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NaNoWriMo Countdown: Two Weeks. The Zombie Apocolypse.

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The countdown continues! We only have 14 days to go until NaNoWriMo 2013 kicks off! SCARY! But then NaNo is all about a little bit scary. It’s all about being out of your comfort zone and plunging into the dark zombie infested alley with little idea of what lies on the other side but crossing your fingers there will be asylum – also known as November 30th.

Weird analogy? Last night I was doing exactly that.

2.8 Hours is a game (for lack of a better word) that takes places in the real world. It involves being in a group, having a map, and walking around parts of London which are infested with zombies and trying to find asylum without being infected. Sounds mad? It was. But it was also amazing fun.

On November 1st, you walk into NaNo feeling confident and eager. This is a challenge but you’ll enjoy it. You’re going to learn about yourself and reach goals you may not have reached before. You bounce off into your new world surrounded by like minded individuals and feel giddy and excited.

Last night, our group felt the same way. We left the base and headed to our first grid reference on the map. We went to several places and were told at each place the importance of having city passes to get through the safe zone. Finally one character said he had a contact in a car park who would give us fake passes. Arriving on level 7 of the carpark, we found his contact who explained she needed us to get medical supplies from level 8. Suddenly our confidence dwindled, our nerves began to show, and we no longer bounced along but began creeping wearily.

NaNo veterans will recognise this feeling as Week Two. For us last night, it was our first meeting with zombies.

And zombies, actors or otherwise, are freaking scary things. We crept onto level 8, saw several slow moving zombies around and began to look for medical supplies. Before we knew what was happening, said zombies were suddenly screaming and sprinting towards us. We screamed and sprinted too – but the other direction! Note: zombies are QUICK.

We survived our first encounter. Barely.

Our second encounter came a little later. We met a protester on the street (2.8 hours set up their protester to stand on a busy street with a sign reading “Honk if you hate the coalition!” All the cars honked, it was a brilliant touch, although I’m sure the neighbours in the nearby flats didn’t agree.) who sent us “down to the next set of traffic lights and go left”. As we neared our point of turning, I commented to my teammate that it seemed very dark up ahead. Little did we know how accurate that observation was.

By the time you reach week three of NaNo, unless you’ve planned very well, there’s a good chance you’ll be deep into the unknown territory of your novel. You won’t be entirely sure of what to expect, you haven’t got a torch to explore the dark shadows around you, and although you know there is an end to this madness, you’re no longer sure how long it will take you to get there.

When we stepped into the darkness of an abandoned path, it gave a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘beware the unknown’.

Almost straight away we saw two zombies lumbering around the path. We crept nearer, eyeing them carefully as they moaned and scrapped their feet on the gravel. In front of us, although our minds were filling in the gaps, they were nothing more than dark shapes blocking our way to freedom.

When they started to run, so did we.

I knew it was a game, I knew it wasn’t real, but that all goes out of the window when you have zombies running full pelt at you in the dark. There is no instinct to do anything but flee as fast you can and don’t stop. When we got past the first line of zombies, with one of our teammates getting ‘bitten’ in the process, we paused for breath and slowed to a walk. Digging out a flashlight we picked out the path immediately ahead. The light picked out someone lying on an abandoned sofa, prompting a comment of “Ah it’s just a hobo.”

Said hobo suddenly jumped up and ran at us.

By the time we reached the end of the path, we had dodged several more zombies (I fell over at one point and stared one down until it went away) and were delighted to see the flashlights of non-zombie life forms.

After a short bus ride, we were dropped off in the last stage of our adventure through the night. It was here I got infected.

As with any adventure or challenge, whether it’s NaNoWriMo or a Zombie Run, there will be moments when everything stops and comes crashing down, when the challenge to survive suddenly seems impossible. When I got caught, I saw her coming. I tried to escape but out of the corner of my eye, I saw her. When she grabbed me, I screamed. I was marked as an infected, with a zombie screaming in my ear. For that one moment, I was frozen.

As soon as she let go, I bolted for the gate.

By the time we reached the last batch of zombies of the night, I was knackered. But as Rudyward Kipling rhymed “…hold on when there is nothing in you, except the Will which says ‘hold on!’”

Come the last few days of NaNoWriMo, you will be feeling the same way. But the end is in sight, you’re almost there, you can almost taste the long sleep you’ve earnt. Just keep going.

We finally reached asylum. As an Infected, I was made up to look like a zombie, along with Boyfriend and two other teammates. We got to the bar, got well needed drinks, and high-fived our success at the night.

If that had been NaNoWriMo, we had reached November 30th mostly in one piece.

The moral of the story – don’t go into the dark without a torch, don’t assume the hobo is nothing more, and no matter if you successfully dodge the zombies or not, you’ll still be allowed into the survivor’s disco.

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