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In the morning, Anna gets out of bed, prepares a meager breakfast from her dwindling refrigerator, and says grace.

"Dear Lord, I thank you for this food, I thank you for this drink, and I thank you for letting me see yet another day. May the disappeared be at peace."

It's been a week since she last heard from Marcus. She's pretty sure she knows what happened to him, but it feels wrong to lack confirmation. In some ways, Anna barely has confirmation that the disappearances are happening in the first place. As she gets on her bike and pulls out onto her empty neighborhood road, she can picture everyone jumping out from behind the trees and over the picket fences. One cosmic surprise party, just for her. Anna's birthday is coming up soon anyways. It would be nice to have someone to celebrate it with.

But there's no one around. The numbers had been dwindling for months, and Anna hadn't actually seen another person in days. Not at the distribution warehouses the government instituted to replace grocery stores. Not in the abandoned elementary school where they held bi-weekly townhalls to make sure no one needed help moving a statue out of their living room, or jumpstarting a car. Not even Mr. Perkins, who continued to run the antique book store despite rare literature being the last thing on everyone's mind.

Anna stops in front of the short sheet metal block of a building where the town had been stockpiling bottled water, and non-perishables. She walks inside, sneezing from all the built up dust. A quick count of the bottled water cases and peanut casks makes it clear that there hasn't been a restock since Anna was here last week. No one's even taken any food.

She couldn't be the last one, right?

Maybe in her town, Anna can wrap her head around that. But she has no real evidence that there's anyone outside of her little stretch of suburbia either. The power's still on, and the water still ran, but that doesn't require someone manning a station every minute. How long could that last unattended? Anna doesn't know.

She can feel her breath quickening. An invisible timer with an unknown expiration date hangs over her head. Anna snatches a few bags of beef jerky and as many water bottles she can shove into her backpack before bolting back to her bike. One thought runs through her mind: a beating, pulsing desire that she feels slip further away with each tick of the clock.

I don't want to be alone on my birthday.

Finding people is difficult. You can't just stroll into your front yard and shout "is anyone about?". Social media used to do the trick, but there's no point in tweeting, or updating a status if there's no one out there to read it. But Anna checks anyways. She scours Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, everywhere, looking for a sign of life. It's all empty, of course. Only the traces of automated comments and Twitter bots are left to rove the deserted virtual-scape. Anna shuts her laptop and flops onto her bed. What a waste of six hours.

Although, nowadays anything to keep Anna occupied isn't really a waste. She used to manage a nearby conservatory, but there's been no reason to cut the grass or trim the flowers if all the guests are gone. She also used to sing, and she does that from time to time, just to speak without talking to herself. But even that can feel hollow when there's never an audience. When she'd sing in the shower as a kid, she always secretly hoped that her sister would hear her notes through the wall.

Now when she sings, the next room over is empty. Her sister isn't there. Neither is her father. But reminding herself of that is redundant.

She does wonder what happened to them. There's something unnerving about just disappearing. At least with death the body remains on earth, while a whole host of scriptures speculate on what happens to the soul. Anna can't let herself believe they just stopped existing altogether.

Anna's church first said that they were just being judged for their lives early. That angels simply took the disappeared to heaven or hell because death was taking too long. But Anna never liked that explanation. This was no early death, it was no escort to the pearly gates or the flaming lakes.

Anna clutches her pillow, in case it would disappear too.

The next day she checks all her platforms again. And then the day after that. And the day after that. On the fifth day Anna is no longer convinced she'll find anyone like this, and decides to just run around her neighborhood, shouting at the houses. It's also fruitless but that much screaming at least relieves some of the stress.

Then, on the sixth day, Anna remembers a site that someone would check out of idle curiosity, as another way to pass the time.

She logs onto the public SCP Foundation document archives. She checks "Recent Edits", and sees pages and pages of edits, across 50 documents at a time. One batch each day. Each batch adding a new line to the top that reads:

Are you out there?

There's a desperation to these edits. Their regularity, to show that the editor is still alive, the brevity of the message, requiring follow up, the medium, an ex-secret organizations records. It's like trying to get a date by editing wikipedia. But the situation called for desperation.

