Don't Forget the Fingers - A guide to the perfect zombie family picnic

by Thomas Scopel

First seen in Suspense Magazine May 2011

Author's Note:

This absurd piece took every bit of one quick evening to conjure up and I laughed out loud with every sentence. Probably spurned by the recent zombie media flooding the market, nonsense seemed to flow into something humorous and believable. To this day I still laugh while envisioning a lumbering father figure-like corpse, his hair slicked back and combed off to one side, stumbling, yet proudly leading his family down a dirt path located between manicured grass and below majestic, springtime oak tree canopies, toward a large picnic area. In one greenish, decrepit hand he lovingly clutches his wife’s rotted, single missing fingered hand, and in the other he carries a gruesome, red dripping thatched basket. His face full of anticipation, cloudy white eyes focus on a secluded and unclaimed wooden picnic table in the distance, far away from the more active area where the living frolic. It is where his family will spend a leisurely carousing day together, away from the constant humdrum of seeking flesh. On occasion he emits a moan or gurgled groan, voicing authority, scolding his barely teenaged half-face missing son and putrefied stained white dress wearing late adolescent daughter for attempting to stray away from the path to chase the playful living. The siblings obey and fall back into line.
Published in the May 2011 issue of Suspense Magazine, simply try picturing all this and you too may find yourself chuckling.

Just like most families in this current fast-paced, rat of a race day and age, quality time is a highly sought after, yet rare occurrence. However, all hope is not lost. With summer on the horizon, better and warmer weather is certain to allow the opportunity to tackle this dilemma head on with various outdoor activities. Picnics are one such activity that the living find to be relatively inexpensive and most rewarding. But, why should it be limited to the living? Zombie families have needs, desires, and wants too. And, there is no reason why a zombie family can’t also enjoy this activity.

However, unlike the living, there are certain considerations that must be addressed. And, with simply a little extra planning, it can be a most enjoyable experience for all. This guide, although not absolute and subject to variation, is to be used as an aid in that planning and covers many aspects. Of course, be sure to use what little brain you have left to explore specific family orientations.

Where:

Location, location, location, this cannot be stressed enough. Choosing the right spot is the most crucial aspect for an enjoyable family outing. Most often, the best location is one of seclusion, ensuring that living, more often than not nothing more than fright-filled observers, do not damper the family atmosphere with their typical “HELP” cries. If or when this occurs, gather all family members and retreat immediately.
Spots surrounded and shaded by thick trees are ideal. Space matters and make every attempt to leave considerable distance between you and the living. Farther is better and with any luck, they won’t even notice your family’s physical appearance differences and leave well enough alone.
Avoid shelters and clusters of picnic tables. Selecting a spot under or at one of these is simply asking for trouble. Granted, they are comfortable and nice, but they are also prime noticeable locations. It is a quick route to a ruined family adventure.

Weather:

While bright, sun shiny days may be ideal for the living; they are typically detrimental to non-living flesh. Sunlight, especially bright, hot, and glaring sunlight, not only warms, fast increasing decay and rot, but also runs the risk of sizzling your lighter shaded flesh. Kids are especially vulnerable and usually unaware of this hazard, primarily concerned with excitedly stumbling around until it is too late. A couple of alternatives would be to coat the exposed parts with the highest sun block available or by keeping the tattered clothing covers on completely. The latter is probably the most recommended considering that sun-block works in conjunction with embalming fluid and will usually and typically cause a speed increase in the decay process. Coincidently, sunlight is also hard on the deceased eye. Since, upon death, the pupil was frozen and therefore does not function at all, this may very well cause blindness. For the living dead family, overcast skies will most assuredly be the wiser choice.
Rainy days are another good choice, especially since the living tend to avoid these adverse weather conditions when picnics are concerned. Rest assured, on these types of days, opportunity certainly knocks and the ability for the family to utilize the most sought after picnic table locations is optimized. But, always continue to observe the “NO SHELTER” rule. It is certain that a living family caught in the rain will seek the dryer location. 

Foods:

Warning: It is very possible and more so probable that there will be the living nearby. DO NOT risk ruining the family outing by eating them. Resist the urge. You have your own basket. There will be plenty of days ahead to forage for living flesh.

