In James Dashner's The Maze Runner book series, "Crank" is a term used to describe human beings that have been infected with the Flare virus. In the books, Cranks are basically still human but have been reduced to savage, animal-like behaviour, attacking and cannibalizing those who haven't been infected. In the film The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, Cranks are depicted as being more zombie-like, featuring pale skin, darkened veins and severe wounds that ought to be debilitating or fatal.
When the world was devastated by the Flares, the Post-Flares Coalition released a man-made viral agent across the world. As far as the general population knew, the virus was brought to Earth by the Flares, but in truth the PFC released the pathogen as a means of population control. Even after the apocalyptic levels of death and destruction, the PFC still considered the remaining population too large to sustain with the limited resources available. The virus was intended to kill its victims quickly and with minimal suffering by shutting down the higher brain functions. However, the virus failed to produce the desired effect and those infected instead were driven insane, losing all higher reasoning and attacking the uninfected with mindless ferocity. The survivors would come to refer to those infected as "Cranks".
Total amplification time of the Flare virus differs from person to person, most likely depending on the strength of the subject's immune system, but the end result is always the same. Initial symptoms include loss of skin pigmentation and blackening of the subject's blood vessels. As time goes on, the infected subjects develop severe depression and violent tendencies, lashing out at others with little or no provocation. Eventually, the subject will go completely insane, becoming savage and bloodthirsty.
Cranks have only bestial intelligence, retaining little to no memory of their former lives and are driven solely to kill or infect others. They tend to devour those they kill, be they human or animal. Over time, perhaps due to malnourishment or further mutations caused by the Flare, Cranks take on a more corpse-like pallor as the skin withers and wounds do not heal properly. Additionally, Cranks that have survived for a prolonged period develop abnormal horn-like growths that extend from their skulls. These growths are gnarled and misshapen, resembling dead tree or shrub branches.
- In the books, Cranks are still technically alive in the biological sense. This makes them comparable to the Infected from 28 Days Later.
- While Cranks have a more corpse-like appearance in the Scorch Trials film, it is not confirmed if they are clinically "dead", thus they have not been classed as "Undead" on this wiki.