Lincoln Park, New Jersey

Annali and Alice

Water is perhaps the most amazing substance in the universe. It has been the cannon through which life was blasted and blown and bloomed through. Life, in all it's extremities, it's forms, in colorfulness, became so all because of this clear, plentiful substance that every sentient being on this world takes for granted. Oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, all the great bodies flowing and changing, yet all together around the world as one. It's simply amazing to know that water is magic enough to transform tiny specks of dust into beautiful, self-operating organisms.

That was the train of thought that went chugging along in Annali's head as she stared down at her reflection in the wishing fountain in the middle of Lincoln park.

It was an unremarkable fountain, and quite old, older than Annali, than Alice, than most of the people currently alive. It's been there forever, a testament to time itself. Or at least, Annali believed so. She didn't know why, never knew why, but it always made her think when ever she saw her reflection staring back at her through the ripples with the sunlight dancing in the clearness of the liquid mirror. It was as if the knowledge and experiences the old thing had gathered in it's great age was now being transferred into her. Like it was telling her something. Planting something into her sub-conscious. The feeling mesmerized her.

Alice came running, Annali could hear her foot steps against the concrete walkway traveling yards away in the empty air, and it started her out of the wishing fountain's spell. She turned away and saw Alice running up to her.

"You find anyone?" Annali asked.

"No," Alice said, "I checked out the baseball field, the playground, I didn't see anyone."

"Me neither."

Annali cupped her chin in her left hand and turned her look to the ground, looking thoughtful.

"It's strange," she said, after a minute or two of thinking, "where did everyone go?"

"Well, they couldn't have just disappeared, right?" Alice asked, "I mean, it would be impossible for everyone in New Jersey to just disappear into thin air...wouldn't it?"

Annali did not reply immediately, she pondered a little more on the situation at hand. But the utter noiselessness of the entire world was a little disturbing to Alice, and she felt as if it had to fill it with something.

"Do you think we should be scared now?" she asked.

Annali shook her head, "No, being scared wouldn't do anything but make us panicky. So when something actually happens, all we'll do is scream and stand there. Like in those horror movies."

"Yeah, I guess," Alice said, then, after a few seconds of silence, added, "those people in those horror movies are so stupid."

"I know, right?" Annali said.

"Why would you just stand there if someone's coming to kill you?" Alice said, shaking her head and shoving her hands in the pockets of her hoodie, "it's so dumb. I'd run away as fast as I could."

"Me too."

The conversation appeared to end there, when the two girls could find nothing else to contribute.

No, Annali and Alice were still not scared, just confused. It seemed that whatever was watching over them an hour ago when they left Annali's house was still watching over them, and made everything, no matter how odd, just alright.

Alice was opening her mouth to start another topic for conversation, when Annali said, "C'mon, let's go for a walk."

"Through the park?" Alice asked.

"Yeah," Annali said, "C'mon."

So walk through the park they did. The followed the walkway past rows of trees, park benches, and old war statues of heroes long gone. They went up to the old playground and swung on the swings a little bit, then over to the huge patio thing where teenagers went to smoke and piss on the floor and write on the pillars in spray paint. They went to the baseball field and played a little bit before Alice stubbed her toe on one of the mounds, but not too bad, of course. They went over to the area under construction, where the walkway didn't lead, and went among the toppled trees and abandoned equipment. Alice got a picture of Annali at the helm of a big yellow bulldozer, and Annali of Alice pretending to operate a concrete mixer. They laughed while they played, while they walked, and while they ran when walking got too boring. They splashed each other with water from the fountain and shot crumpled up paper balls into the trash can. All the while there wasn't a soul in sight to hear them, not even a squirrel or a bird.

"I miss the squirrels," Alice said, "they have that kind of stare when you look at them. A kind of curious stare..."

"Don't forget," Annali said, "these squirrels are from Jersey. They might shank you or something if you look at them the wrong way."

Alice let out a laugh, and made an impressive imitation of a gangsta squirrel that made Annali laugh too.

"Hey, I know where I want to go," Annali said.

"Where?" Alice asked.

But Annali was already ahead of her, leading the way.

They cut across the park and over the bridge. Below them, they could see all the cars parked and left perfectly at where they were last. It made Alice feel as if they were just waiting for their owners to come back. It was a bit eerie, but Alice went on and followed Annali.

They came to the old church, made of stone and marble, and towering so high you could still see it on the skyway heading to and from Jersey. Annali went up the steps, and pulled back the big, old wooden doors with Saint John carved into them, and Alice followed her in.

"Why are we here?" Alice asked, coming it.

"I don't know," Annali said, "I just felt like coming here."

