Acupuncture After The Apocalypse

My First Night Back

“The zombies caused the apocalypse, didn’t they?”

It’s my first night back at Dr. Cohen’s house since my abduction. I’ve been on edge, so I’m sitting up in his bed drinking a tea he claims is soothing.

“’Cause’ is a tricky term.”

“It’s not so hard. For example, if something hits me—whatever hit me is what caused me to fall to the ground.”

“If you are comparing the apocalypse to an attack, it’s more like cancer than a blow to a head. The apocalypse wasn’t a single strike. We had earthquakes, epidemics, asteroid collisions, industrial accidents, weather, aggressive poison ivy, radiation leaks…”

“Just to name a few of the bright spots.”

“Right.”

“And we had the zombification of America.”

“True, zombies appeared, somewhere in there. The question our team is looking at is did zombies arrive here because our habitat was suddenly made suitable for them? Or were zombies already here? They could’ve colonized us long ago—and then conditions here changed to make it possible for their numbers to increase.”

“The zombies showed up here, and they caused all the bad stuff to happen. That’s what I think. They caused it.”

“The apocalypse, as the media calls it, was a series of events with separate causes in each case. It’s unlikely the zombies were responsible, per se.”

“My head hurts.”

Dr. Cohen puts his arm around me and places his hand on my forehead. “I’m sorry, Jane.”

We sit like that for a minute. He must be able to tell I’m not finding this relaxing, because he asks in a voice I find supremely annoying, “Does your head hurt from thinking too much about this?”

I push away his stupid, skinny arm. I throw off the covers. “My head hurts from being knocked down by bloody zombies and being taken up to their blasted flying saucer. It doesn’t hurt from thinking. If anything, it hurts more from your NOT thinking.”

Dr. Cohen’s eyebrows raise. At this precise moment, I detest his eyebrows. They look like smug shrubs. I want to throw something at them.

“You and the other idiots can’t see what’s right in front of you. You don’t want to see, none of you do. Not Mason. Not you. No one.”

I’m pulling on my clothes. Shirt inside out—don’t care. Camisole, forgot to put that on first—stuff it into a pocket.

“It’s not that bad—“ Dr. Cohen has gotten out of bed now. He’s wearing respectable boxer shorts and a clean t-shirt, because he always puts something decent on after indecent moments. He reaches for a robe, and for me that’s the last straw.

I run out of the room and while I’m on the stairs, I call up to him, “Forget about me. I’m going back to the space ship.”

“Jane, it’s okay. This is going to be alright.” He’s following me. It’s faster than the shuffle of a stereotypical old man, but not quick enough.

“I’m going to my zombie alien friends up in the space ship. And I’m never coming back.”

Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.