The Surge: A Series- Chapter 1: Catalyst


Keith Carter, Student Contributor

They called it a virus, but I’m not so sure. What kind of virus could have done this?

In a matter of months, my world had become a wasteland. The streets were deserted. The Store clerks weren’t in their shops. The cars were left empty on the streets, the drivers having gone ages ago. And then there was me- me who was nothing before this. I was your classic back of the class nerd with a mean streak a mile long, and maybe that was what kept me alive.

When the Virus had struck at its fiercest, not everyone had become violent. Sure, there were more Georgias, but alongside those infected by Covid-fueled rage, there had been the Quiet Ones.

The Quiet Ones weren’t violent, nor did they disappear off the face of the earth. They were just… quiet.

As the numbers of my classmates had waned, the eerie silence had grown familiar. The Virus had left no stone unturned. People raged or disappeared or simply became silent, breathing shells.

Even now, when the violent ones had dispersed, and the disappearing ones had disappeared, it was easy yo find Quiet Ones still roaming around these parts, exercising their old routines with no concept of time.

The Quiet Ones weren’t violent, but that didn’t make them and less dangerous. Our small group of Unaffected had been downsized by underestimating the power of the Quiet Ones.

If I had to, I’d compare them to scavengers: vicious, silent, not to be messed with, but they were almost meek when untroubled; wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Now, tucked neatly into the shadows of the night, my companion and I kept silent, watchful eyes on ‘Clar’-Something, a quiet one dressed in a Gas & Go uniform with a name tag taped on, awkwardly hanging from a torn breast pocket.

Clar-Something was a quiet one that I was more than familiar with. A mane of jet black curls framing the face of the clerk that held emotionless brown eyes, the same ones who witnessed the events as Clar-Something worked shifts during the worst of things. The eyes moved slow, roving over the shards of glass that were shattered  on the floor from the escape of our last visit.

Contrary to their name and description, Quiet Ones weren’t always quiet. Even the slightest deviation from their routine would have them letting out this glass-shattering screech that would attract every Rager in a 10-mile radius.

Restraining their flailing limbs and covering open mouths could only do so much. It certainly couldn’t muffle the pitiful whimpers that the Quiet Ones made when forced into silence. It wouldn’t stop the crushing guilt of an end to those flailing limbs and quiet whimpers as they were forcefully reduced to the most silent state a person could exist: death. That wouldn’t be Clar-Something’s fate if I could help it.

Clar shifted, and next to me, a metal pipe started to raise, but I held out a hand. This quiet one didn’t need to die. It would be pointless when we were both capable of being stealthy.

In times like these, food wasn’t scarce, but very little of it was easy to access. Break a window to a locked building? Risk being attacked by the Ragers who traveled in groups of five or more with the occasional lone wolf or a couple who had shown their love through gnawing chunks of flesh from each other until even the rage could not keep them standing.

This Gas & Go in particular was the closest to ideal location for scavenging. Unlike grocery stores, small shops like gas stations weren’t packed to the brim with a mix of corpses and Quiet Ones. In little stores like these, all the corpses had been exposed and picked clean by passing Ragers; any routine-bound Quiet Ones would be minimal, stuck in the loop of standing around the store day and night, eating when their brains deemed it time.

Good ol’ Clar-Something sat behind a rusting register that made a slow clicking noise that my heartbeat seemed to try mimicking. A mockery thudded in my ears, a sweet symphony of ‘stay quiet, don’t get caught’.

We crept slowly across the floor, tractioned boots carefully avoiding soda-stained glass. Every step was accompanied by the flashing images of my comrade’s face being descended upon by howling Ragers, or the tears that would slip from Clar-Something’s eyes as he would be forced into silence.

Bags full, eerie silence in the backs of our minds, and a group of Unaffected waiting for us, my companion and I trekked towards home.