The day seemed to start like any other. My alarm clock rang at 7am, the sun shone through the windows, and all seemed well.
I woke up, brushed my teeth, took a shower, dressed up for work, ate my breakfast, and walked out through the door.
I was greeted by desolate ruins, everywhere. Everywhere except my house, which was conspicuously intact. All around me, my neighbour’s houses, cars, picket fences…everything was blown to bits and strewn all around the neighbourhood. There was not a living thing in sight, save for insects crawling across the rubble.
I patrolled the immediate vicinity. I saw some battered arms and legs sticking out of the debris, but there was no sign that there were any human beings still alive. In fact, I could see the horizon of destruction in every direction. It was a surreal sight, seeing nothing left standing except for my small little house.
I wondered at first why my house had somehow been miraculously spared. If the entire town had been destroyed, why hadn’t my electricity and water been cut off? I returned to my house, spooked. Inside the house, it didn’t feel like the world had ended outside, save for the eerie silence of a once lively neighbourhood permeating through the cracks.
I clicked on a switch. The lights still worked. Strange. I pressed the power button on the computer. It booted up promptly. I turned on the Internet, and it loaded my homepage without a hitch. I checked the social networking sites I patronised. They were still running, but when I logged in, all status updates had ceased from 3am last night. Strange…I signed into my IM. For once, I was the only one online. Even my friends in other countries weren’t online. So everyone was probably dead, or at the very least their computers destroyed by whatever destroyed my neighbourhood, and maybe the whole world. Backup power was probably keeping the servers of the popular websites running.
The outside world suddenly felt so empty and threatening. Inside my house, it felt so comfortable…none of my amenities had been cut off. I could continue living in this house – catch up on my reading, play some computer games – for as long as I liked, as long as I had food. And I had stockpiles of canned food in the larder saved for such an emergency. I could pretend the world still existed, and I was just on sabbatical from work.
So I continued living in my house. The first few days passed by without incident. My electricity and water continued running. I started reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, a book I’ve had for ages which I’ve never had the chance to read. I finished the campaign for Starcraft II, twice. Busying myself with entertainment and other creative pursuits, it was easy to forget that there was nothing left outside the house. Although I couldn’t watch television – none of the channels were broadcasting, the screen was awash with static – I had plenty of other distractions to pay attention to.
But every night, when I lay down to sleep, the silence from without grew louder. Crickets still chirped, but there were no occasional sounds of cars filled with drunken teenagers rushing down the street. Was I the only person who still slept soundly on a bed? Was the rest of humanity lying uncomfortably between a rock and a hard place, never to get up again? Thoughts about the outside world, about possible survivors who could be suffering while I led a comfortable existence, plagued me every night, leaving every minute of sleep fitful with guilt.
The days continued passing by. Not once did I hear a knock on the door. When I thought I did, opening the door proved that there was no one there. The feeling of loneliness slowly started to overwhelm me. Soon enough, the curiosity about what was left out there became near unbearable, hemmed in only by the fear of what I might find if I ventured out.
I decided that I would leave once the electricity and water stopped running. I packed a duffel backpack with a weeks’ worth of supplies, survival tools – a flashlight, Swiss Army knife, first aid kit, etcetera – and other trinkets precious to me, like the photo of my children and the wife from whom I divorced, my diary, and a few good books. I left my bag in the kitchen, and continued to stay inside the house.
It was maddening, though. As the days went by, the water supply showed no sign of running dry, and I never experienced a blackout. Every night, sleep became more unsatisfying, and I couldn’t take the drudgery or solitude anymore.
One morning, much like any other morning, I woke up from my bed. But this time, I was determined to leave. The house no longer held any comfort for me, not while there could be others out there whom I could be talking to, sharing our life stories and lame jokes, discussing our favourite movies and books. Maybe I could even find a new person to love, to hold tight, to keep warm at night. I could obtain none of this in my house.
I walked down the stairs, dressed up in some casual clothing, threw on a jacket, and slung the backpack over my shoulder.
Opening the door, I saw that the landscape had remained virtually unchanged since that morning when I had first greeted desolation. The sun shone brightly over everything, and I could see small, bright green weeds pushing up from underneath the rubble. An omen.
I put on a pair of shades, and looked at my compass. Where should I go? I decided to head west, towards the coast.
Shouldering the backpack, I shut the door behind me, and left the house behind.