Once in a lifetime, some of us come to the conclusion that we are destined for great things. Some of us hear the call of religion, some choose to walk the path of spiritual enlightenment but for me, from the moment I first watched George A. Romero’s classic’ Night of The Living Dead’, I knew what I wanted to be. Some call them ‘walkers’ some call them ‘G’s, but for me, they will always be Zombies and I knew my purpose in life was to kick their undead asses from to hell!
The popularity of ‘The Walking Dead’ franchise and things like Max Brooks stunning book, ‘World War Z’ (ignore the Brad Pitt movie, it sucks donkey balls) there has never been as much interest in the undead within popular culture as there is today. As a result, we have seen the spawning of a number of ‘Zombie Experiences’. Essentially, they are a chance for everyone to live the dream of becoming a zombie hunter within a relatively safe environment.
On a cold night in Milton Keynes and thanks to the generosity and organisational skills of my wife, Richard and I gained the opportunity to try out our survival skills in a mock Zombie apocalypse. The journey up to the venue from London was relatively uneventful, I sat in quiet contemplation of the experience that lay ahead, I played scenes out in my head of me leaping backwards through the air whilst firing two guns, Uncle Chow style, taking out zombies left right and centre. Richard is an excitable person at the best of times, so you can imagine how pumped he was at what lay ahead for us. At certain points in the journey I thought our car had been fitted with hydraulics, such was the amount of bouncing he did on the back seat. As we pulled into the field in which the venue is housed, a mist begun to settle on across the scenery and suddenly my heart rate increased and my palms became sweaty with a heady mixture of fear and anticipation. We travelled slowly down a poorly lit path with men dressed as soldiers bellowing at us to “get to the compound now!” As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realised I could make out a few slowly moving shapes shuffling across the turf in the trademark Zombie style. Out of the murk, one of them came very close to our car causing the Mrs to scream out in terror. It was only when I reminded her that this was an experience that she snapped back to reality. Needless to say, once we reached the safety of the compound, she beat a hasty retreat to the normality of the real world!
On our arrival, our names were taken and then we were rushed onto a bench along with all the others who wished to test their mettle against the undead. We received a brief debrief, basically humanity is fucked, you are all that remains and your job tonight will be to learn as much as you can from the trainers because you were on your own out there and you could only rely on each other to survive! Whilst having the crap scared out of us, one of the trainers inexplicably began to vomit some kind of blue bile and was dragged out the back. Seconds later, we heard gunshots and everyone’s sphincters tightened just a little bit. It’s easy to sit on your sofa and say that you could survive a Zombie apocalypse scenario with ease, but when your actually placed in a realistic environment where there was every possibility that you could be torn apart the moment you step outside the door, trust me all your bravado will disappear pretty quickly unless you have ice water in your veins. We are not in Kansas any more Dorothy..
We were then split into teams and given a crash course in how to survive a zombie attack, we taught how to use a riot shield which is a surprisingly effect defence. Should the shit every truly hit the fan, my advice to you dear reader, is to find your nearest police station, pronto. After riot shield defence tactics, we were thrust right into the front-line to rescue a scientist trapped in the back of a vehicle and to find a suitcase containing god knows what. We entered the battlefield via an empty shipping container illuminated by a single red bulb, giving the whole thing a distinctly creepy feel. The doors of the container opened and we all stumbled out on the field. The mist had now turned into fog and we wore goggles that steamed up so quickly, it made it incredibly difficult to see more than a foot in front of you. The next thing you experience is terror as the zombies begin to attack. One of them thudded into my riot shield and felt really satisfying to know the training was working. The next thing I knew, the mission was complete and we returned to the compound. When then engaged in some more training, teaching us a few techniques for avoid contact with a zombie should you have the the shitty misfortune to stumble across one with no protection. We then had another search and retrieval mission out in the fields, which completely wrecked my choice of footwear. If ever you find yourself stuck on a soggy field in the middle of nowhere, Zombies all around you, bear in mind that a pair of Nike Blazer are about as useful as a chocolate tea pot. It was intense and exciting, but it couldn’t prepare us for what was to come.
Our final mission was a survival challenge, we were thrown out into the field once more and told to put all our training into practice as our zombie adversaries would not be holding back. As a group, we formulated a plan of attack, riot shield holders at the front forming a protective barrier for our gunners, who would then attempted to take out as many of the zombies as possible. Our plan was perfect, we all felt really confident and then in 10 seconds flat, it all went to shit. One of our gunner’s had a weapons malfunction, so ran around like a demented mad woman shouting “bang,bang!” at the top of her voice. Needless to say, she didn’t last long. Richard and I attempted to link our riot shields together as we had been taught in training. A particularly zealous zombie busted through this link like hot adamantium. Richard took a nasty whack to the face and I could have sworn that I dislocated my finger such was the intense pain. We managed to keep the zombie out, but as I glanced around all I could see was our team and our glorious plan being torn to shreds by a combination of aggressive zombies and blind human panic. Richard and I ended up back to back, fending off the zombies like a couple of Spartans facing the Persian hordes. My muscles began to ache, my mouth went dry and I couldn’t think about anything other than flat out survival. Then, as rapidly as it started, it was all over again. We trooped back to our HQ beaten but alive. The feeling of exhilaration as we all chatted about the experience we had just shared, was universal. We all had the opportunity to learn just what it takes to survive a zombie attack and realised that we really are not ready!
I must give thanks to the amazing team at Spy Games UK that put on the experience, if you’re interested in finding out more about what they do, you can find them here;
Richard and I heartily recommend you check them out, their service is amazing and you will not regret the experience from a dedicated group of warm and friendly people. If you decide to test your courage against them, be warned, watching zombie movies and TV shows will not prepare you for the terror you are about to face and the battle you will have to keep calm as the undead try to make you their next meal…