One of Us


By Craig DiLouie

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$34.00 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 17, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Known as “the plague generation” a group of teenagers begin to discover their hidden powers in this shocking post-apocalyptic coming of age story set in 1984.

“This is not a kind book, or a gentle book, or a book that pulls its punches. But it’s a powerful book, and it will change you.” — Seaman McGuire
They’ve called him a monster from the day he was born.

Abandoned by his family, Enoch Bryant now lives in a rundown orphanage with other teenagers just like him. He loves his friends, even if the teachers are terrified of them. They’re members of the rising plague generation. Each bearing their own extreme genetic mutation.

The people in the nearby town hate Enoch, but he doesn’t know why. He’s never harmed anyone. Works hard and doesn’t make trouble. He believes one day he’ll be a respected man.

But hatred dies hard. The tension between Enoch’s world and those of the “normal” townspeople is ready to burst. And when a body is found, it may be the spark that ignites a horrifying revolution.




We walk on two legs not on four.

To walk on four legs breaks the law.

—Oingo Boingo,
“No Spill Blood,”

Good for Your Soul (1983)


On the principal’s desk, a copy of Time. A fourteen-year-old girl smiled on the cover. Pigtails tied in blue ribbon. Freckles and big white teeth. Rubbery, barbed appendages extending from her eye sockets.

Under that, a single word: WHY?

Why did this happen?

Or, maybe, why did the world allow a child like this to live?

What Dog wanted to know was why she smiled.

Maybe it was just reflex, seeing somebody pointing a camera at her. Maybe she liked the attention, even if it wasn’t the nice kind.

Maybe, if only for a few seconds, she felt special.

The Georgia sun glared through filmy barred windows. A steel fan whirred in the corner, barely moving the warm, thick air. Out the window, Dog spied the old rusted pickup sunk in a riot of wildflowers. Somebody loved it once then parked it here and left it to die. If Dog owned it, he would have kept driving and never stopped.

The door opened. The government man came in wearing a black suit, white shirt, and blue-and-yellow tie. His shiny shoes clicked across the grimy floor. He sat in Principal Willard’s creaking chair and lit a cigarette. Dropped a file folder on the desk and studied Dog through a blue haze.

“They call you Dog,” he said.

“Yes, sir, they do. The other kids, I mean.”

Dog growled when he talked but took care to form each word right. The teachers made sure he spoke good and proper. Brain once told him these signs of humanity were the only thing keeping the children alive.

“Your Christian name is Enoch. Enoch Davis Bryant.”

“Yes, sir.”

Enoch was the name the teachers at the Home used. Brain said it was his slave name. Dog liked hearing it, though. He felt lucky to have one. His mama had loved him enough to at least do that for him. Many parents had named their kids XYZ before abandoning them to the Homes.

“I’m Agent Shackleton,” the government man said through another cloud of smoke. “Bureau of Teratological Affairs. You know the drill, don’t you, by now?”

Every year, the government sent somebody to ask the kids questions. Trying to find out if they were still human. Did they want to hurt people, ever have carnal thoughts about normal girls and boys, that sort of thing.

“I know the drill,” Dog said.

“Not this year,” the man told him. “This year is different. I’m here to find out if you’re special.”

“I don’t quite follow, sir.”

Agent Shackleton planted his elbows on the desk. “You’re a ward of the state. More than a million of you. Living high on the hog for the past fourteen years in the Homes. Some of you are beginning to show certain capabilities.”

“Like what kind?”

“I saw a kid once who had gills and could breathe underwater. Another who could hear somebody talking a mile away.”

“No kidding,” Dog said.

“That’s right.”

“You mean like a superhero.”

“Yeah. Like Spider-Man, if Spider-Man half looked like a real spider.”

“I never heard of such a thing,” Dog said.

“If you, Enoch, have capabilities, you could prove you’re worth the food you eat. This is your opportunity to pay it back. Do you follow me?”

“Sure, I guess.”

Satisfied, Shackleton sat back in the chair and planted his feet on the desk. He set the file folder on his thighs, licked his finger, and flipped it open.

