Fred sat in the house, waiting.
They’ll be coming for him soon, like they came for everyone else. He didn’t know who they were exactly. No one really knew, but that didn’t stop them. First they got Angie. She went real peaceful like in the middle of the night. No sign of her, nor a struggle, just an empty, neatly made bed. Of course everyone assumed she’d gotten up early and gone off to work. She was always an eager go getter. But she didn’t turn up at work. Nor school, not the gym or the bar. She was just gone. Time passed and everyone began to slowly move on. Then Ben went. He was the same. There one day, gone the next. Of course the rumours started, that he and Angie had gone off together, they’d known each other, even briefly dated, so obviously they had some crazy plan to elope. At least that was what people told themselves so they could sleep easy, so they wouldn’t look at their neighbours with suspicion and fear. The lull lasted a week this time, then it was a newborn, Britney, her mother went to feed her during the night and found the crib empty. She was only a few months old. That broke the dam quickly, accusations were flung left and right, police searched the area top to bottom, one or two people even had the shit beaten out of them, but of Britney there was no sign.
It started happening faster after that. Every day or two someone would go. Beds stopped being neat. They became rumpled, sometimes people heard a crash, but in the few scant seconds it took them to reach the room, it was already empty. There was no evidence that someone was taking the older ones, after all there weren’t really any signs of struggle, at worst there was the sign of a restless nights sleep. There were no bodies, no notes, no demands.
That changed with Ken. He was only twelve years old, excited to start secondary school when September came, but he had been trapped inside the house for months. His father went to wake him one morning and found him, lying in the bed. The sheets soaked in blood. The father didn’t stop screaming. Not until they took him away. His torso was lying in bed, he looked pale, but beyond that, he just appeared as though he was asleep. At least if you ignored the blood soaked duvet and the curiously flat place where his legs should have been. They had been sliced from his body, cleanly. He hadn’t woken, hadn’t screamed. People stopped sleeping in rooms alone, always there were at least two. If you needed to get up in the night for a piss you’d tell someone, they’d go and sit outside the door. It seemed like a great idea. Then people started waking to empty rooms. Angry that their partner, friend or child, had left them alone in the room. The person would be gone, no signs of them.
It continued like this for four months. Four months and he was the last one left. Everyone else was gone. His wife, his kids, the neighbours. He took a swig of whisky. He didn’t want to be sober for when it came for him. He had been awake for two days now. Ever since Mary, the second last one, had disappeared. Not that he’d miss her. Bitch was planning on leaving anyway. He had found the note, the one that she had written but never had a chance to put out. Her bag was packed and sitting next to the front door. She must have dozed off at some point, and then it was too late for her to flee. Not that that would have worked either. People had tried to run. It wasn’t just them it was happening to. It was everyone. There was almost no one left. He took another swig, feeling it burn as it slid down his throat. Good. Fire bloomed in his stomach. Yes. Good. He wouldn’t feel it when it happened. Probably wouldn’t even know. In theory he’d like to fight, in practise he knew nothing would work. Others had taken to sleeping with weapons, that had done fuck all good for them. No, he wanted to go while he was enjoying himself, and if he couldn’t do that, well then he wanted to go out while he was insanely drunk. He picked up the leaflet sitting on the counter, then he tore it in two. Someone had been putting them through letter boxes a week or two ago, it talked of how this was the end times, how it was the rapture. Fred thought this was bullshit, what kind of shitty God couldn’t take everyone at once. No, what ever it was it wasn’t God. Satan perhaps, but it wouldn’t be God. God wasn’t supposed to be this cruel. Like a child pulling the wings off bugs. He took another swig. Besides, it was taking the sinners as well as the holy, the priest went fairly quick, as did Janine, she the village whore. Or was it village bike? Bus perhaps. Everyone had a ride, well, everyone that could pay that was. Fred wasn’t one to judge, she could do what she liked, but the priest used to hate her with a passion. He remembered when they had a screaming match in the middle of the street. It had been gossip for days. He felt the priest looked like a bit of a sanctimonious prick. Some agreed, others didn’t. He didn’t really care either way. Another swig disappeared from the bottle. If there was a heaven, he would stroll through the pearly gates completely ripped, unless their admission was like nightclubs. He tried to picture Saint Paul stopping him.
“Sorry mate, not tonight. You’ve had too much already.”
He chuckled softly, tears began to stream down his face. Another swig.
He could end it himself. Drink too much, pass out and drown in his own vomit. Steal something hardcore from the hospital down the way. Slit his wrists. None of it seemed appealing. He didn’t want to die. Besides he’d already had his fill of drugs. Someone, he couldn’t remember now if it was Mary herself or Todd, had broken into the local druggies house, brought back some pot. They had sat around smoking it. First time since he was in his twenties. That was the night that Brady had disappeared. Or maybe it was Todd. One of them anyway.
He looked at the remains of the bottle and raised it to his lips, he began to tip it back, then Fred paused and put the bottle down. No. He was done for the night. He stood, staggering slightly, and went to the sink. There he drank water from the tap. He drank until he thought he was going to throw it up again, then he stopped and wiped his mouth off. He stumbled into the sitting room, where there were some hastily made beds. Fuck this. If he was gonna die, he’d do it in his own bed.
He made his way up the stairs, only falling once, and then he collapsed into his bed. He passed out almost immediately. He snored once, then became silent, his chest rising and falling slowly and when it came for him, he never woke.