This is the story of Jackie, who one day finds that a friend is missing, then another, and then a lot of people are gone…Where are they, what happened to them? No one knows, read Jackie’s story as she struggles to figure out if she is losing her mind, or people are really just gone. At first blush it wouldn’t seem obvious that this was inspired by the idea of surviving a zombie apocalypse, but it was. The idea that at some point along the way that surviving just isn’t enough anymore, and with no end in sight, being bitten would be a blessing.
As a child Jackie had read a story about a girl who found her face on a milk carton and everything changed. The girl soon discovered that while she lived a happy life with her “adoptive” parents, or as she called them, parents, her biological family had been devastated. There was no going anywhere alone, always a parent present, their lives had been forever changed.
Jackie guessed thats kind of what she expected. It would make sense that a person disappearing would leave a hole in the the lives of the people around them That the not knowing would drive them crazy, though Jackie felt that in some cases knowing was actually worse.
So when one of Jackie’s closest friends, Betty, had disappeared, she did not expect what came next. More specifically she did not expect to be the only person who remembered Betty. She couldn’t understand how this was the case. Betty taught second grade, she had a boyfriend, parents, a sister, an apartment, and a car.
When Jackie went looking, she could find no evidence of any of this. Betty’s parents knew her as the girl down the street, Betty’s sister loudly stated that she was an only child. Betty’s boyfriend, single of course, resided in Betty’s apartment, and drove her car. Each person Jackie spoke to, looked at her as if she had two heads, they had never heard of Betty.
It went about as well as you would imagine, when Jackie showed up at the police station to file a missing persons report on someone who had no record of having ever existed. Seventy-two hours later she walked out of the psych ward with a prescription, a follow-up appointment, and a tentative diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Jackie however knew the truth; Betty was real, and Betty was missing. She took the medication though, despite the side effects, because Jackie believed in modern medicine, and even she had to admit her own story sounded insane.
Then she went to visit Betty’s sister again, only the person who opened the door wasn’t Betty’s sister. Martha had never heard of Grace, or Betty, and offered to call someone when she saw how upset Jackie was getting. Jackie left, and headed straight for Betty and Grace’s parents, who still recognized her as the girl next door, but claimed, rather vehemently, that they had not had any children.
This time Jackie skipped the police station, and a week later Betty and Grace’s parents were gone. Jackie got her meds adjusted, and it seemed like that solved the problem. No more of Jackie’s friends, and family went missing, and even she agreed it did seem likely that she made them up. Even though her imagination was never quite that good, and she still had very vivid, life-long memories of these people.
It was almost a year later when she started to notice the cracks in the foundation, so to speak. While Jackie’s friends and family were around, there seemed to be less people around in general. Cafe’s, theatres, and other business’s everywhere were just a little too far below capacity for it not to be noticeable. It wasn’t just her that noticed this either, well, it kind of was. It was complicated.
No one seemed to notice that people, on the whole seemed to be missing. Instead the reports focused on the negative impacts of over-development in small towns, how building too much was almost as bad as too little, that local business owners were struggling to keep the doors open with so few customers coming in each day.
The strangest part was, they seemed to accept it, despite the fact it quite obviously made no sense. If no one was gone, no one had left, no fewer people come to town, then why were the businesses struggling now? Why, wasn’t it a problem 10, 20 years ago when they opened? None of it made any sense, and It seemed everyday now someone disappeared, a shop missing, never opened, and then it happened.
She stepped into her parents house to see a wall of pictures of only her. Ben never existed, her own brother was gone The worst part was, all she felt was relief. It seemed to travel in families, the disappearing, and that meant that she would be next. That there wouldn’t be anymore waiting, no more fear, no more pills.
When she saw the thing in the fog, she didn’t run away, but walked towards it. It looked, surprised as she eagerly took it’s hand. “About time.” She said amiably, and it filched. The fog grew heavier and heavier, until at last Jackie couldn’t see even herself, and she too was gone.