A Crucial Missing Element

Norman loved New York City, but sometimes he wished it wasn’t so damned crowded. You can get around Manhattan so quickly, if you can push your way onto a train. There are so many great restaurants to eat at, if you make it while they still have tables open. There are wonderful art museums like the MoMA, if you can stand all the people standing around you.

He wished he had it all to himself. And one day, he got his wish.

He noticed the quiet immediately. Even as far uptown as he lived, Manhattan was imbued with a continual noise of humanity and its machines. He tried to write it off. How could you notice quiet? He was probably just so used to it at this point that he couldn’t hear anything. Or maybe his neighborhood had never actually been all that noisy. Anyway, what other explanation was there?

He got dressed, gathered his things for the day, and made his way to the subway stop near his apartment.

Once outside, he could not rationalize the utter quiet and emptiness of the streets and sidewalks. Maybe there was some holiday going on that he had forgotten about? But even then he had never seen the area so completely abandoned. His anxiety grew—something felt very wrong about all of this. Still, he made his way down to the subway station, where three frustrated swipes of his Metro card and finally one successful one got him beyond the turnstile, as it had every day.

The station was just as empty as the streets had been. He waited five minutes—longer than he usually had to—and no train appeared, nor was there any sign of one in the tunnel. Ten minutes after that, his heart pounding in his chest, he walked back out of the station.

Walking down an utterly abandoned Broadway, he thought, maybe there was an accident. Maybe they sealed off the area entirely, and he somehow slept through the whole thing. If so, he would just need to walk outside of the sealed area to find a living city again. He did not worry about what would have caused such an unprecendented locking down of his neighborhood; instead, he clung to the idea that such a thing was possible to comfort him.

He wasn’t even halfway to midtown before he knew his theory was absurd, but he kept walking. He didn’t know what else to do.

When he got down to Chelsea, he was hungry, and tired of walking, so he walked into a restaurant he knew had food he would like. It had often been too crowded when he had attempted to go in the past, but just like everywhere else on that strange day, it was completely empty. This also meant that there were no waiters and no cooks, unfortunately. However, whatever happened must not have happened too long ago, because there was food on the tables. It was still good enough to eat.

But what could he do? He couldn’t eat every plate in the city before they went bad. In fact, he couldn’t even eat very many plates before the food everywhere started to go bad.

It did not take long to figure out that New York kind of sucks without people. For one thing, it takes people to cook food and run subway cars. But even if those people had been left by whatever had taken everyone away, it’s not like Norman could have paid all their salaries himself. Hell, he couldn’t pay for jack without the people who paid him to work for them!

He explored the abandoned shell of what had been America’s most populous city for a few days, out of morbid curiosity more than to obtain some sort of enjoyment. Then he walked his way off the abandoned island and went in search of people.

Published by

Adam Gurri

Adam Gurri works in digital advertising and writes for pleasure on his spare time. His present research focuses on the ethics of business and work, from the perspective of virtue and human flourishing.