No one at Camp Wakitik knew the zombie apocalypse had finally taken place until four of the undead shambled out onto the equestrian range and started eating the horses.
At first, the counselors and campers had the reaction you might expect — sheer panic. Everyone moved quickly into the mess hall. (Well, it wasn’t like anyone needed to be coaxed.) Once the building was as much a fortress as anything with screen doors could be, Kirk the head counselor tried to call the police. Then the Army. Then anyone who might have a gun. No one answered, of course…the zombies were in charge everywhere.
Of course, this happened at the hottest time of the year, when the days were longest. And the mess hall had no air conditioning. As one camper named Heidi, not quite imbued with the Wakitik spirit, commented snidely: “Just when summer camp couldn’t get any worse…it did.”
Then everyone found out things weren’t as bad as they might have appeared. The zombies simply wandered the camp. They played basketball — badly, lots of traveling. They walked from one side of the lake to the other, right across the bottom. And they preferred woodland animals when they could get them. As long as no one went too close, the zombies left them alone.
Camp Wakitik moved to an uneasy state of truce that existed for several days.
It was an arts-and-crafts counselor named Megan who finally broke the living-dead barrier. Except for a few girls, everyone had always griped about being forced to do arts and crafts. It was boring. It was dumb. People wanted to go horseback riding (now a near-impossibility), or shoot hoops, or something “fun.” Well, if that was the way they were going to be, she’d bring people in who appreciated her hard work. Even if they weren’t technically people anymore.
So she got some raw meat from the mess hall, lured a few zombies in, and set them to work making macaroni pictures and plastic-bead jewelry, using the meat as a reward. Everyone was amazed how quickly the zombies took to crafting, how much they seemed to enjoy it…and how indistinguishable their work was from most of the other campers. They were actually better at the pottery wheel.
Pretty soon, almost everyone was discovering the advantages of their undead neighbors. Sure, the zombies couldn’t be trusted on horseback. But there was plenty else they could do.
The hiking counselors found, to their delight, that the zombies were just lovely to have on nature walks. A nice easy pace, no fighting, always looking around curiously. The swimming counselors made use of them as well. Some of the smaller zombies were perfect for training campers to rescue drowning victims. And though the zombies couldn’t swim, they could walk well on the bottom, and quickly became mainstays in Chicken contests and water polo tournaments. As long as they were properly mouthguarded, that is — Erik almost found that out the hard way.
Feeding the zombies proved to be no problem, thanks to the heroic efforts of the best archers in camp. Hunting expeditions brought back deer and rabbits for the new campers to feast on. (Two of the meaner ones, Danny and Michael, also found out that if you’re properly hidden, zombies make fantastic moving targets.)
For his part, Kirk and his staff came to love the newcomers. The zombies proved easily trainable at simple tasks, and were soon sweeping and mopping floors all over the camp. No more did they have to listen to camper complaints about washing windows, cleaning up the mess hall, or “latrine duty.” They could finally spend their days as most camp counselors secretly want to do — watching the campers from a distance while getting a tan.
When the Camp Games were held at the end of June, the zombies were right in the thick of everything. They proved inferior at sack racing and horseshoes, but they were unbeatable at tug-o-war. The only dispute arose when Venus, the fastest girl at camp, ripped off one of her partner’s limbs during the three-legged race and scampered to victory. “Well, what’s the problem?” she said. “I crossed the finish line with three legs!” Kirk eventually ruled in her favor.
Everyone expected the zombies to be great for skits and ghost stories at the big campfire that night. And they were. But a much bigger surprise came during camp singalong, when everyone discovered simultaneously that Christine the music counselor had secretly been training the zombies to groan in harmony to “Wikitak Forever.”
Even the smart kids got in on the fun, thanks to Tim and his brilliant plan. They enticed some of the bigger, more intimidating zombies to follow them around. “Instant bully repellent,” Tim smirked. And indeed, bullying incidents dropped to zero within two days. Nor did the counselors care about Danny’s complaints. More zombies, less fights.
In short, the zombies eventually became a part of the camp family. Everyone was having the best summer camp experience ever. So what if the world had ended outside? So what if they wouldn’t be going home exactly on schedule? As long as the counselors kept bringing in food from the towns around, and the campers could (with the help of their cheap new labor) fortify the camp against winter, no one was thinking past the end-of-summer dance. Blake, an avid Michael Jackson fan, had promised the whole camp to teach the zombies “Thriller.”
All was well.
Until the big Sloppy Joe food fight on the Fourth of July.
Let me know what you think of the story. If you like it, please feel free to forward the link to your friends! If it wasn’t to your taste, better luck tomorrow — a new piece of short fiction goes up every day.