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Notes from Therapy: Wander


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The therapy session hadn’t really been going anywhere today. Erin came to Dr. Marquez’s office at the appointed hour, passed over her diary, and sat in silence while he looked over it. She didn’t trust him like she trusted Dr. Franklin, and that made it even harder to talk to him about anything. She had to live here, after all, and he had a lot of power over her that she hadn’t felt like her other doctor had. If she said the wrong thing to him, there could be big trouble. So she kept her answers short, polite, and opaque.

After a half-hour of going round-and-round, Marquez rolled back a few feet from the table. “All right, I don’t think we’re getting anywhere,†he finally said. “But your diary entries are very good. Do you think it’s easier to write things down than to say them out loud?â€Â

Erin shrugged. “Maybe.â€Â

“Right,†Marquez replied. He rolled over to the bookshelf and pulled out a clean notebook, then began jotting lines on the first page. “For this week, I’m going to give you a set of writing prompts. I’d like you to answer them in the way that seems best to you, a story, a narrative, just a few lines if you want. We’ll talk about them next week, and for now I’ll cut you loose a little early.†He slid the notebook across the table.

“All right,†Erin said, picking up the notebook. She didn’t mind written assignments, and she was glad to get out of the session early. She didn’t even look at what the therapist had written until later, back in the privacy and quiet of her room. There were a half-dozen prompts there. This was going to take a little while. She looked over the prompts, then started answering them like she were writing a story. It seemed easier that way, less personal.

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Prompt One: Describe a happy memory between 2006 and 2008.

It was springtime, the year after everything bad had happened. Erin was just starting to feel okay again, sometimes, and remember what it was like to be a person and want things. For a long time, she only wanted to kill the zombies and die herself, but eventually that feeling started to go away, and she decided she wanted more. She decided to go to Freedom City, to see if anyone there was working on a cure for the zombies. She went out of Texas and started traveling northeast. One day it started raining really hard. Some of the roads washed out, and it was cold. She decided to get off the interstate and find a place to get dry. When she took the exit, she found a shopping mall right there. Usually she avoided shopping malls, because there could be lots of zombies there. People hid there after the plague, because they saw old movies, and they usually died there. But malls sometimes had good stuff too, and this one looked like it might be okay.

She went into the mall and found that it smelled okay, which was a good sign. If they didn’t smell bad, there weren’t many bodies. It was dry, too, and not very hot. Some of the skylight windows were broken and let air and rain in, but most were still good. There were birds in the rafters singing to each other. She could tell right away that people hadn’t gotten into this mall much for some reason. There were dead security guards and some clerks, but no zombies, so it was a good place to spend the night. She took her lantern and started looking around for supplies. In the Sears, there were many good things. She found a car battery that was still good! There were also many camping supplies. Erin took them all down to the atrium, where it was light out. She had read a book that said how to rig cords to power things with batteries, so she made a lamp and a camping refrigerator run off the battery. In the furniture store she found a couch and carried that out as well, as well as plenty of blankets and cushions. It was like building a fort, sort of.

In the food court it was bad, with smells and flies and animals, but she poked around and found a crate of canned Chinese food and some soda in bottles. She spent time setting up her camp so it was really nice, with cushions and pillows and blankets everywhere, and a pile of books on survival from the bookstore. She cooked her food over a camp stove and read by the light of the lamp all through then night. The pop tasted really good when it was cold, because she hardly ever had it that way. When nighttime came, the lamp meant she could stay up and even relax a little bit on the couch. It made her feel like a human being again. When she left, it all had to stay behind, because she couldn’t carry all that stuff, but it reminded her what it was like to do more than survive and kill things.

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Prompt Two: How do you get along with your family here?

