They had been waiting for the last bus when the darkness fell like a blanket. All across Montreal, the power went out, one building after another as streetlights and stoplights were doused. Only the incipiencies of emergency lights were left; glowing like beacons in the untamed night in dull, ineffective orange. The TD bank across the street was barely discernible in the murk. More than five minutes had passed since either had seen a car or bus pass. Something was wrong, Chandra could feel it. She turned to her work weary partner, Michael.
“What do you think happened?” she asked him, her voice barely a whisper.
“I have no idea,” he answered. “Power outage I guess.”
He peered down Rue Guy. The mountain had disappeared into the inky night. Chandra sighed. She looked up to the sky, realizing that for the first time in years she might be able to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way. Only black met her gaze. It had been a long time since she had seen darkness like this. Back then she still lived on her parent’s farm. She had been drawn out of the house by the roar of an alien engine drifting across the night air. Thinking someone was spotlighting deer in her parent’s fields, she flew out of the house with a flashlight in hand. It, like the emergency lights, also proved ineffective. The night had been so thick that she could barely see her hands in front of her. The sky then had also been starless, save for the moon, which had glared back low in the sky like a bloody smear of foreboding. She shivered.
“Wanna move over to the doors?” she asked, motioning to the orange emergency lights over Concordia’s side entrance next to the metro.
“This is weird. Where is everyone?” she asked, hugging her arms. It was barely one am on a Friday night. They both had been caught in surprise overtime when their manager had asked them at 4:57 if they could stay. A bad build had wrangled them back into their cubicles. Even when they left the office, it had seemed strange that so few people were on the streets. But now it seemed odd, glaring. Something was wrong. Chandra pulled out her phone, swiped her thumb across the screen, and checked the time. “Huh.”
“I don’t have any signal and the wifi is down in the area.”
“Probably went down with the power.”
“Yeah, but the cellphone towers? Those are completely separate.”
“Let’s go check out Sainte-Catherine,” she suddenly proposed, feeling restless and anxious.
“What are we looking for?” Michael asked.
“Dunno, people, something, anything. This is weirding me out.”
They held hands, using the glass walls of Concordia to feel their way to Sainte-Catherine. They peered around the corner, Michael holding onto the wall. Chandra stepped into the nothingness. She didn’t know what exactly she expected to find. In the conflicting swell of darkness, she thought she saw something move.
“Pull me back,” she whispered. “It’s the same.”
They rounded the corner, still holding hands, as they followed the wall.
“Do you think the security–”
The roar of a diesel engine cut her off. They turned. A lone bus rumbled up Rue Guy. Its digital banner was blank, and only its headlights shed light, washing across buildings, glinting against empty windows. They let go of each other’s hands and ran toward the bus. It made no move to pull into the stop. Its interior was dark. They followed it into the street, their shoes slapping against the pavement. They chased the bus, banging their hands against the green and blue sides of the bus that appeared grey in the gloom.
“Hey!” they shouted at the driver. “Wait!”
The bus slowed. They caught up to the door. Michael knocked on the glass. The bus rolled to a stop, idling in the centre of Rue Guy like a mythical creature. The door slid open with a squeak, the rubber lip catching on the floor. A bewildered STM driver looked back at them.
“You’re the first people I’ve seen in half an hour,” he told them.
“What happened?” Michael panted.
“No idea,” the driver replied, motioning for them to get on. The bus was empty save for him. They took the seats at the front, and leaned in toward the driver, their attention rapt.
“Everywhere there are abandoned cars in the road,” the driver continued. “Wrecks, pile ups, I even saw another bus—the 165 I think—on its side. It’s insane.” He shook his head. “Power’s down everywhere, it looks like.”
“Anything on the radio?” Michael asked, pointing at the driver’s console. “Any sort of report of what happened?”
“Not a damn thing. It’s eerie.”
“Tell us about it,” Chandra muttered. “Do you think something happened?” A dozen scenarios played across her mind, each more terrifying than the last.
“Where do you think everyone went?” Michael posed.
No one answered either question. All three stared out ahead as the driver carefully navigated the cumbersome bus along its route, weaving around empty cars and smoldering wrecks.
“I’m Andy, by the way,” he said after a few minutes of silence had passed.
“Are you guys headed to the NDG?”
“Well we were, until…you know. Would it be okay if we rode with you for a while?” Michael asked, timidly. “Just until we know—“
“Yeah, it’s no problem,” Andy said, cutting Michael off. “I’m supposed to have one more trip before hitting the depot. But given the circumstances…” he motioned to the carnage through the windshield. “I don’t think it matters. Plus there might be more people stranded.”
“What’s your fuel like?” Chandra inquired. Asking the question she knew was at the front of everyone’s minds.
“Good, mostly full.”
“That’s good.” She leaned back, satisfied. “We might have to leave the city.”
“I figured there was a chance of that,” he answered. They turned onto The Boulevard. “Keep your eyes peeled. Oh, and welcome to the apocalypse.”