And the Rest Is Silence
Rie Sheridan Rose
It started with silence. Eerie silence against a cold, gray dawn. There were no streaks of red and gold breaking through the heavy cloud cover. I might have been alone on the streets. Odd for a Monday. The traffic was negligible—almost non-existent. Also odd for a Monday.
I shared the world with the silence. And the vultures.
They hulked atop the lampposts, black silhouettes against the pearl-gray sky. Maybe they were buzzards…but vultures is so much more descriptive, and who is there now to care if I misidentify one of God’s creatures? He certainly seems to have turned a blind eye on the world below His heavenly realm.
Monday morning and I made it to work in ten minutes. That’s usually a thirty-minute drive with the traffic. Parking my car on the first floor of the garage was another treat. But the vultures watching silently from the street lights took the edge off the pleasure.
I hurried into the building as fast as I could, one eye on the brooding birds. It was a relief to get inside. I know vultures and buzzards don’t usually attack the living…but seeing a committee in session is unsettling.
I got to my desk without seeing another living soul. Normally, Virginia would have been at the reception desk well before I made it in. Parker would be on the telephone arguing with a customer over some change he didn’t want to implement—he’d never gotten the hang of “the customer is always right,” no matter how many times we tried to drum it through his thick skull.
At the very least, Matthew would beat me in. He practically lived in his office, struggling with all the duties it takes to manage a start-up. But his light was off, and the room was empty.
Maybe I had missed a memo. Was it a holiday or something? I checked the calendar, and it wasn’t a scheduled day off. Maybe someone had called an informal hooky holiday and decided not to invite me. But that didn’t explain the traffic…and it seemed hardly likely that Matt would have signed off on such a thing. We were supposed to make a presentation on Friday. Which made it all the more disturbing that there was no one there.
I had been working my ass off, but my part wasn’t ready to go—I didn’t see how Parker could be done with his. Still, the silence was good for one thing. It was easier to focus without all the normal distractions of a typical day at the office. I figured out the blocker that had interrupted my progress, and by the end of the workday, I was in much better shape than I had been.
Not a single person had come in all day.
Not a single phone had rung.
Not a single IM had pinged across my chat screen.
It was as if the world had ended—like that Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith—and no one had let me know the news. At least I didn’t wear glasses.
Heading back to the garage, I glanced up for the vultures. Even those silent sentinels had deserted me.
Throwing my briefcase in the passenger seat, I got behind the wheel and pushed the button for the radio. Surely there would be some news story or something. It had been at least eight hours since I had heard another voice.
But there was only silence…and a vague static if I turned the volume up as high as it would go. I didn’t leave it there—when the sound came back, I didn’t want to be startled off the road by the blast of noise.
I needed sound.
The tires screeched a little as I whipped out of the garage, and it was curiously comforting. That was what tires were supposed to do under duress. I felt a little better.
That comfort soon died away again, however, as I drove to the heart of town. I craved people and noise. Music. Horns honking. Street corner hustlers. Anything!
The restaurants were closed and empty. The neon was dark. The corners were vacant.
There weren’t any hordes of shambling zombies…but there weren’t any people either. There weren’t any little piles of ash from the Rapture. There weren’t any Mother-ships hovering overhead.
There was me, and my car, and the silence.
And the vultures, back to brooding on the lampposts.
I was irrationally pleased to see them. At least I wasn’t completely alone.
That was three months ago. There is plenty of food and water; the electrical grid is up for the environmental necessities; the vultures seem to be doing fine. But there is no sound. Even my DVD player refuses to cooperate.
I’ve started naming the vultures that are my only companions. I wonder if you can teach them to speak…?