Julianne was employed at the theme park, Six Flags Great Adventure, when the zombies arrived. Not only did she feel particularly prepared for the oncoming apocalypse due to her interest in zombie films and television shows, but she also had made all sorts of contingency plans in the ridiculous event that zombies actually did become a thing and take over the world.
Although she had fantasized about this moment, a world which didn’t involve the hustle and bustle of a day job and a side hustle as one in which she felt she could truly thrive, she was a realist, so even when she first heard the reports on the news of people biting other people and causing them to get sick, she laughed it off as a crazy similarity to the countless forms of entertainment she had enjoyed watching and reading. No person in their right mind would ever believe that zombies could actually be a thing. The very idea of the dead coming back to life and craving human flesh or brains or whatever, it’s outlandish.
Even after seeing them first hand, she couldn’t quite wrap her head around the idea that they were truly zombies. Maybe cosplayers? COVID-brain?
Speaking of which, who would have thought zombies would be the thing to follow up COVID? The world was just beginning to come out of a global pandemic, one which she often felt reminded her of the stories of the living dead, and here they were…zombies.
It wouldn’t be until far later that the world would learn zombies were actually an after-effect of the COVID-19 virus. That those who suffered from long-COVID were actually percolating this entirely new set of symptoms which would cause the animation of corpses. But even that revelation would have seemed far too much in the vein of lazy science fiction writing than something that could truly happen, if Julianne had been aware.
Regardless of her immediate thoughts, here Julianne was, struggling to survive in what could now be called a wasteland of ghouls, trying to remember all of those equally ridiculous plans she had made for her own survival when the time had come. And as eccentric of an idea as she saw it to be, she found herself heading right back to the place where she had been underpaid for so long. The place she had found herself dreaming that zombies would take her away from. The place where she had been spit on, cleaned up countless piles of vomit, and prayed to every deity she could think of to save her from. Six Flags Great America.
There were a number of things which made this amusement park appealing to her as a safe haven from the hordes of walking deceased. The first was that although it was possible there were a large number of these infectious cadavers roaming the park, the idea that more would enter was limited. The large walls around the border, previously used to keep unpaying patrons from entering, would provide a protection from an increase in opposition from the dead. She also saw it as being a rather fitting backdrop to the horror show that the world had now become, reminding her most closely to a similar scene in Zombieland where they dispatched and decapitated countless not-so-stiffs among the flashing lights and corny music. The third reason was that this park, in particular, happened to be powered entirely by solar power. While she doubted the claims of park management that the entire park could be run off the grid, she had to believe that those large panels she drove past daily on her way in to work could power at least a portion of the park at a time, meaning she may actually be able to have heat in the winter and refrigeration for food.
The final reason was that she had long ago identified the perfect bunker for her to spend the last days of humanity. One of the opening day attractions which still operated at the park was called Sky Trek Tower. It was a 330-foot tall observation tower. And importantly, the observation deck of this incredibly tall tower was a room that would lift from ground level up to the top of the attraction. She had first come up with the idea of using this to keep away from the hordes, as well as any people who may mean her ill who still survived, when she noticed how the observation deck would be locked at its highest position during times that the ride wasn’t operational. This meant she could spend her nights 330 feet in the sky, far away from any potential danger.
Even better, the ride had electric outlets available on the observation deck, meaning if she were to find a refrigerator and food, she could survive up there for days if necessary, with both Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline to serve as her viewing entertainment, at least on clear days.
Julianne pulled into the employee parking lot in the early twilight hours. While she was slightly concerned about the oncoming darkness, she also thought that the lack of direct light might make it easier for her to sneak through the park without being noticed. And considering she didn’t know the current state of affairs inside those walls, she definitely didn’t want to be seen if she could help it. She had also chosen the employee parking lot because although the main parking lot was quite a lot closer to the tower, she expected that most of her coworkers would have bolted the second things went south, meaning it should be far emptier than the customer lot, which had a far better chance of being overrun with those things she was working to avoid.
While the parking lot wasn’t empty, the few stragglers were easy enough for her to evade, especially while she was still in her car. They seemed to follow the noise of her vehicle quite readily, meaning all she had to do was to slowly drive a few circles around the lot to gather them all up, before leading them down the hill and out of the park itself. Once they were there, she slammed her foot down on the gas, peeling out while she whipped a quick donut in the intersection, and she sped back up the hill to the lot.
She drove right past the parking lot and into the park itself, driving down the backstage paths into the heart of the park. She had never been allowed to even use the golf carts that were regularly used to make this long trek into the depths of Six Flags, so something about this act made her feel uncomfortable, breaking a rule that had been so deeply engrained in her. Then a smile crossed her lips as she realized she didn’t have to follow their rules any longer and could do anything she wanted. A few of her ex-coworkers poked their heads out from around corners at the sudden sound of her door slamming, but they were easily lost by simply crouching down and sneaking around to the side of the interview center building. Once they had made it far enough away from her and toward her car, she slipped past them and onto the main drag of the backstage, driving past gaping carcasses as they heard her speed past. She drove into the Batman the Ride maintenance building and continued through, feeling lucky that the doors had been left open, as she wasn’t sure her little 1983 Pontiac Sunbird would have quite the force necessary to bust through the doors if they had been shut.
