When Chloe awoke it was light, and the house was silent. The fever had gone but she now felt very thirsty. She scrambled out of bed and down the stairs to the kitchen and poured a herself drink. From the lounge she heard the only sound. It revealed itself to be the television playing a quiet static hiss to the world.
She flicked channels. More hiss. Nothing but static on all the channels. She went to her parents room and turned on the radio.
Nothing. Only static remained.
She returned to her room and got dressed quickly, only mildly curious as to why nothing should be playing. Picking up her keys, she bounced down the stair and out of the front door.
It was already unlocked. Maybe her parents had forgotten when they left for work that morning. In any case she had a date to keep and she really didn't want to miss it. As she walked quickly down the street she noticed that something was wrong.
Everything was too quiet. It was too late for the birds to be singing, and even if they had been the sound of traffic from the main road would have drowned them out. But there was no traffic. She could see as she approached the road that there was nothing.
No cars lined the streets either. Chloe shivered. It made her think of the old Wild West ghost towns. Except this was real. She was here and it was her town. She walked across the road, forcing her to break the habit of looking left and right, to the shops that lined the far side, and the precinct beyond.
The shop lights were still on and maybe someone could explain what had happened. She walked into a clothes shop first. The till lay on the floor, but the money remained scattered. Obviously someone had thought to steal money and then thought better of it.
She left and tried next door, a fast food store. Nobody was here either, and burgers and drinks still lay on the counter uncollected. Here some had been knocked to the floor; more so than a normal day anyhow. Chloe picked up a burger and chips, contentiously leaving some money behind.
She was beginning to get worried, but not overly. She still hadn't quite woken up, and she /had/ got to get to the square by three. She wanted to see John. Now, more than ever. Maybe he would know what was happening.
As she turned toward the square, she met a man in a blue coat coming the other way. He almost ran into her in his haste, but stopped and returned to look at her.
"Come on" he said to her tersely. "We've got to leave NOW"
She quickly looked at him, and saw that his blue coat hid a neat business suit and tie. He didn't look like the kind of person to be picking up young girls, but he was the only person she had seen since she awoke.
"Why ?" she asked, then a rush of questions came. "Who are you ? What do you want ? Where is everyone ? What's happened ?"
Chloe realised that she might be more concerned than she had first thought, and tried to calm herself by chewing on more of the burger. The mans face quickly changed from anxiety to fear. "We must go now", he repeated.
"But why ?" she replied, through half a mouthful of burger. "I've got to meet John."
"John's gone," he replied, though she knew he could not know him. "They're all gone, and we must go too. Now. Come on."
He turned and ran from the precinct slowly. His face had shown such fear, and his voice had such a quiver that Chloe felt she must follow him. It became obvious as she did so that his slow pace was for her benefit and he expected her to keep up. As she increased her pace to draw level with him, he too sped up. They ran down the main street, away from the town and towards the suburbs. Soon she was out of breath and had to slow and sit down. She wasn't used to running like this, and though she didn't trust this man she had not seen anyone else, or even heard any other signs of life.
"What... ?" she panted, as she sat on a wall, trying to recover her breath.
The man was obviously much fitter, for he was not even out of breath. "You don't know ?" he asked in amazement. Chloe could see in his eyes that this was not something he had expected.
"Where is everyone ?" she asked, between breaths. "Why is there no television ? Where are the cars ?"
"They have all gone" he simply replied, the explained with a vague voice, as if he didn't know or care for the details. "Something happened, somewhere, and now there is war. I don't know why. Maybe some missile failure, maybe some misunderstanding. London has gone. Some of the other cities have gone too. Here we have been lucky. But not for long."
The look of pleading and fear returned to his eyes. "We must go."
"But I've got to meet John at..." she started to say, then thought some more. "He's not going to be there, is he ?"
"No" the man replied, and beckoned her to follow him. "We must go !"
"But what about my family ?" she pleaded, standing up and looking around as if to see them following her.
The man turned and walked back a step or two. He grabbed her arm and pulled her forward. As he did so, she saw his face drop and he released her arm. She turned to see what had shaken him.
She turned and saw a flash.
And then there was nothing.