Disappearance
Author:Ryan Wiley
    Prologue

    My name is Andrew, and this is the story of when everyone disappeared.

    Chapter 1

    I wake up and turn over to see what time it is. The red lights on my alarm clock are blank. Oh crap, the power must be out. I look over to my right and notice my wife, Abby, isn't there. Very strange considering she always sleeps like a baby. She must have decided to check on the power. I'm glad she let me sleep in.

    "Honey!" I call out. No answer. I get up to see what's going on. When I look out the front window, I see the power is out everywhere. Even the streetlights are dark.

    "Hon, are you there?" I say a little louder. There's still no response. I'm starting to get frustrated, especially since I have a very big day today. I'm a web programmer for Vinitech. The company name sounds eerily similar to the one in the movie Office Space and on some days I feel like the frustrated main character. Whoever wrote that movie must have worked at a place like Vinitech because his portrayal is spot on. Vinitech isn't quite the "big corporation" type of place (there are only 60 of us) but we're already at the point where we have a lot of the same corporate non-sense that goes on.

    For example, if a bug is discovered in code I write, I hear about it from my boss, my boss's boss, and some guy of whom I'm not even sure what the hell his job is other than to tell people they've messed up on something.

    I've worked at this company for eight years now, and I've seen many lazy socializers get promoted while the quiet and hard-working people get told to work even harder. I clearly fall in the latter category.

    In my free time, though, I've decided to work on an idea that came to me. It's a bit confusing to explain, but it's basically a way to cut down on the steps needed to make payments online. As easy as it is to pull out your credit card and with one swipe pay for something in the offline world, this would essentially do the same thing online. The great thing is it would work with all websites. I know I personally can't stand having to fill in my name, address, phone, etc., every time I make an online purchase. This would eliminate all of those non-sense steps.

    I'd already finished the development when I finally struck up the courage to tell my boss about it. He didn't seem very interested. "Huh, very interesting. Hey, where are we on the Stebbins project?"

    Later, I told another boss about it. He thought the idea was brilliant. I was there when he discussed it with boss #1 and, as if by magic, he had a change of heart. I wanted to call him out on it -- tell boss #2 I'd already brought it to his attention and he didn't seem to care -- but I have enough business sense to know that sometimes you have to swallow your pride and make your boss look like the genius he so clearly is not.

    My meeting to present the first demo is scheduled for 9:30 this morning and I couldn't be more nervous. I go out to the living room to pick up my cell phone and call Abby; the battery is low and I have no signal. I don't think I can recall ever being at my house and not having bars. Oh well, I'm sure Abby is around here somewhere. I set my phone alarm for 7:00. I usually have no problem waking up before that time, but with this little interruption I guess it's better to be on the safe side.



    My alarm goes off and it startles me. I can count on one hand the number of times I've set my alarm and had it wake me. I'm fully convinced the mind is an amazing instrument, capable of doing things we can't even imagine. It's amazing; I always wake up 5 minutes before my alarm is supposed to go off. Not today though. It must be my lucky day.

    I look over to my right; Abby still isn't there. I check the garage to see if she left for work, but her car's still there. That means she must be around here someplace. Abby and I don't live in a McMansion. It's a nice little 4-bedroom house in a really great neighborhood. The truth is, we are really lucky to be living here. Abby had grandparents who passed away right as we were entering the real world. As it turns out, they were very well off -- much to the surprise of her parents. After living through a few wars, her grandparents had become pretty crazy about stashing away money. Her grandfather also happened to be a financial adviser, and he knew how and where to invest their money. Their attorney did the calculations and figured out they must have put away over fifty percent of their income during their lifetime. Fifty percent! It was a pretty good day when we learned our share of the inheritance came in the form of an eighty-thousand-dollar check.

    Of course, being young and dumb kids out of college, we used fifty thousand dollars of it as a down payment for this house. We seemed to have forgotten that we'd still have to make monthly payments even after we put down a big down payment, but we get by. We plan on having little tykes soon, so we bought the big house a little early.

    I walk around and check every room, but there's still no sign of Abby. Screw it, I don't have time to look for her, not today. Normally I would shower and shave at this point, but because I knew I would be in a rush I did it last night. After my morning breakfast I don't bother brushing my teeth. I grab a couple sticks of minty fresh gum and head out the door. I'll have to call Abby later to find out where she's been.

    As I go to push the garage door opener, I have to laugh at myself -- there's no electricity. Some habits are tough to break. Growing up, I was the only kid I knew that had to manually open a garage door. It's not that my family was poor; I had a roof over my head and food on the table, which was about all a kid could ask for. I didn't have the added luxuries, though, that many of the other kids had at school. I've always been the type of person who is grateful for everything I have, so it didn't bother me to have hand-me down clothes and shoes that were a little snug. I was happy.

    Since I grew up lifting garages the old-fashioned way, I already know what to do and I don't even have to Google it. After a simple pull of the emergency rope, I lift the door with my scrawny arms and head out.

    I'm one of those oblivious drivers that can be driving for twenty minutes and not recall a single moment from the ride. Today was not one of those days though.

    Perhaps because of the electricity and my wife's mysterious disappearance, a part of my consciousness was awake enough today to pay more attention to my surroundings. My daily commute takes exactly 17 minutes and 33 seconds. I know this because my commute involves no highways or stop lights. Sure, it has a few stop signs along the way, but that doesn't affect the timing very much. As the programmer type, I'm a nerd with numbers, or you can just call it OCD denial if you want. I've calculated every possible back road and other way to get to work trying to save every last second that I can. After trial and error over the years, I've settled on my 1,053-second route (the averaged time from about 20 rides to the office).

