|“||Civilization slipped into its second dark age in a surprising track of blood, with a speed which had been unseen by even the most pessimistic futurist||„|
|~ Stephen King describing the Pulse which created the Phone Crazies.|
The Phone Crazies (sometimes spelled Phone-Crazies), also known as the Phoners, are the antagonists in the novel Cell, and they are humans which have been turned into zombies due to a computer virus hidden in cell phones which infects humans and turns them into complete monsters.
The phone crazies behave like stereotypical zombies, they are aggressive, murderous, and violent, but, unlike normal zombies, these are not the living dead, nor reanimated, but are just humans infected with a virus and, unlike normal zombies, these do not eat humans. Instead, they merely infect or kill them. And, unlike normal zombies, they all move at different speeds, not limited to super-speed or shuffling; they can be cunning and cruel.
Role in the novel
The phone crazies went insane during the release of the virus and then could not recognize each other; thus infected humans killed each other, because the virus was in the brain and destroyed sanity. However, two days later the infected began grouping, and voraciously eating stolen shop food, and then they migrated.
Later on, they banded in groups, now recognizing each other, and only came out in the day - continuing their diurnal lifestyle; thus meaning night was the safe time for uninfected human survivors. The phone crazies eventually became telepathic, and used the remaining 98% of their brains which they had previously been unable to unlock. However, loads of them got infections from other disease (being living, they were susceptible to diseases) and starvation, and exposure. The surviving infected got leaders, one of which was the Raggedy Man. He became the leader of those infected in the northern United States.
The infected gained the power of levitation and slowly managed to get speech back; but it was garbled and incoherent, yet survivors knew what they meant telepathically.
Intelligence and behaviour
The Phone Crazies originally start life as dim-witted predatory creatures, who are human in all but mentality. They see all other humans as objects to be disposed of and seek down any and all humans they encounter. They have no interest in self nourishment or in mortal danger; or in any concepts such as embarrassment or decency has been removed, in one case, a Phoner was stampeding along the city streets completely naked clutching two car aerials in his hands like knives. Later on, they seem to retain some of their humanity back, but in a way which makes them even more dangerous. The aforementioned Phoner was seen wearing jeans and a T Shirt later on in the novel, showing he had gotten back some of his humanity, but was even more cruel and sadistic in doing so.
Tom, one of the main protagonists, summed up humanity's evolution as "Primates gave rise to man, man gave rise to Phoners, Phoners gave rise to levitating telepaths with Tourette's Syndrome."
Clay, the main protagonist, theorized that there was, in fact, a cure for the Pulse which had been overlooked. He tested the cure out on his son, who had got infected by the Raggedy Man. Clay theorized that since the effects of the Pulse had had over a year to build up Phoner armies, thus, using the phones which the Pulse had transmitted through would have no effect on the infected humans and reverse the signal, thus curing the infected. Clay gave his son a phone call and it was implied he cured his infected son.