Saturday, 6 June 2020

'When the Apocalypse Comes' by Tracy Fells

The laptop screen flickers as Nathan clicks on the link. ‘Is that on mute?’ Angie whispers. He smells metallic, like a freshly disinfected sink.

‘Don’t fuss, Mum.’ Nathan shifts to accommodate her on the hospital bed. He reads from a website: ‘Researchers at Cornell University have devised a simulator using techniques based on-’ she’s proud of Nathan’s confident vocabulary, though he stumbles over ‘-epidemiology.’ Yellow flecked eyes look to her. ‘What’s that?’

‘The study of diseases, I think.’ Angie contains the urge to stroke his cheek. She can no longer ruffle his hair, he hates it when her fingers edge close to his scalp. ‘I can’t believe academics are writing papers on this.’

‘This is serious, Mum. You need a strategy.’

‘A strategy on how to survive a zombie apocalypse?’

Nathan scrolls down, reads more of the article. ‘Zombies find it difficult to concentrate or focus on stuff.’ He laughs, ‘Like me.’ Then quotes from the screen: ‘Infected people lack control over their actions.’

Or their lives, thinks Angie as she considers the paleness of her son’s skin against her suntanned hand. She can’t tell Nathan, but when the apocalypse comes she will embrace it; let the zombies feast and convert her body to painless oblivion.

‘Of course you can out-run them,’ Nathan says confidently, ‘as they’re clumsy and slow. Head for the hills is the top tip – find high ground, which is isolated and can be easily defended.’

A male nurse stops at the foot of the bed. ‘How we doing?’ They both nod in unison, saying nothing. ‘The team will be here shortly to take Nathan down.’

Nathan snaps shut his laptop. ‘Will you come with me, Mum?’

Unable to trust her voice she squeezes his clammy, bleached hand.

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