey without any thought of the consequences. But these zombies were more tactful – they moved in packs and seemed to be able to communicate with each other. Often time, I found that moving in a group of my own was sufficient to prevent attacks. We, the survivors, might not have outnumbered our undead aggressors, but both sides recognised the risks and often no casualties were witnessed. It was a queer sight, these bloodless skirmishes that were more like chess manoeuvres than the kinds of thoughtless clashes I’d seen before.
But not all zombies were so easily deterred. Such encounters relied on the vulnerabilities of both humans and zombies, but as I learned eventually, this wasn’t always the case. I heard from friends and passers-by of the results of some horrible mutation – Witches. The reports of these apparently unkillable creatures were varied. “Witches can’t be killed!” “Witches won’t attack you if you’re quiet! Shhh!” To be honest, I didn’t want to wait around to find out. Whenever I heard their terrible shrieks, I joined the masses of the living as we fled these mystical creatures of death.
And there was another zombie that was particularly notable. I had seen him at the beginning of the day, a stocky fellow, dressed in a simple grey shirt and sporting a standard rifle. But these mundane features were secondary to the much more obvious speaker strapped to his back, blaring tunes for all the world to hear. Poor man, I thought, he won’t hide for long. And so it was, that before long I saw him converted, his face a grisly texture, but still blasting tunes. The Doof Warrior, they called him, the most menacing of these Witches, his rambling figure with his musical payload. His music brought dread to the ears and hearts of all survivors.
There were others in the middle of this chaos, humans that were aligned to no faction, and instead followed their own agendas. Notably, I was among many survivors to encounter a crazed man who called himself King Baby. Wearing only diapers for clothing and as headwear, he was all but naked, relying on only his good humour for protection. He challenged all that looked upon him to a test of strength, vowing to distribute a prize to any that bested him. He was undoubtedly a scrawny fellow, a single bouncing boy of a man, and it is beyond my comprehension why he would set such a physical challenge, or how he had come to be here in the wasteland. Yet, true to his warbling words, the King is kind, and he rewarded those that grappled his wiry frame to the ground, and then moved on, a bubble of curious joy passing through the fray.
More curious still were the members of the mysterious Corporation. I found a pair of agents sheltered in the shade of a building, and they called me over. In strangely British accents they told me of a hidden stash of fuel that they were willing to share, with the proviso that they be escorted to this secret spot. Eager to strengthen our stronghold’s shield, I quickly attracted the attention of some nearby Water Eaters, calling them to aid this mission with our private hand signal. Soon our group had grown to ten, almost a dozen wary warriors flanking these Corporation types as we moved towards the promised bounty. Around a building we moved, and then more dangerously down a narrow alleyway, on high alert now in case a zombie ambush were to befall us. Around the final corner, and I see two survivors there, hiding against a wall. They look back at our group, fear in their eyes, and shush us quickly, but it is too late. The horrible sound of the Doof Warrior blared to life not 10 metres from us, and suddenly it was fight or flight. I chose the former, darting forwards despite the danger ahead, and scooped up the two fuel rods laying on the floor. I turned back to request cover, but already my group had disbanded, terrified of the Witch’s immortality and power. I joined the agents as we raced back down the alleyway to relative safety, my treasure clasped in my hands. As we stopped to recover, I went to pass one of the fuel rods to the Corporation member, as per the agreement, but he declined the offer. “There’ll be more,” he said, “you need them more than we do. Good work.” And so I scampered away to return the loot to my base, alert and panting heavily but still alive.
But the opportunity for such bravado soon passed. I heard tales that, despite my best efforts and those of my fellow watery fighters, that the Water Eater base had fallen, and our proud leaders now turned to Witches. Homeless, I drifted between groups, seeking friendship and providing assistance with whomever I encountered. The times for tactical missions and political in-fighting were over, and now it was simply survival for all. I lost contact with the Dirty Birds, and shamefully do not know of their fate. I pray that they too have not been converted. I am all alone now, hiding and writing and waiting for this horror to all be over.
These are my last words, a testament to the efforts made today. We have banded together, we last few survivors. The divisions between factions fell as we became a single force, simply humans versus zombies. This is what has stuck with me the most – the moments of trust and friendship demonstrated over these last few hours. Even in the face of adversity, with horde after horde of undead pouring down the hill upon us, I have witnessed many a time humans supporting each other, rallying against these monsters.
But alas, I fear my time is almost come. My hiding location is a crude option, I admit, but we all know that saying about begging and choosing. It won’t be long now until they find me, hidden away like a coward, clinging to these final moments. I wonder if it will hurt, whether I will scream as I have seen others done, as the zombies bore down upon my fellow survivors.
My only hope is that there might be a few of us humans who might survive the day, and that they are evacuated safely.
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