Zombie Walk: From Outbreak to Outreach

December 5, 2011  

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By Amanda Oldham
aoldham@mail.smu.edu

PARTICIPANT AT THE ZOMBIE WALK./PHOTO BY AMANDA OLDHAM/SHIFT MAGAZINE

He stalks down the street, slow and full of apprehension.  Every move is calculated, from the gimp in his leg (to blend in) to the angle of his head (he can keep a better eye on the street). He is splattered with a dark red substance trailing down his arms and shirt.  Some has made its way to his face, from when he scratched that itch earlier.  Unlike the throng around him, none has touched his lips.

“If you smell like them, they won’t attack you,” he says.

From a distance, he is indistinguishable from the crowd moaning and groaning their way down the road, except for the baseball bat, stained red and tucked into his backpack.  It sticks out, handle end within easy reach should he have to defend himself.

Aaron Elliott is a survivor of the Zombie Apocalypse.  At least for today.

Elliott hadn’t planned on being in Dallas that afternoon.   He’d heard of the Zombie Walk but was under the impression that it was only at night.  And for someone whose shifts at the World Market in Southlake start at 5 a.m., this made attendance problematic. But it only took a clarification text that the 12 on the Facebook event page meant noon, and not midnight, and Elliott was on the road to Deep Ellum.

The Walk, a spectacle event to raise awareness for various charity organizations in the area, was set to be a 14 hour affair.  Eight hours of roaming the closed off street would be followed by an after party until 2 a.m. at 2826 Arnetic, a nearby bar.  Elliot isn’t attending so much for the charity but instead for the community.

“Before the zombies invaded, I used to go and dance with all my friends but now the party’s a bit dead,” Elliott says.

He loves the one-liners and the moment.  Even as he searches for his friends among the crowd, he smiles brightly and covers his mouth with his red bandana as the infected horde stumbles down Main Street.  Today he gets to play a part and in this role, he’s one of the few survivors left, a powerful figure of fear and one that gathered a few hungry looks.

“I refuse to die,” he says.

Among the walking dead, the living stragglers press on to promote the charity part of the event.  Aside from the Carter Blood Care buses that saw a trickling stream of people coming to donate blood, another table sat outside Santiago’s Taco Loco, the bar left open for the event.

A Caring Community
Kat Hollon sits in her wheelchair behind the table wrapped in caution tape.  Her vibrant red hair is tucked neatly underneath a dark hat as she organizes the slips of paper that cover her workspace for the day.  Her three- year- old son runs circles around the zombies, her husband right behind him.

She’s not there for herself.  Today, she is selling raffle tickets for bucket of zombie regalia in the name of a good cause: to help a fellow human being.  The name of the intended recipient is kept a secret, in the hopes that when she is presented with the donations it will be a surprise.

PARTICIPANTS AT THE ZOMBIE WALK./PHOTO BY AMANDA OLDHAM/SHIFT MAGAZINE

“She just lost her husband,” Hollon says.  “She has to raise seven children and they just found a lump in her breast.  She has no insurance and thinks that no one cares.”

Hollon tears up as she recalls her own similar situation.  In the next few months she is scheduled for a high risk surgery and is afraid of leaving her son.

“We want to try to give her hope and let her know the community loves her.  It may not pay the bills but we hope it will help take a dent out of it,” she says.  “We love our community.”

Hollon is part of a group called Freak Scouts as well as one called I Am 5th, two groups that celebrate people who live outside the normal 9-5 business culture.  The Zombie Walk is a perfect place to reach out to people who live on that edge as well as give back to the city they live in.  Today that manifests itself in raising money for an individual as well as spraying down attendees in blood made of red velvet cake mix.  The man in the clown makeup does a sinister laugh as he hoses down his victims.

“We want people to know that just because we rides bikes, have tattoos or funny colored hair, are in bands or are artists, we are not scary, not drug addicts or alcoholics,” Hollon says.  “We really want to do what makes all of our lives better.”

Nothing stops her.  She wipes away a tear and begins shouting for “Free hugs” and “free blood.”

A Bloody Sight
The rest of the ensemble acting out the zombie version of the end of days is grotesque.  Bodies are bloodied and mangled, and red is the prominent color of the affair as they roam the small stretch of Main between Malcolm X and Hall set aside for the event. Costumes ranged from face-painted blood to a gas masked man in a trench coat wielding a sign of the times, “Don’t be a Zombie: Be Prepared,” to a girl dressed as a giant plant from the popular video game Plants vs. Zombies.

Our hero Elliott strides past a zombie in a red and white striped shirt and matching hat and sneakers.

“Looks like someone finally found Waldo,” Elliott says.

He passes the registration tent and ignores the shouting salesmen offering to trade twenty-five U.S. dollars for a Zombie Walk shirt.  There’s also a push to register as a participant.  The number they’re shooting for is over 4,000 in order to beat other Zombie Walk events nation- and worldwide.  The steady and constant stream of zombies coming and going makes this goal appear possible.

Elliott pulls out his bat in greeting as he approaches a small band of rotting zombies.  Apparently he knows them from another life.

“I was bitten on my way here,” Sarah Estill says.

Estill laughs at her friend. Her younger brother, Jonathan, talked her into spending the day with fake gashes on her arms and neck.  She carries a camera around her neck, putting her a little out of place in this Apocalypse scenario.

“We had fun driving here,” she says. “We had the windows down, in full makeup, and got looks.”

PARTICIPANT AT THE ZOMBIE WALK./PHOTO BY AMANDA OLDHAM/SHIFT MAGAZINE

The brother and sister combination had traveled from Keller with a few extra friends in tow.  They were there for the fun and the music that would be playing all day in both an outdoor and indoor venue.  Each band had an hour set; some came in costume and others just had fun making zombie jokes.

Estill pulls out a cigarette as her brother and Elliott stage a fight.  Bat out, Elliott fakes swings, wary of the dozen cops wandering the road, while Jonathan growls and sluggishly swings in response, all the while dragging his right leg.  She ponders as she takes a drag herself.

“I think people like zombies because it makes you look less ugly,” she says, chuckling to herself.  “It makes me feel good about myself.”

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