I just participated in one of the most fun events I have ever experienced in Rutland. Namely, the Zombie Outbreak orchestrated by X-Bar. When I first learned of X-Bar, I did not give it much credence since it was located in the failing Diamond Run Mall. I’m beginning to think now that X-Bar could possibly single handedly make the mall a place to go again.
I joined up with two women friends, Karen and her out-of-town guest, Melissa. We went to the X-Bar yesterday to check in and picked up our “survival packs.” The lovely Allison Gillette was there to get some footage of the event in order to make a promo for the bar. She looked simply ghoulish.
The survival pack consisted of a Ziploc baggie containing a bottle of water, a snack-sized back of chips, a reversible armband, a “brain” and a map. I stuffed the survival pack baggie only in my already well-equipped purse, put my brain in my pocket, tied on the armband and started strategizing with the map.
The map showed an outline of a large area of Rutland divided into 5 sectors. Each sector had several circles that indicated where a checkpoint was located in that vicinity. The object was to visit at least one checkpoint in each of the 5 sectors and get your map stamped (without getting eaten by a zombie) and get back to the bar.
I penciled in a route that I thought might be good. Then I bought us each a lemon drop shot to keep us warm out in the breezy night. We piled into Karen’s car and headed down to Tops grocery store where the night was to begin. Here we could size up our competition.
Some of the zombie hunters had really gone all out on the garb, and there was even a group of humans who had dressed all in camo so as to be stealthy. Karen got one look at them and said, “We’re dead!”
The owner of X-Bar reiterated the safety rules through a bullhorn as two Rutland City police cars watched from the parking lot. And then, we were off! We walked slowly at first until the X-Bar owner told us that there was at least one zombie in the parking lot. We slunk around Walgreen’s and onto Woodstock Avenue headed east, having decided not to use the crosswalk at the corner of Route 7. (We would later discover that this was a most excellent idea.)
I told Karen and Melissa that we should glom onto a zombie hunter for protection, and we shortly caught up to a large group with several zombie hunters. Deer Street wasn’t in my original route, but I told everyone to cross there, and we got off Woodstock Avenue where we were very visible. We had a slight scare at that point, but none of our group died. At the end of Deer Street, a large part of the group wanted to find the checkpoint on North Main Street. A smaller part, including myself, Karen, Melissa and one of the hunters weren’t interested in going that way, so our smaller group continued toward the checkpoint I had chosen for us. At one point, we cut across the lawn behind Thelma & Louise, and we heard what REALLY sounded like someone making zombie sounds. We took off running and then realized there was no one there. The adrenaline was pumping now!
We made our way down to McDonald’s and saw a checkpoint across the street on the corner. We got our first stamp outside A Crust Above, then went back and crossed at McDonald’s to get the other one. That was our first two sectors. As we neared Stewart’s, there was some commotion… a zombie attacking some humans. We had our hunter, so we felt safe. We went slowly and thought we had gotten past him, but then a “zombie” jumped out of a parked car and chased us. Let me say right now that I think this was illegal according to the rules of the game. It explicitly said “no cars.” I took off running and didn’t really see what happened, but as it turns out, our zombie hunter was killed. Ack! Karen lost her armband and the snappers.
We moved on up the street – there were 5 of us left. This would be our core group for the rest of the night – myself, Karen, Melissa, Jamie and Ken. Since Melissa had fragile ankles, she kept offering to sacrifice herself to the zombies to help the rest of us get away. We insisted that this was not necessary, but she kept putting it out there.
We found another checkpoint that we didn’t need to stop at, but we were a bit dazed so we didn’t really think about that. Upon leaving that checkpoint, we were chased again. Let me just tell you… I need to train physically for this next year! I am out of shape. Any more than a minute or two of running would’ve killed me… literally!
