The most remarkable thing about post-apocalyptic Britain was that it was incredibly clean. While Romero, Boyle, et al, portray a zombie outbreak as a terribly messy affair, the undead are rather respectful about their surroundings.
Initially, the infestation did cause somewhat of a palaver – you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs, after all – but the streets of Blighty had never been cleaner. Say what you will about the brain-eaters, but they did not leave a morsel when it came to devouring a corpse; not a single body part was wasted.
Yes, post-apocalyptic Britain was spick spock. You could eat your food off the floor, as the zombies did on a daily basis, chomping on your Great Aunt Nora or disemboweling your Year 8 geography teacher; for which, you probably owed them one.
The remaining survivors, of course, did not call them zombies. They were far too proper for that. Instead, the carnivorous creatures were referred to as ‘the visitors’. You might as well have called them the migrants – coming over here, stealing our wives and brains – because, even in the end of days, the British were still inherently xenophobic. For once, however, the proud yet ignorant Anglo-Saxon could not blame Europe, nor the so-called influx of insiders; their Royston Vasey attitude was not warranted as their downfall came closer to home.
There is probably some exceptionally clever, convoluted, and downright preposterous explanation to somehow rationalise how the harmless – no, that’s not quite true, is it? – the perfectly tedious British population transformed into monsters. The science does not matter, though. When one is faced with the prospect of an out-of-control creature chewing on your gonads as a hors d’oeuvre, one does not question the origins of the beast. Instead, the mind focuses on finding a blunt object to hasten its demise. The zenith of the fucker is irrelevant when you are attempting to cause its nadir.
Was it a case of scientific experimentation going too far? Or was it hydraulic fracturing? Or perhaps it was God punishing all of the homosexuals on BBC television? In truth, no one had a bloody clue what caused the zombie apocalypse. They were interested in the what, where, and when, and had very little interest in the how.
There were rumours, of course – fake news, Twitter, and cockroaches proved the strongest of survivors – that it all started in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. While lumberjacks, pretentious wankers, and a pure sexual infatuation for vinyl may have originated from there, they could not claim that they were zombies before it was cool.
London, much like their attitude to the rest of the United Kingdom, wiped their hands of the ordeal – well, until it started to reach Milton Keynes, and then they began to panic.
Speculation surrounding the East Lancashire town, Burnley, grew. Although it was rather easy to compare its nightclub dwellers to the brainless, it was sadly a red herring. But they were not far away.
No, it all began in another old mill town, in a place that time had forgot after its initial flirtation in the late 19th century: Acorn Town.
Acorn Town could not take much credit for anything: a talent show reject from a few years ago, maybe; a football club that once punched above its weight and won the First Division many moons ago; or a one-hit wonder rock star that vacated the town at the earliest opportunity.
It doesn’t have much chance to impact the world nowadays, so it questionably puffed out its chest by being responsible for the death of mankind.
Acorn Town, oddly enough, did not contain any acorns. There was no recorded evidence to state that it ever did. While history books take great pains to delve into bloodshed, power and industry, forestation is pretty low down in the priorities of chroniclers. Acorn Town may have contained acorns at some point in its chronology, but no one felt the urge to jot it down. In fact, there were not many trees left to grow the acorns. As a result of the Industrial Revolution, greenery had been swapped for machinery, hills for mills, and a perfect blue sky in God’s England for smoke and soot.
Much like their championship-winning football team, residents simply would not let anyone forget about their industrial past. However, Acorn Town suffered from second album syndrome. The town’s official motto, Labore et Sapientia, had become redundant.
It was a perfectly lovely town, but the soul had been torn out of it. It gave no clue of its fall from grace, with its charming Victorian architecture and quaint town centre, containing the usual town hall, post office and public house.
The town had not given up – how could it? It was just brick and mortar – but its people were defeated. The residents of Acorn Town were dead, long before the zombies arrived.
A visit to the Last Orders, the battered yet defiant stalwart guarding the edge of town, would allow you to be face-to-face with the undead preceding their rise from the grave.
