The Half Bereft

Half the people disappeared from the world. Inexplicably. There was no apocalypse. No alien invasion or war to end all wars. People were just gone. Streets empty. Maybe it was more than half. Those of us who were left had no way of counting. At first, we couldn’t have if we tried. We were all too busy grieving.

It happened on a balmy, overcast summer night in Boston. I was standing on a crowded subway platform under orange halogen lights–the red line, Charles St., the river north, rows of little shops leading south towards the Common–when the eerie keen of collective loss arose all at once from those around me, and I turned to find Erin gone.

I retraced my steps, walking over every inch of ground we’d travelled that night, stopping at every corner, every store window. The whole way I had to fight against everyone else. They were all as distraught as I was, all occupied in the same task. But the people we were looking for weren’t there. Finally, again collectively, we all accepted they were gone. People sat on curbs staring into the silent streets, speechless. I got up sooner than the rest, resolved to systematically seek out every person I cared about, in order of shortest distance. Somewhere I found a bike. I rode across the bridge to Medford, but Amy wasn’t at her house. Who knew where she might be. So I took my bike and got back on the T, which was still crowded, though quieter now. I went to Brighton.

I found Diana sitting on the floor outside her room. She’d just come from home. My parents were gone. She didn’t know where Amy was, or Udi. So we got up and went into her room and just kind of sat there on the bed, listening to mp3s from her computer. We talked about how weird it was that everything still worked even though there was nobody to run it or use it. We could ride the subway and surf the internet, but the quiet and the mass grief had impressed upon us a sense that the world had ended and was empty, that we who were left didn’t count.

We decided we’d live together from now on. Exhausted from our search, emotionally drained, we agreed to go to sleep. She got up to take a shower. I lay down on the bed.


  1. I had an apocalyptic dream about halves once! it was kind of the inverse of that. In my dream the world was owned entirely by this one guy, who didn’t really play a prominent role, he was just sort of a concept in the background. maybe he was supposed to be god. but so then he decided for some reason to fold the world in half, like you would a piece of paper, so that everyone was now squished into half the space. So everyone was running around chaotically because suddenly all these people from far away were living in their houses and walking around their town. I came home from school, where the playground was run-a-muk with people freaking out, to find our Elizabeth McNiece in our living room. At this point in real life (around kindergarten) she was my best friend but I had never really been to her house or seen where she came from, which was sort of like being across the (flat) world for all i knew. She had just sort of been dropped in from the sky in the folding process. and then it kept getting folded more and more until, and this part that freaked me out the most, it was completely dark and all that was left that i could see or hear was the wrapper of a juice-box straw, folding in half. Can you hear it? so it was like all of the world had been condensed into this straw wrapper, which is practically nothing in mass or substance. and as it was folding on itself I would wake up. And then i would run to Mom’s room and ask her if the world was “half owned” whatever that means. Presumably half owned by this god person. I remember not being able to find the words to describe what I wanted to say, but i was completely terrified. what do you think of that?

  2. Actually I also had an apocalyptic nightmare when I was very young, which made me run into mom and dad’s room babbling incoherently. I lived on a little boat in the middle of the ocean, and I was the only one left in the world. But I had a nintendo in the hold, and as Dad said, “Well, that isn’t so bad then, is it?”

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