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Zombie apocalypse descends on Finksburg at library event

The morning clouds had broken up, and a bright sun was warming the Finksburg fields in the early afternoon on Halloween. All the trees were lit up by the sun and resplendent in their peak autumnal colors against a blue sky. It was, in other words, a perfect afternoon for the end of the world.

The morning clouds had broken up, and a bright sun was warming the Finksburg fields in the early afternoon on Halloween. All the trees were lit up by the sun and resplendent in their peak autumnal colors against a blue sky. It was, in other words, a perfect afternoon for the end of the world.

"Welcome to the zombie apocalypse!" exclaimed Melanie Fitz, children's library associate with the Finksburg Branch of the Carroll County Public Library.

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About a dozen children were gathered in the grass, loading foam ammunition into what were, for some of the younger children, ludicrously large foam dart guns. Soon, Fitz explained, they would use those guns to defend the last vestiges of humanity, and she gestured toward one young man with white face-paint: Patient Zero.

"He's going to be running around trying to eat your brains, and by eating your brains I mean he's going to try to tag you. This is zombie tag," she said. "If you get tagged, you must drop your gun — you are now one of the horde. It is now your prerogative to tag as many other people as you can until you are all zombies or until all zombies are down."

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After a 10-second countdown, Fitz yelled "go," and the game was on, a swirl of sprinting humans, marauding zombies and flying foam darts.

It was the second year the library had hosted the Zombie Hunt, which Fitz, who is a fan of the zombie apocalypse genre, started.

"I've seen other groups do this and I saw an article about another library that did it with adults," she said. "I brought it here with permission, because my friend collects Nerf guns, as you can see, and we had enough."

The arsenal of safe, foam weapons came courtesy of Fitz's friend, Ryan Richmond, who also joined in the game and cut a striking figure with his tall frame, green hair — he planned to be the Joker for Halloween evening — and a blue, anti-radiation jumpsuit based on the popular, post-nuclear apocalypse video game "Fallout 3."

"I've been collecting Nerf guns over the past 10 years, give or take, so I have a large arsenal," Richmond said. "As I like to put it, enough to fuel a rebellion."

It's an arsenal that comes in handy for the remaining humans in the game when Richmond is tagged and joins the horde. The humans dart from one designated "safe zone" to another, areas marked with cones where zombies cannot tread, and look for a hidden cache of foam ammunition.

A pair of moms, Dawn Horst and Jen Storey, picked up spare guns in a safe zone and Fitz designated them as turrets, providing cover for the last of the humans during the game. Dawn's son, Logan, 11, was not among them.

"I had to take him out, actually. I had to defend the safe zone, so I had to take out my own son," Dawn said with a laugh, and Logan joined in. "We were humanity's last hope today."

In a recent analysis by CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., Baltimore was ranked one of the country's best cities in which to survive a zombie uprising, something that came as no surprise to Fitz.

"My friends all have [zombie survival] plans," she said. "There are really good places to go, like Costco, Walmart. Good places. Few entrances, defensible. Food, supplies."

Fitz has spent some time thinking through the whole zombie attack thing, but how were the kids in the game doing in applying good anti-zombie tactics?

"I think they're doing pretty well," she said. "They know their safe zones, and they don't stay in them overly long; they don't just camp there, because that leads to … the grouping effect, where then you have to figure out where's your best point of exit to get to the next safe zone."

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With running from safe zone to safe zone, it's a bit of a change from the zombies of the old George Romero horror films like "Night of the Living Dead," more super-action than supernatural spooktacular. Is there a place for this new type of zombie in the Halloween canon?

"I think anything you can have fun with is a neat addition to Halloween," Fitz said. "The more fun you can have, the better it goes, and they seem to be having fun."

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