Maximum Ride: Dance with the Devil

The Eraser took a staggered step forward, towards me, and I shot him. The bullet punched through his forehead and I felt a rush of savage pleasure at the blood that trickled from the small wound. The beasts eyes rolled back into its head and it dropped heavily to the ground.

I wasn't always like this, you know? Once upon a time I'd never have considered using a gun. But things change. Since the plan to halve the world's population succeeded a lot of things had changed. So many dead. Their estimates weren't even close to accurate. So many bodies.

Angel touched my hand and I looked down at her; her cheeks were stained with charcoal, the skin beneath pale and fragile. Her blue eyes as she looked up at me were sunken and strained. She'd seen too much, heard too many thoughts of the dying, to be the same kid she was. We'd all seen too much.

I felt Iggy's presence at my back, his hand resting on my shoulder comfortingly. I used to wish it was Ig who got caught in the cross fire. Ig to be the one choking up the blood that filled his lungs. That the the blood had stained pale skin, not olive. I'd have wished anything just to have Fang back. He wasn't coming back.

Iggy knew, of course. How could he not? I'd screamed as much at him when he first tried to motivate me to leave Fang's side. It was Angel who made me leave. She made me leave him. I couldn't forgive her for that; I knew he was dead, that there was nothing more I could do, but I shouldn't have left him. I wouldn't have left him. She took my choice away from me, to keep herself safe, to keep all of them safe, even knowing that I'd hate her for it.

Angel was the real leader. She did what was best for us all; I just kicked ass and pointed out the direction we should head in. I tried to keep their conscience clean. I'd killed so many for them. Our world was simpler now. There were the Crazies; humans who didn't die, but lost it when the bombs went off. They went from the daily grind to apocalypse war time in the space of a week. Did I blame them? Well, yeah, but it really wasn't their fault.

Then we had the Erasers. I don't know how they happened. I hadn't thought they were meant for this new world but they were everywhere, hunting alone or in packs, breeding. They weren't like they used to be, evolution aided by man: stronger, faster, more savage, unrelenting, blood thirsty. They didn't stop until they were dead. The Soldiers were military men from all over the world and were still all over the world. They lived on military bases roving out in the darkened days to search for sane humans; they didn't have much luck, but a gold star for trying.

The Freaks were like us; sane little mutants that had nowhere to go and nothing to do. All we could do is live and even that is in the poorest sense of the word. We just killed, struggled to eat, searched for clean drinking water and shelter safe from the Crazies and the Erasers and the Soldiers. The Freaks we avoided just for the hell of it. We didn't want anything to do with them and they didn't seem to want much to do with us.

I looked up from the corpse, wishing vaguely I were still human enough to care how many I'd killed, nobody was human anymore. This dark world wasn't made for humans, it was a place of nightmares and everyone here was a monster.

"Up and away, guys, let's find some place to roost for the night," I said in a bitter charade of myself. I wasn't always like this, but nothing changes the past; there was no point pretending I was still Maximum Ride: idealist winged kid. I thought life was tough then, but this was hell, and one of these days I was going to come face to face with the devil himself. I couldn't wait for that day to come.