On Friday Bristol was taken over by a slathering zombie hoard, and we, as survivors of the apocalypse, had to navigate various checkpoints in the hope of locating the Survivors Camp…the only area of the city safe from infection!
As you might expect in a post-apocalyptic world, the evening started by processing the survivors. We were given a means of identification and offered handy advice on survival…
Step 1: ‘Repeat after me…I am delusional…I cannot outrun that car…Buses will kill me…Zombies are not my friends.’
From there we were given our first coordinates, wished luck…and were off! I have to say for a group of nine people of which no one knew more than three others; we worked remarkably well as a team! We had some natural map readers and were more than happy to trust the word of others on directions, routes and when to ‘flipping RUUUUUN!’. For the most part the latter was unnecessary, if you see a group of people, or anyone, running towards (or away from) you in a panicked manner…you run. Run for your lives! It was SO.MUCH.FUN!
Checkpoint 1: Lost
After a hasty look at our map it was decided the first check point was near The Lanes (apologies to those not familiar with Bristol, locations aren’t going to mean much to you). Once there however it became apparent that we were mistaken. Lesson one: take care when map reading! We doubled back on ourselves and located our first survivor, a bedraggled woman attired in silk pyjamas, hair like a rats nest and face streamed with mascara. She clutched a picture of her husband and begged us for information on ‘others’ before pointing us down a very small, unsafe looking alleyway. Now having all watched our share of scary movies we were not falling for that! However we then remembered we had paid to be terrified…the alleyway it was! No more than ten paces in the group ahead of us erupted into screams and swear words and started running towards us…abort abort!! We legged it back towards pj lady and decided that maybe playing it safe was a good option until we knew what we were dealing with! Less than two minutes in the adrenaline was pumping and we were all on edge. It was shaping up to be a spectacular evening!
Checkpoint 2: Yup, in there!
For some reason we had all assumed this ‘epic game of tag’ was taking place in outdoor locations across the city, so imagine our surprise when CP2 turned out to be the old Bridewell Police Station, yup, we were going in; into a building straight out of Resident Evil (!) with cracked yellowing tiles, flaking paint, flickering lights and a faint smell of damp. In single file we crept down stairs, peered round corners and tiptoed down corridors…through a final door we found our survivor, a prisoner in one of the cells. Dressed in an orange jump suit he begged us to get the key from the mauled body on the floor…not likely!! Seconds later this turned out to be a great decision as the corpse groaned and came to life! Cue nine TERRIFED people screaming and running for the exit, pushing each other out of the way and upstairs in their fight to freedom. Luckily someone took note of the next coordinates and we were off to The Horsefair. At least now we had slightly more of an idea what we were up against, and what certain people would do in order to survive (I’m looking at you Scallon!)
Checkpoint 3: The Antidote
The third location was a loading bay behind shops in central Bristol. Two zombies dressed in numbered scrubs staggered around while a lady in a white coat gestured for us to make no sudden movements, yet simultaneously run towards her! Once gathered there we were informed we were safe (for now!) as this miraculous Doctor had invented an antidote which kept the zombies at bay. She gave us our next coordinates and offered us safe passage out of the area. ‘The antidote works wonders’ she explained in hushed tones as we made our way towards the exit ‘as long as you’re near me and this bottle and the lid is off, you’re fine…!’ unfortunately, and for reasons I cannot fathom, while telling this story the silly mare had replaced the lid to the bottle, leaving us unprotected and vulnerable to the slathering hoard, who were fast approaching!! Lesson two: Don’t trust anybody!! Very on the ball those undead! We scattered, zigging and zagging down alleyways to Broadmead and safety. Though alas…not all of us made it. Rosie was the first to founder, followed shortly afterwards by Gail who, like a true friend had paused when she heard Rosie shout. Luckily being caught does not mean the game is over. You’re basically marked with a pen which might mean you’re infected, but it might not, you won’t find that out till you are scanned at survivors camp.
The journey to check point 4 was by far the most physically demanding. From near Cabot Circus we were directed down the main shopping street of Broadmead and up towards a park in the centre of the city. Zombies were stationed at various intervals along the route meaning we pretty much sprinted the entire way, gasping for breath and dodging capture at every turn. Amazingly we made it, and were given time to catch our breaths before entering a building I don’t think I’ve ever taken notice of before, probably too distracted by the skaters who are usually pulling tricks outside!
Checkpoint 4: Welcome to Bruce’s bank!
Oo hello, come in, come in!! Welcome to my bank! I am Bruce…this is my bank…yes, yes it is! EVERYBODY wants to be a member of Bruces bank! Bruce likes coins! Do you have any? Oo a SILVER ONE!! Usually Bruce only gets the BROWN ones! Bruce likes the silver ones…yes…yes…ok…repeat after me…k…2…2… ok…this way…follow the red line, yes the red one, follow the red one…go go go!
