The only thing worse than being a zombie is being just human enough to know you’re turning into a zombie. Welcome to Project Z, where you’re never sure what’s worse: the living or the dead.
The buzzer rings, and the Thugs go wild. That’s what they do, stupid Thugs. Shaking the bars of their cages, rattling the rest of our bones, drooling and mewling in that way they do because they know that blood is about to be spilled.
There are four of them in their cage, each more disgusting and depraved than the rest. I shudder to think that, one day, I’ll be like them, too. But not now. Now I’m still conscious and coherent and can at least put my shirt on right side in.
And the Fugs, well, they just kind of cower. Knowing what’s coming next. What’s coming? Me. I’m next. I look at the rest of the Drugs in the cage—kids like me, really. Classmates from my old school: the jock, the actual thug, and the Goth chick.
We’ve been here, together, in this place, whatever it is, ever since our school got overrun by zombies a few weeks ago. Why we survived and no one else did, well, we’re still trying to figure that out. No one here will tell us.
They nod and step aside. My turn.
I move to the front of the cage and clench, then unclench my fists. I’m cold in my sweatpants and tank top, but wearing more doesn’t make me any less cold. The doctor in charge here says it comes from inside. No sense putting on clothes to cover the outside.
Besides, I was always a little “husky” before, so it’s nice to wear a tank top and not be self-conscious about my moobs and baby-fat belly. Now they’re all gone, replaced by lean, hard muscle.
I roll my head around and listen to the tendons crack in my neck; the Fugs shrink back in their cage. Technically, you’re not supposed to move beyond the square in the middle of the warehouse floor, the crooked one made out of red tape, but I always drift a little bit over toward Cage 2 just to spook the Fugs a smidge.
“Conner,” says Dr. Creed, who’s in charge of our cage. Shoot, he’s pretty much in charge of this whole place. “Play nice.”
I chuckle, watching the nearest Fug pee his pants.
Dr. Creed eyes me warily. “You’re getting a little too good at this, Conner,” he says, scratching his trademark goatee. “I’m going to have to move you in with the Thugs if you get any better.”
He winks. It’s an old joke. Nobody wants to be a Thug, not even the Thugs.
“Maybe if you’d come up with a more humane way of feeding us brains,” I say, bending over at the waist to touch my toes. I hear my spine crack with the effort. You have to be alert, after all. Some of these Fugs are pretty fast. “I wouldn’t have to get so good at this.”
Creed nods toward one of the guards by Cage 1. “I think you like being good at this, Conner. I think it suits you.”
As the guard unlocks the cage and reaches in to grab a Fug, I look back at Creed. He takes a step back.
“I think you’re right,” I growl.