As it happens, Rhode Island is the only American state where Catholics make up a majority of the population, so the first thing we noticed was the missing children. One minute everything was as normal as things get here, and the next every elementary school classroom had no children, only piles of clothing. Later on, it was calculated that between three and five percent of the adults also disappeared, but that was later. When it happened, it was the children everybody noticed.
My wife and I are childless, so ordinarily it would have taken a while for us to notice, but my wife works for a children's literacy group, and she happened to be in an elementary school handing out books and prizes. She was looking at a little red-headed girl with glasses, and in the blink of an eye, the girl was gone, leaving behind her clothes, her glasses, and a couple of plastic hair clips. There was a momentary breath of wind that scattered some papers around the room, and a dozen sets of small clothing whirled around and down to the floor, then nothing. Later on, after I heard her story, I decided the wind was caused by the air in the room rushing in to fill a dozen child-shaped pockets of vacuum.
It being a Tuesday morning, I was asleep, with our two pet basenjis lying next to me in bed. I was awakened by a ringing telephone. I disentangled myself from the blanket and the two dogs and answered the phone. It was my wife, and she was frantic. The teachers and administrators at the school were in a state of panic. Every child in the school had vanished at the same time, leaving their clothes behind. My wife had seen one disappear, so she knew they hadn't suddenly all stripped down to the buff and run off. They had vanished into thin air. I told my wife I was driving to the school to pick her up, and she should meet me at the front door. I got dressed in record time, and since I didn't want to leave the dogs alone in the house, I put their leashes on and brought them with me.
I've heard that in some parts of the country, the roads were rendered practically impassable by cars and trucks that had become driverless during the Event and had crashed, but that's not the way it was in Newport. It's been established that at the time of the Event, Newport had a total population of about thirty thousand people, of whom maybe 5000 disappeared. Four-fifths of them were children, and of the remaining thousand, only fourteen were driving vehicles when the Event occurred at 10:32 AM. Seven of the suddenly driverless vehicles had passengers remaining who were able to take control of them without suffering any accident, three had passengers who were unable to do anything before the vehicles crashed, and the other four were empty when they crashed. None of the seven crashed vehicles were going over thirty miles an hour, five of them were going under twenty, and all of them hit either parked vehicles, guard rails, or decorative shrubs. One road was closed to traffic for an hour while a crashed car was towed away; in the other six cases, traffic was able to get by the crashed cars.
Driving from my house to the elementary school, I didn't come across any of the crashed cars, though I did have to pull over to let a paramedic truck go past. It took me five minutes to reach the school, and my wife was waiting on the sidewalk. The dogs were very pleased to see her (as they always are), and she was still busy greeting and petting them when I pulled away from the school. When the dogs had settled down, she reached over and took my hand in hers.
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