Tuesday, February 9, 2010

infinitesimal fiction

(it's like fiction, only smaller)


Sarah woke with a start. She shifted to look at her alarm clock. Seventeen minutes until it was due to go off. God bless it, had she finally reached the age where she started getting up earlier and earlier? The next thing you know she'd be eating dinner at four thirty and going to bed after the six o'clock news. She was only 49 for Pete's sake. Her husband was sleeping soundly beside her, his soft snore comforting. It was then Sarah realized that was the only sound she heard. The morning was eerily still. Dawn was creeping in slowly, pale light was visible between the slats of her blinds, but the atmosphere was uncommonly devoid of sound. No early birds chirping, no tires on the road carrying commuters to the office, no barking dogs. Weird, she thought. Suddenly, the alarm sounded, and she grabbed her chest with one hand while slapping at the clock with the other.

"Good night, Irene!" Sarah let out a long breath and chuckled to herself.

"What's so funny?" Abe wanted to know, looking bewildered and not quite awake.

"Nothing, hon. Just time to get up. Put the coffee on?"

"Yep, let me get it together here" Abe slipped his house shoes on and stood to retrieve his robe. Sarah loved the routine of it all. Like everything in the world was as it should be.

"Babe, they didn't throw my paper this morning." Her husband was also a creature of habit.

"Just go steal Dave's paper, he puts his straight into the recycle bin, I don't know why he even takes it in the first place."

"I'm way ahead of you, but the funny thing is, there aren't any papers on block, as far as I can tell. And another thing, I couldn't hear any cars in the neighborhood. I mean, not a sound. You know?"

"Is it a holiday and we forgot?" Sarah wondered aloud, but she knew in her heart that wasn't it.

In the following weeks they began to piece together some semblance of the truth. That same morning Sarah and Abe discovered that their neighborhood was empty. When a trip to the gas station and grocery store produced no signs of life they searched each store in the tiny shopping center, no closer to the answers they were beginning to be desperate for. It was as if everyone had stayed home. Then came the knocking on doors and windows, they left no house on their block untouched. When no one answered, they began checking for unlocked doors. They found several, and why shouldn't they? Nothing bad ever happened in this neighborhood.

At first they were uncomfortable with the invasion of privacy. Sarah even left notes of apology in the first few houses. She stopped when the overwhelming evidence of uneaten breakfasts, clothes laid out for a day of school or work, cars left in garages, told her they were really gone. And they were not coming back.

Eventually, Abe discovered there was no cell service, the television channels were all snow, and the internet was down. He wondered how long the electricity would last.

The fearfully cried together for a day or two, and then began pulling themselves together. They would drive to their daughter's colleges and hopefully learn of their fate. Surely, not everyone in the whole entire world was missing? Since there was no way to contact the girls, they would get into Abe's Dodge Ram 4X4 and travel from gas station to gas station. As near as they could tell, whatever had happened occurred just before six a.m., two weeks ago, and most gas stations were already up and running by then. The pumps were still working, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to go inside and flip the switch. Abe couldn't get his GPS to work either, so they would get a map from each place they stopped. The trip would be a grueling sixteen hundred miles, which equated to three days if they didn't stop too many times.

As they headed out of town, Sarah speculated. "What if they're gone, Abe?"

"Honey, I know this is hard but they're going to be there. They just have no way of getting hold of us."

"But what if?"

"Sweetie, I don't know," Abe shook his head. "I don't even know how to wrap my brain around being the only two people left on earth. Everything we know has changed, and our options have just become infinite."

"I'm just saying, we did a great job as parents and they turned out fabulous. I don't think I would want to press my luck, that's all."

"Good Lord, Sarah! I can't even think about what you're trying to say. You are saying that, for all intents and purposes, if we are actually the last people on earth, that the species dies with us? You wouldn't want to 'press your luck' ,so to speak, by having more children?"

"Yes, I guess that's what I'm getting at. I'm forty nine years old. You're fifty three. And besides, look what a horrible mess we humans have made of this world as it is. Maybe it could use some rest. Maybe that's why everyone is gone."

Abe sat silent, looking out at the empty highway as they traveled. He seemed content for the moment to just drive.

Finally, he nodded, a grim smile breaking the plane of his face. "Okay, then. Whatever the case may be, you and I will just enjoy whatever time we may have left. No sense in bringing in reinforcements, this earth can take better care of itself than we ever did."

"Good. If we get where we're going and there's no one to get to," Sarah felt a lump in her chest with that statement, "let's detour and see some of the vacation spots."

Then, like a light bulb had gone on, she said, "How funny. I guess, technically, this makes me pro-choice."

Word count: 996 (oooohhh, definitely Flash Fiction)

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