“Pretty good grades,” the man said. “You got your math and spelling. You stay out of trouble. All right. Tell me what you can do. Better yet, show me something.”

“What I can do, sir?”

“You do for me, I can do plenty for you. Take you to a special place.”

Dog glanced at the red door at the side of the room before returning his gaze to Shackleton. Even looking at it was bad luck. The red door led downstairs to a basement room called Discipline, where the problem kids went.

He’d never been inside it, but he knew the stories. All the kids knew them. Principal Willard wanted them to know. It was part of their education.

He said, “What kind of place would that be?”

“A place with lots of food and TV. A place nobody can ever bother you.”

Brain always said to play along with the normals so you didn’t get caught up in their system. They wrote the rules in such a way to trick you into Discipline. More than that, though, Dog wanted to prove himself. He wanted to be special.

“Well, I’m a real fast runner. Ask anybody.”

“That’s your special talent. You can run fast.”

“Real fast. Does that count?”

The agent smiled. “Running fast isn’t special. It isn’t special at all.”

“Ask anybody how fast I run. Ask the—”

“You’re not special. You’ll never be special, Dog.”

“I don’t know what you want from me, sir.”

Shackleton’s smile disappeared along with Dog’s file. “I want you to get the hell out of my sight. Send the next monster in on your way out.”


Pollution. Infections. Drugs. Radiation. All these things, Mr. Benson said from the chalkboard, can produce mutations in embryos.

A bacterium caused the plague generation. The other kids, the plague kids, who lived in the Homes.

Amy Green shifted in her desk chair. The top of her head was itching again. Mama said she’d worry it bald if she kept scratching at it. She settled on twirling her long, dark hair around her finger and tugging. Savored the needles of pain along her scalp.

“The plague is a sexually transmitted disease,” Mr. Benson told the class.

She already knew part of the story from American History and from what Mama told her. The plague started in 1968, two years before she was born, back when love was still free. Then the disease named teratogenesis raced around the world, and the plague children came.

One out of ten thousand babies born in 1968 were monsters, and most died. One in six in 1969, and half of these died. One in three in 1970, the year scientists came up with a test to see if you had it. Most of them lived. After a neonatal nurse got arrested for killing thirty babies in Texas, the survival rate jumped.

More than a million monster babies screaming to be fed. By then, Congress had already funded the Home system.

Fourteen years later, and still no cure. If you caught the germ, the only surefire way to stop spreading it was abstinence, which they taught right here in health class. If you got pregnant with it, abortion was mandatory.

Amy flipped her textbook open and bent to sniff its cheesy new-book smell. Books, sharpened pencils, lined paper; she associated their bitter scents with school. The page showed a drawing of a woman’s reproductive system. The baby comes out there. Sitting next to her, her boyfriend Jake glanced at the page and smiled, his face reddening. Like her, fascinated and embarrassed by it all.

In junior high, sex ed was mandatory, no ifs or buts. Amy and her friends were stumbling through puberty. Tampons, budding breasts, aching midnight thoughts, long conversations about what boys liked and what they wanted.

She already had a good idea what they wanted. Girls always complimented her about how pretty she was. Boys stared at her when she walked down the hall. Everybody so nice to her all the time. She didn’t trust any of it.

When she stood naked in the mirror, she only saw flaws. Amy spotted a zit last week and stared at it for an hour, hating her ugliness. It took her over an hour every morning to get ready for school. She didn’t leave the house until she looked perfect.

She flipped the page again. A monster grinned up at her. She slammed the book shut.

Mr. Benson asked if anybody in the class had actually seen a plague child. Not on TV or in a magazine, but up close and personal.

A few kids raised their hands. Amy kept hers planted on her desk.

“I have two big goals for you kids this year,” the teacher said. “The main thing is teach you how to avoid spreading the disease. We’ll be talking a lot about safe sex and all the regulations about whether and how you do it. How to get tested and how to access a safe abortion. I also aim to help you become accustomed to the plague children already born and who are now the same age as you.”

