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High Priestess of the Apocalypse by Christy Tending

High Priestess of the Apocalypse by Christy Tending (from Issue 10)

If what we are dealing with is a simple rapture, then my work is straightforward. To dispose of the perishable food before it goes bad; to redistribute whatever will keep. To rehome the cats and the dogs bereft at the loss of owners who did not conceptualize a heaven that included them. And the ill-advised birds who were never going to make it there anyway. Watch the green one, she’ll take your finger right off.


In this scenario, we will become the collective executors of our earthly inheritance. It will be a drudgery and a joy to dole out homes and cars and human rights once we are left to our own devices. Door to door: Who is still here? Who had enough fun to spare them from an early leaving? Who is left to delight in corporeality? It is brevity that makes it precious.


If it is zombies, we will board up the house for as long as we can. We survive on the soup and the preserves I painstakingly made from our garden, the planter boxes they will uproot with their soggy feet. The precious fruit trees we tended with the ladder they will also mangle.


From the outside, it does not look like I am well-equipped to fend off zombies. On my surface, I have the punk-rock credibility of a blueberry muffin. But watch: I heft 16-pound sledgehammer. I fill an oil barrel to the brim with concrete; this will weigh about 380 pounds. I know the weights of things, at the very least.


I wield a nail gun to board up the windows. One, two, three, four: each thwack an injury to the frame, a gaping hole in the curb appeal that used to matter when this was a home and not a last stand.


If the end of the world is an actual political revolution to prevent the end of the world, well, you have come to the right place. This one is the one I have trained for; the one I have trained others to expect. In this one, we will join in.


I will make molotov cocktails and put them in the backpack you used to wear to school: printed with trains and trucks. I will place them gently in your mermaid insulated lunch box so you may throw them with your tiny, ineffectual, five year-old arms. At cop cars, at government buildings. I will straighten your balaclava and tell you I’m proud. When you come home, I will tousle your hair and pour water in your eyes to wash the last of the tear gas away.


This is my work: to imagine the worst possible outcomes and the ways in which I will have failed in my actual, original work. This is how we move through the beginning of the end of days. This is how we bear witness to the slow unraveling. I will hold all of it with both hands. One for soothing, one to fight. I will take your abandoned cats, I will absorb your broken dreams.


Stanchion nominated this work for a 2024 Best Small Fictions Prize. It has also become the title story of Tending's new book, available on June 14 from ELJ Editions.


Christy Tending (she/they) is the author of High Priestess of the Apocalypse (ELJ Editions). Their work has been published in Longreads, The Rumpus, and Electric Literature, and received a notable mention in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2023. Follow Christy on Twitter at @christytending.

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