I floundered through the heavy underbrush of Alton Baker Park, all but praying my pursuers had been thrown off by my detour through rough terrain. It was just after 1:00 on a lovely Tuesday afternoon – the ground was still slick from a recent rainstorm, there was a certain chill in the air, and, somewhat surprisingly, the dead had begun to aggressively hunt the living.
“Of course,” I muttered, hopping across a narrow creek and scrambling up a muddy incline. “The fucking apocalypse had to happen before Taco Tuesday.”
How could I describe my feelings when my roommates, all having been bitten by hobos recently, spontaneously fell ill, died, and then hopped back up again? I’d say happy at first, because I knew that at long last I wouldn’t have to share a single bathroom with three plus-sized men and their remarkably productive colons. But the happiness, a knee-jerk reaction at best, was quickly replaced by fear when they chased me out of the house and down Amazon Parkway before being distracted by the smell of the burning Wendy’s on Willamette.
A college campus is the worst place to be during the zombie apocalypse, because it’s densely populated with people who are oftentimes pretty dense themselves. A longboard is a terrible means of escape from a crowd of bloodthirsty undead, and Ugg boots are a terrible choice of footwear when you’re trying to run for your life. As I crept through campus, sticking to bushes and shadows, and observed the herds of flannel clad zombies staring vacantly at their scattered fixed gear bikes, I thanked God that I was better prepared than them.
Because I, unlike the rest of campus, had a plan. While they were out making friends and getting laid, I was at home, preparing for, if not eagerly anticipating, a day like this.
“Who’s laughing now?” I shouted across the river to the three beefcakes in wide brimmed baseball caps who had chased me that far. “…It’s me. I’m laughing.”
I turned my back on them and looked up ahead, where Autzen Stadium loomed a few hundred feet away. It was a big concrete bowl surrounded by iron gates – basically the closest thing suburban Oregon had to a castle. Once inside, I’d kick back and wait for a helicopter to pick me up. If no helicopter arrived, I could think of no place I would rather starve to death than the home of Oregon football.
I stumbled, gasping, across Leo Harris Parkway, gazing up at Autzen’s majestic bulk above me, unable to believe that I’d actually arrived.
My victory was short lived, however, when from the corner of my eye I spotted a lone figure careening toward me, snarling and snapping its broken teeth. What’s black and white and red all over?
“A zombie referee.” I muttered, sprinting away into the parking lot as the undead officiator gave chase.
I didn’t have a lot of run left in me, though – it’s one thing to plan for a horrific disaster that may never occur, but it’s another to actually undergo physical conditioning. As my legs started to give out and the gap closed, I knew that this was probably the end for me – as much as I’ve always wanted to beat a Pac 10 referee to death, I didn’t want to do it when the ref could fight back.
“What the hell are you even doing here?” I screamed over my shoulder at it. “It’s not even a game day! This makes no sense!”
His bloodstained hands were inches away from my back when, seemingly out of nowhere, a football went careening into his face, caving in his weakened skull and knocking him to the pavement. I stumbled to a stop, looked at the corpse behind me, and then followed the ball’s trajectory to one of the entry gates where a stocky figure in a white visor and green polo shirt was squatting, arms crossed, surveying the situation.
I opened my mouth and gasped, both due to exhaustion and awe. “Chip Kelly!?”
The day had gone from good to great!
I met him at the edge of the parking lot with an outstretched hand, hoping, in my wildest dreams, that we’d do one of those handshakes where the two people pull together and then hug, but instead he regarded me and my gratitude with a curt nod.
“Did you come to hide out at Autzen Stadium too?” I asked, realizing that the only thing better than starving to death in Autzen Stadium was starving to death in Autzen Stadium with AP Coach of the Year.
“No,” he said, plainly. “Stadium’s no good. Bunch of zombies in there.”
“Damn. Now what?”
He jerked his head north, toward the smoky horizon. “Government evacuation center over in Springfield.”
“Are you going there?”
“That’s the plan.”
“Can I… Can I come?”
He shrugged, and that was good enough for me.
We clambered into a sturdy SUV from the parking lot and sped off down Leo Harris toward MLK – Chip driving, of course.
“What if the road is blocked up with abandoned cars?” I asked.