    As I'm driving, it's odd I haven't passed any cars yet. My drive usually doesn't involve passing too many, but there's always at least one or two. Today though there's nothing. Maybe the electricity being out has caused everyone to sleep in.

    Approaching 17 minutes and coming close to my office, I can already see from a distance there are no cars in the parking lot. Now, I'm usually the morning type who likes to get in early, so there aren't very many cars when I get here anyway. But, I'm almost never the first one to show up. There are always at least a few people who get here before me to catch up on work that's fallen behind.

    Something is weird here. Although, again, that may be explained by the power outage. Why the hell didn't I think of that? We are an online development company where we do the majority of our work ONLINE. Of course there would be little point in going into the office without electricity. Of the 60 employees, I'm the only moron who didn't think to check in first. I would think that if we were supposed to take the day off until further notice my lazy-ass boss would give me a ring to let me know. I reach into my pocket and grab my cell phone only to be reminded that there's still no service. How people survived without cell phones and the Internet, I'll never know.

    I decide to stand by my car, play around on my phone, and try to act like I'm not a total loser for being alone in this parking lot. It's amazing how much humans care about not looking stupid around other people.

    It's 9:15 and there's still nobody in sight. I try to recall if we weren't supposed to come in today or if we were supposed to meet elsewhere. In my eight years of working here, though, neither of those things has ever happened. I might as well drive back home. My meeting with the bosses will have to wait another day.

    The drive back is equally as lonely as the drive to work. I'm not sure how many cars I've seen this morning (maybe one, but it was far in the distance). As my car enters the driveway, I reach up and press the garage door opener. Reality strikes me again -- there's still no electricity.

    I manually open the garage door again and pull in with my chick-magnet Chevy Cavalier. Abby hates my car, especially considering we easily have enough money in the bank to buy a new one. But I don't care; I'll drive this car until it topples over and dies.

    It's not until I open the door that I remember I still haven't seen Abby today. I would laugh at myself for forgetting something like this, but I'm used to having a poor memory.

    "Honey, are you there?" Still nothing. We don't have any pets other than some unwelcome ants every now and then, so it looks like it's just me in an empty house. Until now I've been fine, but I'm starting to get a little worried.

    At this point, I'm probably only a six (on a scale of ten) for how concerned I am. That's the eternal optimist in me. There has to be a plausible explanation for all of this, right?

    I'm really unsure of what to do from here though. Being good at math, I'm typically a very good problem solver. Give me an Internet connection and an appropriate amount of time, and I can Google my way out of almost any problem. Unfortunately though, with the electricity out, I feel as if Kryptonite has taken away all of my Superman powers.

    I suppose the most logical thing to do now would be to go and talk with the neighbors but I'm shy. Abby and I barely know anybody around the neighborhood. I find it fascinating how people who are my parents' age are so outgoing and are always hanging out with friends and neighbors. In my generation (and by that I mean people in our later 20s), we all seem to prefer text message conversations for an hour if it means avoiding five minutes of talking face-to-face.

    Knowing that I drove to the office and did everything I could for work gives me one less thing to worry about. I can tell my boss with 100% honesty that I had no idea where we were supposed to be today, if that is in fact the case. I sit down on my chair and stare at the wall for a few minutes until I get bored. It's time to take action.

    I open the front door and start my way over to the one neighbor, Dave, whom I've at least spoken to and hung out with a few times. Dave is a pretty cool guy overall. He and his family are a little older than Abby and I and they have two kids. So in that regard we don't have much in common. Nevertheless, like all Americans, we like watching football. He's been over a few times to watch some games. We both like the same team, the Cleveland Browns, although I wouldn't quite say we like them as much as we like talking about how miserable it is to be a Browns fan. This seems to be the way all Browns fans are though, and that might be because their team hasn't won, or even come close to, a championship in several decades. It's easy to reminisce about the many bad games that have gotten us to this point. Other than football, we talk about how things are going, vacations we took, and all of that other polite neighborly stuff.

    I ring the doorbell and, just as my continued luck would have it, I hear nothing. I ring the doorbell several more times but still hear nothing and nobody comes to the doorE. What a fabulously weird day this is turning out to be. There is a good chance they're at work. I'm sure they have jobs and have taken their kids to school by now. Of course they aren't home.

    I still have no explanation for Abby though. Where the hell is she? With some wives this kind of occurrence might not be that big of a deal, but Abby is different. She's a very structured, punctual woman who always follows the same morning routine -- kind of like me. If she really went somewhere without taking her car, I would think she would leave some kind of note or kiss me goodbye. The only thing I can think of is if she carpooled today with a coworker. She has done that a few times before. I think she would remind me about that though, but nothing is coming to mind. I will admit I've become a little too good at tuning her out at times, saying "Uh huh," "Yes," and "OK" without having any clue what she's talking about.

    I reach down for my cell phone and there's still no service. I could go knock on other neighbors' doors, but I get a sneaking suspicion they aren't going to be home either. I decide to walk back to the house. When I do, I grab my keys and head to the garage. My hand gets all the way up to actually touching the garage door opener before I remember the power being out. I walk over and manually open the garage door. It's time to figure out what's going on.

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