It had taken everything in her not to scream, when she touched one of them the first time. She had only just bumped into one, when she was out shopping with her mom, but the coldness of its flesh was something she wouldn’t just go ahead and forget. Her mom had called her out on calling it an ‘it’.
“They’re persons now, Sharon,” she had said, and Sharon wanted to believe her. Wanted to look at them and see sick people – like everyone else - but all she could think about was when she saw one of them tearing at her father’s throat. “Look,” her mother touched her daughter’s back, “I know what you’re thinking of, but see?” She pointed on one of them, one of the sick, walking a bit slower than normal people up the street, “They’re adapting.”
“Some of them still eats humans,” Sharon said and avoided the sick walking in her direction, “I’ve seen it. On Discovery Channel.”
“Only those who doesn’t take their medicine.” Her mother stood up now, “Come on now we have some shopping to do.”
They were everywhere. The sick. They would stand in line at the grocery store, walk up the street and some might even be driving a car. They pretended to be so normal. Some females even brought makeup and other’s contact lenses to change the dead, grey eye color to something more human. And that was exactly what Sharon meant: If you had to change yourself to be something everyone else forces you to be, are you even you anyone? Even though the changed you are a better you?
When she looked at one of them she didn’t exactly see a monster, mostly because many of them had adapted so well – hell some of them even looked human – but she didn’t see a sick person either. They would be like this all their lives. The only thing that made them age and their heart beat was the medicine. The medicine was the only thing that kept them from eating people again. So maybe she was a bit scared. Scared of the past, because it had destroyed her, and scared of the now because she didn’t know if she could live in it, but mostly Sharon was afraid of the unknown future that lay before her.
She had learned how to avoid touching them, most of them, she thought, understood, especially the few she had to talk to in school, after she told them what happened to her father.
“I’m so sorry,” most of them had said. Just like everyone else had. People were used to have lost a family member, but not everyone had seen the light go out of ones eyes. It was the same eyes she looked into, when one of them passed by her in the hallway at her school. Same dead, greyness like the soul had disappeared at the same time as the heart had stopped beating. It was so hard for her to imagine them feeling anything, when what people used to call the windows to humans souls were numb.
The news kept rushing forward with their progress, though. Some lines would say that one sick had gotten off his medicine for a week now and was feeling fine. But then the next would say that a husband had tried to go off and killed his entire family. Sharon sat down and read an article about a town that had completely gotten rid of all sick, and now the population was growing since nobody got killed. She drew a circle around the line that said; “Police reports that the death toll is now reduced by forty percent compared to every other year – And dropping.” When she looked up from the newspaper, she saw a boy with brown hair and pale skin sitting across from her. At first sight she even thought he was kind of appealing, but then she noticed the blue fingernails and the grey eyes.
“Mind if I sit?” The boy asked.
“You already do,” Sharon replied and continued to read the newspaper.
“You read a lot of those articles,” he said and continued as she looked up, “you don’t think it gives you a kind of … small perspective?”
“I read these articles, because I agree with them,” she said, but continued after she heard how awful it sounded. After all she didn’t like how the sick was lined up some places and executed for everyone to look, “some of them at least.”
“You would like a world without us in it?” He asked and took a bite of his sandwich. Another effect of the medicine was that it gave them the need of normal human eating back, though it didn’t replace the constant hunger of human flesh. That was something the medicine only soothed. The rest was just pure will strength, which was the only thing Sharon respected and liked them for.
“I would like a world, where innocent people don’t get killed,” she said, and as she looked straight into his dead, grey eyes, she saw her dad laying with his throat ripped open, and the echo of his voice screaming for her to run rings through her skull.
“And you think we’re the only ones who kill innocents?” He started to sound annoyed, like she irritated him though he was the one who insisted on starting a discussion. He suddenly brought up a newspaper and folded it on one side with a headline: ‘Thousands of protestors against executions of the sick gather in the streets. More than hundred people has been reported dead.’
