Happy New Year? - Chapter 3
"What do you think you're doing? Taking all my friends, leaving me here all alone? I wasn't doing anything wrong! I never even had one drink…ever! Everyone else had at least one, partying every other weekend, every holiday. But where are they all now? Hmm? Oh wait, that was before they became senseless pricks, 'goodie-goodies'. Thinking that they are so holy and perfect because they joined the church.” A young man, around 17 yelled walking down the center of an abandoned road in the Grand-Pruett’s neighborhood. His fists raised towards the sky as he yelled into the clear, starry night. “Maybe they were all so good that they were all taken to some distant planet where they can all be such good people together! Yeah, that's gotta be right."
Around the neighborhood sobs rose and fell. Cries for loved ones filled the dark cold night. Making the air even more frigid. Those who had lost someone close were beginning to realize the reality of the situation. These people had just up and disappeared. Nothing was left behind but their memory. Many were frantically searching around their homes hoping they had gone out just for a moment. Even so, some slept soundly, houses dark, unaware of what had taken place.
But this one particular cry seemed closer than the others. The young man in the middle of the street began walking towards the sobbing woman, distracted from his rant. "Excuse me, are you alright?"
Jenny sat in a ball in the snow in the place she had last seen Erik. In her hands she held the necklace and the box. Shaking her head the young man knelt down beside her and put his arm around her. Tears came to the young man’s eyes thinking of his family.
"You know, it's going to be okay.” Jenny glared. “My family and friends all went missing," he said as Jenny took a deep breath and began to relax. “All of a sudden our New Year’s party just stopped. The tv is still on, the music still playing, lights all on, food still sitting on plates half eaten, but there were no people.”
"Really?" Jenny said slowly looking up, for the first time realizing she was not alone in this. Someone else had lost their family too.
"Yeah,” he replied as he sat down in the snow, hugging his knees close in the cold temperatures. “I'm George Catalpa."
"I'm,” Jenny said trying to wipe tears out of her eyes before they froze down her face, “Jenny Pruett." Jenny slowly moved to a sitting position. Both sat staring across the neighborhood in silence. Not knowing what to say or even how to react. Both sat in wonder. What if they were the only ones left? It had occurred to Jenny before, but what if everyone else in the world had disappeared, leaving her and this other boy the only ones alive?
"So,” George said, trying to make conversation. “Have you actually seen anyone else? I mean, I can hear people sobbing, but haven’t actually talked to anyone until I stumbled across you here."
"No,” a tear ran down Jenny’s face. “I ran back to my grandparent’s to find my family, and when they were gone I ran back here, to the last place I saw…him…" Jenny said as they both heard a blood curdling scream from across the street. It sent an icy shiver through Jenny’s entire body.
"Well, let’s go someplace warm. Maybe there will be some people at a gas station or something.” George suggested as the moon went behind a lone cloud, casting an eerie light over the neighborhood.
“There’s no place to go,” Jenny said distantly. “Everyone I’ve ever cared about just disappeared. If they’re not coming back, if they can’t be found, I might as well sit here and freeze. Then at least I’d know I’d died in the place I knew I was loved.”
“Well, suit it yourself,” George said as he slowly stood up. “If I find out what happened to everyone I’ll come back and see if you’re still here and pass along the info.”
“Do you think its possible that they’ll come back? Like this is just a giant magic trick? Maybe if we say the right thing or perform the right sequence of rituals they’ll come back?” George started walking down the street, turned to shrug and continued. “Maybe something like abracadabra, or open sesame? Maybe it’s in another language. We should find a library and look this up! Where is the library at in this town?” Now excited and motivated Jenny rose and trotted after George.
George kept walking, glad he had someone with him, yet annoyed by Jenny’s obnoxious and preposterous ideas. Whatever keeps her going, I guess it beats being by myself and yelling at the stars. By the time they reached George’s house Jenny had exhausted her knowledge on magic words and spells. George stopped at the front door, not wanting to go any farther. He could still hear the blur of the tv and the joyful sound of Christmas carols.
“What are we waiting for? I’ve been outside far too long. I need to use the little girl’s room. Can we get on with this?” Jenny stood impatiently. George stood still, frozen in memories. “George…George?” Jenny waved her arms in front of his face, still no reaction. “Alright then, I’ll just have to go in alone.”