There are many ideal foods that the zombie family can enjoy. Think ahead. On prior prowling adventures, try to save a few parts for the big day. Fingers, toes, ears, and maybe even a few innards’ strips are ideal for a quick grab and go, able to tide the kids over before the brains main course is served.
Even if the food basket is overflowing with various tasty, blood filled fleshy pieces and parts, there are still many opportunities along the way to add to it. On the way, be on the lookout for road kill. Various animals have different flavors, and the older, more decayed ones are usually the best, nature already having added parasites and juicy little, white crawling flavorful wormy tidbits. The kids will thank you!
While at the site, be sure to explore any nearby wooded areas’. They are superb locations for finding additions such as mice and insects. Be meticulous with your search. Dead rotted stumps, logs and woodpiles can be a bevy. From large, moist grubs to centipedes and beetles of all sorts, the virtual trove can yield much treasure. Get off the beaten path and venture deeper into the foliage. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find. Try digging underneath, around and partially into the soil, but be fully aware to not snap off fingers’ in the process.
Vultures can provide a wonderful opportunity for an added meal addition too. They’re tendency to linger around the deceased gives the living dead a distinct advantage. Not all that bright, these birds can easily be caught by utilizing a simple technique. Using yourself as bait, lie perfectly still until one takes notice. The wait usually isn’t all that long and soon you will be spotted. When the pecking begins, reach out and latch hold of the bird by the neck. Squeeze and wring. It’s as easy as that. Imagine how excited the family will be when you come proudly lumbering up holding a freshly killed buzzard carcass. (Side Note: Be sure to let the children taste the rot filled stomach. It’s the best part.

Activities:

Although many typical picnic activities generally revolve around, entail and require varying degrees of quickness, don’t be discouraged with the living dead speed handicap. There are many slower based activities that the family can partake in and share together.

A leisurely family hike can be very rewarding. From scourging to teaching the kids proper hiding techniques to how to distinguish the most direct and least resistive path to a potential victim, the list is virtually endless.
Swimming, while not recommended, can also be an option. If chosen to do so, be aware and keep in mind that there are certain hazards. Dead flesh does not harbor oxygen and therefore, attempts at floating are fruitless, leaving the living dead looking forward to nothing more than a quick sink to the bottom, where hungry fish will most likely take delicious notice and begin nibbling at you. When this occurs, don’t fret. After all, it is far too late now anyways. Simply saunter across the lakebed, up the slope at the waters’ edge and make your way out and away, reserving the fact that pieces of you are now gone.
A friendly game of tag is not only a fun way to experience togetherness, but it will also be a learning experience for the children too, inadvertently teaching chasing and grasping skills that they will use throughout their deathtime. The old adage, lead a zombie to a dead body and you will feed them for a day, but teach a zombie to catch the living and you will feed them for a deathtime certainly applies.

Hazards

Keeping the speed element in mind, most sporting activities are probably best if avoided. Volleyball, badminton and softball are just a few where spectating is advised. These games require a substantial amount of running and jumping physical excursion, making the living dead body condition unable to adequately compete. Partaking in these types of activities is risky at best and will usually result in broken parts that will hamper future endeavors. As a parent, pay close attention to the children since they are the most apt to attempt, unaware of physical limitations. A broken leg and subsequently being forced to walk on a limply lingering stump for the rest of their death will certainly be the source of a zombie parent’s regret.
Avoid the living at all times. They will only be a source of both temptation and chaos. Maintain your keen sense of living flesh smell. Basically, a good motto to follow is to smell them before they spot you.

Coming in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and annoyances, pests are a necessary evil and the common housefly is probably the most concerning and quite hard to keep at bay and away from dead flesh. Unlike blood seeking mosquitoes, the typical living nuisance, your “death” aroma automatically draws and the fly whole-heartedly wants to deposit future generations onto you. They are viciously aggressive and stopping them by just shooing won’t do. Various sprays and candles can and will greatly assist and be sure to add these items at the top of your master picnic item list.

            As previously mentioned, this aid is only a basic guideline covering some of the more common living dead family picnic outing aspects. While it may not address and discuss all potential pitfalls, it is a wonderful start. By adhering to them, the odds of that family picnic becoming a memory of a deathtime will be greatly increased.

End

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