No bang. No whimper. More the sound of leaves in the trees, rustled by the wind.
Not the sound of an end. The sound of emptiness. Of having been set apart.
Of what, by what, for what purpose, he did not know.
He was apart from the world. Set apart. Removed. Or the world had been removed from him.
No. The world was there. He was there. But he was alone. The last man on Earth, and there was not a knock on the door.
But a lock? Yes, if he had to say so. Nothing came for him, and yet... There were still other things out there. Animals. And things. Others.
But he did not. Say, that is. He hadn't used his voice for weeks. Had he needed to, it surely would have torn his throat.
He breathed. He lived. He heard the sound of his breath and the beating of his heart, and these were his sole companions in the world. In the world and of the world. Were there some that were now in the world but not of the world?
Once there had been radio signals. Once there had been contact. Communication. And yet when he responded, and they coordinated, and when he arrived and where they were supposed to be he found nothing. And yet, and and yet... When he spoke to them again, one amateur radio tech to another, they were still there.
He upset a chair. They reported that nothing had changed. They tore the paper off one of the walls. He reported that it was still intact.
They were there, and they were not. And then they died. He could hear their screams over the radiowaves, listening to the breaking of bones and tearing of flesh, the screams and the fire and the shattering of glass. And then all was silence.
There are other voices on the air. They speak of myriad things. They speak to him. They speak to each other. Sometimes they beg. Sometimes they counsel. Or they encourage. Sometimes they taunt, and often these are not voices that he remembers. Often they do not carry call signs.
Sometimes, someone goes off the air and it is for good. They die, their last words carried to every working radio. They vanish without a trace, no explanation for why they have never returned. They say that the other voices are too much for them. Sometimes the other voices say this, and they crack and stammer and seem to lose something of themselves. And then they go, or they go and return crueler than before.
He left the radio on forever, once upon a time. There was always someone. They would run the air in shifts. Someone always speaking, so that everyone could rest but everyone could hear another person.
There were searchers, too. People who would look for batteries and replacement equipment. Things were almost always in the same place. Everyone could use the same batteries, separated as they were. It made the system more sustainable.
He does not leave the radio on for long anymore. It is too hard to predict when the wrong voices will be on, or when the radio will turn to dead air. He carefully tracks the time, and then he turns it on when the time is right for a particular operator. Sometimes the world is merciful. But sometimes it is not. Sometimes no one comes onto the air. Sometimes the wrong voice does.
He is turning on the radio less and less. But all the same he is still filling his hours. Talking, once. There was a time when he took more shifts even as he spent less time listening to them. Once upon a time, he spoke all Sunday and Monday and Tuesday too, from dawn to dusk and a little more than that.
They tell stories. They trade information. They debate the politics of world events that are forever gone to the dust. Sometimes they go away for awhile, and sometimes they come back, and then they tell of places that they've gone.
Chelsea Barlow will be coming back from France one day. Perhaps. But he doesn't listen for Chelsea anymore.
If she returns, one of the other operators will mention it. Perhaps.
But he is talking less often now, as the other voices become louder and more plentiful on the radio. He has taken to long walks in the middle of the day, when the sun is shining brightest. He asked once, if anyone thought it was a little dimmer, a little redder.
He asked if anyone thought the stars were not in their proper constellations.
No one answered him.
Word count: 779 words
Time: 2 minutes (research), 25 minutes (writing)
Have you ever walked into a room that should have been brimming with people and activity and found it empty? It's a disquieting feeling. Now, imagine finding _every_ room you step inside empty, every city abandoned, every village silent.
Today, this is exactly what your character finds.