General Fiction posted October 31, 2017


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Where is everyone?

Agoraphobia

by Jm4805

The world was gone. I mean that in the figurative sense of course. The buildings, vehicles, and animals still were around, but no people. The first few weeks I hardly noticed; I was something of a recluse. Behind on my bills, when the internet shut off, I just procrastinated; then the power went off. I'd like to say that's when I went out, but I would be lying.

The reason I'm writing this, long hand of course, is because I found something a few weeks ago that changed everything. Notes left behind, hinting at another survivor, or maybe even a group of them. Is survivor an adequate term? Can it be so on the nose as simply being unaffected by whatever had happened that doomed mankind to this fate?

Let me start from the very beginning. Two weeks after the internet went off, three days after the power went out for good, I finally left my home. A small apartment in middle of a city that once had a name. It was middle of summer, I could hear the slow chirping crickets, feel the wave of heat blast me instantly; instantly knocking me to the ground.

I decided I ought to go to my usual haunts; a twenty-four-hour grocery store was first on the list. The first thing I noticed was the silence. Living in the city for as long as I had; the orchestra of the crowds and cars constantly filling the air, like the humming or buzzing of a beehive. I wandered to the grocery store, no flickering lights, no air conditioning, and of course; no people. I called out of course there was no answer. How was this possible? The only response was a wafting odor coming from the freezer aisle. The smell was almost painful to inhale, I expected to find corpses in there, but it was just the smell of spoiled meat. Just wonderful I thought, my stomach growled, I had to argue with it; I'm not that hungry.

Scanning the aisles, I found bars, canned goods. Not the best choice, but it'll do the trick. I walked to the strip mall that I lived by and frequently when I needed to get out. Found the fountain that was always surrounded by children, families, and friends. Empty, the pennies still inside the spurting fountain; the water still flowing. I leaned down and splashed water on my face, it was warm but still felt good; anything was better than that swampy apartment.

I sat down and watched the empty street, liter blowing in the wind; empty cars sitting like statues to a bygone day. I'd like to pretend that I had some manners left. But, I nearly choked on my lunch, downing three water bottles, and almost heaving I fell back in the fountain. The water enveloped my entire body, clean, the water must be still being pumped by an auxiliary system.

I laid back, my face breaking the surface; I thought back to my childhood, at the pools with my family, and at the beach. The way water encompasses and swallows; completely whole, it's like entering a new world. I half expected to be pulled out by a cop, arrested, mocked by a crowd; all watching, judging me, taking photos, whispering about me. Instead when I surfaced again, I found absolutely nothing. Cars still in middle of the road, buildings opened with a push or pull. Bugs swarming putrefying stores.

What now? It's not like I had friends. That happened because of my Agoraphobia; there wasn't a traumatic event, no staying up late to watch CNN, or a car accident that made me afraid to step foot outside. I just became afraid of the world, the faces in it, the endless rows of faces that judged, laughed, that lived better lives, and did more important things.

I quit my job, an IT tech; mostly working with various agencies, four years of College down the drain. Not that any of it would matter right now. I could say that I'm lonely, but honestly, I'm just relieved. No more rules, no more restrictions, unless this is a localized event. If there was a plague, where did all the people go? Millions reduced to liter and empty cars.

I called out, spending a few hours walking, then when that got old I started driving. I sold my car ages ago, I didn't need it when I moved to this city. I wondered if my parents were alright. It would probably be better if they didn't see me like this. I decided I needed a new place to stay, time for an upgrade, after all no one was going to stop me.

I road, covered with obstacles was easy enough to get around. When I rounded to the park, the houses of stood throughout; more like mini-mansions. Large, spacious, empty, and it was absolutely perfect, the city was only a ten-minute drive; the smell of the park reminded me more of home, where I grew up, not a rotting tomb. Empty inside, no power. I really had to do something about that, but right now I fell into a routine I never would have expected would come so easily.

I cleaned, throwing the rotting food out, testing the water pumps; they didn't work. Staring at the black screen of the television; wantonly, like a long-lost friend. The bookshelves were half empty- the closet was too. Someone barely lived here, the list grew and grew. I needed food, water, and access to electricity, maybe some books to make my life more bearable. I took a backpack from the closet and the car; I'll need to exchange it for a truck if my plan would be successful.

...

The truck was full, food, pallets of water bottles, a generator, and of course gasoline canisters that were trouble and a half to fill. The books were my best resource; the only chance that I could understand plumbing, electricity, with the internet gone. Slowly with the next few weeks I found a transformation, not just in the house but in myself.

I had the beginnings of a beard, my muscles started to form an outline. Diet of granola, rice, beans, and whatever canned vegetables I found, dropped my weight from over three hundred pounds to two fifty. The End of the World was one of the greatest things to happen to me.

Maybe I worked so hard to drown out the silence, I would stargaze at night, on the balcony. The stars stretched so far and so beautiful. I've never seen the sky so bright, and so transfixed in a moment in time; like we never mattered to begin with.

I watched old movies, played video games, but after six weeks I took more to long walks. I would often see ducks, geese, pigeons, but one day near the beginning of September Is a family of deer. I stared feeding them, they come every day now; never knew how much deer liked granola. Weighed myself at two-hundred-and-ten pounds the other day. Time to go shopping.

I had the choice of the town, dressing in Armani suits, and casual jeans, whatever looked good and felt right. I noticed something on the side of the road heading home. Signs posted around the town, painted letters. 'Is Anyone Here?' I kept driving on.

I thought about it all that night. How alone I was, how used to the silence I've gotten. The stars were watching me, judging me. What if I invited trouble? Or maybe if I found out that maybe I was never really all alone. Would it even matter?

I passed the sings a few more times before I got frustrated. My letters splayed on the outside of the buildings across the street. Hello, I'm here. The paint I stole from a department store down the street, I left it there, not bothering to see if anyone saw me. My heart was racing before I noticed how fast I was driving, not looking back. If only I had the courage to stand and wait, camp out- hope someone was around, still alive.

Weeks ago, I started researching what could have happened, a pet project along with setting up fresh water and getting access to the internet. Both difficult, not as impossible as finding clues as to what happened to make the world so empty. I haven't seen a dead body or seen signs of an explosion. The only theory I could think of was that they left.

I finally connected a generator to the water pumping station. A hike underground carrying gas canisters and a generator down was a hassle, and that's putting it lightly. I turned the valve after hooking up the station, the machines coming to life, panels lighting up. The sound of the rushing water, and the vibrations pushing through the pipes giving a section of the city water again.

That night was amazing, I took a warm bath, the first time in a long time; more than I'd like to admit. I shaved, three months of a beard down the drain, that drain to be exact. I looked at myself; a new man, muscular, but hollow. I knew that I've been lying to myself. I was lonely, so I found myself back the next morning where I left my note in response to someone elses.

Arrows... Arrows leading down the street, across the corridors of silent buildings, silent steel monuments to a world lost. A world that ceased to be. My thoughts raced as I dodged incontinent vehicles, I was in a frenzy. What happened? Where did everyone go? Was this a trap? Was this a hallucination? Why was my heart racing?

I came to a stop, stepping off my motorcycle. It was a gated apartment complex, I saw lights in the windows. What was beyond those gates? Was I insane for trying? I guess there's only one way to find out.

I pressed the button.


The End



Or is it?



What If? contest entry


This was actually a fun project, if it's liked enough I'll consider making it a serial and continuing the story; as always I appreciate notes and tips.
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