There was Alun, the portly landlord, whose breath ponged of stale cigarettes and pork scratching. He reflected his choice of newspaper, the Daily Express, with his foul-mouthed rants about political correctness, the fuckin’ European Union, and – heaven forfend – Generation-cuntin’-Snowflake. He shed a quiet man-tear when Princess Diana was mentioned – “she was the People’s Princess!” – and achieved a semi-erection when he heard the national anthem; when the Union Jack was raised up the mast, he offered his own salute (and not with his hands).
And then there were the two old boys, Reg and Derek, who were as much as part of the furniture as the out-of-tune piano in the corner, the wobbly snooker table, and the permanently out-of-order condom machine in the gents’ bogs. Occasionally breaking from their prolonged and intense staring contested with their pints of bitter, the pair would offer a mono-syllabled conversation to one another – and to no one else.
And finally, in unison, they would produce a drawn-out “‘Eeeeeee”, as though their mouths were serving as an exhaust. This high-brow intellectual debate would conclude with a tut, and a thorough examination of the aesthetically pleasing half-empty pint of bitter (they were Lancastrian – it would never be half-full). They were simple men, and followed the philosophy of ‘one rule for all’: their cups of tea and pints were provided by Tetley’s.
The clientele of the Last Orders could not place an age on Reg and Derek, and behind their backs, there was a wager – totalling £63.46 over the years – on who will die first. Both Reg and Derek outlived the rest of the bastards when the outbreak occurred. The zombies chose not to target the elderly generation. Even though they were brain dead, zombie logic made the creatures play the long game. Why force yourself into the effort of recruiting the nearly dead to the undead? And Candice was probably a juicier bite than 85-year-old Agatha (we’ll return to Agatha a bit later on).
Tapping their feet on the sticky floor, one would hope was from spilt booze and not other substances, were the trendy individuals who were undoubtedly underage. Alun deplored them as much as he despised “puffs”; he never married, however, so – as our American cousins remark in their vulgar bastardisation of the English language – you do the math.
As Quentin Crisp once remarked, and shamefully misquoted here, the hypocrisy of youth is that they rebel from their parents, and conform with their peers. The group of three college students were so alike, it was nigh on impossible to differentiate between the trio. For now, they shall be called Teenager 1, Teenager 2, and Teenager 3. Although they were barely out of their nappies, and struggling to contain his simmering loathing for the group, Alun still relented and served the pimply-faced, hormonal Three Musketeers with their ridiculous requests for fruit cider – “poofs!” – and Jaggerbombs. Perhaps it was unfair for Alun to call them poofs, for the sole fact that he struggled to determine their gender. When he overheard their surreal conversations, he really wish he hadn’t bothered.
“Cows are the most dangerous animals in the world,” surmised Teenager 1.
“What?” interjected Teenager 2.
“Cows are the most dangerous animals in the world.”
“What the fuck are you going on about?”
“Hear me out. Y’know, when cows, like, y’know,” he/she blushed, “break wind…”
“Fart?” Teenager 3 suggested.
“Yes,” he/she/your guess is as good as mind muttered, turning crimson, “Y’know when cows fart, they produce methane. And methane is a dangerous gas.”
“So are your farts!” added Teenager 2, giggling like a school-girl, which they may very well have been. The joint puffed ten minutes earlier probably did not help, betrayed by the excessive consumption of crisps. They would no doubt order a kebab during their stumble home, or a KFC rip-off that tries to avoid any copyright issues by calling itself the Kolonel’s Fried Chicken.
“Fuck off,” blurted Teenager 1, “Well, methane contributes to the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect hastens global warming. And global warming will eventually fuck us up the arse!”
A silence passed over the group, as they sat back in awe at this Nostradamus-esque prediction.
“And, like, cows produce milk. Well, milk is used in yoghurts and chocolate. Chocolate causes obesity. Obesity causes heart attacks. Heart attacks cause death.”
Teenager 2 gasped, “Fuck.”
Teenager 3 gasped, “Fuck.”
Alun reached up behind the bar, with the strain lifting his already tight t-shirt and exposing his gut to the unlucky punters, and rang the rusty bell (not a euphemism).
“Time, gentlemen, please!” he bellowed.
Last orders were called at the Last Orders, as the zombies prepared to strike.