A man’s profile was framed in the doorway. His silhouette had the characteristic crookedness that Ravi could now so easily recognize, and as he entered, he lurched in that horrible, stomach-turning fashion that most of them had.
Ravi cocked the gun and the diseased man heard the click. He froze in his uneven tracks and tilted his head even further to the right than he had been holding it. The rainwater dripped from his saturated clothes and pooled on the floor in puddles visible in the blue rectangle of light cast through the door.
“Don’t…shoot me, stranger. I’m…just…looking for…shelter.”
Ravi lowered his gun and stepped out from behind the furniture. “Quite a storm out there, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Quite…a storm.”
“Cat,” Ravi instructed, “Put a few logs on the fire, please.”
She shot him a perplexed look, but he jerked his head sharply to tell her to get on with it, and she did. When the fire was roaring, hot and bright, Ravi directed the man—the zombie—over to the hearth and sat him down in front of it. Then they talked for a while about meaningless things until the infected man stopped shivering and nodded off, at which point Ravi put the pistol to his temple and shot him dead.
Cat gasped. “What did…? Why…? Why did you go to all this trouble if only to kill him?”
“So he would be comfortable in his last moments. Be treated like a human instead of a monster. He was still mostly lucid—he hadn’t yet entered the final stages of the disease—but by the time he would have woken up, there would be no returning. I had to kill him before he came after us, and that was the most humane way of going about it. No time to feel pain or fear.”
“But it isn’t humane, Ravi! Shooting someone in their sleep is just plain wrong!”
“Better than letting him suffer until he would have died naturally. I probably shortened his life by two days, Cat, two days in which he would have forgotten all emotions but hate and rage, forgotten what it feels like to not be in constant, terrible pain, and eventually he would have forgotten his own name and all it means to be human!”
“Ravi,” pleaded Cat. “This isn’t like you!”
He shoved the pistol back into its holster and whirled on her. “It’s the real world, Catriona! Wake up! Of course I’ve changed—the old Ravi is dead now. He died with Benny in the fire. I don’t know how to love anymore. I don’t remember what happiness is. I don’t know what living means anymore—just surviving. Perhaps I have lost my morals, as you accuse me of doing, but at least I still have empathy. That’s the only bit of my old self I have left.”
“What about the hyperbole? You have that left.”
Ravi rolled his eyes. “That isn’t the point. Now pack up. This place isn’t safe anymore.”