LV-42

He thought it was funny to cough near old people he passed on the train or bus. There was so much hysteria about LV-42, that he couldn’t help finding the whole situation to be extremely humorous. He would cough around mothers with small babies, the old, the infirm. His name was Fred, this minstrel of dearth. He had never been funny. Not before LV-42, not after. Not now. Never. He was the only one laughing. He tried to reason with people when they got angry at him for coughing and sneezing all over them during an outbreak such as this. He tried to tell them that this all has happened before. They had been through worse. They were being silly. He usually just barely avoided a beating. Sometimes he would get slapped or even punched, but an outright beating was rare. So he continued to do it. His favorite spot was a crowded train. It had the most spectacular effect. One poorly covered sneeze sent a wave a fear, repelling passengers from him at more than an arm’s length radius. It always had him roaring with laughter. Their faces were comical expressions of fear. Comical because he believed their fear to be irrational. He laughed and laughed until one day, someone made him stop. Most people were too afraid to give him the beating he deserved. In their minds, the risk of infection was too great. To some degree their fears were rational, which is what made his bad joke so much worse for everyone but him. He sneezed on a crowded train one day, and he began to laugh. From within the receding mass of commuters, he heard an angry, smoldering voice say just one word. “You…” A large man, young, fit, came forward. As usual, Fred tried to reason with him. But the young man just repeated the refrain. “You…” Without warning, the young man grabbed Fred’s neck and squeezed it with the force of a hydraulic press and the conviction of a virgin nun. As Fred’s eyes bulged out of his head, silently begging to escape, a few brave straphangers tried in vain to break the young man’s fierce grip, but failed. A tear ran down the young man’s cheek as Fred began to lose consciousness. “You… took her from me…” the young man said as his whole body trembled toward his goal. Fred’s body finally went limp, and the young man kept squeezing. Shouts of you’re killing him and somebody stop him faded into the background. The onlookers kept their distance, and by the time the police got to Fred’s lifeless body on the train floor, they had all disappeared.