There are times when I’d welcome a good apocalypse. By good, I mean one where we don’t necessarily die right away—not all of us, anyway. The world isn’t at war, and a plague isn’t following neat little flight paths across the globe. Your neighbors aren’t munching their way toward the end of the cul-de-sac. Let’s say all the lights went out (a popular one), or all the annoying people in the world suddenly disappeared. Poof! Either way, I’m at home, doing okay, and suddenly I have time to read all the books on the bookshelf behind me.
Yes, I want the world to end so I have more time to read.
Of course, if life as we know it was to suddenly cease—leaving us alive, but reimagining our existence—I’d probably have less time for my TBR pile than I do now. In all of my own personal versions of the apocalypse, the acquisition and storage of food is the number one priority, and once I open the last can of beans in the basement, my days will probably be devoted to task number one: get more food.
Actually, I’d probably want to start stockpiling well before we touched that last can. So from about day… let’s say day three. That gives me day one and two to spiral from panic to planning. Then, on day three, I’ll head out to see what’s what.
Despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse, and basically being known as someone who Has Plans ™, my end of the world planning has gotten a little lax, lately. I was down in the basement a couple of weeks ago, looking for a can of black beans, and noted that my can collection is slim. I usually have an entire shelf unit devoted to cans of beans, vegetables, and fruit. The bottom shelf is for large cans of crushed and diced tomatoes alone. The bean collection has often overflowed into the shelf next door, nudging aside the stacks of paper plates and plastic cups (left over from every do we’ve ever hosted, and now waiting, dustily, for a good apocalypse).
Over the beans, we have bags of rice, boxes of pasta, jars of pasta sauce (a special treat, and they were probably on sale), and cans of soup stock. Then there’s the canned soup collection and all the oddball items like beets and sauerkraut. Imagine the world ending, and not being able to taste sauerkraut ever again?
On the second shelf, under the paper plates and so on, I have our camping gear and coolers. A portable stove and the little butane flasks to go with it. Sleeping bags and inflatable mattresses. The tent—which is too big to haul around if we do have to decamp from the basement at some point. And all the souvenir coffee mugs we’ve collected over the past twenty years. We could probably use a new one every day for several months.
I’ve been pretty busy, lately, though, editing a stupid number of books—really, I want the apocalypse to hasten so I don’t have to edit anymore… although it’d be a shame not to see those books published, so let’s schedule it for just after the New Year, okay?
So anyway, super busy, and the bean collection has dwindled to a few cans of the sort we don’t like very much. There are about three boxes of pasta. We are OUT OF RICE. Only one can of crushed tomatoes. No sauerkraut. It’s pretty dire. But the big thing? The revelation that hit me with the force of an uncharted asteroid? We have no toilet paper down there.
(But I may have found a use for all those extra coffee mugs…)
Obviously, there will be more important concerns during the aftermath of The End than a lack of Cottonelle, but one of the grocery items I refuse to compromise on is toilet paper. My war cry is “It’s on sale!” and I can be heard shouting it with glee at the end cap for every aisle as I stock up on discounted favourites. I love Rao’s Homemade pasta sauces, but will only buy them on sale because $10 a jar is just… Francesco Rinaldi is only $1.99 and I usually have a hundred cans of crushed tomatoes in the basement, so…
But I always buy my Cottonelle, even if it’s regular price. If it IS on sale, I fill the cart.
Upon noticing this terrible lapse in apocalypse planning, I also had to acknowledge that a basement full of camping gear and three cans of dark red kidney beans really wasn’t going to cut it. I’ve let things slide. I need to get back on top of this ever impending situation, and so I have started a list. It’s a shopping list for My Last Holiday, which is what a good apocalypse will be for the several months I need to get through the 300 books on my To-Be-Read shelf.
Toilet paper – I know I’m going to have to use leaves eventually, or old copies of National Enquirer, but I’m going to put off that day as long as possible.
Tea bags – I’m ordering enough tea to last the rest of my life. I can’t make it through any sort of apocalypse without my morning cuppa. If I am forced to share, however, I also have a list of which leaves and weeds around the yard I can add to a cup of hot water.
Food – Let’s lump all of this into one category. I have a number of shelving units down there, so I’ll pack them with the usual suspects.
Survival – Everything outside of actual edibles: tools (like, food murdering tools), canning equipment, buckets for collecting blood from draining carcasses, seeds, clean water planning, tarps (because you always need a tarp when you haven’t got one), rope (see tarps), duct tape, super glue, barbed wire, grow lights, a bike we can connect up to a generator, that generator, shovels… Okay, you get it. All the STUFF you need to get on with the business of surviving.
Books – Aside from my TBR shelves, all the books I have collected on surviving various apocalypses and how to rebuild from nothing. Medical texts. That old set of encyclopedias (the new/old Google). My collection of Great Books of the Western World. And, what the heck, the 3000 other books I have scattered around the house. All of them. We’ll devote one corner of the basement to my library.
Games – For family time, or for when we’re actually all speaking to each other. (It’s probably going to get tense down there with three people pooping into coffee mugs and drawing straws to see who has to change out the blood buckets.)
Legos – Can be used as a defensive perimeter when we’re not actually building anything.
First Aid Kit – Or maybe we should steal an ambulance in advance and hide it in the garage? Worked for SAMCRO.
Cats – OMG, what are the cats going to eat? I should lay in a few bags of kibble to start. And litter. Or should we get them used to using boxes of dirt? Maybe we all should consider using boxes of dirt.
Bedding – I am not spending the apocalypse on a leaky air mattress, fighting with a sleeping bag. We’re going to need an actual bed down there. Sheets. My beloved quilt and fuzzy blankets. And at least a ten year supply of pillows so I can do my annual “this pillow isn’t working for me” thing and select a new one.
Laundry – I suppose we should wash everything on occasion.
Clothing, etc. – I’ll happily wear the same jeans most days, but clean undies would be nice.
Weapons – are included in Survival and I’d rather not dwell, except to acknowledge not everyone will be as happy in their basement as I will be in mine.
Alcohol – I did say I’d be happy down there, didn’t I?
Bicycles – For when we do have to venture out.
Communications! – Radio equipment.
Notebooks, sketchbooks, journals…
Should I start a farm in one corner? Get my chickens accustomed to low light living? Grow some mushrooms? What have I overlooked? A bugout vehicle? A boat, in case the apocalypse comes by way of flood? Environment suits, oxygen tanks, my own spaceship. Fuel.
You know what, this apocalypse is already exhausting. Maybe I should just plan for an actual holiday instead.
For another angle on apocalypse planning, read my post: It’s the Snowpocalypse
Author Jody Wallace and me planning for the apocalypse: The Apocalypse Interview
Some more thoughts on apocalypses: My Writing Process
Finally, here are some: Dumb Worries