|Image by Preston Reed, Submitted by Catherine Maguire|
When he woke up everyone was gone. There was nothing left; not even empty, smoldering shoes. Not even their clothes were left in the closets. Nothing was left save the structured that they had lived in.
Gerald was lost and confused. He sat on the edge of his bed in blue jeans and a white shirt, his face cradled his hands, his long brown hair spilling about his head and shoulders. He had no idea why he was left; all we knew was that he was alone and not alone scared him. He had always stood as an outsider; the tall lanky man with the wild blue eyes. They often joked that they expected him, one day, to be standing on a street corner holding a sign.
"The end is near."
But now it seemed the end really was here, and it had left him behind. Behind with his bed with its wrinkled sheets and pale blue blankets, with his closet full rumpled clothes piled on the floor, with his boots thrown carelessly beneath the single window.
He sighed, stood up, and pulled a pair of sneakers out from beneath his bed. He pulled them on, sockless. Picking up his backpack, he loaded it full of clothing and food. Filled as it was, he pulled it on, feeling its weight settle on his shoulders. He walked to the door, took a deep breath, and opened it.
Outside was just as he had left it. The holes were long, white, and sterile. There were posters on the walls behind glass and white tile floors. Fluorescent lights lined the center of the ceiling, giving the whole thing a kind of glow. The normally full halls echoed with his footsteps, giving more emphasis to its emptiness as he followed it to the front entrance, taking turn after turn in the familiar building.
Only when he arrived, there was no door. No exit; no chance of leaving.
He began to panic, hyperventilating at the plank wall where the door should be. Sweat dripped from his forehead and for a moment, he wondered if he was as insane as they all thought.
But he couldn't. Of course not.
He stood up, shouldered his burden, and began walking. Along familiar pathways, he passed open doors, revealing the empty rooms and their contents. The only comfort he thought was the site of light and trees outside. It made him happy to know that somewhere there was life.
After hours of searching; hours of thinking; he realized there was no exit. Rather than wasting his time, he went back to his room, climbed into bed, and slept. While he slept he dreamed of a doorway, a sheet of darkness framed in light. He walked toward it, and tentatively pushed on the pressure bar, swinging it wide open.
The next morning, the building was empty. All that was left was a single room, with carelessly flopped boots and a closet full of dirty clothes piled on the floor.