We ducked down a road we hadn’t intended to take and followed its winding course. We got to a straight stretch of road and saw some people up ahead. At this point, we were suspicious of everything that moved. We decided to go back and take the right turn we’d just passed. We went to the next block, turned the corner, and there were a few people! We retreated back toward the original road and saw some folks pass by who didn’t seem to notice us. We again tried the original road and again saw two people! We didn’t want to keep doing this dance, so we kept walking. It turned out the two people were ladies walking their dog. They were both, unbelievably dressed entirely in black to walk their dog late at night! We were relieved and kept on our journey.
As we got near Route 7, we saw a large group of folks in front of us. We followed them for a bit but then got spooked and took the road near Christ the King. We came out near the very well-lit parking lot for the church and darted over to hit the button on the crosswalk. We headed down Madison Street.
I was disappointed that the next checkpoint was not at Muckenschnabel’s. (By the way, Melissa, this is the famous Marty Muckenschnabel of whom I spoke.) We didn’t see anything when we looked to the right down Strongs Avenue, so we headed left along the park. As we got closer to Three D’s, we saw the telltale caution tape. We were then intersected by two young men with video cameras who asked to video us. We were flying pretty high to have found this checkpoint, so we said all sorts of funny stuff. Unfortunately we don’t know how to see that video. If anyone has information, let me know! We brushed them off after a few minutes because we wanted to be safe inside the bar.
I let out a yelp as soon as we got in because I was so happy to be there. And guess who was there… the camouflage people… who were now zombies! One of them said that a few of their crew didn’t even make it out of the parking lot at Tops! We were so proud of ourselves since we thought that crew was going to trounce us. We all used the bathroom and ordered a round of beers. Meanwhile, I can’t tell you how we got out of the bar unscathed because it’s confidential, but let’s just say that you should never pass up an opportunity to share a recipe with someone.
Then we took a secret pathway to White’s Pool for our 4th sector stamp. We only saw one other group from afar, and we were told they were humans. We were pretty excited to be only one stamp away from freedom. There were only two checkpoints in the last zone… either Vermont Sport & Fitness or Ponderosa. We determined that the Ponderosa one was risky because it’s close to the bar where a lot of the zombies were probably hanging out. So we set off to Curtis Avenue in our best Reservoir Dogs fashion.
We initially turned up Allen Street and saw a large group running ahead of us. We couldn’t tell if they were running toward or away from us, so we stopped. Eventually they were gone. We turned right onto Mussey and then right onto Curtis. We got the stamp without incident!
At that point, we weren’t really sure what happened next. Were we home free? I sure felt a sense of accomplishment that we’d gotten all the stamps. We headed back to Route 7 to walk back to X-Bar. And everything was going fine until we got past Friendly’s to the car dealerships…
That’s when we saw someone coming down the sidewalk. The lights from the dealership were really bright, and we couldn’t really see him. But he could see us. And when we got close, he attacked. He was a huge dude, too. We all ran in a different direction! I took off into the car dealership. The only one who didn’t run was Melissa. She just kept walking down the sidewalk. I was watching her and wondering what was going on with her. I assumed she was just headed to the bar. So, I followed her from behind a row of cars, and I couldn’t see the zombie guy, so I made the mistake of standing up. And that’s when he saw me. He darted up to where I was, and I just surrendered because I didn’t have any strength left!
So, we rejoined Melissa and she told us she was still human! The guy had been confused by her actions and didn’t tag her. So we escorted her to the Ponderosa checkpoint. She got stamped, and then that person told us that once we had all of our stamps, we could no longer be killed. This did make sense to us because how else would you get through the gauntlet of zombies waiting at the top of the hill?
As we walked up the hill, we told all the zombies that we were immune or that we were already zombies so they didn’t touch any of us. We got up to the bar and were told by the owner that you had to, indeed, reach the bar. So, I pushed Melissa into the bar so that at least one member of our team survived intact. Either way, we did EXCELLENTLY! I’m so proud of our team!
We got a round of beers to celebrate our success, and I started to realize that I hurt all over. On the drive back to Karen’s car at Tops, it hurt to lift my foot off the gas to put it on the brake! But it was totally worth it! I can’t wait to do it again next year. Thanks, X-Bar!