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The Long And Brainy Road: An Organ Trail Diary

The pants of America

The Organ Trail: Director’s Cut is a zombie pastiche of the old favourite edugame, The Oregan Trail, where you had to manage a family of settlers as they travelled to Portland, Oregon, past the perils of the unconquered western USA. In the Organ Trail, players must get themselves and up to four friends all the way to Portland Oregon without losing any of their innards to rampaging zombie hordes. Can a group of RPS writers survive the trail and how many of their innards will they leave behind?

Kieron is dead. Again. But it wasn’t a monster that ate him this time.

“We like to think of it as parallel to what we know,
Only bigger. One man against the authorities.
Or one man against a city of zombies. One man
Who is not, in fact, a man, sent to understand
The caravan of men now chasing him like red ants
Let loose down the pants of America. Man on the run.”

From ‘My God, it’s full of stars’ by Tracy K. Smith

I was out in the DC wasteland at my Duck Hunt re-enactment society when the radio said that the cities had died and risen again. Zombies. It's always zombies. Where they came from, no-one knew. Some said that they were a scientology experiment gone horribly wrong, others that they were the vengeful spirits of men's rights activists. It didn’t look like my bus was coming so I put down my dog Blue and holed up behind a convenient sandbag wall, waiting for the end.

I’d fired the last rounds from my trusty old rifle at the approaching zombie horde and was preparing to kick myself to death, having forgotten to save a bullet, when he turned up. A dead-eye shot, he took down every last ambulatory corpse without taking a scratch and then sauntered over to introduce himself.

Kieron Gillen? I knew the name from somewhere, but I couldn’t place it. Didn’t he used to be Doctor Who’s sexy assistant? No matter, as he had ammo and a station wagon. BFF! He offered to give me a lift to Washington DC, to see if my friends had survived. Oh, and he suggested we might want to get out of town as there were rumours that the government had decided to nuke the East Coast. Apparently, there was a safe haven in Portland, Oregon, of all places.

This was the high point of Kieron’s help.

It turns out he wasn't the best driver. En route to the capitol he a) broke a leg, b) got dysentery, and c) whilst attempting to crap with a broken leg at the side of the road, got bitten by a zombie. This was not an auspicious start to our road trip. No Dean Moriarty he.

We got to DC. The old city wasn’t holding up well. Zombobama’s fingers must have been twitching around that nuclear trigger as the centre was less populated than an apathists’ rally. Whilst Kieron was rustling up our compadres, I went to gather much needed supplies. I spent nearly all my time and money rustling up fuel, food, ammo and spare parts for the journey, but held a bit of cash back in case we found time to stop at the motorway services. There’s nothing like the end of the world to make you lust after an overpriced Ginster’s pasty.

Kieron didn't make you lust after edibles, he just looked like one. Pasty, that is. He was swaying on his feet and a suppurating wound in his arm said he’d be more concerned with eating us than any crimped delicacy. He gave me his journal, his shotgun and his station wagon in return for one last favour. “Finish me!” he said “I’m retired and I need to get back to writing the word ‘biff’ 600 times for Marvel.” He bravely stood there as I pointed the gun at his head and...

*bang* missed. *bang* missed. Hmm. Not quite got the hang of 8-bit aiming yet. *bang* Aha! Through the gut. Zombies never come back from that, right? The writer behind such phrases as “Travel Journalists to Imaginary places” and “Tony’s right. Our pelvis is shit” was dead.

Thankfully, before he went to a better place, Kieron had introduced me to a band of feckless survivors who would sit in the car and never once, in all our travels, offer to take a turn driving. They were John, Alec, Adam, Jim, Cara, Craig, Tim and Lewie. Wait. There were only five seats in the wagon, including me, the designated driver. Four people were going to have stay behind, waiting for the next zombie apocalypse, while we made our roadtrip to the Safe Haven.

Each of them made their case. Alec was carrying the Book of Skulls, which he claimed was a guide across the midwest, but wouldn’t let anyone see it. Jim said that Eve had taught him all about spaceship maintenance, which didn't seem particularly relevant, but he fluttered his eyelashes so nicely. John had missed the whole zombie apocalypse revelation and thought we were going to GDC. Cara started telling a really long story about the time she was playing a game and someone broke her heart. Adam insisted that as a Mancunian, he was an ethnic minority. Tim said we should get a tank, no, nine tanks, no, three tanks and three supply trucks with spare drivers. Craig argued eloquently and at length in fluent scots, which everyone was too proud to admit to not understanding. And everyone agreed Lewie’s bartering skills would be essential. There was no fair way to make a decision.

So we drew straws and, while Craig, Tim, Lewie and Adam were arguing about whether using a random number generator would have kept them safe from the zombies, the rest of us drove into the interior. We hollered back to them not to worry, as we were sure that another suicidal comic book writer with a spare station waggon would be along in a bit. If not, we’d pick them up when we found a bigger van or bus. We waved!

Then the nukes launched.

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