The following is an extract from the memoirs of John Twinings, the first elected president of the Free Greyskins. The events documented here took place approximately two years before the Free Greyskins colony was formally recognized by humans.
Chapter 1, Book 1
“I could really use a bite right now,” Simon muttered.
“Shut up. Talking about eating just makes the hunger worse.”
Simon snarled at a passing pinkskin, who didn’t take this very well.
“You’d better watch it, greyskin,” the man said, hand on his holster. “Or you’re gonna be a dead man in more ways than one.”
“Oh, very clever, pinkskin. Did it take you all day to think of that?”
The man took out his gun and pointed it at Simon’s head. “You wanna say that again?”
Against my better judgement, I intervened.
“I’m sorry,” I said to the pinkskin. “He doesn’t mean anything by it.”
The man spat on Simon’s feet before walking away.
Perhaps I’d better start at the beginning.
The year is 2049. I died twenty years ago. In 2019, scientists found a way to stop the aging process permanently. They called it Immortalis. Billionaires, celebrities and athletes received a complimentary dose of Immortalis as brand ambassadors. Six weeks after the commercial launch, every single human who had taken Immortalis died peacefully in their sleep. Three days after the first wave of Immortalis deaths, the recently deceased clawed, bit, and screamed their way out of the mortuary and through every city in the world. They were very, very hungry.
A week later, 10% of the population was infected. A year later, only 5% of the world’s population was still alive. The rest of us were greyskins – stuck in a state of undeath and cursed with an insatiable hunger for living flesh. When the pinkskins took back the cities, they asked each greyskin the same question: How many of the living have you eaten?
I’ve lost track. The only one I truly regret is Emily.
Simon and I began to shuffle back to our allocated cell. It took us about an hour to get back to the cell from the worksite; if we walked too quickly, our ID collars would emit an electrical charge. Not enough to fry our brains and bring us true death, but enough to hurt – a lot. If I were still a pinkskin, I guess I would consider myself poor. Our cell is slightly larger than a broom closet – just enough standing space for Simon and myself. The truth is, there is no rich or poor any more – it’s just greyskins and pinkskins.
“Hey, are you listening or not?” Simon whined.
“Sorry, I was thinking. What were you saying?”
“I was saying,” he whispered, “I think I know how we can escape.”
“And this is different from your last fifty escape plans… how, exactly?”
“We have something we didn’t have before,” he said, very quietly.
“And what do you have this time, Simon?”
He answered so softly, I could barely make out what he was saying.
“A pinkskin. A pinkskin who’s going to help us.”
“Simon,” I said, very slowly, “This is either going to be the worst or the best plan you’ve ever had.”
A female pinkskin passed us by, pointedly giving us a wide berth. She wore a pearl necklace exactly like the one I’d given Emily for our anniversary, about twenty-five years ago. I stared at the necklace, and she shrank back, reaching for her gun. I wanted to tell her that the disgust she felt could never come close to what I grappled with in the heavy, silent hours before the next labour shift. I wanted to tell her it wasn’t my fault. The barest trace of pity flickered in her eyes before she scurried away, heels clicking coldly on the clean, bare pavement. As we entered our cell, the morning curfew sirens screamed. Muffled wails filtered through our cell door – some greyskins hadn’t made it back in time, and their brains had been fried by their ID collars. Lucky bastards.
“I’m in,” I said.
This short first appeared on twntysthg.sg. I originally intended it to be a standalone spec fic short, but I realized that there was a lot of mileage in the story concept.
I decided to present it as serialized fiction online, rather than developing it as a novel, chiefly because it’s an allegory of xenophobia, and I wanted the story to be able to stay nimble and evolve in tandem with the issues that it reflects.