Take the Long Way Home
by Brian Keene
Deadite Press (2011)
originally published in 2006
There are all kinds of kooky ways the world is supposed to end, but for as many end-of-the-world scenarios people cook up it is pretty hard to top sheer ostentatiousness of one of the original tales, that being the Rapture. When you sit back and look at the big picture of that apocalyptic scenario, you have to wonder what kinds of hallucinogens were available two thousand years ago. For that matter, I'm tempted to wonder what Brian Keene was smoking when he wrote this novella.
In actuality, the story requires nothing quite so mind-altering as real life, because despite the incredible otherworldly event that is seeing friends, loved ones, and total strangers all vanish in the blink of an eye as a great trumpet sounds, this world feels very real.
It begins on the interstate as four friends make the long commute home from Maryland to Pennsylvania on the interstate. They hear a blast, sounds awfully like a horn, and then the world descends into confusion and chaos. They get into a car crash, one of them dies, and the other is missing. As they get their wits about them, they see they aren't the only ones to get into a wreck, and many more are missing. Terrorist attack? Alien invasion? Scientific experiment gone awry? Several theories are bandied about and quickly shot down, but the one that keeps creeping back is the Rapture. The End Times have finally arrived and everyone is in for a whole lot of hurt.
For Steve (Jewish) and Charlie (gay), along with a kind stranger named Frank (atheist), it looks like they're not on the guest list for God's private party. With nothing more of a plan than to walk home, they put one foot in front of the other, wandering through a ravaged landscape that has erupted in violence and hate all too quickly. It might be horrific enough being left to fend for yourself on a forsaken world, but what's truly horrific is the other people you're surrounded by.
Plain-spoken and poignant, this is classic Keene, I reckon. No great zombie hordes, no, but the stark portrait of humanity is blazing on each page, right down to the quiet, awful end.