Jenny pushed open the front door finding herself in a small alcove. A dozen coats or so were piled high on an old oak coat rack along with hats and scarves. Walking into the living room an eerie feeling began to creep its way up Jenny’s back again. Plates were left sitting on end tables half eaten. One plate fell on the floor with a small sandwich with a bite half eaten. Christmas carols blared and across the room the tv broadcast live coverage of missing people all around the world beginning with the chaos at Times Square. Mesmerized, Jenny remembered her mission, the bathroom, then find answers. She found a hallway, lights still on and opened the first door. Flipping the light switch it revealed a bedroom, most likely George’s. The bedroom was lined with sports trophies and posters. Neatly kept, the bed was made floor was spotless and on the nightstand was a Bible. Closing the door Jenny stepped into the next room, turned on the light to reveal the bathroom. As quickly as she could, she did her business and returned to find George still frozen at the front door.
“Do you want to grab anything from your room? Clothes? Pictures? Trophies?”
“What? Let’s go inside, its freezing out here.” George said stepping into the house and out of his thoughts. “I’m gonna grab a few things. The bathroom’s the second door in the hall if you need it. The kitchen is around the corner there if you’re hungry.” George walked straight to the first room in the hallway. Jenny stood weirded out in the living room. Wondering what she is getting herself into.
George returned quickly with a stuffed book bag then made his way towards the kitchen. “What do you like?”
“Excuse me?” Jenny asked.
“What kind of food do you eat? Pop tarts? Cookies? Or are you a health nut? Carrots, celery, what do you like?”
“Fruit and vegetables are good, and any kind of potato chips.” George started pulling fresh fruit and vegetables out of the fridge along with other snacks out of the cupboards. Grabbing a large mesh grocery bag they worked on filling it up as quickly as possible to get out of the house, away from the eerie feeling.
“Where’s your place?” George asked as they walked towards the front door. George stopped to pull on a navy heavy winter jacket along with matching gloves, hat, and scarf. As they walked out of the house he grabbed a pair of heavy snow boots.
“My grandparents live…or lived over a street…or two?” Jenny said following George as they walked down the street where they had come from.
“Elderly lane, I think.”
“That’s two streets over. Let’s cut across here.” George said walking down an alley. Clouds had begun to fill the sky, casting eerie shadows in their path. Cries for loved ones and sobs were becoming a permanent background to their lives.
“Where do you think we should go?” Jenny asked following in George’s footsteps. "You think maybe we should try another town?"
“Anywhere sounds better than here.” George said hauling his belongings over snow banks and trashcans.
“We could try my town, maybe people are still there…” Jenny trailed off thinking of her friends. She had been given a choice to spend New Year’s with her family and Erik, or babysit her little brother and hope not to get caught when she ended up going out with her friends. Erik had convinced her that spending time with her family was much more beneficial. And the time she had spent with Erik had proven that to be true.
"Sure, where do you live?" George asked as they walked through the first street. “Jenny, where do you live?” George stopped suddenly looking over his shoulder. Jenny ran right into his shoulder.
"Oh gosh, I’m sorry, what did you say?
“Where do you live?”
“In Geneseo, Illinois. You?"
"You already know where I live,” George huffed as the continued through the alley.
“Oh, right. This is all just so weird. I just met you, and we might be one of the few people left. All my family is gone, who knows about my friends. I’m still wondering if there is even a point to living. Is there really a possibility that these people will come back?”
“I don’t have the answers. Right now I am still enjoying your company, I don’t know how long that will last. We can go to your town, search for other people along the way, and hopefully find someone not as annoying as you.” George said as they turned onto her grandparent’s street. “Which house is it?”
“The one with the Christmas lights on. Two doors down on the right.” Jenny said. After everything that had happened today, she had just begun to forget about it. Slowly the hurt began to creep back in. Erik was gone. His love was still there, but him, along with her family were gone.
“You coming? It won’t be long and I’m sure people will get the idea to start raiding these empty houses, so come on.”
“Fine.” Jenny said passing George as they walked into her Grand-Pruett’s, probably for the last time.