There are few things that smell or sound better than breakfast cooking in the morning. Michael tended to the bacon frying in the pan while mixing up a batch of pancakes.
The bacon sizzled and smoked. It was the good kind. Thickly sliced. The aroma moved through the whole house.
He buttered another pan letting the little cube swirl around the metal surface as it got progressively smaller.
He then tipped the bowl holding the pancake batter until a rather large dollop collected in the pan. He watched it until the bubbles stopped forming and then flipped it ever so carefully. However, it wasn’t nearly the color he wanted. He sighed, the first pancake never turned out.
The second one looked much better with that perfect golden hue, and the edges crisped just so.
Just then he heard the stairs creaking. He didn’t know if it was the bacon, or the coffee but something caused her to stir.
She was smiling. It was the kind of smile where everything could be going wrong but as soon as you saw it the world just seemed right.
“What did I do to deserve all this?” she asked.
Michael just winked. It was a knowing sort of wink.
“Oh,” she smiled.
A moment later.
“Bacon?” she asked.
Michael feigned ignorance and she feigned despair. But then he went to the refrigerator to show that he hadn’t forgotten.
“That was a close one.”
“I know. Breakfast was almost ruined.”
She pulled up a chair up to the kitchen island and he put a plate in front of her with both a mug of coffee and a tall glass of orange juice.
She lifted the steaming mug and did that thing people do where they smile with their eyes while the mug hid her mouth.
He leaned against the counter watching her enjoy his handiwork. First she swirled a bit of pure maple syrup over the golden hotcakes. He knew she was self conscious about how much she put on. Her parents always gave her a hard time about it, so she would always start with just a little and then halfway through add more. She always ate the same way, alternating between bites of bacon and pancakes.
He turned to make his own plate, half waiting to hear the bottle of syrup lift off the table, but he only heard the sound of her fork falling to her plate.
He spun around to find her gone.
He was confused. His back was turned for half a second. He checked the whole house but she was gone. The door didn’t open. She wasn’t in the basement or upstairs.
He was so confused and then things somehow got worse.
He heard cars crashing and slamming into things.
Michael ran outside, and there were cars slammed into other cars and on people’s driveways or some just stopped in the middle of the road.
He walked through the neighborhood but he couldn’t find anyone. He couldn’t even hear anyone over the sound of a million car alarms, and then he looked up to see a helicopter falling from the sky.
And that’s how it started.
At least that’s what he called it.
Five years ago, everyone he knew disappeared into thin air.
He couldn’t stay in his house afterwards, not without Melanie. So with everyone gone he found the biggest house in town. It was on the water too so he could fish from the backyard.
That’s where he got tonight’s dinner. He was grilling half a dozen perch over a wood fire.
He sat there eating his dinner switching channels on the radio like he did every night. It had been five years and no one had said a word. But, there was nothing else to do, and really once he had enough food it was hard to find ways to spend time, though he was making progress in all the books he wanted to read. He went to the library every week. He even brought back the ones he already read, since he didn’t want everyone to come back and be scolded by Ms. Flemming.
He was just about to turn in and sleep under the stars, when it happened.
The radio crackled.
There had been nothing but static for years.
And then he heard it. It was like a dream.
“Hello, is anyone there?” the voice on the radio said.
“Hello? Anybody there?” Melanie said.
“Oh wow,” Michael said, “I had the weirdest daydream.”
“I know you’ve been staring into space for a while.”
“You have no idea,” he said.
But there was no answer. Just the sound of a fork hitting the plate.