Future Says Run

Summary – Still suffering the effects of a sorceress's cruelty from long ago, humanity has learned to adapt to this altered reality where loved ones' lives can be irrevocably shattered without warning. Rinoa Heartilly thought she'd been more than acquainted with the unfairness of this life, but little did she know it was only the beginning. AU for the Where I Belong Inspired Challenge.

Author's Notes – The long and short of it is that I've returned to the AU world (though not back in the classroom) for the Where I Belong Inspired, henceforth known as WiBi, Challenge – an offshoot of the WIB challenge that goes on 'til the end of November for longer works. I warn you in advance that this is probably a little more straightforward of a story to help make sure I don't spend the rest of October/November just planning notes obsessively (because doing that for one fic is bad enough) – I kinda want a fighting chance at making the deadline.

Lastly, this fic is dedicated to ninjafallow/RootOfAllEvil – if it weren't for our tangent-happy conversations, I would have never gotten the idea for this in the first place.

Also, zombies.



Prologue – Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, there was a sorceress who sought to rule the world.

To achieve her goal, she convinced the people of the land to help her out by placing a curse on the loved ones of strong capable adults, promising to lift the curse of unknown horrors if they swore undying allegiance to her and her cause. Helpless to stop her power play, many did just that, helping her ravage the towns and villages until they were firmly under her possession.

Soon before long, her colonies of the faithful grew in large numbers and she had become within reach of absolute control.

But then the dam finally broke. The last straw was had. Whispers grew into screams. "So how come we've never seen the effects of this so-called curse?" they cried. Revolution was in the air and her subjects mutinied and the numbers quickly overwhelmed her. They say that the only sound that was heard during this coup was the overflow of the raging river. Pockets full of stones, she sank down to her watery grave, heart impaled with a bewitched blade.

With the witch overthrown, the people rejoiced, the rebuilding of structures began and the world started to heal.

But little did they know that the injuries caused by the sorceress ran much deeper than the edifices left in ruin and families torn apart in war. It was not a flesh wound they were recovering from — it was merciless killing strike, piercing the heart of the populace in kind and letting it hemorrhage.

One by one, the town's young adults started to turn violent and lose all rational thought with no apparent cause, wandering the streets to satiate basic physiological needs and hungers with no reservation or sense of propriety. Those kept restrained by sympathetic and hapless family members, friends or lovers were not spared from the same fate as those who found themselves with a bullet lodged between the eyes. The mind degeneration always worsened to the point of permanent confusion and imagined pain (leading to the infected's false belief that consuming the unaffected's brain matter helped) and all traces of what made the person themselves were wiped from existence – the body became nothing more than a decorative husk, fabricating the illusion of hope.

And that illusion continued when the children born post-sorceress appeared to be unaffected by this curse, only to have it come crashing down when this new generation neared adulthood and a new wave of zombie-ism broke out once more, leaving a new cycle of mourning and loss all over again and the realization that the once-questioned effects were all-too real and all-too permanent.

The sorceress's conservative tactics had been her undoing in life but made for an indelible mark on the world in death — couples stopped having children altogether in droves while others who had often carried the sad gleam in their eyes, knowing that their precious children would have to be buried far sooner than nature intended, denied the chance at the full life they deserved.

While you might think this was some kind of allegory to teach children and even adults about the consequences of making rash and poorly-thought out decisions, I can tell you that it's the furthest thing from the truth. The truth is that this is reality for the people of this world, a 'fable' presented to children at a very young age, only to be revealed as a factual account of the past once they hit their teenage years.

Yeah, it sounds kind of cruel when you consider they're only told a few years before hitting that aforementioned important and life-altering — or rather life-mutilating — milestone but, things have come a long way since then. Being born wasn't a death sentence anymore (well, at 18, I mean - nobody's immortal here) – scientists found a way to drastically reduce the chances of becoming a zombie by administering a vaccine to kids fresh out of their diapers.

The only problem was that there was a part of the magical element of the curse that made it impossible to make the vaccine 100% effective so kids were told about another not-so fantastical place alongside that fable – the Well-Being Center. Basically, they were told that their older brothers, sisters, cousins or friends went there because they were really sick with 'transition fever' and didn't always come home or at least come home the same.

I always imagined that they capped that sugar-coated explanation with a life-lesson about the importance of appreciating the time you had with your older friends or family members and some arts and crafts time to make some sick people some construction paper get-well cards. I imagined this because I never attended one of these things firsthand - my dad never handed in the permission slip to allow me to be in the room when they had a social worker do a presentation for this in my second grade class. Not like it really mattered since I was the only child of only children.

But…if I wanted to be honest with myself, it probably mattered far more than I cared to admit.

After all, right now I'm currently lying in a Well-Being Center bed, waiting for my morning breakfast to come and I wasn't even sick or recovering from transition fever.

In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm coming up on 3 years' worth of mornings just like these here.