Silence hung in the air like a thick cloud as I walked down the empty streets of Athens. Snow was falling gently around me, covering the city in a blanket of soft white. I cupped my hands around my mouth and cried out into the white void:
“Hello? Is anybody out there?”
The sound of my own voice echoed back at me, carried by the wayward wind. I waited for a response — a voice, a face, any sign of life — but there was no answer to my call.
It was Super Bowl Sunday, and I was alone.
Every year, it was the same. No matter how hard I looked, there was no one else to be found. I took to the Internet, searching through Facebook and Twitter. I could find no signs of activity, only streams of random and meaningless nonsense. “Fumbles,” “overthrows,” a terrible beast known only as the “Godad’di” — these words meant nothing to me, yet somehow filled my heart with solemn dread.
“Damn the Ravens,” said one tweet, whispered as if through the lips of a dying sage. But what did it mean? Who was this “Child of Destiny” and why was she so beloved by the “children of ’90”? It was like seeing another world filled with the screams of the lost and the laughter of mad gods.
I lurched away from the computer and out into the snow, my mind reeling. The answer was clear to me: the human race had been taken, ascended to a higher plane of existence. I, and I alone, had been left behind to inherit the empty husk of the world.
“WHY ME?” I screamed into the wind as it rose in fury around me. “Why was I spared? Why me, and not another?”
“You know why, Ryan,” said a voice out of the snow. A figure approached me, and I squinted to see who it was.
“B-Bryan Cranston?” I stammered. “What are you doing here?”
He shook his bald-pated head sadly. “I’m not real, Ryan. I’m a projection of your mind. Have you considered that this is your punishment?”
“Punishment? For what?” I railed my fists at the specter in anger. “I’ve done nothing wrong! I mean, sure, I ran over that guy that one time, but he was Canadian, and the judge said it was fine!”
“Not that,” Mr. Cranston scowled. “This is your punishment for never shutting up about my show and how great it is. You spent weeks alienating everyone you’ve ever met with random knowledge that only you cared about — and now you know how it feels.”
“Aye, lad, he’s right.” Gimli, son of Gloin, emerged from the snow. “Did ye really think that girl on the bus wanted to hear about me family tree and every detail of the Fall of Nargothrond? Yet ye told it to her nevertheless, even when she started clawing her own eyes out.”
“Your friends and family are only giving you a taste of what you give them every day,” said Boba Fett, standing with the other two. “Just as I was trapped within the depths of the Sarlaac’s stomach to be digested eternally, so too will you be trapped forever in the depths of Super Bowl Sunday!”
“Actually, you weren’t trapped forever,” I pointed out. “See, in the Extended Universe, you managed to activate your jetpack and-“
Bryan Cranston slapped his forehead. “See? SEE? You’re doing it again!”
“It’s not my fault!” I cried out hopelessly. “I can’t help that my interests are different than everyone else’s! Isn’t there a place I can go where people can understand me? Isn’t there a place where I can be free!?”
“You’re already there, Ryan,” said a voice behind me. I turned around and saw the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, standing in front of a big-screen television and a bowl of Cheetos. On the screen I saw a group of adorable puppies playing with a toy football. The words “PUPPY BOWL” flashed overhead like the first rays of dawn.
“You’re safe now,” she murmured, as I began to weep. “You’re home.”
Ryan McAndrews is allegedly a senior studying so-called “journalism” at Ohio University and a columnist for The Post. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.