There were paintings here, in the Before. Now there are bare walls and voids screaming with an ocean-sized silence. The echoes of the Missing. Emptiness left after the Others came.
Why not me? I’m not sure but I’m still here and they’re not. That’s the only thing I really know and for the longest time, having a fact to cling to got me through. Even one as basic and awful as “I am alone.”
Today the bits of rubble and dust beneath my feet almost sent me tumbling over the edge. The railing is missing. It had been made of metal. I never went to the art museum in the Before but all the metal is missing everywhere. The only reason parts of the building stand at all is that it was made in the days before retrofitting and rebar. A showpiece made of concrete and alternative materials. Not sure why they made those choices but it’s too late to ask.
All I know is the sight of large structures call to me. Shelters from the gaping maw of the empty sky.
I couldn’t figure them out. The Others. They took the metal, but left the jewels. Stole our feed cattle but left the bison and deer. Grabbed desalination machinery but left the water. And the art? Our culture was scraped from the surface.
I try not think about it anymore. It took months to stop ducking at every noise and screaming every time the sun came up. Light terrified me for a while there and there is a blank space in my mind where the explanation is supposed to be. So I leave it alone. The Missing are all the reminder I need that something is wrong.
Ten months. That’s how long it’s been. I think. I lost some time when I couldn’t understand what happened to the rest of the planet. While I was trying to figure out whether I was crazy. But even crazy people have handlers and I didn’t. There wasn’t anybody.
Then I thought maybe I should try to find somebody else. See if I was the only one left behind. There aren’t any cars or motorcycles or even bikes. Nothing but my two feet and winter storms. I set out in spring but the floods pinned me down. By summer, I decided to stay. Let the survivors find me. If there are any.
But the gravel… Those tiny bits of cement on the floor that almost forced me over the side of the balcony. I can’t stop thinking about it. The terror, my heart pounding, my hands clawing at the floor to keep from sliding over.
Why did I catch myself? Would falling have been so bad? Something quick, then infinite darkness?
The idea is here and I haven’t been able to shake it.
I don’t want to.
And I’m okay with that.
Because honestly? I’m still a little afraid of the light.