Mr. Gobi took Angela in his hatchback to Rice University Hospital with the windows open to try not to agitate Cody with Angela’s mild zombie smell. Stacy and Blas followed behind in their sedan. It wasn’t the closest hospital, and Stacy would have preferred to go to Halperin Memorial, but it was a compromise that they’d made with Angela to give her a little more impression of safety. Jack glared at Stacy and Mr. Gobi, each with one eye. Then he did the same with the nurses as they took Angela’s vital signs. He was well enough trained not to cross the line into being genuinely threatening, though, so he followed his charge through the ICU doors and they were gone. There was nothing to do but wait.
Stacy and Mr. Gobi sat in the waiting room, their dogs sleeping under the chairs, too tired for their usual grumbling and snapping at each other. The silence wore on, Stacy staring at her phone. Eventually Mr. Gobi asked a familiar question in his quiet voice, “How are you doing, Stacy?”
She was long past her defensive deflections, simply watching Blas’s belly gently rise and fall. “It’s a lot,” she admitted. “I just don’t understand. If Ethan and people like him are writing blog posts, then the word is out there. Zombies are people. Maybe there’s a point of no return after which a zombie’s humanity could be considered to be gone, but nobody knows how to measure it, and from what Ethan wrote, nobody really cares. At least not the people who should care the most. Anyone can shoot somebody in the head and then claim that they were full zombie. This is a humanitarian nightmare. Why aren’t there protests in the streets?”
Mr. Gobi nodded and sighed. “I’ve asked myself the same question for a decade. I’ve read a dozen dissertation papers with different answers. I think that in the end, the conflict of humans versus zombies is a more pleasant narrative than that of society’s failure to humanely deal with the biggest public health crisis in a millenium.”
Stacy couldn’t disagree with that. She stroked Blas’s head, staring at the multicolored carpet.
Mr. Gobi continued. “When people get frightened and confused by the horror of it all they turn to dog videos to distract themselves. The very footsoldiers in this fight. Cute animal kills nasty zombie. When a prominent figure catches the disease, they go to a high end containment facility and blog or Tweet or what have you, and their followers don’t think ‘oh, zombies are people’ they think ‘thank goodness they haven’t gone full zombie.’ When was the last time you remember that a prominent figure went full zombie and had to be killed?”
Stacy shook her head, and Mr. Gobi agreed. “I can’t think of anyone either. If Ethan didn’t have money, he’d go to a long term containment facility. Privately owned, paid for by the state of Nevada. Or he’d be shipped somewhere else. No visitors due to safety concerns. No outdoor space for inmates due to safety concerns.” Ever the teacher, Mr. Gobi made his next statement a question for his student. “What do you think the press policy is at these facilities?”
Stacy sighed. “No press?”
“People are so afraid of zombies that you can do anything in the name of safety.”
As Mr. Gobi continued, Stacy realized that his voice had become harsh. Not loud, but with an acid quality. “Nor have I found clear evidence that a truly unintelligent ‘full zombie’ state even exists. Zombies do terrible, gruesome things, but so do people in the same desperate circumstances. In the end, you can’t prove that ‘full zombie’ does not exist, and the idea is fundamental to the way our system is constructed.” As if realizing just the same in that very moment, he took a deep breath. “You don’t need to hear all that, do you? I’m sorry, it’s an issue close to my heart.”
“Mr. Gobi…” Stacy trailed off. “Are you…mad at Ethan?”
Mr. Gobi frowned. “Right now I’m only concerned with making sure Julia is going to be okay.”
“Okay, Angela. I want her to be all right.”
Stacy nodded and turned back to the floor. “But what about the other thing he did?”
Mr. Gobi didn’t know what to say until Stacy clarified. “Your daughter. Do you think you could ever forgive him?”
“What he did isn’t illegal.. It was self defense. And it wasn’t him, it was his dog.” Mr. Gobi rattled off the three excuses like he practiced them every day. Perhaps he did.
Stacy couldn’t meet his eyes. “But can you ever forgive him?”
Mr. Gobi pressed his lips together. “That’s a very personal question, Stacy, one that doesn’t seem to have much bearing after what he’s done now. Any reason you want to know?”
Stacy looked back at the carpet and was silent for a beat. She moved her hand and let Blas lift his head to it. She drew her hand back across the silky soft head of Angela Gobi’s real killer. She whispered without looking up, as if talking to the dog himself.