So single file and 12p poorer we followed the red tape on the floor through corridors, dimly lit by offices either side with drawn blinds. Doors were closed or partially open all along the corridor and you genuinely expect someone to jump out on you at any moment. At one point I felt someone grip my hand, closely followed by a terrified ‘who’s hand am I holding?!’ from my friend Claire…’Mine!’ I squeaked back!! At some point during this check point, in the confusion and terror we forgot about following the red line and instead followed the other frightened running people. In short we think we missed a large chunk of the building, but were honestly so relieved to be outside in one piece I don’t think anyone really minded! It was time to head into the old town, over the river, and locate check point 5.
Checkpoint 5: ‘ON YOUR KNEES!!!’
On route to check point 5, Gail was caught again. Two zombies awaited us on a large open plaza…some of us went left, some right, some straight down the middle…one got caught. I call that collateral! The fifth checkpoint was located in an old church, lit by a few guttering candles and the atmosphere set superbly by groaning organ music. One man, chained to the pews by the alter roared at us to come forth, kneel and pray! ‘ON YOUR KNEES’ he snarled ‘REPEAT AFTER ME…forgive me Father for I have sinned….I ran when I should have turned back, I screamed when I should have suffered…’ all the time we hovered half way between kneeling and in a crouch Usain Bolt would have been proud of, peering over our shoulders awaiting zombies at any second. I’m pretty sure Claire cut off the circulation to my hand when suddenly, awfully, you realised the guy was no longer chained…and he was snarling…yup you guessed it….RUUUUN!!
Checkpoint 6: ‘You will choose your own path’
So I ask you, reader…are you a saint or a sinner? When faced with a priest, on the run from a city full of zombies, which would you choose? Iain was selected to answer on our behalf, but decided to listen when we all shouted ‘SINNER!’ The priest raised an eyebrow ‘You have chosen your path. Now you must suffer the consequences…to the right, follow the lights to the graveyard.’ Graveyard?! *gulp*. The group behind us heard our fate and promptly chose the path of sainthood. They were sent down a nicely lit street to the left, while we edged towards the graveyard gates. There were no lights. No sounds except our shallow breaths. One. Two. Three. RUN!!! There they are!! They’re coming! Keep running!!!!!!! ‘They’ it turned out, actually were not zombies, rather two homeless guys amusing themselves by frightening the life out of the weirdos with high vis arm bands. The path of the sinner carried no punishment, a reward for your honesty! While those who chose to act as saints? Their street narrowed and narrowed and eventually contained 3-5 zombies with nowhere to hide. Lesson three: honesty is the best policy!!!
Man this blog is very long! If you’re still with me, congratulations. I can tell you there are 4 check points left to go. If you want to take a break, go make a cup of tea or something I won’t judge you. This will all just sit here till you get back. Milk and one sugar if you’re asking!
I hope I am communicating the tension and excitement of the evening, and not boring you all to bits! I have to say I’m having the most fun reliving it!! Ready to continue? Let’s go!
Checkpoint 7: Up the stairs, down the stairs
We had been informed the evening finished by Temple Meads, so when the seventh checkpoint was the Passengers Shed (what used to be a terminal at the station back in the day) we assumed we were finished. Nope!! A volunteer sent us in through a side door and up the stairs. Many have said this was one of the scariest locations for them, as we were all so quiet! Other checkpoints had seen us giggle, talk a little bit (if in whispers) and discuss tactics…not at checkpoint 7. We ran so stealthily in single file you literally could only hear other people breathing. Our survivor had barricaded herself into a kitchen, and insisted we make a wish on her Christmas tree bauble before telling us where to go next. Again we ran down the corridor, expecting doors to open at any minute…back down the stairs to the only exit. Iain looked through the glass ‘ok…I see one guy…we can make it’ For some reason at this point I decided to flick the light switch next to us. Nice to have a bit of light right? Dark is scary! Usually, true…however, when trying to sneak into a room and avoid a zombie, a light says ‘HELLO ZOMBIE! DINNER IS SERVED!!’ Lesson four: Darkness can be your friend! Nice one Phillips!!! Three, two, one, the door was open, nine people scattered, the zombie didn’t know which way to run…he lunged, but those rotting limbs were no match for us. We escaped, unscathed once again! Once again a marshall suggested we take a minute to catch our breaths. Apparently he’d had a few injuries as people exited the passengers shed, pushing others down stairs and launching themselves over the banisters in a rush to escape. Honestly, people took the game far too seriously *hums innocently*.
