5 am. May 22, Time to make the donuts. The clock radio alarm woke Doug up to quiet static.
Doug frowned as consciousness won out over sleep. Instead of the dulcet tones of the local public radio morning hostess, there was just static, like an old television tuned to a dead channel.
Doug looked at the time, and decided he could deal with the radio tuning later.
Twenty five minutes later, after morning ablutions, Doug picked at a whole wheat bran muffin that did not taste as good as it looked. And it looked like something that an unloved pet might find in their food bowl. The white noise sound of the static of the radio still filled the tiny studio apartment.
Doug walked over and started to fiddle with the dial. Nothing. Static. Not even the annoying prog rock station whose signal sometimes overawed the small public radio station’s broadcast had anything. The conglomerate modern music station had some sort of test sound, a high pitched whine.
“Stupid radio” Doug cursed under his breath. He resented the money it would take to replace it.
Doug padded over to his computer. A few emails from last night, but nothing that required his immediate attention or his reply. Work email could wait until he was in the office, anyway.
When he logged onto some social networks, he noticed that no one seemed about. Sure, few people followed him or cared about what he was doing, but he could usually see what other people were doing. If he was reading this right, there had been no activity from any of them since last night. Not even the Inkheart writer group in Europe, which usually had a lively debate going on Twitter. All silent.
A trip to some news sites, even the BBC, revealed that no stories had been updated since last night. No timestamps beyond 11:38 PM. It was as if the Internet stopped after that time.
“My fucking cable connection, too?’ Doug growled aloud and slammed the heel of his hand against the computer desk. He regretted the outburst. Old Mrs. Atwood woke up early and had preternatural hearing. More than once she had complained to the apartment manager about Doug’s television being too loud. By too loud meaning above the sound of a whisper in a thunderstorm.
Silence. Nothing. Perhaps she was fast asleep, for once. Maybe she had spiked her Geritol.
Rebooting the computer, and the connection, did not change matters. Doug glowered at the computer screen. Besides, Doug thought, he was late for work.
It took about six blocks for Doug to realize something was seriously wrong. A gas station on fire, with a Hummer crashed into one of the pumps was strange enough. It was doubly strange that there was no one seeing to the fire or even watching it. The lights were on in the twenty four hour convenience store. Regretting that he didn’t have a cell phone, Doug carefully parked away from the fire, and trotted to the convenience store.
The store was empty of people. Doug headed to the counter. Something possessed him to look over the counter. There was a pile of clothes in the center of the space, but nothing else. Quizzical, Doug eased himself over the counter and picked up the phone. Three attempts to call 9-1-1 resulted in nothing more than an answering service. Calling the police department directly proved equally fruitless.
Outside, the fire in the gas pump burned in the morning light.
Doug racked his brain as he got in his car, but finally memory sent him down DeNardo road, toward the nearest fire station. The car radio was as useless as the radio in his apartment. He could not find a working station.
There were a few abandoned cars in the grass lined ditch on the right side of the road. Doug slowed and stopped by one of the cars. The car was still on, running fruitlessly, headlights and taillights on. There was a pile of clothes in the driver’s seat, and shoes in the footwell. Key still in the ignition, Doug leaned over and turned the car off. It sputtered to a stop.
Doug continued on his journey. The fire station shared space with Clifton Landing’s police station, and, as Doug was growing to expect, both were quiet as a tomb. There were a few piles of clothes and shoes here and there, in random places. Doug lifted a set of keys and explored the fire station and police station.
Even in the drunk tank, there were two sets of clothes without owners.
Doug went to the administrative section of the police station and fired up a computer. Clucking his tongue with the lack of any security whatsoever, he quickly was able to get onto the Internet. A thought had been creeping in his mind for the last hour.
A little Googling did the trick. There, there it was. Reverend “Pappy” Todd Brandt. He had loudly predicted the Rapture would come 7:39 AM, Jerusalem time, May 22, 2011. The computer translated that to 11:39 PM local time, last night. Pappy had said only the worthy and the saved would be bodily transported to heaven, leaving all others to misery for the end of their days on a dying Earth.
Dumbfounded, Doug wandered out of the police and fire station, into the street. The sound of a sonic boom led him to look up at the sky. Instead of the early morning light, the sky was now the crimson color of fruit punch, and a diagonal line of clouds were black, forming a gash across that unnaturally colored sky.
Doug shook his head and moaned. It couldn’t be. It couldn’t. It just couldn’t.
Everyone he knew and met, apparently, and for all he knew everyone in the world had been Raptured.
Everyone, except him.
Doug sank to his knees in the street, looked up at the hellfire skies, and wept, alone.