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Paul got up from beside the man's blackened body in Annette's living room and walked to the front door. Looking out, he scanned Mrs. Gilmore, and especially Annette, as they leaned against each other on the wooden stairs of the porch. Neither of the crying women seemed sick, but he should do a simple exam to make sure. But first they needed to take care of the body.

He slowly opened the screen door. I hope I can get Annette to do what needs to be done. Paul sat down beside the grieving woman and took her hand.

"I'm sorry, Annette."

She nodded her head in appreciation of his words but didn't say anything. She held her mouth in a firm line as she tried to hold back her sobs.

Paul tipped his head. "Annette, have you seen a disease like this before? Maybe before you got here? Or heard of one similar to it? I haven't. I don't know if this thing is contagious or not."

The woman pushed back some of her graying hair that had fallen forward over her shoulder and shook her head. "I'm sorry, Doc, but I haven't."

"Did he have the AgFlu?"

"An easy case of it. He said he spent a few days in bed, but then felt right as rain." Annette shot a look at first Paul, then Mrs. Gilmore. "We weren't anything but friends. We met on the road, we each had families then." She bowed her head. "I can't. I can't talk about that right now, but we lost them, lost them all running from Infected until there was just the two of us. We were so happy to find this place. I can't even tell you how happy. I know we stuck to ourselves, but we'd been through so much. We were just licking our wounds for a while before we became sociable."

Annette put a hand to her mouth as she sobbed. "I feel so alone. Like I've lost all of them all over again. There is just me now." Her head dropped to her knees as she cried. Paul and Mrs. Gilmore put a hand on her back to comfort her.

Tears swam in Mrs. Gilmore's eyes. She was no stranger to the hard, sharp ache of grief. "You're not alone, Annette dear, we are all here with you."

Paul gave Annette some time, and when she settled, he brought up the subject he had been dreading. "Since this is unknown to me, I want to assume the worst and treat it as such. I would like to cremate him now." He went on even as Annette leaned back, a frown on her face. "Have a service once it is announced but take care of him now, in case this is contagious."

"I understand, Doc."

"I also would like you to stay in the watch's hut. We will set up a tent for them, but I'd like you out of the house. You and Mrs. Gilmore should stay inside your places for a couple of weeks, and I will monitor you."

Mrs. Gilmore's face drew into a deep frown. "Me?"

"I'm sorry, but you were inside the house, near the body."

Mrs. Gilmore huffed. This is what I get for helping other people. But when she looked at poor Annette, she knew she would have done it no other way. "I'll do what I need to."

"Okay," Paul said, "Annette, could you pack whatever you need to move to the hut? Mrs. Gilmore, perhaps you could get Annette something to eat? Mark and I will take care of everything else."

Once Mark and Paul had the funeral pyre built, they laid the sheet-wrapped body on it. They lit it and stepped back beside Annette and Mrs. Gilmore. The men had made sure the wood included plenty of red cedar so its spicy, sweet smell would mask any other unpleasant odors. The scent of cedar filled the mountaintop and drifted through the small community. It drew others who followed the smoke to the little glen, and the line of people standing at the treeline grew. Paul said a few words for the man, adding that he hoped to one day get to know him. Annette spoke a bit about the kind of man he was, caring, loved by his family, a great dad to his children. In the end, he'd had a proper funeral, and for that, Annette was grateful.

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