It was a good house, the sort he looked for. A plaque above the door proclaimed "Praise the Lord!" but the murky darkness within claimed there was very little praising going on at the moment.
The door was locked, but that wasn't much of a problem. A few quick jiggles with his lock pick kit and he was in. A gentle push and the door swung slowly open. Nothing happened.
His Glock preceded him in to the house in steady hands at the end of extended arms. He tracked it slowly across the openings to the entry hallway and up the staircase with practiced ease. Still nothing happened.
The pistol continued to lead him, this time down the hall toward what he assumed was the kitchen. It was right.
He already knew that something was wrong before he saw the open cans sitting on the island that dominated the ostentatiously large space. There was no stench of rotted food. Someone had been there recently. Someone had cleaned.
Someone was still there.
Someone was watching him.
He slowly turned to his left, bringing the gun part of the way around.
"Who the fuck are you?"
The voice belonged to a snub-nosed .38 revolver. No, wait. It belonged to the hands grasping the .38.
"Don't you dare point that gun at me," the .38 -- no, the hands -- said.
"I, uh, I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't know anyone was here." He dropped the Glock to his side. "I'll go."
"...Yeah. Maybe you should."
He noticed for the first time that the .38 was shaking slightly. The hands holding it were trembling. Hands that were attached to a pair of slender arms. And at the other end of the arms from the gun was a frightened looking woman. No, a girl.
There was no worse place to be than in front of the business end of a gun held by a terrified, threatened person. He'd learned that the hard way twice already, which was two more opportunities than most got. He began to slowly back out of the kitchen.
"Wait." The girl said, voice tight.
"Put the gun down," she gestured toward the island. He complied. "Tell me something about what's going on. You know, out there," she nodded toward the front door. "I, uh...I don't get out much."
"I don't know much," he shrugged. "I've seen a few things, every once in a while I hear a radio broadcast. There are some shortwave radio operators, some CB, but nothing's really organized."
"Hey, it's gotta be more than I get sitting here by myself."
"You're by yourself?"
Her eyes widened slightly. "Um, I, uh, I mean..."
"Look," he held his empty hands up, "I'm not going to hurt you. I understand why you'd be worried, but, believe me, I'm not like that."
"If you don't mind, I think I'll keep this," she said, shaking the pistol. "Now talk. Please."
"What do you want to know?"
"Anything. Really, anything at all. How many people are there? Where are they?"
"All over. Everything's pretty much going crazy."
"So there still are a lot of people out there?"
He shrugged. "Depends on where you are. Lot's of empty towns out west of here. Don't know if it's because everybody disappeared from them or some disappeared and everyone left."
"You've been west?"
"Yeah. I was in Phoenix when it happened."
"Why'd you come here?"
"I guess I saw it as a chance to make a new start."
"A new start? There's no new start here. It's just the end."
He shrugged. "Maybe for some."
She closed her eyes and shook her head. "No. It's the end. The guy who used to live here, he was one of those TV pastors. He was always talking about the end times, how everyone who loved Jesus would disappear, then a bunch of bad shit would happen, then Jesus would come back."
"I haven't seen Jesus yet."
"No, we've got a lot more to get through first."
"So you figured you'd be safe here?"
"No," she smiled, "I knew there was a lot of food and supplies stockpiled over here. Colin...um, the guy who owns...owned...the place was pretty paranoid. I guess he worried that the Rapture would happen and he wouldn't get to go with."
"Why? Wouldn't a TV preacher be first to go?"
"Maybe the ones who didn't have mistresses."
"Ah." Realization dawned. "Wait, you? But you're..."
"Twenty-five," she smiled. "I know what it looks like, but he wasn't a pervert. I interned for his show in college. That's where we met."
"Cool. Um, I guess."
"I believe, though, that you were supposed to be talking."
"Oh, hey, you hungry?"
"Always, these days."
She gestured at a cupboard. "There's a bunch of cans of stuff in there. The stove still works."
"Cool. By the way, my name is Rob."
"Nice to meet you."
"Yeah. So far."
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