For Amy’s entire life, the plague children had lived in group homes out in the country, away from people. One was located just eight miles from Huntsville, though it might as well have been on the moon. The monsters never came to town. Out of sight meant out of mind, though one could never entirely forget them.

“Let’s start with the plague kids,” Mr. Benson said. “What do all y’all think about them? Tell the truth.”

Rob Rowland raised his hand. “They ain’t human. They’re just animals.”

“Is that right? Would you shoot one and eat it? Mount its head on your wall?”

The kids laughed as they pictured Rob so hungry he would eat a monster. Rob was obese, smart, and sweated a lot, one of the unpopular kids.

Amy shuddered with sudden loathing. “I hate them something awful.”

The laughter died. Which was good, because the plague wasn’t funny.

The teacher crossed his arms. “Go ahead, Amy. No need to holler, though. Why do you hate them?”

“They’re monsters. I hate them because they’re monsters.”

Mr. Benson turned and hacked at the blackboard with a piece of chalk: MONSTRUM, a VIOLATION OF NATURE. From MONEO, which means TO WARN. In this case, a warning God is angry. Punishment for taboo.

“Teratogenesis is nature out of whack,” he said. “It rewrote the body. Changed the rules. Monsters, maybe. But does a monster have to be evil? Is a human being what you look like, or what you do? What makes a man a man?”

Bonnie Fields raised her hand. “I saw one once. I couldn’t even tell if it was a boy or girl. I didn’t stick around to get to know it.”

“But did you see it as evil?”

“I don’t know about that, but looking the way some of them do, I can’t imagine why the doctors let them all live. It would have been a mercy to let them die.”

“Mercy on us,” somebody behind Amy muttered.

The kids laughed again.

Sally Albod’s hand shot up. “I’m surprised at all y’all being so scared. I see the kids all the time at my daddy’s farm. They’re weird, but there ain’t nothing to them. They work hard and don’t make trouble. They’re fine.”

“That’s good, Sally,” the teacher said. “I’d like to show all y’all something.”

He opened a cabinet and pulled out a big glass jar. He set it on his desk. Inside, a baby floated in yellowish fluid. A tiny penis jutted between its legs. Its little arms grasped at nothing. It had a single slitted eye over a cleft where its nose should be.

The class sucked in its breath as one. Half the kids recoiled as the rest leaned forward for a better look. Fascination and revulsion. Amy alone didn’t move. She sat frozen, shot through with the horror of it.

She hated the little thing. Even dead, she hated it.

“This is Tony,” Mr. Benson said. “And guess what, he isn’t one of the plague kids. Just some poor boy born with a birth defect. About three percent of newborns are born this way every year. It causes one out of five infant deaths.”

Tony, some of the kids chuckled. They thought it weird it had a name.

“We used to believe embryos developed in isolation in the uterus,” the teacher said. “Then back in the Sixties, a company sold thalidomide to pregnant women in Germany to help them with morning sickness. Ten thousand kids born with deformed limbs. Half died. What did scientists learn from that? Anybody?”

“A medicine a lady takes can hurt her baby even if it don’t hurt her,” Jake said.

“Bingo,” Mr. Benson said. “Medicine, toxins, viruses, we call these things environmental factors. Most times, though, doctors have no idea why a baby like Tony is born. It just happens, like a dice roll. So is Tony a monster? What about a kid who’s retarded, or born with legs that don’t work? Is a kid in a wheelchair a monster too? A baby born deaf or blind?”

He got no takers. The class sat quiet and thoughtful. Satisfied, Mr. Benson carried the jar back to the cabinet. More gasps as baby Tony bobbed in the fluid, like he was trying to get out.

The teacher frowned as he returned the jar to its shelf. “I’m surprised just this upsets you. If this gets you so worked up, how will you live with the plague children? When they’re adults, they’ll have the same rights as you. They’ll live among you.”

Amy stiffened at her desk, neck clenched with tension at the idea. A question formed in her mind. “What if we don’t want to live with them?”

Mr. Benson pointed at the jar. “This baby is you. And something not you. If Tony had survived, he would be different, yes. But he would be you.”

