And then she was gone.
That was always what they said, in the interviews, on the tapes later. She or he was there, then they weren’t. A crowded mall. A parade. A quiet walk home from school with some friends. They were all seen until they weren’t. It was the same every time.
Maria had always wondered how it could be that no one could see someone vanish. That so many people would deny having seen a living human just disappear into seeming thin air. Now she thought maybe she could see how it had happened. She had been on her way to her job behind the counter at the mall kiosk that sold overpriced, under quality, cell phone cases and the like. The mall was crowded and smelled like Christmas. Too many bodies crammed into the tightly packed, poorly ventilated facility made her feel like she was inside a clothes dryer with some towels that hadn’t quite dried. There was the taste of humans on her tongue that left her wanting to hold her breath as she was jostled about by the various patrons, oblivious to the teenage girl hurrying against the crowd. Later, when asked, none of them would remember seeing her. They’d all say things like “I don’t know, maybe?” or “She looks a little familiar, but I can’t be sure.” Helpful things like that.
She wasn’t even sure, at first, that she’d vanished. Like the others. Like the millions before her and the millions that came after, when she was gone, she was sure that it was everyone else that had gone instead. One minute she could hear the canned speakers overhead blasting Holly Jolly Christmas and smell the food court and then in the next instant there was silence and the oppressive lack of sensation. There was the feeling of falling, of being weightless. And then she was gone.