Wendy Oleson

So You Survived the Apocalypse?!

We’re happy for you. We wonder, though, if you wonder about us, whether we survived, or if you’re too wrapped up in your own stuff, which we, compassionate to a fault, understand. Even if we didn’t survive, we take pleasure knowing this carefully prepared document did. You kept it shielded from solar winds, dry despite walls of water, and insulated against bursts of gamma rays. Of course we don’t know what particular disaster swept so many of us away, just that it was apocalyptic.

Ergo, we’ve endeavored to offer advice covering most apocalyptic circumstances—scourges, for example. Amidst a scourge, you might have survived with a hanky over your mouth. Maybe you have heightened immunity to airborne pathogens; we are impressed. If our death came by water, you’re an excellent swimmer and crafty enough to fashion a raft. Nor did you panic. Bravo. While it would have been nice if you’d erected a sail and attempted to find us, we understand you were busy.

You’ve built a water purification device—oh, we know, microorganisms are more friend than foe to super-human you. You purify for taste. Speaking of, if you are hungry and we are dead, don’t eat us. Try plants. Plants have vital nutrients provided there’s a sun. Check for a sun before you put leafy greens on the menu! If you’ve never enjoyed cactus, now may be a good time. Be a culinary adventurer! Live the full and rounded life you always have.

An important question: Can you make beer? A safe and tasty alternative to water, you will make friends if you can make beer. If we are not dead, we would like to drink your beer with you. Like old times, no? Find: barley, yeast, us. Have you given thought to soft cheeses? Beer reminds us we love cheese. You’ll need milk to make cheese. We imagine certain plants will lactate if you pay enough attention to them, those lonely, post-apocalyptic plants.

Forgive us if this is a silly question, but how are you for fire? Is the fire raging? Assess. If not, find a book of matches. Remember the corner bistro where we spent an anniversary with our spouse and an Argentinean wine? They kept a goldfish bowl of matchbooks by the door. Don’t be shy about dipping into their bowl. No one is watching. Have you drunk inky Malbec at the far table? It stained our lips, and we rushed home to make love to our spouse on the balcony. The plants on our balcony are lonely if we are dead. Do you have a balcony? A home? Please invite us to your home. We’ll wipe our feet at the door. We’ll take off our shoes if you’d prefer. Please feed us your cheese and pour us your beer and light us a gentle fire. Please find us.

Wendy Oleson loves dogs. Her fiction appears in Cherry Tree, PANK, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere. In 2015 she won the storySouth Millions Award and was a Vermont Studio Center Fellow. Photo of the late Phoebe Oleson, whose hunger and tenacity would have made her the most excellent companion in any apocalyptic situation.   bio-oleson