At this point, Ravi paused in his rendition of the story (the version I have given you here is much more concise and less hyperbolic than his).  He gulped his now cold tea and stared into the fire for a while.  It was getting dark outside now.

            “Mind if I finish this later?”

            “That’s fine.”

            Cat made dinner and they ate for a while in silence.  She noticed that Ravi was picking at the food and moving it around his plate but not really eating it.

            “Ravi, is something wrong?”

            “Sorry,” he mumbled.  “Just thinking.”

            “About Benny?”

            He nodded and grimaced as the food stuck painfully in his throat above the lump that had formed there.  “If I hadn’t…If I hadn’t brought him to the hospital, he might still…be…he might still be alive!”

            “What?  But how?”

            “I don’t think the dog that bit him was rabid.  I did then, but I don’t now.  I went to the hospital every day while he was in quarantine…I couldn’t see him, of course, but I could get information from the doctors.  He never got any symptoms.  He had one more day left in quarantine.  Then…then…” his voice cracked.  “They killed him.  They killed all of them.”

            “Who killed them? The hospital?”

            “No.”  He swallowed.  “A mob.  An armed mob.  They were afraid of them, afraid of the ‘zombies.’  They came, hundreds of them, and they they surrounded it and set it on fire.  Anybody who got out—patients, doctors, nurses…it didn’t matter—they shot them, poured oil on them, and set fire to them, too.  I saw them at it, but…but I couldn’t…but I couldn’t do anything about it.  Mass murder, that’s what it was.  And so pointless.  For every one ‘zombie’ in the hospital, there must have been fifty outside of it within a mile radius.”

            This was one of Ravi’s characteristic exaggerations—the ratio was actually closer to 1:3—but the point remained and Cat didn’t bother to question it.  She got up, put an arm around him, and gently guided him to the living room before he could faint into his mashed potatoes.

The End

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