I got though the Zombie apocalypse and almost survived it. Well, a version of it anyway. I wasn't there for the big battles or the panic of a global pandemic spreading from country to country. Nor was I there for the collapse of global systems of economics and power and water suI got though the Zombie apocalypse and almost survived it. Well, a version of it anyway. I wasn't there for the big battles or the panic of a global pandemic spreading from country to country. Nor was I there for the collapse of global systems of economics and power and water access. Somehow I slept through all of this, and walked straight into the aftermath. Small groups of survivors scrabbling for what supplies they can in a world where humans had been bumped down a notch on the food chain.
So what the chuff am I talking about?
The answer to that is2.8 Hours Later Sheffield. It's a zombie survival night, where the 2.8 Hours team do their best to recreate what it might be like to be in a post-zombie-apocalypse city of your choosing. I did it on Friday 12th September, and it is the most adrenaline-fueled fun I have had in a long time. I'll explain how it works and what was great (or not) in a moment, but let me just start you off with this thought: if you think you're a good runner, you're probably wrong. You do not run the way you need to for this event at any time as an adult. Think of the way you ran as a child playing chase. The way you'd pelt it down the street if a dog was after you. THAT is the way you need to run to survive this event. Little bit different than hitting the treadmill or doing one of those charity runs, eh? I didn't even realise I had a top speed above what the treadmill would let me do, but as it turns out, I do! Good to know.
So this is how it works: First, you queue up for sodding ages, which was one of my only real issues with the whole event. They should have organised the start times better. You turn up gearing to go and and an hour and half later you actually get to start, which has kind of killed your enthusiastic mood a little. But it soon comes back so no major loss. Once you've signed your paperwork, agreed not to sue anyone if you get hurt etc, you go inside to get briefed. From the moment you walk in the door, the game is on. Everyone you interact with after that, barring any marshals who keep well out of the way unless you need them (because you've got hurt or something) is an actor. So prepare to get yelled at by soldiers, begged for help by desperate survivors with injured loved ones, pestered by lunatics for whom the apocalypse has proved too much, and chased down the street by some very convincing zombies.
My group and I got briefed by a soldier, who told us we had to get to several checkpoints and follow the co-ordinates that would then be found on laptops at each location, leading us to a safehouse where we could find fresh water. We then had to bring this water back to the rendevous point and safety. Sounds simple enough right? Except that if the water carrier got infected, they had to pass the water to someone else in the group who wasn't infected. If everyone got infected, you fail your mission. There's no penalties or prizes at the end either way, but if you get your head in the game and take it just seriously enough that protecting the water matters to you, then you start to find yourself being very protective of your group. Which is great, because it removes the desire to just take the water and run for it yourself. (Look at this way: five people in your group means five 'lives'.)
I won't detail every single encounter we had with every different type of zombie (there were fast ones, slower ones, hiding ones, leapers, screamers etc) or the characters we came across, because some of you reading this may choose to take part in one of these events and I don't want to ruin any of the surprise scenarios you might come across. But trust me when I say that the guys who organise this event have gone as far as they can to create the feel of this type of movie/videogame. Here's a few ways how:
For an event like this to work, it's all about the actors. Get a bunch of drunken wankers in makeup making some half-arsed attempt at zombie noises and it's all gone to shit before you even start. Get some posh twat straight out of theatre school trying to be an intimidating soldier, and he's likely to get laughed at by anyone playing this game in the Northern part of the UK. I'm not saying you need to "believe" the actors are real: we're not children. But you at least have to 'feel it' to some degree, and the guys we had were fantastic. Couldn't fault any of them. From the injured survivors to the stressed police officers desperate for help, to the zombies themselves, everyone just sunk into their role perfectly. Particular note goes to the zombies who, as the rules stated, reacted to noise more than anything else. Meaning that, if you were quiet enough, you could sneak by them. Now obviously, the actors KNEW there was a bunch of people sneaking behind them, but to their credit they never reacted with more than a slight sniff, or perhaps an unnerving turn of the head, unless noise was made (which it usually was. Stealthy we aint) at which point they'd spin round, scream and roar, then run at you. And boy could they run.
