He wasn’t walking to work so much as marching, his polished-smooth black loafers clicking and resounding noisily against chewing-gum-laden pavement. He had his briefcase, and his tie, and his shirt pressed crisp till it looked like it might crack at the seams.
He felt important.
The train ride over had been slightly unusual–his Brahms-blasting headphones had stopped him from hearing anyone on board, but he was sure he didn’t see anyone either. And he was especially sure that the conductor never came by to check his ticket.
But no matter.
His mind was set on the tasks for the day. As usual, his day would consist largely of ensuring profits for his employers. And yes, said profits were ensured through foreclosing on honest, hard-working people, but the ethics involved weren’t for him to mull over. And after all, the orders were coming from above.
The train was one thing–he’d on occasion seen a car or two barren, had trips that were conductor-less, but the streets were another thing entirely.
There was no one walking anywhere. At all. Not a soul on the sidewalk, not even a pitiful-looking vagrant standing by the street corner.
But again, a logical explanation could readily be found, he was sure. Perhaps today happened to be some obscure holiday he’d never heard of, a holiday that even the hobos observed.
And so he walked on, still with his Brahms providing an amniotic lull from the outside world he was forced to pass through.
The confusion began to set in when he arrived at the office, confusion thick as a fog that billowed in from nowhere when there was no receptionist to greet him, no shoeshiner to polish his ever-dulling loafers. The situation was dire enough that the Brahms had to come out.
But it was all in his head after all. There was the familiar clicking on keyboards, the other important voices on important calls with important clients. It was fine.
But still, he saw no one ambling about the office with their equally-polished loafers and their ties and their shirts pressed so crisp they seemed like they might crack at the seams.
And so he got up. His polished-smooth black loafers clicked and resounded noisily through the office as he searched for signs of life.
It seemed like–but no, surely that was a foolish idea. But if he were indulging in thoughts that verged on foolish, he’d have to admit that there was no one in the office–at least no one visible. He could hear hands on keyboards and important voices chatting away, but he saw no one.
Maybe if he went back outside and checked–but no, that would be silly. Besides, he was sure to see someone soon enough.
But as the hours passed and still he saw no one, curiosity got the better of him. He marched back outside and scanned once more for signs of life.
Now, in the Brahms-less outside world, the full reality of his situation hit him with the force of Beethoven’s Ninth. There were conversations, deafening out here in the city, and lesser shoes walking, and cars honking, but no people. Not a soul in sight.
Voices all around him, harsh and cacophonous, laughing and tittering too. If he didn’t know any better, he’d say it was a taunting laughter.
But there–a car! He raced to the street’s edge, loafers clicking noisily, and what he saw sent him over the edge of reality.
There was no one driving the car. It accelerated and decelerated just fine, turned even, but there was no one behind the wheel.
Another car, also driver-less, passed by. And then another. And another.
His breath came in stuttered gasps, hollow and unable to satisfy his lungs’ demands. That was when he called out:
“Is anyone there?”
More laughter. Damning laughter.
“I can’t see you! I can’t see anyone!”
Deafening staccatos all around. Coming from everywhere.
“Please help me. I just need…”
And he was on the ground then, up against a wall. His loafers’ tips were frayed, ripped. And there was something in his hands. Something he was proffering to the people who were not there.
“I just need…”
He didn’t want to look at the something in his hands. Couldn’t bear to.
“I just need…”
He forced his eyes to look. To see. They made purchase with a faded and torn document. He looked closer. It was a notice of foreclosure.
Of his foreclosure.
“I just need… a little change.”