So I’ve been having these post-apocalyptic dreams recently. They wake me up around five in the morning and linger vividly in my mind’s eye, not fading away as dreams should, so that I grow anxious about falling asleep again and rejoining the horror where I left off. On Sunday night I managed to drive out of the zombie-infested small town in Kentucky and into the verdant pastures and copses of the English countryside where I left the jeep and started to climb a steep hill on foot – so steep that I soon realized I could climb no further and that the dead mare on the slope above might slide onto me at any minute. Then the black and yellow snake reared up from a hole in the mud before my face and began to bite my arm.
Last night, I was trapped in the endless labyrinth of dripping shower stalls and lockers in the basement of a vast high school, being hunted by gangs of other survivors. They had discovered that I could see (they could no longer see themselves) and they were closing in.
In all these dreams there is the knowledge that somewhere lies a haven – a place where grim but decent people will be rebuilding a life where one can be safe from zombies. Those of us who make it there line up before the three judges who will determine whether or not we are welcome. One of them – call him Minos or maybe St. Peter – asks what each person did before the apoc. As the people in front of you answer – “Nurse.” “Carpenter.” “Cook.” “Ditch digger.” – you begin to grow uncertain. How valuable will it be in this brave new world to have been a restaurant critic? You try not to glance at the group of men who have already been refused entry because they can offer no vestige of a skill that might benefit the community – the politicians and lawyers. They are already arguing with each other. Panic begins to set in. You think back frantically over your life, searching for some practical, medieval talent that will be of use…
I like to think that I will get in because there will be need of entertainment. I can’t juggle but I was a lounge singer briefly when I was at University, earning my beer money of an evening in the JCRs of the women’s colleges. And I believe I have a little talent as a glove puppeteer, enough to amuse the exhausted last remnants of our species around the campfire at night. Hopefully I can resist the temptation to be snide about the guy who did the cooking or find fault with the seasoning in the politician stew.
Life, meanwhile, goes on. Tomorrow I’m off to Kelowna to prep for the Canadian Culinary Championships on Friday and Saturday. There, food critics are valued and necessary. But I will be taking Sweep the puppet with me, just in case.