For Powell Longballs, December 8, 2006 had started out as an ordinary day. He got up, got to his car, got to work.
The commute was faster than usual, Powell thanked his good fortune and let himself relax a little behind the wheel.
Really a lot fewer cars this morning, he thought to himself. He remembered that day a few years ago during the big rightsizing at his firm when he got up as usual, got to his car as usual and got to work in light traffic only to realize as he tried to open the locked doors of his office that it was Saturday.
he checked the date on his phone, nope. Today was Friday, he breathed a huge sigh of relief.
At the office, the problem grew in his mind (when exactly he'd started to think of it as 'the problem' was a mystery to him but that's what he called it once he'd taken notice).
There were so few employees. All nervously going about their tasks, preparing audits, credit opinions, reviewing balance sheets. It dawned on Powell that everyone had noticed the problem but didn't dare to discuss it. Perhaps out of fear that whatever the problem was, it would hear them talking and thus happen to them sooner.
His manager had once boasted that there could be a nuclear strike and the end of civilization and still his department could keep operating for over a month without ever needing input from above.
Now Powell watched it happening. Everyone just working through the day even as more and more employees went for lunch breaks and never returned.
Powell had gone beyond terror by the time 6pm rolled around. By then there was no one left but himself and the receptionist. She had stayed for the same reason he had, there was a lot of work to do and even as the phones had died down until by quitting time they hadn't rung in an hour she bravely sat attentively; ready to greet visitors who didn't come, answer questions that weren't asked.
As he left, he said goodbye.
"Goodbye Grace, have a nice afternoon,"
"See you Pow-pow," she smiled with tears in her eyes, she knew it too, she'd never called him that in the office.
Powell walked over to her and gently cupped her unresisting head in his hands and kissed her softly on the lips.
"There," he said, "I've always wanted to do that."
And then he disappeared.
Grace locked the office and set the alarm, run-proof mascara staining her cheeks black. She exited the office and listened. When she closed her eyes she couldn't believe she was in the heart of the city, not a car not a person not a siren, not even a bird.
Somehow, she knew she was the last person on Earth.
When she disappeared, it was with the memory of one last, first kiss still lingering on her lips.
And then nothing.