You wake from vague and meaningless dreams to find that everyone in your city – yours, truly yours, now – has gone, either disappeared or left, it’s not clear. The army has the town surrounded and the power’s shut off everywhere you try. The soldiers are all very polite and not at all mad or hostile but they won’t let you out, either. “Sorry,” they say. “Nothing personal. Orders, y’know? No one ever goes in and no one ever comes out.”

But what happened, you want to know. You’re very insistent, but they just smile and shake their heads and turn you back into the empty streets after letting you rage yourself empty, a balloon flying along on the rush of deflating.

You figure you’re lucky it’s summer, on account of the weather’s sweet and balmy with jasmine, but after a month, maybe six weeks, you cotton to the fact that it’s always perfect, always easy; the meat doesn’t rot and the fruit doesn’t spoil. Fires won’t light – lucky you – and the cream never sours.

There’s always food, but the books are all blank, emptied somehow of ink. Libraries you break into are filled with row upon row of empty white pages, faces smiling up from the covers white, white and cheerful, empty of feeling.

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