Gone

Keith shuffled onto his porch in his blue, fuzzy bathrobe and leaned over to pluck the newspaper from its nest on top of the shrubbery.

“Can’t believe that kid plays varsity ball.” He unfolded the paper to read the front page.

“War… Social Security…Murder… Oh, hey, new species!  Cool!”  He folded the paper over to read the article in the lower right hand corner of the front page.  “’New’ species of salamander in Oregon forest.  A species of salamander previously known only from fossil records has been discovered in the Oregon rain forest…” He read aloud as he shuffled back into the house.

Keith stepped onto his porch, wearing clean jeans, a white button down shirt and black sneakers.

“Hey, look at you all dressed up!” Carl yelled, unlocking the door of his silver pick-up in the next driveway.

“Quarterly progress meeting.  God bless the tech industry.” Keith entertained a vision of himself strangled by a tie, and shook his head.  He leaned out to retrieve the paper from the hollow worn in the top of the shrub by countless paper landings. He flipped open the paper and scanned the front page.  In the lower right corner.  “Ivory Billed Woodpeckers not extinct.”

“Huh?  Nice.” He refolded the paper, tucked it under arm and went inside to collect his car keys and the movie he’d borrowed from his boss.

“Stellar’s Sea Cow Sighted off South American Coast,” had moved slightly to the right of the table of contents.

“Dude, this just keeps getting better and better.” Keith munched on a piece of toast, shuffling across the porch in a pair of sweats and a ratty, paint-splattered red t-shirt.  The wind gusted and a few drops of rain spattered on the paper.  He wiped it off on his leg and went into the house.

“Dodos Reappear in South Seas,” encroached on the mid-level real estate just south of the crease.

“Right on!”  Keith shuffled through the dead leaves on his porch, listening to them crunch under his combat boots.  “This keeps up and they’ll all be back.”  He tossed the paper back into the house, put his paintball gun over his shoulder and jogged down the steps to his Mazda.

“Tasmanian Tigers Spook Poachers.”

“Damn, those things are ugly.” Keith showed the picture topping the article on the far left column of the paper to Alissa, who had followed him onto the porch wearing one of his shirts and nothing else. “Are you trying to flash my neighbors?”

“Maybe I should.”  She giggled, unbuttoning the top button.  Keith rolled up the paper and swatted playfully on the thigh.  She squealed and ran back into the house.

“Neanderthal Village Appears in Spain,” peeped over the crease, center page.

“Dude!  No way!” Keith stood on the damp porch in flannel superhero pajama bottoms, a black t-shirt and his stocking feet.  “Neanderthal?  For real?  This is just… whoa.”

Keith stared at the paper in his hands.

“London GONE!” screamed the headline.

“What the…?” Keith stared at the paper.  “Where London once stood, marshy forests fill the landscape, looking as though the hand of man never touched them,” he read aloud, standing on the porch in smiley face boxers and a Bob Dylan t-shirt.

“Keith!  You’re not gonna believe what they’re saying on CNN!” Christy yelled from inside where the TV babbled in the background.

Other cities went in rapid succession, chronicled in increasingly panicky headlines.

“Washington D.C. Disappeared.”

“Moscow Missing.”

“Rome Gone Roaming.”

“New York Nowhere to be Found.”

“Paris Nabbed.”

“Kansas City Kidnapped.”

Keith crept out on the porch.  So far the only West Coast disappearances had been LA and San Francisco.  He tugged the newspaper free of the shrub and unfolded it.  The newspaper, its headline, “Where Are We?” unread, dropped to the porch floor as purple clouds raced in front of dual suns and a pink rain began to fall.

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