If New Mexico suffered a zombie outbreak, one has to wonder: Would Santa Feans even notice the difference between a group of ghouls and a family of pale German tourists?
Certainly the undead would be hard to ignore if local government failed to respond. According to a team of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists, a zombie epidemic would overwhelm the city in half a day. Assuming bite-to-zombification takes 45 minutes—the same as snake venom completing a lap through a human circulatory system—a single infection could spread to 45,000 people and leave another 13,000 irrevocably dead within 12 bloody hours.
Three months ago, SFR set out to determine whether Santa Fe could prevent a zombie infection from expanding into a full-blown global zombie apocalypse. We began with a few assumptions: Zombies travel at approximately 1 mph; it takes, on average, three zombies to devour a single healthy human; 20 percent of Santa Fe’s population are capable of fighting off zombies (an estimate based on the number of veterans, rounded up to include law enforcement officers, martial arts students, etc.).
In addition to enlisting professional epidemiologists, SFR interviewed many emergency response officials—all surprisingly enthusiastic about our fantastic hypotheticals. The research also included the possibility of quarantine and mass evacuation—yet, in every scenario, the continent was doomed (which is why 28 Days Later Director Danny Boyle has a secure career of sequels ahead of him).
(The map of the event's spread through Santa Fe is available for download as a large .pdf: Zombie Outbreak!)
So, SFR embellished the story for the sake of the plot. Nevertheless, every character in this work of fiction, with the exception of a few anonymous zombies and peace officers, is a real person (or in one case, a real Japanese rooster) who was asked to react to a variety of zombie situations. The procedural and personal details of the story have been fact-checked for plausibility and then coaxed with often-liberal employment of poetic license. In the end, this is a work of Halloween fiction, brought to life (no pun intended) by the contributions of more than two dozen Santa Feans, each with a role to play in saving the city—if not the world:
Oct. 30, 2008
Time: 6:17 am
Location: Española Allsups
A deep, tormented guttural groan erupts in the darkness.
Ed Vasquez’ eyes snap open and he’s back at the gas pump. The raspy wail continues until Valdez turns around and reaches into the bed of his 1967 GMC pick-up and taps the pet carrier. Inside, his Shamo rooster, a 3-foot-tall prize-winner from Japanese fighting-cock stock, shuts its beak and goes back to twitching its head and kicking up wads of straw.
“That’s right, save it for the judges,” Vasquez says, as the pump clicks to a stop. Another groan breaks through the air, but this times it’s Vasquez’ own reaction to the $66 bill he just charged to his credit card.
He’s back on his way to the Chama Poultry Show for not more than 10 seconds before he’s stopping again. A pale figure in a security watchman’s uniform limps across the road, clutching at a leg wound the size of a tiger bite.
“Hey, mister! You want me to call an ambulance?” Vasquez shouts, hanging over the peeling orange panel of the driver’s side door. No answer. Vasquez dials 911 on his cell phone. The switchboard is busy.
It takes all 225 pounds, 5 feet 9 inches of Vasquez to lift the man in a bear hug; there’s no way to fit the man into the shotgun seat of his truck because his legs just won’t bend. Instead, Vasquez tips the body over, delicately, into the bed of his truck next to the rooster’s carrier.
“Hang on, guy,” Vasquez says. “We’ll get you to the Los Alamos hospital.”
At the mention of “Los Alamos,” the man springs to life, his lips recoiling in a grimace of terror that reveals a tongue swollen fat like a lump of bread dough. The security guard waves his arms so frantically Vasquez jumps back a step. The guard crooks a finger in the direction of Santa Fe.
Goodbye, Chama Poultry Show, Vasquez laments silently as he lays on the gas. St. Vincent, here we come.