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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2. Waking Up

            I find myself stumbling through a glass doorway. It looks like it used to be one of those automatic ones, but now there’s no power and the glass is all broken and shattered. Something stabs into my calf and I feel like its burning. Like I’m on fire.

            Of course I know that I’m not on fire, just like I know that any moment now I’m going to wake up and be in bed, with my alarm clock ringing at 6:15 and the smell of coffee scorching my nostrils. But, right now, I feel like I am. The pain is so intense, so sudden.

            Broken glass crunches under my feet, reminding me once more of my current location. I know that the best way to escape a dream is to remember that you’re dreaming, and after that falling or killing yourself works pretty well too, but I’m a self-acknowledged coward, and killing myself – even in a dream – scares me, so I’ll just walk through till the end. So I thread my way through the jagged glass teeth and into the dilapidated Circle-K.

            The inside of the store is just as bad as the entrance, with broken merchandise and spilled food creating a second carpet. Something small and furry scurries away, crawling under an overturned shelf. I don’t know or want to know what it is. I just want to wake up.

            My head feels strangely empty, like I’ve lost something. I vaguely recognize this building, the layout of it and even some of the ripped open bags of chips and candy. But it’s like a dream you try to remember a week after having it. Even when you write it down as soon as you wake up, it’s still fuzzy, and eventually the notes make no sense. You can have the same dream every night for a year and still forget the details as soon as you wake up. Trust me, it’s happened before.

            An obnoxiously loud growling sends me spinning, seeking the source of the noise. But no matter how I turn, there’s nothing there. It’s then that I realize that the noise is my stomach, protesting its emptiness, and I notice that I’m starving. I suddenly feel so hollow, I think I might disappear completely.

            It takes all of two seconds for me to dash to a stand, ruffle through a mound of molding leaves and empty wrappers, and grab a bag of Cheetos. The bag is still sealed, so I think it’s probably safe. Besides, I’m so hungry right now that I would eat it anyways. I finish the bag within moments, but the scarfed snack does almost nothing for my intense hunger. The next thing I grab is a Hershey’s bar, but I throw it away. I don’t know why, I just have an aversion to it. Like I’m subconsciously allergic or something.

            So instead I just dig for another bag of chips and start wandering aimlessly toward the drinks section. As I sort-of expected, there’s nothing left. I don’t know why, but I just kinda figured that water is in short supply. After all, there’s no power right now, so how do people pump clean water? Exactly. They don’t.

            I’m walking toward the register when I hear it. Glass crunching under heavy boots. I duck behind a counter and instantly my mind registers the sound. Three people, probably male, breathing heavily but steadily. So not injured then. Something in my mind cringes at the thought of interacting with people right now. I’m just too freaked out. I need to remember where this is so that I can get home, but these people aren’t likely to leave me alone.

            The register desk is only a few isles away, and I make the split second decision to hide behind that. After all, there’s no reason for these men to look back there. I move slowly, carefully. It’s actually agonizing, moving that slowly. I want to dart back into the relative safety of my hiding place, but then they will hear and possibly see me. No, this is something I have to do slowly. Patiently.

            Patience has never been my strong point. That much, at least, I can remember about myself. But still, somehow I eventually find myself crouched behind the desk, my head between my knees and my arms tucked close to my sides as I try to make myself as small as humanly possible.

            All the while, the footsteps plod slowly closer. Slowly the men are walking into the store.

            “Wow, bro look at this! We’ve hit the jackpot! There’s got to be enough here to feed everyone for at least a week!” The voice is young. Excited. Familiar. Again I’m assailed by that strange sense that I know this person. His voice should be one I know, and yet I’m totally ignorant of where I should know it from.

            Another voice answers, this one closer to me. “Yeah yeah, just find some savable stuff and grab it. I want to get out of here. Ray, you look for liquids. Stew’s dehydrated and needs fluids, and we could all use a little H2O.” This man, at least, I’m sure that I don’t know. In fact, I know that I’ve never heard his voice ever in my life.

            “Yo, over here. I’ve got a bottle of unopened Gatorade, some Vodka, and two waters.” This voice – I think it’s a British accent, but I don’t know for sure – is closest to me, only a few isles away in the liquids section. I’m hit by a pang of jealousy. How did I miss two water bottles? Just thinking about it makes my mouth dry, makes me taste sawdust and my saliva evaporate.

            There’s a slight scuffling sound, which I know comes from the rat, but the men all freeze. “Hey Hook, I think there’s something in here with us. Let’s just take what we got and go.” It’s familiar voice, sounding like he’s retreated all the way to the door. All I can think is that when they leave, I can pick though the empty bottles again and see if they missed any. This all-consuming thirst drowns out the agony in my leg.

            “Yeah, probably a good idea. You commin Ray?”

            “Remember when this place used to be alive? I mean, like really alive. Remember old Pete, and how he’d always yell at me not to skateboard inside his store?” The voice that I now associate with Ray sounds sad. Reminiscing about his memories. If only I had that luxury. I can’t even remember my past.

            “Those were the days, but dude, we’ve got to get back. Clyde’s going to be waiting, and you know how he gets when we’re late.”

            There’s the sound of crunching glass, and I’m fairly certain that they’ve all left. But I still wait a few minutes before I crawl out into the main store again. I’m all the way back to the drink section, picking hopefully through the bottles, when I hear the glass crunch again.

            I want to ignore it and keep looking, but I know it’s not an animal. It’s definitely human, and it’s coming into the store. I sigh internally and creep back toward my hiding place, ready to give up more of my newfound treasures. But the footsteps are coming fast, and I’m not going to make it.

            I peek out from behind my counter to see a young man – probably about my age – standing in the middle of the store and looking intently through the candy wrappers at his feet. He’s wearing jeans and a green T-shirt, with a black hoodie and a stylish paint-splattered backpack.

            Right at that moment, I decide that I’m going to risk it. He’s staring at the ground, and if I’m quiet he won’t see me. Besides, he’s slowly pacing toward me, and if I stay here I’m caught and probably dead. So I decide to make a break for it for the cashier.

            I wait until the sounds the boy is making stop – I can’t really look, because if I can see him, he can see me – and then throw myself across the intervening space between myself and the counter, hoping desperately that the intruder won’t notice. I press myself against the cold metal and hold my breath, unable to hear anything over the pounding roar that is my heart.

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