lb_lee: A pencil sketch of me drawing/writing in my sketchpad. (art)
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This story was prompted by a wandering Anonymous, who wanted something about the fear of being alone.  It was sponsored by [livejournal.com profile] chaoticevil!  Happy Spookathon, everyone!

Thirty-Four Days

Amelia woke up, and everyone was gone.

She didn’t notice at first.  She was still groggy and stupid, so she shuffled around, making coffee, going to the bathroom, taking a shower.  It was only when she came out, toweling her hair, that she noticed, in an offhand kind of way, that it was awfully dark and still in the house.  Usually Pat was dashing out the door or cooking up breakfast by now, smiling that obnoxiously cheery morning-person grin.

Then she saw the apartment white board.  Usually, it had some notes: a grocery list, or a warning that the stove was out again.  This time, there was only one sentence, written in big red capital letters and underlined twice: DON’T GO OUTSIDE.

No explanation, no time limit.

Where was Pat?

Amelia ransacked the apartment.  She checked Pat’s room, with its video game posters and polka dot curtains, but Pat wasn’t there.  They weren’t in the basement, and they weren’t in the attic storage space.  They weren’t hiding in the broom closet either.  Not that Amelia really expected them to be, this wasn’t their kind of joke, but she was starting to want it to be.

All of the windows were covered with sheet metal.  Sunlight leaked out from the cracks, but there was no sound, not even of traffic or birdsong.  How had she slept through this?

Amelia was starting to become afraid.  She pulled on her sweater and coat, rushed down the two flights of stairs to the door, only to find that when she reached for her keys, Pat’s were still there, hanging in their usual place right beside hers.  There was no mistaking that battered Hello Kitty key fob.  They’d bought it on a high school trip to Japan…

Amelia jammed her keys in the lock and turned until she heard the click.  What a relief; for some reason, she’d feared the lock would be welded shut or something.  She gripped the doorknob, turned it, and—

DON’T GO OUTSIDE.

She stopped.

No.  This was silly.  What could possibly happen?  Had the world been taken over by trans-bashing zombies or something?  While she slept?  Come on.

But the letters had been written in red, underlined twice.

Surely it couldn’t—

But Pat didn’t joke.  Pat cried watching Bambi.  They wouldn’t—

She stood.  She stared at the doorknob.  She went back into the kitchen to eat her breakfast and think.


“Hi, you’ve reached Pat.  I’m not here right now, but leave a message and I’ll call you back!  Bye!”

“Hey, Pat?  I got your message.  Where are you?  I’m kind of freaked out right now.  Call me back?”

Next, she tried the Internet, but kept getting a ‘sorry, this page is unavailable’ message.  The radio got nothing but static.  Ditto the television.

The house was deathly quiet.

Amelia ate her lunch on the stairs, staring at the doorknob with her keys still hanging from them.  She should open the door, she told herself.  Just go outside and see what’d happened.  Look for Pat, who was usually glued to their phone, but hadn’t called back.  Surely it couldn’t be that dire.  Surely, looking wouldn’t—

But she remembered Pat’s warning.  And she stayed inside.


It was amazing.  Amelia had always considered herself a staunch introvert, but she’d never realized how much of her life had been taken up with other people—their voices, their faces, their textual input.  Without it, life was… quiet.

Her arugula went back, but she had nowhere to toss it.  She put it in the freezer and ate her salads without greens.  The bread started to mold.  She cut the bits off.

She left her radio on, but it never said anything.


“—Leave a message and I’ll call you back!  Bye!”

“Pat?  Are you there?”

Silence.

“Pat, this isn’t funny anymore.  Tell me what’s going on, Pat.”

Silence.

“Pat, I’m scared.  I want to go outside.  I want to know what’s going on.  Why did you cover the windows, Pat?  Did you cover the door too?”

Silence.

“Pat, please…”

Silence.


The power was shut off after two weeks.  Amelia pulled out her old camping flashlight and navigated the quiet house with its weak yellow beam.  When the batteries died after six hours, she got some more.

She ran out of batteries four days later.  But by that point, she’d planned ahead and cleaned up, so she could navigate in the dark.

Her phone was one of the old Nokia bricks, capable of nursing a charge for weeks.  She only turned it on for a few minutes every morning, to check for messages.  There never were any.  She still left a message for Pat every few days, but kept them short.

“Hey, Pat.  My night vision’s getting pretty good.  I can see the mold on the bread now.  The stuff in the fridge, I don’t even dare check.  Hope you’re okay.  Bye.”


They cut off the water after a month.  But it was okay.  Amelia had already filled every container in the house weeks before.  She was okay.  She was getting good at this.

Everything was okay.  Everything was fine.

Really.

Amelia had been living on lukewarm canned goods and trail mix for three days when she saw that her phone was flashing its low battery warning.  Only one call left for Pat.  No messages.

She curled up in the broom closet and cried.


“I’m sorry, Pat.  I know you told me to wait.  But it’s been thirty-four days now, and the fridge is starting to smell really bad.  You’re not coming back, are you?”

Silence.

“I’m coming to find you, Pat.  I love you.” Her phone was flashing. “Bye.”

She went to go pack.  It didn’t take long; there wasn’t much left.


It turned out that Amelia’s agonizing over opening the door was pointless; once she opened it, she found that it too was covered with sheet metal.  Amelia had to descend into the pitch-black basement to find a hatchet.  She stubbed her toes and sprained her ankle, but it was worth it for the sheer visceral catharsis of smashing through the sheet metal.  At first, she was hesitant, but by the end, she was whaling at it and sweating through her sweater.

The first sunbeam was blinding, and she had to pause for a second to let her eyes adjust.  When she didn’t die immediately, she renewed her efforts, and finally, the metal concealed.

She paused, catching her breath, and then stepped out into the sunshine to find Pat.
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