I was on my way to the store this weekend when suddenly my car radio went silent. I turned it off, and then back on, and it started working again, but not before I had a moment's thought of What if it's not the radio that's malfunctioning, but the entire world? (Yes, I do think that way sometimes.) The question inspired the following piece of flash fiction.
The first hint Trevor Williamson had that something was wrong was when his car radio stopped working.
He was on his way to the grocery store when it happened. "Going to the grocery store" was a significant excursion for him; he lived in a two hundred year old farmhouse out in the hill country of southwestern Pennsylvania, and a trip into the nearest village (a little hole-in-the-road called Wind Ridge) meant a sixty-mile round trip. Trevor loved the solitude - he was a writer, and the tranquility was conducive to his art. The country life did have its downsides, however, and the long drive to get anywhere was definitely one of them.
He was only about a third of the way there when his satellite radio suddenly went quiet, right in the middle of Adele's cut-crystal voice wailing on "Rolling in the Deep." At first, he didn't react. Out in the hills, sometimes the satellite signal got lost for a moment.
Trevor waited for a moment. Nothing happened.
He switched to another station; silence. Then he switched from satellite radio to the ordinary FM station. There, all he got was static.
"Shit," Trevor said, under his breath, and turned the radio off. Music was a necessary companion on the infrequent, but long, drives into town. He'd need to get the radio fixed or replaced, which would mean yet another drive, this time all the way to Waynesburg.
He was nearing Wind Ridge when he noticed a second odd thing; since shortly after leaving home, he had not passed a single other car coming in the opposite direction. The realization came slowly; first, a thought of, wow, the roads are quiet today. Then, I haven't seen another car for the last five miles. Then, with increasing desperation, he started looking for them; each crest of a hill, waiting to see a flicker of movement in the distance, that would finally resolve into the familiar shape of a car.
The feelings of unease deepened into fear as he approached the village. While not a booming metropolis, Wind Ridge was a busy little place -- it was near enough to Waynesburg that a lot of people lived in the village and commuted into Waynesburg for work. On a Thursday morning, there should be cars, people, noise.
The streets were empty. The sidewalks were empty. The parking lot of the A-Number-One Groceries was empty. Feeling dazed, Trevor pulled his car into a parking space, turned off the motor, and opened the door. The silence was frightful; even out where he lived, there never was a complete absence of human noise. Now, there was nothing; no hums of motors, growls of airplanes overhead, buzzing of electrical contacts in the transformers.
He got out, and slowly approached the store front. The lights in the little grocery store were off, and the automatic door didn't move as Trevor stepped in front of it. He reached out and pushed the door, and it easily slid back, giving a dull thunk as it hit the end of the rollers.
"Hello?" Trevor said, and his voice sounded impossibly loud in his own ears.
He stood in the threshold, looking into the shadowed interior of the store, and suddenly his nerve broke. He backed up, and then ran out into the parking lot, looking around him wildly.
"Where is everyone?" he shouted up into the empty sky.
The sky had no answer.