“Right now I’m just focused on driving down this street without running into any more zombies.”
“Okay.” I nodded, digesting this information. “I don’t know, though, if you had an plan for if we have to ditch the car.”
He shrugged again. “It’s just a matter of us getting lined up, recognizing where the zombies are, and understanding how they’re trying to eat us.”
This advice seemed so simple and brilliant that I almost hoped we would run into another pack of zombies, just so I could implement it.
As we zipped up Coburg toward Harlow, Chip narrowly maneuvered the SUV around crashed emergency vehicles and over any zombies that got in the way, and I helped by yelling encouraging things like, “Boomtown!” or “Hit it, Chip!”
“Say, Coach,” I mused as he wheeled us onto Harlow, the road that would take us across I-5 into Springfield. “What do you think caused all this, anyway?”
“Let’s just Survive The Day, and then we can discuss the why and the how of all this in Glendale.”
“Oka-” I stopped and did a double take. “Glendale?”
“That’s where they’re evacuating people to.”
“Oh.” I said. “I guess we don’t have to worry about seeing any Boise State zombies there, huh?”
He didn’t react to this, and I was about to tell the joke again, louder, when he put on the brakes.
“What? Why are we…”
In the parking lot to Gateway Mall up ahead there were several fenced in Army helicopters and soldiers loading evacuees into them – by far the greatest thing to ever happen in Springfield. Between us and them, though, was a bridge across I-5, which was currently populated by about a hundred really hungry looking zombies.
“Shit.” I said. “There’s too many of them. We’ll have to turn around and find someplace to hole up in the city.”
Chip shook his head. “Nah. Let’s go for it.”
And with that, he opened his door and stepped out of the car.
“Coach!?” I exclaimed, reluctantly jumping out after him. “There’s a hundred of them there! It isn’t safe!”
He looked at the sea of pale, bloody faces like they were made of Jell-O. “I’m not making a bold prediction, but I believe we can avoid all those zombies.”
I gritted my teeth. The bridge ahead was positively thick with the damn things, and all I could think of was us being torn limb from limb, the best college football coach of all time and the creator of Writers going down in a futile suicide run together.
“Well, I heard on the radio that some people in Northern California have been able to trick the zombies by smearing themselves with blood and acting undead.” I reasoned.
He gave me a look of disgust so piercing that I almost threw up. “You’re saying we should fake injuries.”
Indignant, I stammered, “W-what would you do in this situation?”
“I’d run faster than the zombies.” He said over his shoulder, trotting over to a crashed refrigerated truck in the ditch.
“But they’re in front of us!” I wailed, following him as he rummaged around in the back of the truck. “If we run faster than they do, that just means they eat us faster! How the hell do we get past them?”
Chip jumped out of the truck. “We do a steak punt.”
I stood there, dumbfounded. “…You mean a fake punt? I don’t see how that-”
He thrust a raw steak from the truck into my hands. “Punt formation, sport.”
Clutching the steak and slowly coming to understand what was happening here, I ran up the road thirty or so feet and knelt, holding the steak up with one hand.
“Ready!” I yelled.
I was playing football with Chip Kelly, using a hunk of red meat as the ball, during the zombie apocalypse. I was certain that no manlier feat had ever been accomplished.
Chip ran up at a good clip and gave the steak a solid kick. With a wet squish it jumped from where I had held it and sailed through the air, arcing beautifully over the bridge.
He squatted next to me, both of us watching the zombies’ eyes lock onto the airborne meat as it flew over them, angled to the right with the wind, and splattered onto the Interstate below.
“I hooked it a little, there.” He muttered.
All at once, the zombies were throwing themselves off the bridge like lemmings in pursuit of the tasty treat we’d baited them with, clearing a path to the evacuation center where a platoon of soldiers were beckoning for us to hurry.
“Wow.” I breathed. “Good thing I’m with you and not Kyle Brotzman!”
But Chip was off, running – sauntering, rather – for the choppers. I fell in behind him, skipping over spilled blood and entrails on the blacktop.
This had been the best apocalypse ever.
Truman Capps apologizes to his readers who don’t keep up with Oregon football. In his defense, they probably should, because it’s always this awesome.