“I think we have a responsibility to them,” Jake said.

“Who’s we?” Amy said.

His contradicting her had stung a little, but she knew how Jake had his own mind and liked to argue. He wore leather jackets, black T-shirts advertising obscure bands, ripped jeans. Troy and Michelle, his best friends, were Black.

He was popular because being unpopular didn’t scare him. Amy liked him for that, the way he flouted junior high’s iron rules. The way he refused to suck up to her like the other boys all did.

“You know who I mean,” he said. “The human race. We made them, and that gives us responsibility. It’s that simple.”

“I didn’t make anything. The older generation did. Why are they my problem?”

“Because they have it bad. We all know they do. Imagine being one of them.”

“I don’t want things to be bad for them,” Amy said. “I really don’t. I just don’t want them around me. Why does that make me a bad person?”

“I never said it makes you a bad person,” Jake said.

Archie Gaines raised his hand. “Amy has a good point, Mr. Benson. They’re a mess to stomach, looking at them. I mean, I can live with it, I guess. But all this love and understanding is a lot to ask.”

“Fair enough,” Mr. Benson said.

Archie turned to look back at Amy. She nodded her thanks. His face lit up with a leering smile. He believed he’d rescued her and now she owed him.

She gave him a practiced frown to shut down his hopes. He turned away as if slapped.

“I’m just curious about them,” Jake said. “More curious than scared. It’s like you said, Mr. Benson. However they look, they’re still our brothers. I wouldn’t refuse help to a blind man, I guess I wouldn’t to a plague kid neither.”

The teacher nodded. “Okay. Good. That’s enough discussion for today. We’re getting somewhere, don’t you think? Again, my goal for you kids this year is two things. One is to get used to the plague children. Distinguishing between a book and its cover. The other is to learn how to avoid making more of them.”

Jake turned to Amy and winked. Her cheeks burned, all her annoyance with him forgotten.

She hoped there was a lot more sex ed and a lot less monster talk in her future. While Mr. Benson droned on, she glanced through the first few pages of her book. A chapter headline caught her eye: KISSING.

She already knew the law regarding sex. Germ or no germ, the legal age of consent was still fourteen in the State of Georgia. But another law said if you wanted to have sex, you had to get tested for the germ first. If you were under eighteen, your parents had to give written consent for the testing.

Kissing, though, that you could do without any fuss. It said so right here in black and white. You could do it all you wanted. Her scalp tingled at the thought. She tugged at her hair and savored the stabbing needles.

She risked a hungering glance at Jake’s handsome profile. Though she hoped one day to go further than that, she could never do more than kissing. She could never know what it’d be like to scratch the real itch.

Nobody but her mama knew Amy was a plague child.


Goof saw comedy in everything. He liked to look on the sunny side. He enjoyed seeing the world differently than other people, which wasn’t hard considering his face was upside-down. When he smiled, people asked him what was wrong. When he was sad, they thought he was laughing at them.

He raised his toothbrush in front of the bunkhouse mirrors. The gesture looked like a salute. “Ready to brush, sir.”

He commenced brushing.

“Hurry up,” the other kids growled, waiting their turn.

Goof clenched his teeth and brushed faster but for twice as long. “’ook at me, I am b’ushing my ’eet’ ’eal ’ast.”

His antics had earned him his nickname and gained him some status in a community sorely lacking in entertainment. He liked to make the kids laugh. When that failed, annoying them to make himself laugh.

Then Tiny, the biggest kid at the Home, stomped into the bathroom. He elbowed one of the smaller kids aside and took his place at the mirrors.

Goof shut up and tilted his head to gargle and spit. He could only annoy so far, particularly around kids like Tiny. The Home forbade violence, but the teachers looked the other way as long as nobody disrupted its workings. If you went to a teacher to complain about a kid punching you, you were liable to get a smack and be told it was part of your education.

No matter. He’d done enough for one day. Today had been fun. The Bureau had sent out an agent for the annual interviews. Goof had tried a self-deprecating creeper joke that fell on deaf ears, the agent being the earnest type. Having failed to make him laugh, Goof decided to be annoying the best way he knew how.

