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For months, I watched Heath do some pretty fun and hilarious things. I watched him toss pizza dough in the air at Domino’s and laughed while he attempted to correctly ice a cupcake. I’ve been there while he milked cows and I’ve glared at him with envy while he taste-tested pastries at a bakery.
Sometimes, I’m grateful to be behind-the-scenes with the video camera. But on some jobs, I wish I was the one getting to make lattes or learn how to play guitar. Heath is always having fun.
Then, on one chilly autumn day, it was finally my turn. The man turned to me and asked these seven fateful words:
“Would you like to be a zombie?”
For job 35, Heath drove us into Maryland to work at Six Flags America and our timing couldn’t have been better. It was Halloween weekend and I couldn’t wait to check out the infamous Fright Fest. I remember going as a kid and being terrified of scary people in makeup and costumes chasing me through the park. To make it even better, this specific park is known for having the best Fright Fest in the entire country. Everywhere around the park there are signs posted stating that at 7PM the monsters are released, with big bold lettering saying anyone under age 13 is not advised.
This was about to be the most fun job ever.
When your shift at a theme park starts in the late afternoon, it’s best to show up three or four hours early, so you can get the lay of the land and ride all of the coolest roller coasters before work. This already made the day completely awesome.
When it was time to begin “working,” our boss led us to the closed part of the park, which looked completely abandoned and totally scary. We turned a corner and there, I kid you not, are roughly 100 zombies, clowns, and other terrifying monsters walking around in various stages of hair and make up.
I filmed as makeup artists airbrushed Heath’s face green and brown. They added fake blood to his face and clothes.
“I don’t look scary enough,” Heath complained looking around at everyone else.
So he sat back down in the make up chair and the artist glued toilet paper onto his forehead. After the glue dried, they ripped the toilet paper and painted it black and red–to resemble open flesh. They added more fake blood running down his face and all over his shirt. He looked truly terrifying.
That’s when they asked me if I wanted to be a zombie too. I watch the Walking Dead and I knew I could be a pretty convincing zombie. All you have to do is be scary and bite people. So I put on a ratty t-shirt and sat down in the chair to be made into a zombie.
It takes about twenty minutes to be transformed from human into the undead. You have to sit holding your breath while they airbrush you with what smells like apple perfume, but it’s really just paint that makes your face brown. Then you move to a different chair where someone looks at you, looks at pictures on the wall, and tries to decide which parts of your face to cover in blood and scars.
My make up artist, Mary, was a completely kind and normal person–even though she was holding up pieces of fake flesh to my face trying to decide what looked scarier. This makeup experience was light years different than having my hair and makeup done in the green room in New York City, that’s for sure.
Once you’re deemed frightening enough, they unleash you upon the unsuspecting guests in the park with two rules:
1. No touching the guests
2. No breaking character
Heath and I walked to the zombie section of the park and tried to make friends with our fellow zombies, most of whom didn’t break character and simply stared at us and chomped their teeth (that’s “welcome” in zombie). One girl wore fake contacts that made her look so frightening I was nervous to talk to her.
For the next few hours, we hid behind buildings and in shadows, sneaking up on guests and making them scream. We chased kids and teenagers down the streets. One fellow zombie applauded me when I made a ten-year-old girl cry and run away. This is the creme de la creme of being a zombie. Making someone cry is pretty much the highest level of achievement, unless you make someone wet their pants, which sounds too messy.
The hardest part of the job is to stay completely in character and try not laugh at the people when they scream and cry–which is so hilarious.
I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun at any job as I did partnering up with our new zombie friends. We would pick a group walking toward us and plot to scare them. We’d split up and run toward them circling around and trapping them all while trying not to laugh while they screamed and fought their way past us. Once Heath scared a kid so badly, the kid tripped over Heath’s leg, fell to the ground, and screamed while trying to crawl away. We’re helping kids make memories that will last a lifetime.
One family walked past me with four young children, and as soon as I walked close by, tears exploded. Every kid was sobbing and the family found themselves stuck in the zombie section with crying kids trying to explain to them that we are all just normal people. They stood next to a game where there were bright lights just trying to calm everyone down. After a few minutes, I felt so bad that I walked over there and gave all the kids a high five. I’m not sure if they found that scarier or more comforting, but it made me feel better. Scaring people is pretty emotionally exhausting.
When guests weren’t around, zombies would pull us aside and give us tricks to be more convincing. Curl your fingers to make them look limp and lifeless. Walk with a limp slowly and then sprint behind someone to really scare them. Everyone we worked with that night truly loved their jobs.
When you truly love your job, it doesn’t feel like work anymore. It’s just fun. Scary, wonderful, enjoyable fun.
And in case you were wondering, Heath definitely wasn’t as good of a zombie as me. He didn’t even make anyone cry.