When the infrastructure had fallen apart during the Crisis, there were fears that there would be great food shortages. Those happened, but that was not the most destructive consequence. It was the little things, the things people didn’t think about. In particular, little things that would have gone to hospitals and veterinary clinics all over the world. A vaccine. A serum. A cure. Now out of production and distribution. Something Ravi didn’t think about until he was pushing Benny, who had received a nasty dog bite, to the hospital in a wheelbarrow.
He sort of pushed it to the back of his mind, convincing himself that the hospital had probably managed to acquire rabies shots from somewhere, just as they had done with the penicillin. Had he given it further thought, he might have remembered that penicillin was a heck of a lot easier to cultivate in a simple Petri dish than dead viruses. His oversight was understandable, however, as his concentration was occupied primarily by navigating a wheelbarrow containing a hundred-thirty pounds of Benny over piles of rubble left over from the Crisis in triple-digit temperatures. He only really became concerned about it when he reached the hospital and the attendant took one look at Benny, blanched, and groaned, “Dear God, another one?!”
Benny must have grasped the gravity of the situation before Ravi had, and he had been mulling it over for the whole ride. “Isn’t there anything that can be done?”
“We can sew you up,” she replied. “Then we’ll have to put you in quarantine. No symptoms after one month, and you’re free!” At this, she tried to smile reassuringly, but it was kind of weak.
Ravi left the hospital with a light wheelbarrow and a heavy heart. He walked aimlessly, in a daze. What was rabies, really? Yes, he knew a few tidbits about it: Pasteur and viruses and mad dogs and so forth, the things that didn’t really matter when it came down to business. It made an appearance in To Kill a Mockingbird and Their Eyes Were Watching God and other pieces of assigned literature he had encountered but never actually read in high school. It was the disease that inspired the myths about werewolves and vampires and zombies. When people or animals got it, they couldn’t swallow their own spit, so they drooled and foamed at the mouth. It messed with their minds, made them angry and aggressive and more likely to infect someone else. That what was what the disease wanted, wasn’t it? To spread? To leap to the next victim before it killed its current vehicle?