Why 5/22/20

A Short Story by Richard Bleil

“I love this song,” she thinks to herself. Her streaming music service has been learning her tastes and doing far better at predicting songs she might like. She puts down the butter knife and takes a bite out of her toast with jam. Glancing up at the clock, she thinks she needs to pick up the pace a bit if she’s going to be at work on time.

Brushing her teeth and doing a final check of her hair, she slips on her shoes as she picks up her lunch and heads out. She locks the door behind her and begins the morning walk to the office.

It’s a beautiful day in the city. She stops and observes the “No Walking” sign, waiting diligently until it changes. She looks both ways and crosses the street even though it’s just one way as most are downtown. At the office, she walks past security towards the elevator banks and heads up to her office on the eighteenth floor.

At her workstation she starts up the computer. She brings up the program she has been working on. She glances at the photo on her desk of her trip to the Grand Canyon, and quickly does a count in her head of the number of days until her next vacation. She opens up a file with notes she has been keeping on this project, and repeats the test run she tried at the end of the day yesterday. So far, it runs well, but she needs to add the next subroutine for statistics.

It feels like it’s been a long morning. She is happy lunch is finally here. Heading to the cafeteria, she takes her lunch out of the refrigerator. Looking around the room, she chooses one of the chairs at the dozen tables and sits to eat. She enjoys the quiet and relaxes her mind as she enjoys her sandwich. She closes her eyes for a few minutes as she finishes.

The afternoon was as quiet as the morning. Although she finished, there is something wrong with the new statistics subroutine. She keeps getting an error but can’t seem to find the problem with the cryptic statement the language gives. No doubt it’s something trivial, but she is brain tired and can’t look at it any longer. Maybe fresh eyes in the morning will bring the answer.

Clouds seemed to role in while she was working, but it’s still warm even if it is a breezy. Feels like something is rolling in, but hopefully it will pass before tomorrow.

She walks to her apartment building and unlocks the door with her key. Taking the elevator to her floor, she goes to her apartment, unlocks the door and enters, locking the door behind her. Feeling experimental, she decides it’s a good night to stir-fry for supper. She enjoys experimenting with the sauces and spices, and it’s always delicious.

She checks her alarm clock and settles in to sleep.

It was quite the storm last night, but it seems to have passed. The air is moist, and the day is cool but it should be a nice walk. She takes her morning shower and prepares breakfast.

Walking into work, the light is with her. She still looks both way before she crosses.

Until.

She stops halfway to the other side. She looks from one side to the other. There are still no cars. There have never been cars. The streets are barren.

She thinks for a moment. She has never seen a moving car. Plenty of parked cars, but never one moving. She looks at the sidewalks, carefully laid and extending on both sides of the street in all four directions, with crosswalks and lights at each intersection. But she has never seen another pedestrian.

It just seems so absurd but until this moment, it never really hit her. She just never thought about her routine, the streets, the buildings. She suddenly looked around at the hundreds of tall buildings, the shortest of which typically have at least ten floors, and the rooms. Room after room after room, but for whom?

She walks past the security desk, once again empty. She rides the elevator to her floor, suddenly disturbed by this realization. As the doors open and she walks onto the floor, she looks around at the many cubicles, but never has she had a co-worker. Her boss’ door is again closed, but she’s never seen it open. She thinks about it, and realizes she never even had a boss. Who built this? And for whom? Shouldn’t there be people?

She sits down, and looks around, engulfed in this awakening. Feeling obligated, she turns on her computer, and opens it to the program she has been working on. She checks her email. Again, no email except from spam bots that always seem to be the only messages she gets. She looks at her Grand Canyon photo, taken by the sign but, there were no people. Not at the canyon, not on the trip there, or back, or…has she ever seen another person? She thinks back to her parents and realizes she had none. She can’t picture their faces, or hear their voices, she just, well, she always was.

A sense of panic overwhelms her. She runs out of the room, too energized for the elevator. Running down the stairs she begins crying. She bursts out of the stairwell and past the security station, running out of the building and into the middle of the street. She opens her mouth to scream, but stops short, because there is nobody to hear her.

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