They looked around, but found everything you would expect to find in an old church. Rows of pews with bibles and song books lay on every seat, an alter, the tabernacle and even the golden plate of the Eucharist sat on one of the steps leading up to the table. Exactly where the priest had left it when he vanished to where ever he had gone. There were statues made completely out of marble on one side, depicting the most holy figures in history. Oil paintings depicting the Stations of the Cross hung from wall to wall, and in the center hung from the gold painted ceiling a huge replica of the cross where Jesus of Nazareth himself hung. Upon the ceiling, a painting that depicted the all powerful Lord himself, surrounded by saints and angels, looked down and surveyed the inhabitants of the church with his great eyes. It was this that Annali was staring at.

"Do you think he really exists?" she asked Alice.

"Huh?"

"God. Do you think he really exists?"

"Uh...I don't know. Maybe. I mean he could, couldn't he?"

She looked to Annali, and furrowed her brow at her, but Annali just stared up at the ceiling.

"Do you think he did this?" she asked.

"Did what?"

"Make everyone disappear."

Alice shrugged, and jammed her hands into the pockets of her hoodie, "he could have."

"Then why'd he make us the last ones?"

"I don't know." Alice said, sighing.

Annali stared up at God, and God stared back at them. Alice looked to her friend, shrugged, and looked up too. They both just looked up to the ceiling until their necks hurt.

"It's cold in here," Alice said, "C'mon Annali, let's go back to your place. I'm getting a little hungry."

"Yeah, okay, "Annali said.

They walked out of the church, and cut across the park again to get back to Annali's house.

"So why'd he leave us?" Annali asked.

"What?"

"I mean, why'd God leave us as the last two people?" "I don't know," Alice said, and thought a little bit, "hmmm...maybe it's because we're good people?"

"Not that good," Annali said, "I know I've done my share of sins."

"Well then..." Alice thought again, "uhhh..."

With an exasperated groan, she gave up.

"Maybe we're here to do something..." Annali said.

"Like what?" asked Alice.

"I don't know, just something."

Annali looked up at the sky for a little bit, before her neck started hurting again.

"Something important, maybe?" she asked.

"Maybe," Alice said, just to be able to change the topic already.

"Hey, what's that?"

Annali was off like a newly thrown dart to a bull's eye, Alice walked along behind her.

"What is it?" she asked, when she arrived at the wishing fountain in her own time.

Annali was holding a glass orb that fit in the palm of her hand. In it was a rendition of a lake with a long neck and head sticking out of the water, with glitter raining down everywhere.

"I looks like one of those snow globe things," Alice said, "only without the Santa Claus and glitter instead of fake snow." "Yeah," Annali said, turning the thing around in her hands, "I wonder what it was doing in the wishing fountain."

"Hey Annali!" "What?"

"Maybe this means we're not alone here!"

Annali raised an eyebrow, "whadayamean?"

"I mean, that thing wasn't there before, right?"

"Right." "So that means someone must've put it there!"

The two girls nodded at their own conclusion. They looked around, but saw no one or thing except the silent trees. Dusk began to fall, and the orange hue of the sky was starting to fade into grey.

For the first time since this whole thing began, the girls became scared.

"Let's go back to my place," Annali said, still watching for any signs of anyone, or anything.

"Yeah, let's go." Alice concurred, also scanning the surrounding area.

They walked back, at a much more brisk pace than before. The utter silence of the empty world was finally starting to make them very scared. Very, very scared. They kept watching out of the corner of their eyes to see any flitting shadows or any sudden movements, but there were none. They were alone, yet not alone. There was someone out there, someone other than them, and it frightened the two girls greatly. What was worse was the realization, and both girls realized it at the same time, that whoever it was that was with them must've left the little Loch Ness souvenir knowing who would pick it up.

In other words, he knew they were there.

He knew that they would have to pass this way to get back to Annali's house.

Which means he knew where they were going.

Which means he might be there waiting for them.

Or he might be following them.

The fact that neither Annali nor Alice knew whether or not the thing was following them or already sitting on Annali's doorstep was even worse than not knowing who or what the thing was in the first place.

Annali and Alice gulped.

When they were near the house, they stopped.

"C'mon," Annali said, and they cut through an alleyway of the neighbors to go around. This was to avoid passing through to the front door, where anyone not familiar with the house would surely be waiting.

The girls leapt over the fence and arrived behind the house, where the basement door was located. They planned to enter the house undetected by whatever was waiting for them at the front door, because if the thing was following them now, they would have seen it in the alleyway. They would enter through the basement door and be safe in the house while the thing waited outside forever.

Annali and Alice, the fear rising in them along with the feeling of being home free, ran to the door and gripped the handle.

But the door swung itself open.

Annali and Alice locked frightened eyes with the last person they expected to see in the whole wide universe.