Ethan didn’t cry in front of Stacy, but once she was out of sight, he let it all out. Revenant scrambled into his lap and Ethan steered with one hand, petting with the other. He was so tired. What kind of a life was this? Barely able to talk, reviled by his friends, enemy to dogs. He rubbed Revenant’s head. Not all dogs. Could he even go home? He had an image of his parents shooing him away from their doorstep, and it broke his heart further.
Still, there he went. At the three story window beside the door, Duchess looked like she wanted to pounce on him as always, but no longer with the goal of licking his face. She bared her teeth and scratched at the window until Ted Stowe came rushing down. When he saw his son, all the blood drained from his face. He dragged Duchess from the door and then came to open it.
Ethan and his father hugged each other for a long moment. “You should go to your room before someone sees you. Are you hungry? I’ll bring you something to eat.”
Moments after he made it to his room, Ethan heard more shouting, then scrabbling and vicious barking at his door. He had never felt so frightened in his own house, and he curled up with the sheet on top of him until Dad managed to regain control of Duchess. Still, he stayed there until Dad came back with tuna sandwiches. He made them just right – sopping with mayonnaise and with slices of green olives on thick slices of sourdough bread. No sooner had his lips touched it than Ethan began to cry all over again.
He couldn’t say how long he sat there and cried, his father’s hand on his back. “Ethan, I’m so sorry. I know it’s hard. There’s no rush to do anything. I’m here if you need to talk, but take your time.”
Ethan reached for the sandwich and grimaced at the soggy bread. He took a bite anyway, and a little of his pain went away. “Can’t talk,” he finally managed. Then he growled to indicate that he meant it literally.
Ted nodded. “Do you want me to stay?”
Ethan shook his head, tears dripping from his chin. “Thank you. (grargh) Love you.”
Dad’s eyes betrayed his own sadness. “I love you, too, buddy.” He left, closing the door behind him.
Ethan put the sandwich down. This room was hardly the same without Princess. He struggled to think of why he should continue to exist. It seemed like everyone who wasn’t trying to kill him insisted he stay alive. Why shouldn’t his existence be his decision? What was even left for him in this world? He had one shot to take out a Sable and he missed. Well, not completely, but if she survived then he may as well have missed. He let out a heavy sigh.
He typed into Google “Sable family made the SP-12 virus” and clicked the first link to a video.
A dark-skinned middle-aged man with dyed red hair and staring white eyes leered into the camera. “The Sable Family has been behind SP-12 since it was first discovered in the 70’s.”
“Knew it.” grunted Ethan.
“They were trying to create a virus to kill black and brown people and create a pure white race, but they ended up creating a brand new underclass to oppress and they stuck with it.”
“Wow.” Ethan wondered how a family that proudly traced its lineage to a Japanese engineer could be supervillain-caliber white supremacists, but he kept watching.
“It’s simple – the virus makes people look funny and literally takes away their voice. The public relations campaign was all that was left. Zombies are dangerous. They’ll eat your children.”
Ethan nodded, some feeling returning to him. He rubbed Revenant on the head, letting the little dog remind him what he was now. Even if he had nothing left to enjoy in life, he still had a purpose.
The man on the screen continued, “they trained people just like they did dogs. If you tell people that SP-12 was a joint plot by the Sable family and the Nixon government to kill black and brown people, they’ll tell you you’re crazy.”
“Hmph” This was getting a little too silly. Ethan clicked to the next YouTube video. “Sable Family CREATED zombie virus!?!!?!?!”
A young woman with a long ponytail and an Anarchy t-shirt spoke to a handheld camera. “The Sable Family, of Sable Engineering fame, are demon-worshipping pedophiles who released zombie Lyme disease onto this plane of existence when their summoning spell went wrong. You see, there are many planes of reality. I got struck by lightning and gained the power to create killer YouTube content.”
Ethan clicked to the next video: “A Short History of The Sable family and The Zombie Virus”
A claymation played where people walked into a factory and green-clay zombies shambled out. A voiceover asked “where did SP-12 come from? Who is responsible? Why did they do it? We don’t know for sure, but it can be reasonably surmised that the Sable family is involved.”
Rapt, Ethan watched as little clay scientists dripped green liquid into a test tube.
“In the early 1970’s, the Sable family was dabbling in the nascent field of bioengineering.”
A blonde clay man guzzled down a test tube and clutched his neck. The camera zoomed in to see his skin turn green patch-by-patch.
“When their test subjects began groaning and wandering aimlessly, they realized they had a brilliant weapon to share with the department of defense. It could turn the tide of the Vietnam war.”
A tiny black clay arachnid shuffled across a white floor.
“They successfully put it into a vector – the common tick.”
A truck carrying oversized vials rolled down a highway, but swerved out of control and crashed, spewing clay ticks all over the cars in front of it. The passengers got out and got covered in ticks. They turned green and stuck their hands out in front of them.
“But the first delivery crashed, and when the news got out of the new disease, the government disavowed ever making the order.”
Fat monopoly mascots in white moustaches and top hats point at shambling zombies and bob their heads in laughter.
“Now the Sable family fills their coffers on zombie-related services. They have developed five cures just for fun, but what’s even more fun is seeing poor people suffer.”
Not just poor people, Ethan thought bitterly. He’d love to get his hands on one of those cures. But how was it remotely plausible that a company built on zombie-related services would undermine its own business model? The exact details of what the Sables did didn’t matter. This was proof enough that he was right that they were guilty. However he had to, he would recommit himself to their downfall.
Revenant noticed Ethan had stopped petting him and nosed his hand. “G’boy,” Ethan said. He put his hand back on the little dog’s head as he opened a document to brainstorm ideas to take down the Sable family.
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