• The streets were empty. A few abandoned cars sat like old, rusted corpses. Patches of fog rolled their way around. The ever-present hum of electricity was gone. The world had become so silent that one could hear the trees groan.

    The light tap of footsteps broke that silence, the sound itself almost enough to send a ripple through the grass. A small figure walked down the middle of the street, hunched slightly against the cold wind.

    The baggy sweatshirt tried to hide the fact that this was a girl. Her pale, slender face, surrounded by blonde hair betrayed it, though. The clothes were old and dingy, holes fraying through here and there. They were all the girl ever wore, though, no matter how many abandoned homes she found.

    Finding those was not a problem. The only ones with people still inside were so well barricaded that no one could get out on purpose, much less in by accident. The girl walked down the roads every day, stopping in any house when she got tired. She would eat what little food she could find, then sleep on the floor, despite the empty beds.

    Sometimes at night, the girl heard the bare footed slaps of other people outside. She never looked, though, nor did she open the door. They could be like her, seeking refuge, or they could be those whom she was seeking refuge from.

    It had not yet been a year since the release of the latest miracle drug, Maxinon. It could ease or end whatever ailment the user suffered from, with only a dry throat for a side-effect. It was nine months after commercial release that the long-term came into play.

    Twelve-year old Thomas McAllen had been arrested for biting his mother's throat out. His father had found him sitting next to the body, the blood drying on his face. Mr. McAllen had multiple gouges on his arms when he finally got Thomas to the hospital.

    All over the United States, cases of extreme and unexplained hostility were sprouting wildly. The murder rate leapt by twenty-five hundred in one day. The next, over half of the country was wanted for murder, assault, or other violent crimes. The President had stabbed his Attorney General with a pen while delivering a statement on the situation.

    Military and police forces were overwhelmed, with over three-fourths of their own people suffering from the condition. All borders were closed, with land mines and machine guns placed all along them. The rest of the world watched as the United States was eaten from the inside out by what had been dubbed the Maxinites.

    This girl in the street had escaped from her own home while her father had been busy throwing her mother around the living room, screaming about how he had actually hated her all these years. Of course, the girl's mother had fought back just as hard, or so the deep gashes on her father's face and arms seemed to say.

    Occasionally, the girl did meet others who had not taken Maxinon. They all looked the same; tired, beaten people with the dulled eyes of those who have seen too many things. She heard of how the other countires might be planning to invade and stop the Maxinites before they tried to spread. The girl knew there was no real worry there; they were as quick to attack each other as they were normal people.

    As the girl sat in her latest house, she thought she heard the rustle of movement outside. Quickly, she scrambled under the room's thankfully single window. There was someone out there. The girl could hear heavy, raspy breathing, even through the glass. She closed her eyes and whispered prayers. A few moments later, the breathing faded. The girl sank lower and began to cry quietly. It was then that a fist burst through the window, shattering it.

    The girl screamed as the hand reached in and latched onto her hair. She felt blood trickle from the hand and down her face as the arm wrenched her up. The other hand scrabbled for her throat. With another scream, this one more defiance than fear, the girl tore herself free.

    The person outside was a boy about the same age as her. He had thick-framed glasses and buzzed, brownish hair. His eyes were wide and he practically foamed at the mouth. As the girl retreated to the opposite wall, the boy tried to climb through the shattered window. He paid no heed to the remaining pieces of glass that sliced at him as he clambered through. With a crunch, the boy's feet hit the glass-strewn floor.

    The girl sobbed as the boy steadily approached. He had dried blood everywhere, and the fresh ran down it like macabre paint. In a last, desperate attempt at life, the girl grabbed the largest piece of broken glass she could find and waved it about. The edge sliced into her palm, but she was too frightened to notice.

    The boy wavered at this new danger. Even his chemical rage could recognize a threat. The girl sliced the air, roaring as she did. The boy responded in kind, his voice so bestial and gutteral, so unnatural, that the girl flinched back again. The boy took this regained advantage and charged. He knocked the girl flat against the wall, and she crumpled. He descended immediately, trying to sink his teeth into the girl's throat and end this. The girl twisted in fear, and he caught her shoulder instead. The boy was shocked, even through the fury, to discover that the girl had held onto that piece of glass, for as she screamed in pain, she also swung her arm, and buried it deep in the boy's neck.

    The boy roared in pain, letting go of the girl's shoulder and stumbling backwards. The roar had a gurgle behind it, though. Blood welled, and poured down the side of his neck. He tried to roar again, but only a wet howl made its way out. The boy coughed blood. With a last, choked cry, still full of rage, he slumped over, his eyes fixed on the girl in a stubborn glare.

    The girl did not move for many hours. She just sat and stared at the boy's eyes, which, even glassed over with death, burned into her. She finally looked down at her own hands. The blood had dried to a rusty brown. The gash from the glass was crusted over. It stung as tears splashed down on it.

    The girl set her head back, staring at the ceiling. The world as she knew it was gone. It had been for some time now. She closed her eyes as she tried to remember the last time she had just sat with people she loved and laughed. She couldn't. More tears streamed down her face, leaving two clean streaks.

    The girl heard a loud roar outside, and went to the window to look, no longer caring about Maxinites. She saw a vapor trail in the sky; a plane? A plane had not flown over the United States for many months now. She squinted as the plane appeared to suddenly turn down. Then she closed her eyes again. No, it wasn't a plane. Her eyes were filled with red as a light shone through her eyelids. She looked, and was enveloped by the most beautiful white light she had ever seen.