One day Erin was helping out with the laundry at the house her family in this world lives in. She doesn’t know what to call it, because she knows it’s not her house, but it is, in a way. She didn’t go to school and she didn’t have a job, but she could fold clothes. She carried a basket of Megan’s clothes up to her room and put them on the bed. When she was there, she saw Megan’s music box, and Bezazzle. Bezazzle was Megan’s stuffed horse. Erin knew that she shouldn’t, but she picked up Bezazzle and petted him, and she thought about how it was when she buried him with Megan. She felt so sad that she didn’t know what to do, but she didn’t cry. She found the music box and wound it up and let it play. It had earrings and jewelry in it now, because Megan wasn’t seven and she had pierced ears. It was always empty when Erin had it.

Erin was so distracted that she spent much longer in Megan’s room than she thought. Megan came in and asked “What are you doing here, Erin Keeley?â€Â

Erin jumped because she was surprised. “Sorry,†she said. “I was bringing up your clothes for you, and I saw your music box. It reminded me of something else.†Megan looked blank, so Erin tried to explain. “The Megan I knew, in my world, she had a music box like that, and she really liked it. I wanted to see if it was the same.â€Â

“Oh,†Megan said. “I don’t usually like anyone in my room. Sometimes Erin comes in and messes with my stuff.â€Â

“She really loves you, deep inside,†Erin couldn’t help saying. She knew it would sound stupid, and that Megan wouldn’t understand. She didn’t have any way to understand. “Deep down, where it matters, she loves you more than anything. You shouldn’t forget that,†Erin wasn’t even sure it was this Megan she was talking to, or if it was a different Megan, the one who was dead, that she would have liked to say that to but never did.

In any case, Megan looked at her like she was crazy, and didn’t say anything at all. Erin closed the music box and left, and went back to her own room for the rest of the day. She felt stupid, and sad at the same time. The people here looked like her family, and acted like she remembered her family acting. It was her that was different, and extra, and didn’t fit anymore.

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Prompt Three: What is the hardest thing to adjust to on Freedom Earth?

Erin spent many weeks in quarantine at the Goodman Building when she came to Freedom Earth. That was okay, she understood why they had to do it. She would never have forgiven herself if she’d made the people in this world sick as well. But she was okay and the plague was dead, and eventually they let her out of quarantine, except she didn’t have anyplace to go. The Goodman Building was a pretty quiet place, and even though people were there, they were always busy and concentrating hard. She wanted to help, but she couldn’t really do anything. Sometimes she ran the autoclave, but she couldn’t even figure out what they were studying most of the time. Missing so much school hadn’t mattered very much where she came from because she liked to read, but in the new world it made her stupid.

After a few days, her shrink, Dr. Franklin, said that she should go outside with him and see Freedom City. Erin knew what Freedom City looked like. She’d gone all around it for months, getting parts for Dr. Atom’s machine, but that had been in a very different world. Still, she was curious, and there was no way she was going to stay in the Goodman Building forever. So she went out with Dr. Franklin to this hamburger place he knew about. Everything was okay till they got to the front door and stepped outside. It was so NOISY! Erin put her hands over her ears and ran back inside! There were people, and cars, buses, everyone yelling and honking all at once. In that one second, she saw more people than she had in years. Even zombies were quiet when they weren’t moaning and crying. After a few minutes she went outside again, and stayed out, but it was bad. She didn’t know where to look, or what to do. It seemed like there were dangerous things everywhere! Even though she knew there were no zombies here, she couldn’t relax. Every noise seemed weird, and every sight from the corner of her eye seemed like it might be dangerous. She didn’t enjoy her hamburger, and she was very happy to get back to the quiet building.

Dr. Franklin made her go out with him every day after that, for little trips, then for longer ones. Eventually she started to get used to all the people and the noise, but it never felt good. She always had to be looking around all the time, and whenever someone touched her, it felt like she had to fight. He taught her some ways to relax, by counting and thinking calm thoughts, and it helped some. Still, even after she left Freedom City, she did not like being in places where there were lots of people, or places that weren’t familiar. She worried that when she went to Claremont, she would find a lot of both, and she was sort of correct.

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