February 10

Where Are The People? – Episode 1

 

Myles Milford didn’t know why he survived.

He didn’t know where the other people had gone.

He spent his days wandering among empty buildings, searching for food and temporary shelter. Searching for clues about humanity’s untimely demise.

Today, he visited a once-affluent Baltimore neighborhood. He’d previously visited Sherwood Gardens in the spring, where stretches of tulips bloomed in startling arrangements of color. The flowers were currently out of season, the park lawn untended. Surrounding houses, though, still looked in good shape.

Myles chose a modest mansion, three stories of brick with black shutters surrounding tall windows, chimneys rising from each corner of the main building. The metal gate was unlocked, but the front door was more of a challenge.

He lifted a loose brick from the walkway, brought it to a side window and smashed a glass panel. No alarm sounded. Myles reached in and undid the latch, lifted the window, and climbed inside.

Houses of the affluent were his favorite, not simply because of the lush furniture, the fully stocked kitchen cabinets. No, what he liked most was the cleanliness. As natural light spilled in, only faint specks of dust glimmered in the air.

In city apartments, papers and clothes were often in a jumble, cabinet doors open, sinks filled with unwashed dishes. It made him worry that people panicked, scrambling through their possessions, leaving things in disarray before their vain attempt to escape some deadly cosmic event.

Here, in a clean, empty home, Myles could imagine that people died peacefully. Unaware.

He headed to the kitchen at the back of the house. Sunlight streamed through open curtains over deep double sinks, where chrome fixtures shone bright. Riches beyond the pantry door beckoned, but Myles paused to admire the cool metal in the deep basin. His reflection stared back.

Myles looked into the drain. He noticed a reflection of his peering eye.

The eye blinked, out of sync with his own.

Oh God, the people! Myles thought. The people are in the plumbing!

Then he dismissed the thought as absurd. Even if some cosmic vacuum could suck inhabitants into drainpipes, nothing human could survive in such a small space.

He opened drawers to find suitable silverware. The gleaming knives and forks, lined perfectly in separate compartments, were all too sharp. He found a clasped box with smooth wooden chopsticks, a delicate gold-leaf design along each side.

Chopsticks had always given Myles trouble. He let this pair rest in the webbing between his thumb and forefinger, practiced the pinching motion. Then he pushed the sticks through the opening in the drain.

Round objects were always tricky. No matter how careful he’d been, a steamed dumpling would slip through the pinched tongs; a grape or peeled egg would roll to the side of the plate.

Myles wriggled the wooden sticks, pinched them tight to get a firm hold. He twirled then pulled.

The plumbing belched as it unclogged. Clump of human hair, tangled in bits of flesh and gristle, emerged from the opening.

Myles wondered what he’d find in other drains, in other houses.

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[February 10, 1983 — London police began a murder investigation after human remains were discovered clogging suburban drainpipes. — BBC, On This Day]