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Spoofs & Satire

A World Without Me

Assume all human life within an apartment suddenly and inexplicably vanishes, said human life consisting entirely of me. What happens next?

Two days after my disappearance, very little has changed in my apartment. A red dot blinks on the answering machine, announcing a missed call. The refrigerator’s compressor turns on and off at regular intervals. A cockroach emerges from under the stove and skitters beneath the dishwasher. The most noticeable difference is the milk, which has been left out on the counter and gone sour. Perhaps I had it out when I inexplicably vanished. More likely, I just forgot to put it away again, as usual.

Ten days after I’m gone, the roaches move about with impunity. Rats scurry, unseen, through the cabinets. The houseplant near the window is brown and withered, although it could have been like that before my departure. I never paid much attention to it. The milk on the counter is slowly turning into a solid, giving off a foul odor that blends in seamlessly with those emanating from the month-old pizza boxes and piles of dirty laundry.

After three months, animals not usually encountered in urban areas will have ventured into the apartment. Wolves roam freely, scavenging for food and drinking out of the toilet. An antelope buries its snout in a half-empty box of Cheerios. A mountain lion knocks over the milk, rendering the entire kitchen and part of the connecting hall uninhabitable for several months.

One year after I’ve vanished, weeds poke through the kitchen tiles and around the edges of the rugs. The jungle can never be eliminated, only tamed, and with no one to mop or vacuum (which I probably would have gotten around to one day or another), the wilderness begins to re-stake its claim.

In the bedroom an owl returns to its nest in my sock drawer, causing the bureau to cave in on itself and crash to the floor. After five years, the refrigerator convulses and dies with a great shudder, causing several pheasants to take flight. Saplings are springing up everywhere. Vines grow up the wall, almost completely concealing the phone. The red light continues to blink incessantly. All these years after my mysterious disappearance, and there’s still only that single message. No one has missed me. The city is a cruel and lonely place. I was right to have disappeared.

Twenty years after I’m gone, the place could really use remodeling.

After 50 years, most of the wooden furniture has rotted out. In the bedroom an owl returns to its nest in my sock drawer, causing the bureau to cave in on itself and crash to the floor, a heap of rubble and Hanes boxer-briefs. In the living room, there’s a sharp crack. A moment later the TV stand crumbles under the weight of my ancient 21” Zenith, which shatters upon impact, sparks, and sets off a brush fire that displaces a herd of caribou.

In 100 years’ time, all the metal in my apartment, including my childhood bowling trophies, will have corroded. If chimpanzees manage to evolve and take over, they will surely cut themselves on the faucet handles.

After 250 years, there are no signs whatsoever that intelligent life ever existed, although my Walker, Texas Ranger DVDs are still in mint condition.

After 500 years, a small group of chimpanzees manages to evolve and take over the apartment. Before they can do much, they’re eaten by a bear.

After 1,000 years, my apartment is a vast, primordial wasteland. Suddenly a key turns in the lock and the door creaks open. It’s a distant descendant of my landlord, showing around a young couple looking for their first apartment. When they learn the rent is $39,000, they send out telepathic signals of uncertainty. The landlord reluctantly offers to include a free clone pod. Also, a new coat of paint. The couple agrees to move in on the first of the month.

Ralph Gamelli has been published in The Big Jewel, McSweeney’s, Monkeybicycle, and Yankee Pot Roast. This is the part where he’s supposed to put down some little joke, but as always he refuses to bow to societal expectations. More by Ralph Gamelli