Aphelion Issue 256, Volume 24
November 2020
 
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Far from Home





by Wayne Haroutunian


“I recently returned home from a long trip in the country, and on my way back I picked up a cell signal after not having one for days. The only message was a long one from my friend Reynold Cooper. I wasn't interested in listening to his long message—that is, until I got home, when I found the city to be completely empty.

    His message:

#

    Richard? Why aren't you picking up? I've called five times. I'm going to leave you a message. Call me the second you get this. You'll never believe it.

       Couple hours ago I went outside and there's this emptiness in the street. And remember, this is a Friday night. Nobody was around. And not a single car—nothing, not even parked. Everyone, everything—gone.

        So I figured everyone must have been elsewhere in the city. Maybe there was some major event I just never heard about. But I walked for an hour and the roads were still empty. The traffic lights still changing, but no one's home.

        As I went by houses, I picked up this weird feeling about them, Richard...

        ...they were empty, all of them.

        I tried the front doors of some places, seeing if one was open. I found one. I slowly open the front door, stuck my head inside. Lights were off. I stepped inside, freaked out. I passed through a dark TV room and went into a hallway with only two doors: one cracked open, the other closed. I went to the door that was cracked and listened while looking through the crack. It was a bathroom. I heard nothing so I slowly opened it...

        It creaked and I froze. Nearly shit myself. I listened, staring at the other door.

        Silence.

        I opened the door the rest of the way—empty. I went inside and in the mirror I saw myself, nearly shit myself again.

        I returned to the hallway and listened at the other door as I slowly opened it.

        Nobody was in that bedroom.

        Nobody was in the house.

        I went back outside, went into ten more houses and they're all empty.

        Standing alone on the street, I started thinking this was real and didn't know what to do. Was this happening in other cities? Or where you were? I mean, this is when I really needed a car. I felt screwed, and scared. Like the last guy on Earth. And I have no idea where the hell you are.

    I went to a store, kicked the glass in, grabbed a couple Pepsi's, bars, a bag o' chips. No one around anyway. And I tell you, Richard, at that time, it felt like no one was comin' back. And I was right...

    And I hope you get this message before it's too late...

(silence for a few moments in his message here)

        I went on walking for hours, getting tired. But I pushed on, knowing I would find the answer, knowing there had to be an answer.

        Then at one point I'm walking half-asleep down some neighborhood street when some motion on the other side of the road gets my attention. When I looked, I thought it was some kind of illusion.

        But it was real. I was scared but also excited.

        I was looking at a middle-aged couple on their knees in a garden on their front lawn. The pair of them were digging up soil, working in their garden. The woman had this red shirt and straw hat. The man, overweight, glasses, big mustache.

        Both of them just worked quietly as I watched, completely unaware of me.

        "Hi!" I yelled out to them.

    They stopped and stood up and looked at me.

    I gestured to the street. "Can you tell me ... what's going on?"

    The woman took off her hat, looked at her husband, then at me. "You didn't hear?" she asked with a smile. "Everybody is—"

#

    Of course Reynold's phone message cuts off right there. Here I am, Richard Slipper, walking the streets of town, daylight, no one around. Got an iced tea and some chocolate bars from a convenience store, kicked in the glass. Looking for that goddam couple.

The End




© 2015 Wayne Haroutunian



Wayne Haroutunian is originally from Canada, and now lives in the USA with his wife and son. He has published fantasy, sci-fi and horror stories in Aphelion, Siren's Call and Antipodean SF. His inspirations are Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Philip K Dick. You can find some of his stories on Amazon and Smashwords.

E-mail: Wayne Haroutunian

 

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