Entertainingly Evil

Without A Trace By Jeremy Szal

One minute my professor was ranting on about patterns of chemical dynamics. The next minute he disappeared. Poof. Gone. Vanished in the blink of an eye. It was the first time it happened.

And it wouldn’t be the last.

Everyone thought it was funny. Somehow our dour, lazy professor had pulled off a magic trick and disappeared. We were waiting for him to reappear when the girl next to me disappeared. Then another. Then another.

The reports came in seconds later. People across the globe had randomly disappeared. No tricks. No slight of the hand. No illusion. Just gone.

That was the moment it stopped being funny.

Every few seconds of the day someone would disappear. It didn’t matter where they were, what language they spoke or whether they were filthy rich or dirt poor. Nothing. Beggar or king, they vanished all the same. There was no pattern, no form of repetition or predetermined method in which it happened. The cosmic dice was rolled and a person disappeared.

The theories started pouring in faster than people could write them. A parallel dimension. God’s wrath. A wormhole. I heard countless more, each one crazier than the last.

But it didn’t matter. People kept vanishing without a trace and we had no answers and no solution.

Very soon the world became a lot less busy. The streets slowly started to empty. Shops shut down. There were fewer cars on the road. All those crazy theories drained away, bit by bit. There were getter fewer people to write them and fewer still that cared enough to read them. All the stations and airports started to close, but I saw that one coming. Seriously, who was going to get on a plane when the guy flying the last one disappeared mid-flight?

Everyone that I knew had vanished already. The last person to go was a friend that I worked with on a few occasions. I forgot his name. I went around to his house, finding it empty. Upstairs I found his baby. With its father done, it had died of starvation. It died alone. I never went back to see if the corpse had disappeared as well.

I spent my days searching for others, but it was pointless. I haven’t seen another human being in four days. It felt like four years. There was no one in the streets. No one in the parks. No one in the city. No one anywhere. A long time ago I would have done anything for this kind of privacy.

I stood on the boardwalk and gazed out at the deserted beach. I could remember those busy weekends where the beaches would be jam-packed with thousands of people as they drank and laughed themselves senseless. There wasn’t a single soul in sight.

I still wasn’t sure if I was the last person on Earth or not. It certainly felt that way.

Why haven’t I vanished yet? I thought. It seemed strange that I was still here after all this time. There was nothing to do now but wonder about what comes after the disappearance. I gave up trying to figure out why or how. I just wanted to know what happens afterwards. None of the theories feel right, but surely that’s not the end. It can’t be. It doesn’t make sense. None of this did.

It doesn’t matter, I told myself. You can’t do anything about it anyway.

The only thing you can do is wait.

And so I did. I sat on the park bench and waited to disappear. Waiting, waiting, waiting…

Born in 1995, Jeremy Szal’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in venues such as Nature, Abyss & Apex and Perihelion, and his nonfiction in Strange Horizons and Grimdark Magazine. He’s also the assistant editor of Hugo winning podcast StarShipSofa. He lives in Sydney, Australia. This story originally appeared in MicroHorror.

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