Editor’s note: No journalists were harmed during the reporting of this story.
Downtown Juneau was overrun with the undead Friday night as a pack of about 100 zombies limped their way from Evergreen Cemetery and descended on the unsuspecting late-night crowd, demanding brains and beer.
Despite the wet, blustery weather, which was less than ideal for reanimated corpses trying to keep their precious remaining limbs attached, this horde proved upon observation that Juneau’s walking dead defy what traditional lore would have you believe.
Zombies are social creatures, apparently, which perhaps explains why they often are found traveling in large clusters. Although a little slow on the uptake, they are not unaware of their surroundings. Zombies Megan Hawkins and James Kelleher were bummed out when they missed the gathering at the Evergreen Cemetery, the meeting place of the contaminated before the yearly pilgrimage to the Rendezvous. However, the pair was dressed to impress and met up with their fellow walking dead along the way. Hawkins said her get-up was a remnant from another zombie gathering in Anchorage — proof that the undead love to foster a sense of community.
“I just happened to have bloody suspenders and a skirt from last year,” she said.
It’s also a little-known fact that some zombies can be reasoned with, contrary to stereotypes in television and media.
Eight-year-old zombie Summer was at the walk with her father, Christopher Lucas. “Braaaains!” she growled, reaching out to attack me.
“But I need mine,” I responded, trying to keep my nerve. She seemed to be satisfied with this and continued lurching down the street, hand-in-hand with her father. The pair had made their torn and bloodied outfits together, Lucas said. This was the second year they’d done the KXLL-sponsored Zombie Walk.
“The first one she was too scared, so I carried her on my back,” Lucas said. Back this year as a more mature zombie, Summer was able to hold her own among the rest of the horde. The presumption that zombies don’t attack their own kind proved true.
Zombies are diverse. The infected exhibited their differing styles as they staggered down Franklin Street. Some dragged a leg behind them, some bumped into anything that got in their way, some moved quickly, some even held hands. Some went after innocent passersby, while others seemed oblivious to anything but the promise of their destination. Among the throng was Zombie Napoleon Dynamite, Zombie Men in Black and Zombie Charlie the Unicorn. A favorite activity was attacking cars that dared to venture too close to the horde.
Zombies love to get down. Among others, local bands Tiger Pilot and the Wool Pullers played sets and collaborated on some Halloween-themed songs, a big hit with the ghouls on the dance floor. Of course, the undead hate to be a cliche, but Friday night’s crowd did shake their remaining limbs to a rousing rendition of “Thriller,” played by members of all the bands that performed.
But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security if you stumble upon a Juneau zombie. Even the most amiable of the legion of the undead can be dangerous if provoked.
Greg Wilkinson, Alaska Department of Health and Human Services spokesman and resident zombie crusader, said it’s best to stay out of the way in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.
“Obviously, if there are zombies in the streets of Juneau, hunker down at home and wait for Brad Pitt to show up,” he said. “Make sure you have enough water, food and brains. Probably axes, too.”
Wilkinson referred concerned citizens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guide to the undead — “Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic” — which details how to prepare for an attack, and can be found online at www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies_novella.htm.
If the flesh-eater situation were ever to become grave in Juneau, emergency programs manager Tom Mattice said the city is prepared to isolate the infected and control the pandemic.
Juneau owns an emergency shelter that can be equipped with a negative pressure system and set up outside of Bartlett Regional Hospital, putting the infected in close proximity to hospital services without introducing the virus to the patients inside, Mattice said. There are seven of these shelters in Southeast Alaska, he said.
A negative pressure system works in the opposite way of a traditional heating system, which “blows the germs around,” Mattice explained.
“It’s an HVAC system that sucks rather than blows,” containing the germs, he said. “I could set up this structure and you could walk around it and never get sick.”
Mattice said that in the event of any pandemic, practicing “social distancing” is the most reliable way to stay uninfected.
If residents stay inside and avoid contact with the infected, there’s a good chance the zombies will move on to livelier places. After the horde staggered downtown, zombies Kelleher and Hawkins lurked by the entrance of the Rendezvous, scoping out the crowd and planning their next move.
Said Kelleher: “Man, it’s really dead down here tonight.”