The world ended for no adequately explained reason.
Almost nobody was around to mind.
A city in the desert rests on top of a wooden platform twenty feet off the ground that has only a few wooden pillars to support it. The buildings are concrete skyscrapers crammed so close together that there is hardly walking space between them. There are no roads, only small alleys between buildings for people to navigate.
All of these alleys are empty.
The sky is red turning to black as night comes on. In the distance, smoke and fires can be seen from other cities that have already been destroyed by more explosive means. This one is luckier than most: it's been assigned death by the sleeping plague. Death by going to bed one night and never waking up again.
Nearly everyone is dead by the time the three gray-eyed women fly down. They can feel the last few flickers of life clinging to the city- only maybe a dozen or so left. It doesn't matter. They'll be gone soon enough.
The three part without a word, each in a different direction. One by one, to each her own, they enter the buildings, enter the homes. They seek out the corpses.
Most of the bodies are lying in bed. Some of them are on sofas or chairs, or asleep at desks amidst piles of papers.
She goes to the nearest dead, a man in his fifties who fell asleep on the recliner. She gently brushes her hand against his forehead.
There is a faint blue light where they make contact. The man's eyes flicker just barely open, and more light leaks out between the lids. The light floats like smoke, dissipating into the air. The man's eyes close again, and she moves on to the next room. Elsewhere, her sisters are doing the same.
It goes on like that for some time. It's some hours before she meets a live one.
It's a woman in her thirties, sitting at a table and desperately drinking coffee straight from the pot. Her hands are shaking, splashing coffee onto both the table and her blouse. She cannot see the gray-eyed woman. She can only drink her coffee and try to keep herself from crying.
The gray-eyed woman passes her, unseen, and goes to the bedroom where the woman’s husband lies. By the time she comes back out, the woman is hunched over the table, dead, her heart having given out.
She goes to the woman and, that done, goes on to the next home.
Slowly but surely, they empty the city. The three are in no hurry. They give each life the silent respect it deserves. Soon there is only one home left.
It’s in the middle apartment in a building near the very end of the platform. The person inside is still alive, and what's more, he's waiting for her.
He grins tiredly from his place on the sofa when she enters.
"You know," he says, "most people use the door."
She's taken aback. It's highly irregular that one of them can see her. She peers at him. "I did."
He laughs, though it sounds like a croak. "Most people open it before they go through, I mean."
The subject of doors is not important. "It's time to go," she says.
"Heh. Yeah. Figures you'd be all business." He sits up, his back cracking as he does. "Funny thing is; I don't think I'm ready yet."
“It is not a matter of ready or not ready. You are going to die." She tilts her head. "If it is any consolation, the fact that you are not dead already in and of itself is impressive."
He croak-laughs again. "Oh man, thanks. That makes me feel so much better. You really know how to cheer a guy up."
"Your disposition is irrelevant. You are going to die." She shrugs and crosses her arms. "I will wait. My sisters will be here shortly."
"Sisters, huh? They as pretty at you?"
She frowns. "Excuse me?"
He waves his hand lightly, as though to brush the issue away. "Cut a dying man some slack." His eyelids flicker for a moment, but he rallies. "I'm not ready," he says, a little too loudly.
"Going to die. Got it. But not yet. Not this second."
He struggles to stand, but his legs are unable to support his weight. He topples to the floor, landing on his belly but rolling onto his back quickly after. He lies there, looking at the ceiling.
"Am I the last one?" he says eventually.
He is silent for a long while.
"I guess there wasn't much point in trying."
"Can you come here a sec?"
She does, crouching beside him. "Yes?"
"Would you mind fulfilling a dead guy's last request?"
Again in as many minutes, she is surprised. Holding a conversation was unusual enough. She didn't think any of them had asked her for anything before, save for perhaps their lives. "What is it?"
"Mind a kiss?"
"A kiss. I don't think I'd mind if the last thing I did was give a pretty death a kiss."
She hesitates for a moment. His life is flickering wildly. It won’t last any longer. She could just wait.
Instead, she nods. She leans close and they kiss chastely on the lips. When she pulls her head back, he's smiling and his eyes are starting to close.
"Huh." His voice is faint. "I thought it would be colder. . ." He trails off and a second later his heart stops.
She brushes her hand across his forehead, releasing the light inside. Then she rises to her feet and goes outside, where her sisters are waiting.
The city is empty, now. Their work is done here. Dove-gray wings fan out from their backs, stark against the now-black sky, and they take to the air.