A year ago I came across a writing prompt on Reddit:

“You’re at the largest Renaissance festival in the US when the zombie apocalypse starts.”

The song ‘Serious Steel‘ by Leslie Fish came to mind immediately, as did my experiences at Faire, so as a quick writing practice I came up with something I’m still a bit fond of…

“Damn, the Celts are looking more hung over than usual,” Sam muttered, hefting his pike as he headed out onto the field. Sure enough, the usually energetic band of opponents to the English in their daily battle pageant were groaning and dragging themselves onto the field.

“Sam, I don’t think they’re hung over…” Chuck said from behind him. In his real day job Chuck was a nurse at the local hospital, but at Faire he was called Charles and he wielded his bastard sword with ease in defense of Queen and Country. “They don’t look healthy at all, and I think they’re chanting something like, well, did Liam just say ‘Brains’?”

Instead of an organized charge onto the field, the camp of Celts oozed men and women out in drips and drabs without their weapons or armor as expected, all of them groaning and staggering towards the pikemen, at first accompanied by a rousing cheer from the audience – which quickly turned to mutters, confusion, and finally a single high pitched scream as one woman noticed Liam’s lack of a left arm, just a dry stump where ragged flesh hung.

But without hesitation the captain called the charge, Sam found himself joining the ranks marching forward, and while his stomach did flip-flops he realized the battle was no pretend-play this time. He felt the weapon make contact with flesh and he pushed on, digging it into the torso of the friend he’d drank with over many an evening. It was the beginning of the end, but his instincts lead him to try to protect the people who watched that day.

The next few hours were a blur. He’d taken up the sword after his pike had been shattered. Many of his friends were dead, and the barber surgeon was forced to play his part for real, bandaging as best he could and making the call when a soul was lost, with Chuck’s help. Decapitation was the order of the day, it was the only way to be sure, and it made everyone sick.

The hair braiding booth became an orphan-care, watching the children that had lost their parents or those whose parents were busy with other activities like manning the pyre, which had once been the site of the Maypole. It seems that after the initial push there had been a lull, but cell phones weren’t getting any signal, and anyone who had been sent away from the park had yet to return or send word back that anything was accessible. Many of the guests had fled, and the Faire workers were trying to keep a sense of calm for the rest. The food court was handing out meals sparingly, not sure how long they were going to make the supplies hold out. Strangely enough, the actress that had been playing the Queen was a great source of leadership – finding those who needed things to do and giving them tasks, providing comfort where she could, organizing the able bodies into turning the former Faire site into a camp for an unknown amount of time.

Sam was recruited for the defensive patrols of the perimeter, and as the sun sets on the world he knew as well as the day of horror, a determination to help see this isolated band organize, survive, and flourish began to spread through him. The blacksmith’s hammer could be heard ringing out, as more blades were prepared for those to be trained. The weavers were ready to make the garb into more practical clothes. Even the military camp was having councils of war. Who else, he reasoned, was more equipped to be ready for the end of the world?

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