Written with the prompts: the streets were deserted, where was everyone, the shadow knows
Phoebe came out of the Safeway to a parking lot of empty cars and abandoned grocery carts. She glanced to her left, then right, and noting no traffic, she ventured out toward her car. She carried a plastic bag with four cans of cat food and a carton of Cherry Garcia ice cream. She quickened her pace, wanting to get home before her ice cream melted.
She got to her car, unlocked the door, and realized: the lot was deserted. At this hour as commuters were rushing home, the lot was usually swarming with people, wandering distractedly through the lot, like stray bees separated from the hive. She shrugged and started the car.
It was easy to pull from the lot onto the the street. No one was there, not a car, bus, mini-van, or motorcycle. Phoebe took a deep breath. Where has everyone gone? She felt an anxious pulsing in the pit of her gullet, making its way into her throat. This is weird, she thought, but it’s not a big deal. Focusing on the positive, she said aloud to the empty car, “How nice! It’s so nice to have the road to myself!”
She approached the intersection of Fair Oaks and Howe, one of the busiest in the metropolitan area. Back in the 80s, they used to claim this would be ground zero: the Russians could wipe out the state capitol and three military installations in one fell swoop, not to mention the tens of thousands of people who passed through there every hour on the hour. But now, today, at this moment, Phoebe was alone in her Toyota Corrolla, staring nervously at flashing red lights. She looked up the street to the south, then down to the north, curious and panting, trying hard to swallow, her mouth so dry, her lips suddenly chapped. She slowed, nearly stopped, but then seeing no one, she floored it, determined to get home where life was familiar and safe.
As she approached the bridge, passing under the sycamore trees, a cloud swept across her windshield, an impenetrable shadow, so thick and viscous, slapping the glass like syrup. Phoebe swerved and braked, wondering at a strange noise, perhaps an animal shrieking, ringing in her ears. Oh, she thought, that’s me. I’m screaming, I’m screaming. I can’t stop.
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