by Sarah Hans
I risk walking to the doctor’s office from my workplace, because it’s only a few blocks, and I think the fresh air will do me some good. I don’t tell anyone I’m going alone, or that I’m walking. I know what they’ll say. Outside without an escort, without the safety of an enclosed vehicle, my heart thrums like a tap dancer’s quick steps. I should be scared or thrilled by the prospect of imminent danger, but I’m too frightened of the news waiting for me at the doctor’s office to be worried about much else. As I walk, I become more and more convinced the news reports about the gangs of feral children, with their pictures of mutilated bodies and wide-eyed reporters speaking in quavering voices, are attempts to manipulate us with fear. To keep us inside. My coworkers are fools to walk in groups, to rush from their cars to the office with Tasers and pistols clutched in their fists. There is no danger here.
But then I see the girl, and I know I’ve made a mistake. She crouches behind a bush, and when I spot her, I freeze like a rabbit. She locks eyes with me and rises out of the greenery. She’s maybe four years old, though that’s a guess. It can be hard to tell the age of a child who has been feral a long time, and I’ve never been around many children to begin with, even before the virus made them violent.
She wears a tiny pair of denim shorts and a purple t-shirt decorated with glitter hearts, both caked with gore. Her hair was once styled in pigtails, but one side droops sadly, and the other side is a crusted mass of red-brown scab in place of hair. Her face is twisted into a permanent snarl. Her front two teeth are missing, which would make the expression she wears comical if she didn’t have her hands held at the ready, fingers extended to grab, filthy fingernails ready to claw. A growl issues from low in her throat. Her eyes–bright green, shimmering like beetle wings in the sunlight–are filled with hatred and bloodlust. She smells like stale urine and blood and roadkill. (Continue Reading…)