I feel a bit sorry for the guys organising this event, because sometimes they are at the mercy of local councils who will probably be extremely uncooperative in some cases. Unless it's going to line the pockets of some fat council member, the chances of them agreeing to block off prime locations for an event like this are slim. I've seen videos of these type of events being done on main streets with the public still out in force, and it just doesn't work. Trying to pretend you are on a desperate search for clean water is a bit tricky when you're navigating your way through a busy town centre with folk queuing up to buy a pastie and a bottle of Oasis from the local Greggs. Thankfully in Sheffield we didn't have this problem. Thanks to Maggie Thatcher (never thought I'd type that phrase) Sheffield still has many a good abandoned industrial estate, office building or carpark areas, all of which are perfect for an event like this. Running through overgrown factory grounds which at one point would have been filled with people coming and going to work really gave the impression of a post-apocalypse world, because there was a kind of sadness to it. Doing this in the dark, on streets so neglected that they barely had street lights, only added to this effect. At times we were faced with a pitch-black street, the ground cracked and upturned, weeds overgrowing through it with trees either side of us, knowing we had to get to the other end but with no clue as to how many zombies were hidden in the shadows. Sometimes there were loads, sometimes none at all. But standing there at the start was always the most chilling part.
Yeah, you. The contender. The guy playing this. To make this work, to get the maximum amount of fun out of it, you need to not be a dickhead. So the group of Hen Night girls who just seemed to run from one area to another screaming without ever reading the map, talking to survivors or taking note of things? This game's probably not for you, dears. Same for the drunken stag do's who try to get selfies with the poor actors doing their best to be terrifying zombies. Now I'm not saying you need to go all out and pretend you're in a film, adopt an American accent and feign panic at every turn, but a certain level of decency and "get into the game" isn't a lot to ask, really. Not with how hard these guys evidently worked to bring it together.
If all of the above come together then you're in for a fantastic night. Thankfully on the night I took part, that's exactly what we got. Great actors, great location, good contenders, and even the weather was ideal. It was pitch black in some parts, which really helped to create the feeling of 'this is a dumb idea, going through there.' Would I do it again? Definitely. Although next year I think my group and I are going to sign up to be zombies, to see it from the other side.
Oh and if you're wondering about the title of this article; no, I didn't survive until the very end. I got swarmed on at the very last hurdle, the final stretch to the safe camp. There were just too many of them and I was trying to run in a different direction to our water carrier to cause a distraction. He got through safely, which is the main thing. I keep telling myself that when I look at the "infected" stamp on my hand which still hasn't bloody washed off.
Lexpply. Somehow I slept through all of this, and walked straight into the aftermath. Small groups of survivors scrabbling for what supplies they can in a world where humans had been bumped down a notch on the food chain.
So what the chuff am I talking about?
The story continues 2014, with new cities, new story and more fear. Click here for Tickets and Dates.
You find yourself in a community of outlaws beyond the city limits in a place called Asylum. Outside roam hordes of zombies. Inside there is safety. There is also little food, water or medicine. Without resources, there can be no future. Asylum needs your help.
You must venture out of Asylum. You must break back into the city, find resources and make it back alive. 2.8 Hours Later: Survival is the latest installment in the story of the zombie apocalypse. Now multi-linear and mission orientated, Survival will test and thrill players in equal measure. You are guided by our brand new app, delivering content, mission options and mapping to guide you during your terrifying adventure. Your choices will have repercussions. The fate of Asylum is in your hands.
Will you survive the night?
Lex is the author of ‘The Other Side of the Mirror’ and the ‘Harkins’ book series, currently available on the Kindle (and hopefully in print at some point soon.) He is a regular contributor to the Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog, and more recently the Ginger Nuts of Horror, and has been interviewed on various radio stations and websites talking about whatever random horror-related crap he could get away with waffling on about.