I am.

Thirty minutes later, a message notification arrives through the archives site:



Oh thank god there's someone else out there, holy shit. So fucking relieved.

That makes two of us.

So, where are you?

30 miles outside of Toronto. Place called Stratford (you probably haven't heard of it).

Oh sweet, same landmass lol. I'm from Denver, Colorado. USA.


I realize maybe I should've led with this, but what's your name?

Anna. What's yours?

It's nice to meet you, Anna. I'm Sabrina.

It's nice to meet you too!

Anna, do you have a car?

I mean, I don't personally, but I imagine I can find one around here. Why do you ask?

Well, I was just thinking… I know we barely know each other, but we're not that far away. It still might be nice to see the only other human left.

We don't know if we're the last ones.

Right, right. How about only other person I know of, lol. But still, does that sound good? If not that's ok. Totally get not wanting to road trip out just to meet some weirdo from the SCP Archive boards.

Actually, that sounds nice. I was probably going to bring it up myself if you didn't beat me to it.

Great minds think alike!

Hehe, good start for us then.

Alrighty then, how about we meet halfway? I think Des Moines should be a good compromise.

Yeah, google says about 12 hours for me.

Same. I'll want a bit of time to pack though. And also to… find gas somewhere. lol. How does aiming for the 11th sound?

Actually… um, can we do the 10th?

I mean, probably. Any particular reason?

It's just— the 10th is my birthday. I was kind of hoping I wouldn't spend it by myself.

Say no more. Des Moines, the 10th. I'll be there.

I'll see you then! :D

Anna spends the next day going from house to house, breaking into the garage and checking the gas tanks on any cars she could find the keys to. Eventually she finds a Prius with a full tank. She jams the back with enough food for three days and sets out.

Anna hasn't left Stratford in six months. She hasn't left the greater Toronto area in two years. And she hasn't left Canada in six years. She'd worry about how well she can drive a car, but there's no one else on the road.

Her route takes her straight through the heart of Toronto. She pauses at every stop light. Looks both ways for pedestrians. She knows its performative but the rituals keep her from truly acknowledging how alone she is. Occasionally she waves to one of the statues on the sidewalk. It's close enough to a person, and she can use practice in meeting new people. She doesn't want to scare off Sabrina.

But it's hard to keep yourself entirely submerged in the fantasy. And as she crosses the abandoned border patrol, Anna can't help but return to the question: where did they all go?

Maybe Heaven and Hell are full, and God decided to store people away until the afterlife can be expanded. Not alive or dead, but instead stuck in an eternal elevator between floors. Just listening to celestial hold music.

Or maybe they have been spirited away to a new version of earth. One with titanically tall trees, and instead of vast oceans there's regularly spaced ponds and lakes. A new place for humanity to start over with all we know, but with none of the infrastructure. Like restarting to a checkpoint after you've met the big boss.

Or it could just be a white void. A blank canvas punctuated with nothing but the 7 billion people who vanished.

Anna stops thinking about that last one. It feels too sad for her to explore. Just the vast nothingness. But at least there'd be people there. There'd be so many people. And the thought of being surrounded by billions of others, that makes the void a little less sad. And her empty motel room she commandeers for herself so much quieter.

The next day, Anna arrives in Des Moines. She messaged Sabrina the night before to establish an actual location. There's a park just outside of the downtown proper with some picnic tables. Sabrina sent some pictures, and it looked nice. They agreed to meet up at 11:00 in the morning. Not that there's any rush, but it's nice to have a concrete hour locked down.

Anna arrives around 10:50. She's a tad early, but it's a warm spring day. Sunny skies. Little wind. She takes a seat at one of the picnic tables and waits for Sabrina. The top of the hour rolls around and there's no other cars to be seen. Not even a rumbling engine.

Five past. Ten past. Still nothing. Anna messages Sabrina, and when there's no immediate reply she tells herself its because Sabrina is driving. She stands up and starts to pace. Fifteen past and still—

There's a rumbling sound.

