Alice is Missing


The banner ripples in the breeze, hand-painted block letters so faded I only know them because I have them memorized.

Alice Carson disappeared nine months ago. The sign went up on the Baily Road overpass a week later, crimson paint on a stark white bedsheet.

Alice is missing.

Callie’s fingers tighten around mine: a warm, calloused lifeline. We haven’t seen anyone in three days.

“After we pick up supplies, we can try Bailey Road,” she says.

We’ve tried Bailey Road. We’ve tried every road out of town. We always end up back here, beneath that ominous flag.

Alice is missing.

Maybe Alice was the first, or maybe just the first I noticed. Others followed. Employees missed work, spouses didn’t come home.

Some people tried to escape then. I don’t know if any of them made it out. I stayed. I had nowhere else to go.

Alice is missing.

We pick through what’s left at 7-11, condensed soup and a danish so full of preservatives it still smells fresh. We head west toward Bailey Road.

Alice is missing.

One day, no one opened the cafe. I didn’t have a key, so I sat down on rough concrete, rested my head against the glass doors, and waited.

That’s how Callie found me. We weren’t friends. I opened and she worked afternoons. She sat next to me and pretended not to notice my tears.

Alice is missing.

Bailey Road was always quiet, but today it’s a tomb.

“Did you hear that?” Callie asks.

Her hand slips from mine.

Alice is missing.

We hooked up with some guys from Ace Hardware, took Glenn’s Rav-4 and headed north. Ten minutes later, we were back where we started, driving beneath that overpass and its crimson-lettered sign.

We stayed at Glenn’s place that night, the only apartment big enough for all of us. In the morning, Glenn’s bed was empty.

Alice is missing.

It happens that fast. One second, I’m holding Callie’s hand. The next, she’s gone.

In the distance, I can just make out an overpass, a tattered bedsheet, a long-expired flag of surrender.

Alice is missing. And I think, maybe, so am I.