It was just another normal evening at the mission centre. None of the elders knew or could even have guessed at that point the ways in which their district would change that night. By the morning they would have to find a new definition for the word normal.
The Ugandan sun had set several hours before but heat still forced its way into every corner of the small hut making the place feel like a cramped oven.
The day had passed uneventfully, Arnold had told his stories to whoever would listen and the rest of them would follow round after correcting and making sure everybody understood the stories.
Elder Cunningham had the habit of going a bit crazy with his narrative. They didn't mind so much any more about the 'lies' but they needed at the very least for the villagers to understand the basic concept of the tales.
Proselytizing had been pretty slow that day and no one seemed to mind returning to the hut to relax. Elder McKinley and Elder Church were playing go fish in the middle of the floor, lying face down their feet crossed and kicking in the air.
Elder Schrader, Elder Thomas and Elder Price were crammed onto the small and worn sofa with Arnold cross legged on the floor in front of them. They were trying to make some connection with the Book of Mormon and the new Book of Arnold.
The room was mostly silent save for the soft buzz of mosquitoes from the open window and the occasional cry of "go fish!" or one of the Elders coming across something in their religious texts.
"Hey guys guys!" Arnold said excitedly, "The Starship Enterprise is actually a metaphor for heaven!" He looked up expectedly just missing the Elders sharing a look and sighing in unison. "Because, you know, the Book of Mormon mentions stars a lot and stuff and heavens nice and so is the Starship Enterprise. It's the place to be."
"What do you think Connor?" Elder Price appealed to their District Leader. Elder McKinley looked up from his game of cards and shrugged. "Teach them whatever works Arnold".
Ever since Elder McKinley had stopped turning it off he had become lax in other rules as well. He'd been one of the first to see that what Arnold was doing was better for the villagers than what they had been trying and failing to do for months before he arrived.
Kevin raised his eyebrows and pouted. "But don't you think it would be better if the texts worked in conjunction. I mean it has to make sense"
"Arnold knows what he's doing. Have you got any spades?"
"Leave it Kevin" Elder Schrader patted him on the arm and let out a yawn. "This is so tedious, let's all just play cards."
Elder Thomas nodded in eagerly and slid off the sofa, onto his knees until he was lying on his front in one smooth motion. "Would you mind dealing again Connor?"
"Sure. Who's in?" he looked around at the other Elders in the room. They all gathered round except Kevin who remained where he was.
"It's only because he was losing, I've never seen a worse player of go fish". Elder Church said a little resentfully to Connor. The District Leader stuck his tongue out and lifted himself up onto his elbows to look at Kevin.
"You playing Kevin?" Connor said. Self appointed SuperMormon shook his head turning back to the Book of Mormon, leaving the fourth part of their bible lying neglected on the floor. "You can sit next to me if you like" he patted the threadbare rug beside him.
Elder Price glanced up from his scripture to find every member of their district twisted round from their positions as a black and white star on the floor to stare at him. "Fine. One game"
Arnold gave a half cheer and awkwardly shifted to make room for Kevin between him and Connor.
Elder Price played a tough game of go fish, slamming the cards down and yelling as he made groups. The other elders shared looks remembering now why no one liked to play games with him.
"Kevin!" Elder Zelder spoke up as a particularly violent placing of a card on Kevin's part had caused the deck to collapse.
"Elder Cunningham, please keep your mission companion under control" Connor said without looking up from his cards.
"Elder McKinley, please keep your boyfriend under control" Arnold said calmly.
"Shhhh Kevin, it's just cards" Elder McKinley gently stroked Kevin's tense shoulders before moving his hand to ruffle the perfectly styled brunette hair.
"Don't touch it!"
Elder McKinley sighed and rebuilt the deck of cards. "Poptarts it's your turn"
The tiny man, whose feet stuck out behind him a good distance shorter than the others, fanned his cards thoughtfully. "Elder Neeley, do you have any hearts?" "Go fish". He reached a hand forward to pick another card but was interrupted by a loud thump that caused the deck to spill again.
"It wasn't me that time!"
"I know I just wanted a reason to shout at you" the little man smiled to himself with internal triumph.
"It was probably just an animal or something" Connor calmly moved the cards back into a pile and gestured to Elder Thomas to go again. But once again as he reached for a card another thump, louder this time, closer, ran through the hut and jolted the cards from their perfectly formed tower.
Elder Cunningham screamed causing Elder Schrader and Price beside him to recoil at the high pitched sound. Connor was already on his feet and moving towards the window which was draped with a thin piece of patterned cloth blowing gently in the breeze created from the open window.
The District Leader slowly pulled back the material but all he could see was darkness. "There's nothing there. Lets carry-" he froze motionless. He blanched, his red hair becoming much more noticeable. A strange howling moan had come from the other side of the window.
