August 22

“Dear Apocalypse”

[The Advice Column for our Troubled Times]


Dear Apocalypse,

I’m feeling overcome with guilt about my recent behavior.

My neighbor, let’s call her Caroline, was saving a small foil-wrapped square of chocolate to give to her son to celebrate his fifth birthday.  Obviously, she wasn’t able to bake or buy any kind of cake, so this was her idea of a symbolic substitute.

I’ve always had a sweet tooth, and it felt like it had been years since I’d tasted chocolate.  I couldn’t stop thinking about the candy, and the hiding place Caroline had shown me at the top shelf in her empty kitchen cupboard.

Yesterday, Caroline asked me to keep an eye on her kid while she scavenged for food in the city ruins.  I made sure the kid stayed inside, safe from danger…but that piece of candy kept calling to me.  The foil wrapping, I knew, shone bright against the darkness at the back of her kitchen shelf.

Before I even realized what I was doing, I’d climbed onto the kitchen counter to reach deep into that top shelf, to grab the wrapped dewdrop of delicious chocolate.  I unwrapped it then and there, popped the morsel in my mouth before I even climbed down off the counter.

It was gray and somewhat stale, but it still melted in my mouth.  It was delicious.  It brought back memories of a better time, and I closed my eyes and imagined myself there.

Then I heard a crash from the front room, followed by a child’s scream.  When I scrambled down and ran to the living room, I was too late.  A mutant had smashed through the front window, and had stolen my neighbor’s only child.

I compressed the foil into a tight ball and stuffed it into my pocket.  The taste of the chocolate lingered in my mouth when Caroline got home, and I tried not to breathe in her direction as I shared the bad news.

That birthday celebration’s not going to happen anymore, but at some point she might notice the chocolate’s gone.  I’m thinking I should tell Caroline that I’d stolen the candy, and that’s why her kid was unsupervised when the mutant broke into her home.

At the same time, she’s been a good neighbor, and I don’t want her to be mad at me.  What do you think I should do?



Selfish in Schenectady.


* * *


Dear Selfish,

You are a horrible person.

Is that what you wanted to hear?  We’ve been conditioned to think that anyone who’d “steal candy from a baby” is essentially a monster.  But that rule existed in a happier world.  We now know what real monsters look like, and they’ve got three eyes and hair in the wrong places.

Quite frankly, your neighbor Caroline should never have tempted you by revealing the location of that chocolate drop.  Saving the candy for a birthday celebration was a breach of post-apocalyptic etiquette, as well:   considering how many people have died, it’s impolite to brag about how long you or your child have survived in this changed world.

The most important thing is to preserve a cordial relationship with your neighbor, since the two of you may need each other when (not if) the next difficult situation arises.

Perhaps, as a preemptive strike, mention that some unseen vermin has broken into your home and scuttled away with a food item or two.  Then if she notices the missing chocolate in her own kitchen, you’ve planted an explanation that lets you off the hook.



The Apocalypse