Checkpoint 8: Buskers and bridges
By this point we were old hacks and realised the best way to avoid detection and capture was not to creep but to run! So when a busker which a suitcase of burnt out dolls and mauled mechanical toys sung us a song and directed us towards the bridge and checkpoint 9 we were ready. The bridge had at least 6 zombies stationed on it, like some sort of undead gladiator gauntlet! You had to zigzag right and left between them. Honestly I learnt a lot about myself this day. I learnt that when push comes to shove…I can run! I learnt I will leave people locked in cages if it means my survival and I learnt that when it comes down to it, I’d rather it was one of my friends than me!! Who knew I loved life so much. I always kind of thought in the back of my head that I was one of those noble, self-sacrificing types who would throw myself in the way of danger to save my friends. This is absolutely, unequivocally untrue. Lesson five: If it’s you or me…you’re going down!
Checkpoint 9: Want to come to Wales?
The route to checkpoint 9 provided the first split in the team. Greg was certain we needed to go straight on under the railway bridge while Iain believed we should turn left, following the signs (we weren’t 100% sure they were signs for us). It turns out Iain was right so, having followed Greg, we doubled back and headed left. This led us to a second railway bridge. ‘There’s a zombie down there’ said Iain ‘I can see him peeking round the corner’. We edged down the road, becoming more and more on edge as a parked car was being locked and unlocked by some unseen friend or foe, turning the world around us bright orange and leaving us slightly blinded for a few seconds afterwards. As we drew level with the car, on mass again we started running, sprinting towards danger, ready to duck and dodge, we realised the face Iain had seen was in fact a marshal with a further clue! Oops!! We were directed around an industrial estate, at the end of the road was a guy with a Europcar van…was he playing the game? Should we run at him? Away from him? Approach with caution! Extreme caution it turned out. Our new friend had ‘acquired’ his van and spent days stocking it with the view of escaping to Wales. He’d heard of a colony there, safe from zombies and self-sufficient! You could live there for years! ‘So, who’s with me? Anyone want to get in my van?’ ‘That depends’ said Iain, showing a surprising level of intellect and suspicion ‘Who’s in there already?’, ‘Oh, just Al, my mate Al, lovely Al is, couldn’t leave Al behind…though he’s not really been himself today, bit on the quiet side.’ Yup, Al had been infected, time to run again!! This time our only option was straight through the darkest tunnel I have ever found myself in, there was literally no light whatsoever. All you could do was lift your feet up, put your hands out in front of you and hope that you didn’t run into a wall. This wasn’t helped by Greg who decided now was the time to practice his zombie noises, sending us into even more of a frenzy! Boys hey? Hilarious beings!!!
Round the corner from here we encountered something I think genuinely threw us all. Of the lessons we had learned so far, probably one of the most certain was Lesson six: If they’re wearing a high vis vest, you’re safe. So imagine our surprise as we exited the tunnel we encountered someone in a high vis vest, snaking towards us in full zombie gore!!! He was growling and staggering…as through every limb of his 4ft frame could fall off at any moment. Because you see this zombie was about 9 years old…yup, a high vis wearing, zombie child! Do you run? Do you laugh? Is he really in the game? Does it count if he gets you? Do you want to take the risk?! I didn’t!!!! I legged it! Turns out he was just the kid of one of the volunteers. What an absolutely cracking child! Let’s dress up and scare the pants off some grownups…regular Friday night for him! Legend!!
Checkpoint 10: Survivors!
One corpse strewn, zombie gauntlet later and a white coat man informed us we had made it to survivors camp!! ‘You’re here!!’ he exclaimed ‘Well done well done! Did you see any others? Did anyone touch you?? How are you feeling? Don’t worry, you are safe, just follow the barriers to quarantine. ‘So does that mean that was our last chance, should we wish to be infected?’ I asked ‘Are you MAD?!?!’ he yelled. Ha! I’ll take that as a yes! We headed down to quarantine where we were scanned and stamped. It turned out Gail and Rosie were definitely infected, so they were sent through to receive their zombie gore, while the rest of us, stamped as survivors and crowned as winners, headed to the bar and zombie disco.
What an evening! Honestly one of the most unique, random and fun I have ever experienced! I have never been so filled with adrenaline, run so fast or laughed so much. By the end of the night we had all sacrificed our survivor status in favour of the full zombie experience, and proceeded to enjoy the best zombie and best survivor competitions, zombie vs survivor limbo and zombie vs survivor dance offs while drinking cocktails of rigamortis and throwing lots of shapes from Thriller. It was brilliant beyond brilliant and I am supremely disappointed that 2.8 hours later will not be returning to Bristol. However next year I am sure that one city will be blessed with a few extra zombie volunteers as we plan to experience the other side of the game. I HIGHLY recommend getting yourself a ticket, it’s an evening of frantic, terrifying, hilarity you’ll never forget! Bloody brilliant!