Anna watches as a beat up and muddy pick up truck rolls into the parking lot. Its roars and sputters like its on its last legs, coughing itself to a stop next to Anna's car. The door opens and a woman, in her early thirties, with long red hair and a leather jacket steps out of the driver's side.


Anna stops pacing, "Yeah. You're Sabrina?"

"Yes I am."

The two look each other up and down, and then share a smile. And then a laugh.

"Sorry I was late!" Sabrina says, circling around to the other passenger side of her truck, "I thought I had time to pick this up but turns out even with google maps, the downtown area is hell to navigate."

"Pick something up?

"You said it was your birthday, right?" Sabrina lifts a small chocolate cake into view.

Anna's eyes widen. She can feel tears forming. It'd been years since she actually had cake for her birthday.

"You— You didn't have to do that," she stammers, "You didn't have to bring anything."

"You're not wrong, but it's not like anyone else is going to eat it. Luckily the refrigerator at the Cold Stone was still powered so it should still be good."

"It's an ice cream cake?"

"If there's a time to indulge, it's at the end of the world, isn't it?"

Anna's smile feels like its about to leap off her face, "Yeah. You're totally right."

Sabrina set out the cake with two sets of plastic forks and knives. Anna just sat at the picnic table, like she was still a little kid while her father laid out everything for her. On any other day, she would feel bad for letting someone she just met pamper her this much, but it's her birthday. It's just for one day, she can feel like she's six again. Like she's about to go out camping again. Like she's about to get ready for school again. All of those safe pieces of normal that had been gone for years, even before the disappearances. All of it comes rushing back.

"Are you ok?" Sabrina asks. Anna swallows and nods. She's crying.

"It's just— this is really nice. Thank you."

"Don't worry about it. I imagine you don't mind that I only got one candle. I forgot to ask how old you're turning," Sabrina smirks at Anna.

"Thirty one. We can say the candle is the one, and the cake is the thirty."

"I like your thinking."

Sabrina sticks the candle in the cake and then pulls out a box of matches from her breast pocket. She strikes the match in one, practiced flick and a flame erupts. She lights the candle, shakes out the match and starts to sing.

"Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Anna… Happy birthday to you."

Anna leans in and blows out the candle. She doesn't even wish for anything, because this moment, is all she could have asked for. When everyone told her she was lucky for making it this far, she wanted to kick and scream and tell them they don't know what lucky means. But for this one moment, Anna truly feels like she's been blessed.

Sabrina gives her a golf clap, "Now on to the feast!"

"Actually, do you mind if I quickly say grace first?"

"Oh. Yeah sure, go for it."

Anna clasps her hands together and closes her eyes.

"Dear Lord, I thank you for this food, I thank you for this drink, and I thank you for bringing Sabrina and I together. May the disappeared be at peace."

And when she opens her eyes, Sabrina is gone.

A rat or a pigeon in Des Moines first hears nothing. The mumbling and the sobbing is not loud enough to echo throughout the city. But the scream is clear as day. So is the honking as Anna bangs her head again and again into the steering wheel.

After thirty minutes, the pests of the city would hear a rumbling of an engine, as Anna pulls out of the parking lot, leaving the cake entirely untouched on the picnic table, and beings to speed around the park. And then through the park. Her foot pressed entirely down to the pedal as she demolishes bushes and shrubs and benches before careening into a lamp-post.

The damage is minor. Just a stiff neck, and a horizontal street lamp. But the car can't move anymore. Anna almost renounces her whole religion, right then and there, but stops herself. She instead clambers out of the car, and shambles down a neighborhood road, and then onto another neighborhood road, and then a third, and then finally she is confronted with a small church.

She stumbles inside, and collapses to her knees in the middle of the aisle.

At first she repents. She doesn't know what for, but there must be some sin she has committed that would justify her current circumstance.

And then after that, she prays. She prays to be taken. To disappear. To vanish to the place where everyone else is. To where her father, her sister, the neighbors, Mr. Perkins, and Sabrina all await her. Be it heaven or hell or someplace in between. She prays to be taken to this place out of reach. Prays to be taken to a place only God knows.

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