Crazies

Everyone's heard of dozens of different kinds of apocalypses. You've got your standard zombies, or maybe a slavering horde of vampires. Vengeful angels, mutant diseases. Governments and nukes.

This is my contribution to the field. I wanted to write something new, some form of apocalyps not yet seen. And so the Crazies were born. Because I at least have never heard of an insane cannibal apocalypse before.

So what happens when the world spontaneously goes insane and everyone older than 18 becomes a viscious cannibal? Can love keep you sane? Can you forgive the atrocities you have witnessed enough to return that love? This may not sound like a standard romance, but, like everything in their world, the Crazies are... well... intense.

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3. Crazies

            “Hook! Payton! There’s one of ‘um here!” Ray’s voice rings out in a terrified shout, echoing off the walls and isles of empty shelves.

            “Where?” I can hear the sound of footsteps racing in, the crushing of the glass, and I know that I’ve been caught. I know that I’m about to die. I press myself further back into the tiny alcove under the counter, where once plastic bags would have awaited groceries. Now there’s just me, awaiting my death. Death by the hands of a few desperate teenagers.

            Ray’s voice is stronger, less shaky when he replies. “Over there. Register two, I think.”

            “You think or you know? Because if you get us killed, I swear to God that I’m gonna kill you.” It’s the youngest voice, the familiar one.

            The voice I have connected to Hook speaks up then. “Yo, Payton, you idiot. If we die, first of all, he’s already going to be dead, and secondly, you’re dead, so you can’t kill nothin.”

            “Oh yeah.”

            Ray quiets the other two with a hushing noise and then there is the distinctive rasp of metal on metal. Three footsteps approach slowly. Cautiously. I press myself all the way under the table, cramming my body into the tiny space, but it isn’t far enough. I know that they will find me. I know that my life is going to end here and now, even if I know nothing else about it.

            A boy who looks about fifteen rounds the corner first, crouching defensively and tightly gripping a knife. Next comes an older boy with what looks like a solid pole made of metal, the tip sharpened to a wicked point. The last is a thin little kid holding a slingshot.

            Knife-kid lowers his weapon a little. “Ray, it’s just a little girl.” I have an instant of hope.

            Then it dies when the oldest boy answers. “No. Look at her. She’s skinny, true, but she’s older than you are. Older than me too, I’m betting. She’s one of them.”

            “Her girl, how old are you?”

            I whimper and press myself back farther, a feat I had thought impossible. Ray advances on me, his spear ready to stab and kill me. I tell myself to be brave, to be strong. I tell myself not to beg, to just let it end. One quick thrust and it’ll be all over.

            But I don’t listen.
            “Please don’t kill me.” I feel the tears well up in my eyes and try to blink them away but feel wet tracks run through the mud on my face. I know what they see: a girl hiding in a corner, her clothing and skin dirty and ripped beyond recognition. My hair hangs limp under its coating of dust and blood. My eyes dart about furiously between the boys. And now that I’ve started crying, I can’t seem to stop.

            Through the overwhelming waterworks, I feel something sharp prick at my side. “How old are you? When were you born?”

            I can’t even look at them. I can’t think of anything except: I can’t remember. They are going to kill me for sure if I don’t, but I can’t remember anything about myself. All I know is that I’m afraid, that I am hungry and thirsty and tired and dirty. And that I’m not ready to die yet.

            “I asked you a question. Answer me.” Ray’s voice is hard, harsh, unforgiving. He really is ready to kill me, and he wants me to know it. Not that it makes any difference.

            The older of the other two boys – I assume it’s Hook – steps up and puts his hand on Ray’s shoulder. “Hey, hey. Give her a chance dude.” Ray lowers the spear a little, and suddenly Hook is so close to me that I can see the individual freckles covering his face. “Look, girl, this is important. Can you tell me when you were born?”

            “No.” I force the word out through my sobs, practically choking on it. Hook starts drawing back and I react without thinking. I reach out and grab his arm.

            Instantly I have a knife at my throat and a spear at my side once more. “Let. Me. Go.”

            I do as Hook says and release him, but the weapons don’t move. “Please don’t kill me. I don’t want to die.”
            “When were you born?”

            “Why does it matter?”

            “When were you born?” Hook’s voice is insistent. Unyielding.

            “I don’t know.”

            “When. Were. You. Born?”

            “I don’t remember, alright! I can’t remember anything!”

            The spear in my side draws back a little, and Ray’s face is in front of me, invading my space. “You have one more chance. When?”

            The dagger at my throat presses a little harder and I feel a sharp pain. A single droplet of blood slides down my collarbone and soaks into my ragged shirt. I scream and try to pull away, but there’s nowhere for me to go. The knife presses again, ready to kill me. “August 19th!” I shriek, and the knife hesitates. I know, even as I say it that it’s true. My birthday is August 19th.

            “What year?” It’s the little kid, Payton, from where he’s standing behind the other two. I look him in the eyes and manage a little shrug.

            “I don’t remember.”
            “Then how old are you?”
            “Seventeen.” I answer without a moment of doubt. I know that because I was too young to vote in the last presidential election. I can’t remember who the candidates were, or even how many there were, but I do know that.

            Instantly the weapons draw back and so do the faces. A hand takes their place, open and welcoming. I am struck by how strange it is. It’s like that one word had the power to completely change the way they saw me. I went from threat to friend in an instant.

            But I’m not stupid. Or maybe I am, it doesn’t matter. I just know that I’m not dead, and I don’t plan on getting there any time soon. I have seventeen years’ worth of memories to replace. So, when the cold metal draws back and the warmth of living flesh takes its place, I don’t instantly seize it. I don’t pounce and let these would-be murderers drag me out of my hiding place.

            I cower away from them, huddled in on myself with my face buried behind my hands. “What are you going to do to me?” I whisper, because talking is just too far beyond me at the moment.

            “Nothing, stupid!” Peyton pipes up, his voice high and sharp, like he’s surprised I ask.

            “Yo, language,” Hook admonishes him with a light cuff to the side of the head, which the little boy shrugs off, then proceeding to lunge at his friend. Watching them play like this reminds me of something. There’s just this feeling of… normalcy… about it, like this is how things are meant to be.

            “Makes you remember, right?” Ray’s voice is soft and close to me and I wrench my gaze away from the other two boys to stare at him. He sighs at the open fear and suspicion in my eyes. “Look, we’re not going to hurt you. We just had to make sure you were… You know, sane.”

            “What else would I be?”

            Ray’s hand runs through his dark hair, making it stand up messily. “Well, I thought you were one of them at first, the way you were moving – all crouched over and curled up on yourself like that.” When my expression doesn’t change he looks mildly astonished. “You know, Them. Like, the Crazies.”

            “That’s what we call ‘em, cause they’re totally mad!”

            “So are you Peyton!” Ray calls back over his shoulder. “Although,” he continues, turning to me, “the whole world’s gone bonkers so what’s a little more crazy, right?”

            And that’s when I decide to trust him, because something about it just feels right. His words tweak something in my head, reawakening old thoughts. Besides, what’s my other option.

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