“I’m Agent Shackleton,” the government man had said while lighting a cigarette. “Bureau of Teratological Affairs. You—”

“Know the drill, don’t you by now,” Goof finished. “I sure do, sir.”

The man scowled. “All right, that’s good. This year’s different, Jeff. I’m here to find out—”

“If you’re special,” Goof said. “No, I ain’t, I’m sorry to say.”

The man’s frown deepened. “How do you keep—”

“Doing that? I don’t know what you mean.”

“You keep—”

“Finishing my sentences.”

“Are you aware—”

“You keep doing that? Doing what, sir?”

Then he’d howled with laughter, a grating sound the teachers once told him sounded like a mule getting screwed where the sun don’t shine.

Agent Shackleton had smiled like he was in on the joke. “Thank you, Jeff. We’re done here.”

Goof had discovered his gift about six months ago. He’d finished Ms. Oliver’s sentences all through history class. Her jaw practically hit the floor. Everybody was cracking up. They couldn’t believe it.

Just wait until they all heard he’d stuck it to a Bureau man. He was about to become a hero of legend around here.

He undressed and climbed into his bunk with a satisfied sigh. Around him, the kids chattered as they got ready for bed. The old frame creaked as he settled on the grimy mattress. The lights clicked off minutes later.

Hero of legend, he thought as he drifted into sleep.

A hand shook him awake. “Rise and shine.”

The room was dark. It was still night.

“What’s that? What’s going on?”

He recognized Mr. Gaines standing at one side of bed, Mr. Bowie on the other. Teachers from the Home school.

“Get your duds on,” Mr. Gaines told him. “We’re taking a walk.”

Goof hopped down and pulled a T-shirt and overalls onto his skinny frame. He laced up his weathered boots. “If this is about the whatever, I’m sorry.”

The men didn’t laugh. There was nothing funny about this. When teachers woke you up at night, you were headed to Discipline. The other kids either kept snoring or lay rigid in their bunks, pretending to be asleep.

“Let’s go,” Mr. Gaines said.

“I didn’t do anything, honest.”

“That’s what they all say.”

The problem kids went to Discipline. The wild ones who broke the rules. No windows. A single chair bolted to the concrete floor, under a bare light bulb.

“I was just kidding around with the Bureau man,” Goof pleaded. “I didn’t mean nothing by it. Come on, Mr. Gaines. You know I ain’t one of the bad ones.”

Mr. Bowie placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and shoved, knocking him off balance. “Move it, shitbird.”

Goof stumbled outside on trembling legs. He was rarely outside at this hour and couldn’t help looking up. The sky was filled with stars. A great big world out there that didn’t care about his fate.

Lights blazed in the big house. Another world, a world of pain, awaited him. Brain had warned him to keep his special talent to himself. He’d said it would get him into the kind of trouble he couldn’t get out of. Lots of kids had talents now, and it was important to keep them a secret from the normals. Why didn’t he listen?

“Look at him,” Mr. Gaines said. “Shaking like a fifty-cent ladder.”

“He’s sweatin’ like a whore in church,” Mr. Bowie said.

Goof had heard kids in Discipline sat in the chair facing a big ol’ rebel flag. A giant blue X on an angry red field. As if to tell you that you were no longer in the USA but had entered a different country. A secret place with its own rules and customs. A place in history where they could do anything they wanted.

“No,” he begged. “Please don’t take me there.”

“Man up, boy,” Mr. Bowie said and gave him another shove.

A black van stood in the driveway in front of the house. Mr. Gaines walked over to it and opened the back doors.

“Your chariot awaits,” the teacher said.

“Wait,” Goof said. “I ain’t going to Discipline?”

“It’s your lucky day.”

Mr. Gaines waited for him to climb inside and take a seat in the back. Then he reached up and cuffed one of Goof’s hands to a steel bar running along the ceiling. “So long, Jeff. Don’t forget to send us a postcard.”

Mr. Bowie laughed as the doors slammed shut.

A man in gray overalls started the van. The headlights flashed on, illuminating rusted oil drums stacked by the utility shed.

