It was the unexpected silence that first drew my attention. Usually it’s a lot more quiet on sunday around here, but it felt too quiet. At least one or two cars would have gone by on the dyke in front, but this evening, nothing. The neighbours were quiet as usual, or might be coming home late, so that was no indication.
I shrugged it off as something unusual, but not unthinkable. There had been a storm today, so maybe everyone stayed inside for once. I returned to my writing and went to bed around two or three in the morning.
When I woke up I still had this eerie feeling in the back of my head from the silence outside. I hadn’t heard any kids going to school and I wondered if I had slept through it or that perhaps today was a day off for them. I checked my phone and the couple of technology websites were up and running, so I figured it was just a weird day. I read quickly through the articles, new release of a Linux distro, leaked user accounts at one large website, new discovery of an airborne bacteria the could pose a health risk. Pretty much the usual.
I sent my girl Clarisse in the Philippines a message, hoping she was free to reply quickly and went to the toilet and the shower.
There was no reply yet from Clarisse and I checked what food I had left to serve as breakfast. Being lazy I went for a litre cup of yoghurt with cherries.
I watched another episode of a new science fiction series with one eye while I ate. I had downloaded it the week before since I heard good things about it. I wouldn’t have bought it from the bits I saw and what I read from the plot so I copied it to see if it was actually worth spending money on. Can’t say I was convinced so far since I felt compelled to check the news sites one more time.
Nothing new though, and after I was done eating I threw away the cup and decided to drag myself to the store. I don’t mind buying groceries, I just didn’t feel like going outside and see people again. I had been outside just two days ago.
I sent my girl another message, trying not to worry since it happened more often that her phone went dead, or her mobile connection went down. It wasn’t her fault, she just couldn’t afford a better phone since her family was poor and barely managed to make a living.
On the way to the store in the car, the eerie feeling started again. There was no one else on the road. No cars, no bicycles, no mopeds, no tractors, no trucks. I stopped at the overpass and looked up and down the highway. Nothing. Not a single god damned thing but a grey overcast day.
I grabbed my phone from the dashboard and quickly checked the national news. There were pretty normal headlines. No signs of impending doom.
I dialled one of my old colleagues. It went to voicemail after a few rings. I dialled another. Same thing. My friend who lived almost on the other side of the country. Voicemail.
I leaned back into my seat, heart pounding hard. I’m always pretty aware when I’m dreaming, but this was not a dream. Definitely not a dream.
The laughing came fast and hard. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time, and it wasn’t because of something hilarious. Or maybe it was.
I had no idea how long I had been laughing. My lungs hurt, my throat hurt and my eyes hurt while my face felt strained and wet from tears. Somehow I had managed to get myself out of the car because I found myself sitting next to it on the road, leaning back against the side and the door wide open.
I looked up at the sky, still overcast and thought of Clarisse. With some difficulty from my body hurting I crawled into the car to grab the phone which had fallen in front of the passenger seat. I checked my messages but no reply from her.
I cried. Not because I would miss her, but because I wouldn’t get to see her for real and give her the love she deserved to get. She was one of the sweetest girls I had ever met and I wanted to lift the baggage from her shoulders that had built up since her birth in poverty with a strict grandmother and father.
I wiped the last tears from my eyes, taking a deep breath and told myself she had been happy since she met me. She had resigned herself to be unloved her whole life until I had shown her it didn’t matter she was obese because of a medical issue. She had a cute a pretty face, was fun to play around with and those things mattered. I loved her and she would be by my side from then on, crazy about me. She had at least known and felt love until the end.
I blew my nose, wiped my cheeks one more time, took another deep breath and tried to relax as best I could. I dreamed before about being alone in the world, and now for whatever reason it had happened. Unless it was the other way around and I had disappeared from the real world and was now in some sort of afterworld or parallel dimension.
It was no use pondering about that since I probably wouldn’t find out anyway, but I had to think about survival now. Plenty of stores with food so that was not a priority. What was, was getting out of here and finding a safe spot on the planet because in time the nuclear plants around the world would blow up. That much I learned from several what if documentaries I had seen.
I opened a text editor on my phone and started making a list. Food, water, batteries, candles, matches, paper, pens, weapons, fuel, better transport, world maps, nuclear fallout safe area, medical kits. That would have to do for now. I’d have to take advantage of power while it was available. It could cut out in a day, or perhaps hold out for months, but eventually it would stop and I’d have to generate my own. It also reminded me of the big chance of another solar flare event which would hit the planet and wipe out all electronics.
Starting the car to continue to the store, it still felt like a weird dream to me. But it also felt liberating. No more other people. No more stupidity. It also meant no one to talk to anymore, or to love, but I was confident I could live with that. I had always been my best company anyway.