“You see that?” He looked at her with seriousness.
“I’m not saying that you’re all killers,” she defended, “I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be trusted.”
“And what should we do with those, who we cannot trust?” He asked, “Lock them up and see how they react to no medicine?” He began to pack things up and stood up from their table, “We all have monsters inside us, Sharon.”
She had no idea how he knew her name until she came out in the hallway and saw giant posters sitting on the walls and lockers, even on the ceiling. Hundreds of posters all with the same message: Sharon Finnickee: Head of the killers of the sick-club. Everyone around her seemed to be only looking at her. All with the same portion of disgust and hate, only one person came to her with another look: the boy from before.
“Come on, let’s get you out of here,” he said and put a hand on her backpack, careful not to touch her skin or clothes. At the time she got outside, she was so disorientated from all the pictures of herself and the words: Head of the killers of the sick-club. Was that what people thought about her? Was that why no one would eat lunch with her? - Nobody but the boy walking beside her at least.
“What’s your name?” She asked when they got to the parking lot.
“Sean,” he answered and found his keys from his pockets.
“Sean, did you only know my name from those posters?”
“No,” he said and looked at her, “I know you, because we have classes together.” He locked up his car and opened the door for her. She looked inside to see if anything stood out. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I won’t smack your head against the window and eat you. This car is new.”
“I don’t get you,” she admitted, when they had driven for a while.
“I’m not as complicated as I look,” he answered with a smile on his face.
“Why are you helping me?” She asked.
“Because I want you to understand my point. We all have monsters inside of us. Those people back there? Their monster was shown today.” Suddenly he reached out for a room in her side of the car. It made her freeze, and he immediately pulled back, “Easy okay? Just proving my point.” She relaxed, and he opened the room and took out pills and a needle. “My monster only shows, when I don’t take this,” he said and shook the glass full of pills, “Now it’s your turn.”
“My turn to what?”
“To tell me about your inner monster,” he didn’t speak like it was something personal, and perhaps for him it wasn’t. His monster was visible for everyone to see. But for Sharon it meant everything. It meant ripping her rip case right open and guiding one into her heart. It meant for her to come out of the shadows that had protected her for as long as she could remember. She shook her head in respond, and somehow he understood that it was too personal. “Okay,” he said, “not all monsters are as clear as mine.” He tossed the pills and the needle into the room again and locked it. There was something about the way he had shown her the pills. Under the sarcasm she saw a glimpse of embarrassment of guilt.
“Have you ever killed someone?” She asked, before she could think about it, then quickly added: “I have. Or I’ve killed some of … of you. I mean not the kinds on medicine, of course, but …”
“No,” he said, and the car has now stopped at the edge of a cliff. She knew this place. If she looked down, she would see a cemetery of all the people who had died under The Dead War. “But I’ve thought about it, which is just as bad, I guess.” He bit his lip suddenly looking nervous, “When I think about … about killing someone,” it was almost like it hurt for him to say, “I go out here. I remind myself of all the people who died, because of someone like me.”
“They were not like you.” Sharon surprisingly said. He looked at her, almost as surprised as herself, and asked: “How are they different from me?”
“They … they were killers. Their actions make them killers, while yours make you good. They make you a person.” They stare at each other for what feels like forever, and she could have sworn to see a spark in his eyes. “I see that, because of you.”
“Because of me?” His voice was full of confusion. He didn’t understand, but how could he, when Sharon felt the confusion herself? The boy in the other seat, Sean, looked and acted so human, he felt human. She could feel his humanity deep in her heart.
“Do you believe that we can change?” Sean asked, his voice going a bit numb.
“We all change,” She said, ”Into better, into worse. Only by ourselves we can decide if we will let our monsters loose. So, yes,” she paused and looked to him, suddenly with a mind – and heart – clearer than before and said: “I believe we already have,” and then, as if they were thinking the same thing, they unbuckled their seatbelts and leaned into meet each other’s lips.