It was all gone. Everything except two buildings.
And a curious little shop without a sign.
He crossed the empty street. The world was an infinite horizon. Streets were still there, outlining an invisible grid of things no longer present. Just blocks of grass where someone had forgotten to put anything.
A bell tingled as he entered the shop. It was very clean, almost empty itself. There was only a counter and a clerk behind the counter.
The clerk smiled at him. “Hello, sir. Good to see you again.”
He must be dreaming. “Where is everything?”
“Removed,” said the clerk. “As per your request.”
“We are the finest removal company in the business,” said the clerk.
“Also the only one. That does make the former easier to achieve.”
“What do you mean removed?”
“Exactly what we promise it means.”
“Ah, that’s a trade secret, sir.” Smiling, the clerk put his fingers to his lips.
“I didn’t ask you to do that.”
“Yes, sir, I’m quite certain you did. We have the work orders right here.” The clerk thumbed through a stack of papers. “It started with your job. You didn’t like that, so you had us remove it. Then traffic. Then all those people, one by one, who annoyed you. Then television shows you didn’t enjoy. Then television itself.” The clerk shuffled the papers. “Well, I’m sure you get the idea. Are you unsatisfied with our service?”
“It’s all gone.”
“You were warned, sir. Nor can the process be reversed. Does this continue to upset you? Your last request was to have your memory removed. I take it this hasn’t solved the problem.”
He looked out the window and a world gone away. “Oh, God. Did I really do it?”
“No, sir. We did it. Per your request. This is a new service, and we are sorry to hear of your dissatisfaction. As always, we offer a free removal as way of apology.”
“I want to remove the removal,” he said.
The Clerk sighed.
“I’ve asked you to do that before?”
“Yes, sir. It is impossible. All removals are permanent.”
“So this is the way it’s going to be then? I destroyed it all?”
“Removed, sir. It’s still out there. Somewhere.”
“Remove me then,” he said.
“I wouldn’t recommend it, sir.”
“Just do it.”
The clerk had him sign a few forms. “It’s been a pleasure serving you, sir.”
With the last signature, the world (what little of it that was left) vanished. He tumbled through darkness and hit the ground hard.
It was all here. Buildings lay in ruins. Cars in heaps. Uprooted trees. All arranged in piles as if sorted by a lazy, indifferent god. On the horizon, he could see fires burning, and people huddled around those fires.
His old life. His new life. Everything he hated. Everything he loved. Everything he’d forgotten. Under a flashing blue sky, he set out to find it all again in the scattered pieces of a carelessly discarded world.