Everyone thought “aliens” at first, but we knew that they were wrong. My wife and I had always been up on conspiracy theories. This was a sign of the times. These were neighbors, friends, and family. We had known them once. One could almost say “people,” but I could not bring myself to go so far. There were more of us then, and labeling did not seem so dire.
They came to us in a state of confusion. They followed us home, whining. They cried outside our windows at night. We tried to communicate, but nothing seemed to register. We were unable to penetrate the haze. Their memories were draining, leaking out the ears, a slow drip from the nostrils and then their tears washed out what was left of conscious thought. We had known them once, but this was something new. They seemed so sad, and all the sadder because they did not know why. We had no answers for them.
We allowed them indoors. At first, they did not take kindly to us, hiding timidly under tables and behind sofas with the cats. They crawled about sheepishly, making their sad, quiet noises to fill the silences. They charged my feet when I wandered the house and batted loose change under the refrigerator. My wife looked to them with the sincerest pity, offering table scraps as they crouched by her feet. She said it was the least she could do.
That was when the streetlights went out and we knew it was spreading. I had always commented on the communicable nature of ignorance. Man controls the world as we understand it and man was deteriorating fast. First it was the electricity, then the water, the cable, the grocery stores. Everything ceased to function as the human race regressed.
There was something so warm and beautiful about our last lighted meal, before we saw the man in an electrician’s uniform chasing the neighbor’s car—in hot pursuit of the vehicle on all fours. There were less of us then, but we were still a number. Then we lost the neighbors.
The ignorance was painful and inhuman. We had not yet discovered how the ignorance was contracted. It was a plague. Maybe we deserved it. We could merely wait until the ignorance made off with our memories, turned our minds to mush and madness.
Then one day they were gone. They were not under the table, not behind the sofa with the cats. We almost missed their sad, quiet noises as we called their given names out the open windows. I kicked around the change that used to cover the kitchen floor.
We decided we would find them. Rather, we hoped they could find the way home. We stuck a cautious foot out the front door, then another. We looked for signs of them for a long time, turning over trashcans and peering behind sheds.
When we couldn’t find them, we sought signs of intelligence instead. Neither my wife nor I would admit it, but we feared the solitude of intellect. We did not want to be alone in our understanding. We were the animals of Noah’s ark and we were frightened.
When we had thoroughly searched the neighborhood, the alleyways and side streets, we turned around and started back home. The hands of defeat had never felt so cold against my skin as they did at that moment. I could feel the tears welling, but I hid them under the guise of strength.
I kissed my wife because I knew that together we would be alone for the rest of everything. As I pulled away from her tear stained face, my eyes fell to the ground and I saw it. All the intellect, the memories, the dreams and accomplishments gathered in a great pool at our feet. It looked like gasoline on the cracked asphalt— human fuel.
We wept and drank from the pool and were happy for a little while. I asked my wife if she thought this was the end of days, and she smiled because she knew that I knew the answer. We drank and we knew, and the world continued on.