Alli couldn’t find a single person. She had been searching her neighborhood since 6am when she awoke and her husband and children were gone. Just gone. Charlie and Abby’s blankets on the bed were arranged exactly the same as when she had tucked them in last night. It was like they had vanished into thin air and the blankets had collapsed around the empty space.
She sat down on the curb and put her head in her hands and sobbed some more. This must be a nightmare. It must. She just had to last until she woke up.
“Why are you crying?” a girl’s voice asked. The girl looked about nine years old. She had long brown hair and brown eyes and wore blue shorts and a matching tank top.
Alli grabbed her hands. “Where are your parents? Do you know if anyone else is around?” Her voice didn’t sound like her own – it was high pitched and hysterical.
“There are supposed to be other people around, like you.”
“What?” Alli said, confused. That wasn’t any of the possible answers she had anticipated.
“I wished all the people away, but I got lonely so I wished back some nice people. You must be one.”
Alli didn’t know what to say. This must be a dream. “Can you wish my family back?”
“I don’t know. Are they nice?”
“Of course they are!”
“Well, you would think so.”
“I’m nice and I love them, so they must be nice. Maybe the wish didn’t work quite right?”
“That does happen sometimes. Ok, I’ll wish them back, but if I don’t like them, they can’t stay.”
“Sure,” Alli said. This was a dream, so why not just agree?
Tom was standing in front of her with his back to her. Just like that. Not there, then suddenly there. He turned around and saw her. “Alli! What the hell? Am I sleep walking?”
“Only if we all are,” Charlie her fourteen-year-old said from behind her.
She whirled and saw Charlie and Abby standing there. She grabbed them both in a huge hug and didn’t let go.
“Oh God,” she said weeping, this time with relief and joy.
The four of them gathered together in a cluster, with Tom in front taking a protective stance. “Who might you be?” he asked.
Tom looked around and saw the absence of cars and planes in the sky, and noted the complete lack of noises from human activity. “This is a dream,” he said.
The girl looked at Charlie and Abbey and said, “Do you love your parents?”
Abby, age 11, slid behind her brother and didn’t answer. Charlie said, “Yeah, I guess.”
The girl shook her head.
“Charlie,” Alli said, “Be honest. Tell her exactly how you feel about dad and I. This is your chance to let it all out.”
Charlie looked at her then at the girl and nodded. “I do love them. I don’t love their rules. The rules are stupid, and they make me angry.” He took a deep breath and continued. “I like dad better. Mom is always keeping me from doing things.”
He looked worried and Alli said, “Good job. Anything more to add?”
He shook his head.
“What about you,” the girl asked looking at Abby.
“I don’t understand.”
“That means,” Charlie said translating for Abby, “That she loves them. She won’t talk to you. She doesn’t know you.”
“And you love them?” she asked Tom and Alli.
“Of course,” Tom said.
“They are my breath, I would die without them.”
“That’s a yes?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“What?” they all said at the same time.
“I don’t love my parents and they hate me. You’re all lying and telling me what you think I want to hear just so you can be alive. I want people that tell me the truth. You can all go away.”