“Hello, Jeff,” said a familiar voice from the passenger seat.

“Mr. Shackleton?”

“We’re going to take a long drive. You might as well sleep.”

“A drive? Just a drive? Is that true?”

A part of him thought this was all a big joke. The van’s doors would click open again, and Mr. Bowie would yank him out and drag him to the big house.

The van pulled away from the Home and started up the dirt track that led to the county road. Goof took a ragged breath and expelled it as a laugh.

As the Home disappeared in the dark, his relief slid headlong into another kind of panic. The Home wasn’t a nice place, but it was, well, home.

“Where are we going, sir?”

“Someplace nice,” Shackleton said. “You’ll like it.”

The agent leaned his seat back as far as it went and laid a fedora over his face.

Goof had rode in the back of one of the Home’s pickups during farm days, but never inside a van like this. He tried to imagine he was being chauffeured. He was a secret agent on his way to catch a plane to Paris.

The fantasy didn’t last. He was still shaking like that fifty-cent ladder.

“What’s your name?” he asked the driver.


  • "A powerful and heartbreaking tale about hate, fear, and truth. Author Craig DiLouie is fearless as he explores the dark territory of the human heart."—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author
  • "This is not a kind book, or a gentle book, or a book that pulls its punches. But it's a powerful book, and it will change you."—Seanan McGuire, author of Every Heart a Doorway
  • "Disturbing, beautiful . . . . A powerhouse of a novel. DiLouie continues to be the master of writing the human heart and all the terrors it contains."—Peter Clines, author of Paradox Bound and The Fold
  • "DiLouie has crafted something special, with sympathetic characters, tragedy, hope and humor all expertly woven together. One of Us is a stunning achievement in speculative fiction."—Shelf Awareness
  • "One of Us is a horror mash-up of Wild Cards and kid-capers like The Goonies, but its portrayal of hatred feels all too real - and will stay with you long after the book is done."—The Washington Post
  • "An amazing tour-de-force . . . One of Us rattled me to the core. An engrossing, emotionally-charged book and a work of terrible beauty. To Kill a Mockingbird-with monsters."—John Dixon, Bram Stoker Award-winning author
  • "The Girl with all the Gifts meets To Kill a Mockingbird."Claire North, author of 84K
  • "A character-driven and sometimes heartbreaking story about what happens to those of us who are different, and who the monsters truly are. DiLouie keeps the reader turning pages."—Megan Hart, New York Times bestselling author of All the Lies We Tell
  • "You shouldn't believe there aren't any truly original stories out there anymore, because One of Us is one of a kind." —Nicholas Sansbury Smith, author of The Extinction Cycle
  • "Frightening in its familiarity, One of Us is a tale of human monsters and monstrous humans - authentic, brutal, and inevitable."—David Walton, internationally bestselling author of The Genius Plague
  • "Craig DiLouie's One of Us is without a doubt one of the best books I'll read this year . . . . a compelling work of near perfection."—Bracken MacLeod, Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of Stranded
  • "Rich with well-defined characters, sharp writing, and a riveting premise, this is a novel not to be missed."—Jason V. Brock, author of The Dark Sea Within
  • "This seamless fable of loss, violence, and hope forces us to examine what it means to be different and what it means to be human."—Patrick Freivald, author of Jade Sky
  • "One of Us is a masterfully written, thought-provoking dark fairy tale, and one of the best books I've read in a long time. It will stay with the reader long after they've finished the last page."—Dana Fredsti, author of the Ashley Parker series
  • "One of Us is nearly impossible to put down."
    Shawn Chesser, author of The Promise

On Sale
Jul 17, 2018
Page Count
400 pages

Craig DiLouie

About the Author

Craig DiLouie is an acclaimed American-Canadian author of literary dark fantasy and other fiction. Formerly a magazine editor and advertising executive, he also works as a journalist and educator covering the North American lighting industry. Craig is a member of the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association, International Thriller Writers and Horror Writers Association. He currently lives in Calgary, Canada with his two wonderful children.

Learn more about this author