"Close it close it close it!" Elder Church shrieked. Elder McKinley spun round and pulled the window shut putting the fragile wooden bolt across.
The Elders were all looking unusually pale, glancing among each other with looks of fear on their faces. "As I said, an animal or something" Connor was trying desperately to remain collected.
"That's one messed up animal" Elder Schrader said sceptically.
Elder Cunningham was quivering, his palms sweating. "Nathan Lane is out there" his voice shook slightly. The other Elders couldn't help from smirking a little even though they were all a little terrified at the unknown animal outside.
Kevin put an arm over his best friends shoulder comfortingly, "Nabalungi" he emphasised the word "will be just fine".
Arnold sniffed and nodded "But what was that thing?"
"Maybe…" Poptarts began mischievously "it was Zombies"
Nothing could have prepared the elders for the eruption that was to follow. "OH MY GOSH! ZOMBIES! WHAT DO WE DO? NECROPHILIA'S OUT THERE WITH ZOMBIES! I MUST SAVE HER!" he careered towards the door with the strength to break through. Kevin managed to pull him back slightly and the rest of the job of stopping him was left to Elder Zelder who just happened to be in his path. The three of them collapsed on the floor, Arnold still shrieking and flailing.
Elder McKinley shot daggers at Poptarts. "There are no zombies!" he spoke in his most commanding district leader voice. "Really Elder McKinley?" Arnold sniffled quieting down a bit.
"There are no zombies in Africa. Zombies do not exist." There was a moment of silence as the elders all looked at each other the fear subsiding until there was another moan from outside.
"OH MY GOSH ZOMBIES AAAA-" Elders Zelder and Neeley both clamped their hands over his mouth until the cries stopped coming.
"For Heavenly Father's sake will you just shut up Arnold!" Connor looked surprised at himself, "I mean please be a little quieter. It's just an animal"
"Strangest animal I've ever heard" Elder Schrader said.
"That's because it wasn't an animal. It was a zombie" Poptarts was grinning enjoying the hysteria.
Elder Cunningham opened his mouth to shriek again but Connor interjected before he could begin. "No! No zombies! No no no Zombies. You are not helping Elder Thomas, maybe this is our cue for us all to go to bed."
"How do you explain the zombie sounds surrounding the house Mother McKinley?"
"They are not zombie sounds!" No sooner had the words left his mouth that the wailing moan came again, but this time it was not alone. Several moans came one after the other and as they finished the elders all shared a look that said something like 'let's not rule out the possibility of zombies ok? But no one mention them ok? Ok.'
A knock at the door caused every single member of the room to jump and whip their heads round to the noise.
"Scared Price?" Poptarts probed.
"Not on your life Thomas."
"Why don't you answer the door then?"
Kevin hesitated then marched towards the door and placed his hand on the door handle. He turned to face the room "Look everyone. This is me opening the door."
"Go on then"
"Ok. See I have my hand on the handle. I'm going to open it any moment now."
"Get on with it" Poptarts had taken a seat on the sofa and had reclined to watch the fun.
"Sure. Sure…just let me….um…" another sharp load knock on the door caused him to yelp before he collected himself.
"What are you afraid of Price?" Poptarts giggled maliciously "Wild animals don't knock on doors"
Kevin turned the handle a millimetre.
"I'm not sure about zombies though"
"Connor make him shut up!"
"No. You open the door you chicken" Connor smirked, his arms folded. "Like he said wild animals don't knock"
Kevin scowled but took a deep breath and turned the handle to reveal a person on the darkened step.
"Oh Elder Price thank goodness!" Nabalungi flung herself into the hut breathlessly and shut the door behind her. "I thought no one was going to answer the door!"
The elders all stared accusingly at Kevin who ignored them "What happened?"
"You will not believe this but there are these things out there" she made her way over to Arnold who held his arms out for her. She rested her head on his chest as he stroke her curls. "I thought they were going to eat me!"
"You see. Wild animals"
"Oh no Elder McKinley. Not wild animals." She looked around at the other elders and whispered the next word, "Zombies"
She winced as Arnold screamed over the top of her head. The other elders all started screaming and panicking at the news.
Elder Church was rocking back and forth on the floor saying some sort of prayer.
Elder Neeley and Elder Schrader began grabbing bits of furniture, pillows and cards to barricade the door, resorting to just throwing things at it in their haste.
Elder Zelder just stood still screaming and flailing his arms around.
Elder Price and Elder McKinley had run into each other for a tight embrace, both men white with terror.
Only Elder Thomas remained on the sofa and mouthed softly:
'Zombies. Told you so.'