He tapped a few icons on the display of the tablet in his lap and, every now and then, threw a glance to the TV flickering in its Plexiglas fortification.
“How can you stand that?”
He pulled an earbud. “Huh?”
“How can you stand trying to do a hundred different things at once?”
“Being able to process huge volumes of stimuli is like surfing. I can ride the waves that would drown other people.”
“Do you surf?” I raised my eyebrows.
“No, I’m talking about…” he failed to finish as the wave he thought he rode swallowed him.
“HD,” Jason chuckled.
Ran tore himself away from his displays, laughing, “That’s right!” They laughed together.
I looked from one man to the other, then back again.
Ran was first to recognize my confusion. “Okay.” He stretched out his arms in a settling gesture, preparing me for an explanation. “The other day I was saying something. I forget how I said it, but I was trying to say ADHD and it came out sounding like ADD-HD. So now the joke is that that’s what I have. And I gotta say, I kinda like the hi-def ADD.”
I shook my head. “So…” I let silence accent my expectancy. A slow smile spread over my face.
“Why won’t the zombie apocalypse be sudden?”
“Oh, right.” Ran set his MP3 on the desk and paused the track. “Back in the day, say, the pioneer days people could get up at, like, oh dark thirty and be ready to take on the day. Tend the farm or whatever. And coffee was not common.
“As the country got more settled and the niceties got more common, they were viewed less like luxuries and more like necessities. People began to enjoy them less and need them more.” One by one, Ran’s devices hibernated from lack of use. Like fitting-room mirrors reflecting from different angles, the dark displays each cast back his likeness in turn. “In our parents’ time adults may have drunk coffee, but little kids didn’t. Now five- and six-year-olds are slamming it.
“And energy drinks, dude. They’re taking the world by storm. Coffee and soda aren’t doing it any more so people need the upgrade. People are using them so much they’re dependent on them. They need them just to wake up in the morning and they need more to get through the day. And toddlers are drinking them too. When you drink those before your body is even fully developed they get included as a part of the developmental process. The body doesn’t get a chance to develop without them. They won’t know what it’s like to get through the day naturally. Days and nights will just be an increasingly interchangeable series of exaggerated spikes and crashes. They’ll be like crack addicts before they’re even twelve.” The last of his monitors winked out. A silent chorus of redundant reflections, they all lampooned his speech.
“What does this have to do with zombies?” I was unable to keep a twinkle from my eye.
By his anticipation, it was apparent he thought I might never ask. “What happens to a junkie when you take his stimulants away?” he said. His response came before mine could, “Lethargy. When we get to the point when energy drinks no longer cut it, what’s next? And when the next thing no longer gets us