Eyes wide and clutching her weapon with tight fists, Amber Orcutt reluctantly agreed to step inside a campus building — a safe zone for humans.
She said she saw a human fall prey to a zombie right in front of her, but she managed to escape.
“I’m terrified,” she said. “It feels like life and death. I don’t want to die.”
Orcutt’s story is similar to those of more than 100 other humans who dodged blood-thirsty “zombies” at Monday night’s kickoff to the week-long on-campus game of Humans vs. Zombies tag.
Hosted by the Minnesota Association for Zombie Enthusiasts, the game began in the Northrop Mall area with six original zombies, or “OZs,” whose objective is to tag humans and turn them into zombies. Game rules require humans to wear a bright orange band around their arm and zombies to wear the band on their heads.
Humans vs. Zombies is a game of tag played on more than 200 college campuses worldwide, as well as military bases and high schools.
On Monday night, however, the zombies were disguised as humans, creating tension and paranoia among the ranks of “unbitten” students who sported tennis shoes and carried Nerf blasters — the weapon used to stun zombies temporarily so the humans have a chance to flee.
John Madison, a freshman who brandished a large Nerf gun outside of Northrop Auditorium and still a human as of Monday night, said he didn’t mind being “really, really paranoid for a week.”
According to the rules, no breaks are allowed.
All players are required to register on the Humans vs. Zombies website. When zombies kill, they record their “last feeding time” by taking the ID number given to all players.
Within five seconds of the start of the game, a zombie abruptly tagged sophomore Winter Kucharski. She blamed her knee brace for the sudden “bite.”
“I didn’t think they’d attack the cripples,” she complained.
Her spirits lifted, however, when she realized the advantage of her ACL injury.
“I’ll be the unassuming slow girl,” she said. “I’ll be a real zombie just by the way I walk.”
The game is played on the entire Twin Cities campus, although the insides of campus buildings are off limits, as are plant beds and bus stops. Participants are also prohibited from riding bikes.
Nicole and Michelle Riveros, twin sisters and seniors, were two OZs on Monday night.
Nobody would expect the “two tiny girls” to be zombies, they said. They said they plan to run between classes for the remainder of the week, searching for students who feel safe walking out of class.
If zombies are shot by a Nerf blaster, they are required to stand still for 10 minutes. Freshman Logan Sales idled in front of Northrop on Tuesday after a “standoff” with a human resulted in defeat for him.
He said prior to his temporary detainment, he tried to corner a human outside Tate Lab of Physics, but his prey escaped.
Last semester, no one stayed human, but anyone who manages to stay alive for the week wins bragging rights.
Minnesota Association for Zombie Enthusiasts Co-Chairman Patrick Hicks said he isn’t afraid of real zombies, but he believes their existence is “entirely possible.”
He said the game attracts such a large crowd most notably because “zombies are different than other movie monsters.
“You look at zombies, and that’s people coming to get you — you might know some of them,” he said. “You have to think about how you would react if all of a sudden someone you knew turned around and wanted to eat you.”
As of press time, 129 players were still human.