The screech of an emergency alert buzzer summons students to the video broadcast. “The bodies of the dead are returning to life,” the ticker announces, just before clips of world leaders, scientists and news anchors frantically explain that hundreds of millions of people may die after being exposed to a virus thanks to a laboratory mishap in San Francisco.
Soundbites come fast, as scenes of doctors rushing through packed medical facilities and military groups leading patients into detention zones splash across the students’ iPad screens.
“Anyone showing signs of a contagious illness will receive special treatment here, at the airport’s purpose-built quarantine center.”
“The mandatory quarantines have sparked civil unrest.”
“Containment is not very likely.”
“Those who aren’t killed by the virus will probably die in the fighting, so maybe this is it. This is how it ends. Pretty soon, there won’t be anyone left.”
The broadcast suddenly cuts to a newsroom, empty except for a desk where a man with bloody bandages around his head holds a script and prepares to read to the camera. Next to him, a woman in a patient gown is unconscious, her arms restricted by thick chains and her face covered by some sort of respiratory mask. Her lifeless body slumps over the desk.
“Hello, this is Dr. John Marino broadcasting on the emergency system,” the man reads. “If you are a survivor, there’s a safe zone established. It will be available Monday at 9 a.m. in Kernaghan 3136, Maryville campus.” The video screen behind him shows b-roll of the military shooting chaotically at a horde of zombies surging into a fenced-in area.
Marino repeats the safe-zone instructions, adding, “Do all you can to survive.” Then the broadcast abruptly cuts out, replaced with black-and-white snow.
And with that, eighteen Maryville University students are welcomed into HUM 297H: Are You The Walking Dead? — or, as it’s better known on campus, “the Zombie Class.”