And finally she was at the gates to the park, the place where the parade route began. Here, the gates weren’t open, but she also didn’t want to stop and get out of the car if she could help it, as she had now garnered a not-insignificant fanbase drunkenly stumbling toward her all along the route she had taken in. She knew the gate here was held together with only a simple latch, meaning her car would probably be able to break it open rather easily, so she again stepped down on the gas pedal and slammed into the off-white gates. Her car shuddered with the impact as bits of wood shattered all around her. She took a hard right turn so as to avoid running into the fence surrounding the Mardi Gras Hangover ride, and immediately took a hard left to avoid the Big Easy Balloons before skidding to a stop. She had made it, she was in the park, but still had a long way to go.
Thinking through her previous experience in the parking lot, and looking at the far more numerous zombies here in the park, Julianne knew she needed to come up with a better plan for getting to the Sky Trek Tower than simply driving up and parking outside. There was very little chance that the area around there was empty, and although those guys on The Walking Dead made it seem easy to stab zombies in the head to take them out, she didn’t know if she had it in her, not to mention that there was nothing saying this was how you got rid of real zombies.
She revved her engine loudly, causing even more zombies to be alerted to her arrival than had already noticed her loudly crashing through the parade route gates. She smiled as she slowly drove around the Big Easy Balloons toward the exit of Orleans Place and past the Dark Knight and Superman rollercoasters. She laid her elbow across the horn for the car, creating as much noise as possible as she continued past the Columbia Carousel and got her first real glimpse of her destination. The Sky Trek Tower stood tall, with the observation deck still locked in the up position. She knew she would need to buy herself some time as the deck would slowly come down to allow her to get on, which made her realize that her plan was going to work perfectly for her needs.
She took a left turn, still following the parade route, causing her to think of how ridiculous of a parade she had developed in her short time as manager of this park. She’d like to hear what her managers would think of her now, with the festival of fright she was bringing down into Hometown Square. Surely they wouldn’t reject her appeals for promotion due to her lack of creativity now, would they?
She continued her slow drive down past the Lobster and into the Southwest Territory area of the park, where she saw the train tracks. This was what she had been looking for. She knew that these tracks would lead her almost all the way back to the Tower, while also being far less likely to have any sort of ex-people milling about. She turned her car onto the train tracks as she released the pressure on the horn and slowly started rolling down the tracks toward her final destination. If she had done her job correctly, her path from here to the tower should be completely empty. Except as she turned the corner to drive underneath Maxx Force, she saw that the train itself was in her way. It appeared that the train driver had succumbed to zombification, and he and a number of the people who chose to ride the train for reasons Julianne could never understand, were now staring at her car driving toward them.
There was no chance for Julianne to turn around, not in this small space, not with the train tracks below her tires, and not with the giant horde of zombies she had left behind her. The only option for her now was to jump out of the car and take the rest of the trip on foot.
She ran east, toward the Whizzer, and saw the scary wooden bridge across the water which ran under this old rollercoaster. She had always avoided taking this bridge, because she was absolutely uncertain it was capable of holding any weight. As she weighed her options, looking ahead across the bridge to no zombies and behind her to over a dozen, she decided there really wasn’t any choice.
Quickly, she bolted across the bridge, hoping that speed would keep her safe. Luck had been on her side so far, it only needed to hold out for a little longer. And much to Julianne’s surprise, both luck, and the bridge, did manage to hold out. She was now back on the parade route, headed in the opposite direction she had been going only a few minutes prior. To the tower.
She made it to the tower without incident, seeing the angry faces of a number of the undead through the fence which separated this park from the water park called Hurricane Harbor. Something about these flesh-hungry goblins wearing sunglasses and swimsuits made the whole thing seem even more garish than before. Why did we never see zombies who looked like they died while they were having fun? Julianne sifted through her wide expanse of experience in zombie culture and couldn’t think of a single book, film, or television show that had done this.
“Just another way in which we can’t trust the media,” Julianne laughed to herself. She was feeling giddy now. She was at the base of the tower, and the lights were still on, meaning that all she had to do was to push the button and bring it down, and she would be home free.
She hesitated briefly before slamming her hand down on the button. Instantly a loud screeching sounded from the base of the machine.
“Oh crap,” Julianne muttered under her breath. This old ride had never been well maintained, and she had completely forgotten how loud it was to operate. On a normal day, with all the screams and people talking and music and whatever other noises you would hear around the park, it wasn’t nearly as noticeable, but now, when noise was all those demons wanted, it was deafening. Julianne looked around feverously. She had made all of her plans around this one idea, and here she was, realizing that it was all a huge mistake.
It was at this moment that Julianne also made one final realization. If all the lights were on, that meant the ride had been operational. That also meant that it was incredibly unlikely the ride was empty.
She had screwed up. Majorly.
Just then she noticed Jeff, one of her managers, stumbling down the path toward her, giving her a disapproving look as he growled a demonic growl.
“Well, at least I’m not a fucking zombie, Jeff!”