August 3

1859 — American Dental Association founded

 

As if the apocalypse wasn’t bad enough, Victor Olhauser had a terrible toothache.

The entire left side of his face was swollen up.

Ordinarily, he would have wrapped ice chips in a paper towel and held it against his cheek.  But no electricity meant no refrigeration.  Ice was pretty scarce these summer days.

The only thing left to do was go to the dentist.

At least, to a dentist’s office, considering actual medical professionals were now as scarce as ice chips.  Doctors and dentists had either been killed, like most people, or they’d abandoned the large cities in a panic.

Victor headed downtown, walking past burned out buildings and the crushed wrecks of automobiles, hoping some portion of his regular dentist’s office remained intact.  A warm breeze blew against him as he walked; the soft air against his cheek was enough to intensify the pain of his toothache.

His dentist’s building was in pretty rough shape.  Sunlight gleamed through the smashed front windows, glimmered along the shards of glass along the floor.  A layer of dark smoke blackened the interior lobby.  All the furniture was gone.  The reception desk was also missing — either burnt to the ground, or taken away in sections by looters who hoped to use the wood to board up their own doors and windows against intruders.

A mounted display had fallen to the ground, its glass cover shattered.  Plastic letters that once indicated office names and locations now lay scattered in an incomprehensible jumble.

The elevators, of course, no longer operated.  His dentist, Dr. Whitaker, had a sixth floor office.  Maybe, with the sign destroyed, previous visitors wouldn’t have been tempted to climb that far up the stairs.

Once Victor had travelled a few steps up, the stairwell door shut behind him — blocking the limited sunlight from the ground floor lobby.  He gripped for a handrail and continued slowly upward.  Each careful footstep sent a small jolt of pain to his aching tooth.

At one point, his foot landed on something soft.   A sound like a cough rose from beneath him, and an awful rancid smell rose with it.  Victor grabbed the railing tighter, and used his arm strength to vault himself above that soft step to land more firmly (and with more pain in his tooth) on the next one.

He counted the stairs, kept careful track of the doors at each landing until he reached the sixth one.  Victor pushed the door open into the office floor, squinting at light through open windows at the far end of the hall.   He made his way to his dentist’s office, his tooth still throbbing with each step.

[…continued tomorrow…]