We all have our favourite places to meet up with our friends and family, especially if we’re heading on somewhere else for some entertainment. For some, it will be a local café or bar while for others it might be public landmark. Some of these are so obvious that many people, more or less independently, will all choose the same spot and this can become a local tradition. Famous examples of this include the top of the Empire State Building in New York (all because of that scene in that film – which was used in that other movie!), and the under the clock at Waterloo Station in London. In my home town of Glasgow, it’s the steps in front of the Royal Concert Hall at the top of Buchanan Street – and indeed I’m using them for just this purpose in a scene at the start of the next book in the For Those In Peril series, which I’m currently working on. What do these places have in common? They are centrally-placed, easy to find and difficult to get wrong (there isn’t another Empire State Building in New York, there’s only one clock at Waterloo Station and you can’t miss the steps at the top of Buchanan Street). What on Earth, I can hear you wondering, has this got to do with zombies?
Well, here’s my point. In a zombie apocalypse, it’s likely that to survive, you will frequently find yourself running for your life, and when this happens, there’s a good chance that, at some point, you’ll get separated from others in your group. Think, for example, of what is likely to happen when the outbreak first starts. It’s unlikely that you and all your friends and family are going to be in the same place, and even if you are, there’s likely to be a lot of confusion with people running left, right and centre. This means it’ll be easy to get separated from one another. The same is true if your safe house gets over-run by a zombie horde, or raiders. It might even be as simple as your group having to make an unexpected move while others are away foraging or scouting ahead.
If you get separated from your group, there’s a good chance you’ll never find them again – unless, that is, you have agreed ahead of time exactly where you’ll meet up if this happens. Or in other words, you’ve got agreed rendezvous points where you can re-group in the event you become separated.
Of course, you have to put some thought into coming up with your rendezvous points. For example, in a zombie apocalypse, under the clock at Waterloo station is probably not going to be a good meeting place since it’s likely to be inundated with undead staggering around looking for something to munch on. Instead, you should choose locations which, while easy to remember, are likely to be as zombie-free as possible (no where will be completely safe, but some will be a lot safer than others). You will also want to pick locations which are well-defined so that there’s not going to be any confusion (there would be nothing worse than missing someone simply because you were both there but didn’t find each other!).
You will also need to be careful with what time you arrange to meet at a specific location. You can’t leave this open-ended as no one can remain at a rendezvous point forever just in case a missing person turns up, but working watches may be hard to come by, so setting a meeting for 2.30pm isn’t going to be much use. Instead, it’s better to pick a time that is easy to tell even if you don’t have a watch, such as sunrise, sunset or mid-day (when the sun is at its highest in the sky). Similarly, you would need to set your date using something which can be measured when you don’t have a calendar to hand. It could be a specific date which can be easily identified, such as the summer or winter solstice, or the second full moon of the year, or it could be a specific length of time (e.g. 5 days after we get separated – although remember to make sure you can all get there in that length of time, with the transport you’re likely to have available to you in a post-apocalyptic world).
It’s also important that you have more than one rendezvous point since you might struggle to get to a specific one in time, or get there and find it’s unsafe because it’s crawling with zombies. You might also want to pick ones which have a wide geographic and temporal spread to cover all eventualities. For example, you might have a local rendezvous point where you aim to meet 48 hours after a zombie outbreak starts so that all your friends and family know where to head if something happens, but you’ll also need to have a more distant one where you’ll aim to meet anyone who couldn’t get to the first one on time a week after it starts. Similarly, once you’re all together, you might want to pick locations and places where you’d aim to meet up if you get separated again, at various time periods over the next year, or on specific dates, with some of these being near at hand, and others further away. This means that if you have to leave your local area, you’ll all be heading in the same direction.
As I said before, these locations should be easy to identify (if not necessarily easy to get to), but they also need to be chosen to avoid the possibility of an ambush. This means if one of your group is captured and tortured for information, even if they give it out, anyone meeting there can’t be taken by surprise. Usually, this means being able to see anyone coming from a long distance away, and having a separate route out. It can also be an idea to make some of them quite difficult to get to as this will reduce the chance of anyone else simply stumbling into you as you’re waiting, out in the open, for someone to appear. Good examples might be the tops of unforested hills, remote beaches or under specific lone trees in an area of grassland. However, you also need to be able to navigate to the rendezvous points without any maps. This means the directions to get there have to follow easy to spot features, such as rivers, roads or obvious landscape features. If you want a great example of this, think about the instructions Andy gives to Red about where to find the note he left for him at the end of The Shawshank Redemption.
So, hopefully, you can now see why having a list of pre-defined rendezvous points is an important aspect of survival in a zombie apocalypse and what you need to think about when you’re picking your own. Since you never know when one might arise, maybe you should start thinking of good places to meet right away, and share them with your friends and family – just in case.
Oh, and for those you know me personally, you know what the plan is and where to meet up. If I don’t see you before, I’ll see you there. I’ll be at the first one week after it starts, and the next a month later (just follow the river and you’ll be able to spot it from about five miles away). If I don’t find you at either of these and you’re still alive, then I’ll be at the last one on the list, once a year at sunset on the summer solstice, and each time I’m there, I’ll be hoping it’ll be the year you finally turn up.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.