See Naples and Die
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"And to conclude, the structure had gone through a renewal during the second half of the twentieth century; now, if you would please follow m-"

These were the last words Mauro heard before the tour guide silently dropped to the ground, as well as the rest of the group. Under normal circumstances, he would have rushed immediately to get rescue, but the deafening silence had left him utterly dumbfounded. There was no scream or chatter to be heard, anything at all. The mounting fear of having lost his hearing was abruptly dispelled by the hideous noise of hundreds of cars crashing into each other, coming from all around.
Out of despair, he let out a long cry for help, as loud as his old throat allowed him, but to no avail. Very few people had actually been left in Naples at that very moment, and certainly they weren't going to hear his call amid the overwhelming mayhem that engulfed the city.
Time passed and he hadn't received any response yet, when he decided to take the initiative, being struck by a sudden, dreadful surmise.
The leash in his hand was pulling down at a dead weight: like the rest of the group, his service dog was laying limp and unmoving by his feet. He resigned himself after a few tries, then took his cane and made his way across the fellow tourists' fallen, motionless bodies.
He fared unsurprisingly well even without the dog, like he used to do for a long time in his life — he actually took the animal with him just to appease his daughter, as she wished her old parent to be safe and sound during the long coveted repatriation. But it was already becoming clear to Mauro that something far worse than a trivial trip-over had happened to him. Distancing himself from the seemingly unresponsive group, Mauro decided to move to a more bustling part of the city, where he was sure to find someone to help them.
He didn't know how much wrong he was.
Anytime else that particular square would have been crowded with tourists, but now it was desolated, so devoid it was of anything moving; also, even oddlier for such a sweltering evening, the buzzing and stinging annoyance of the plentiful midgets and mosquitoes wasn't anywhere to be heard or felt.
Mauro started to feel genuinely scared. It had to be some kind of joke, of very bad taste indeed, but a joke nonetheless. He had to found someone: it was impossible that the whole town had literally gone at once! He took a back-halley, with the firm intent to reach the other districts, which he knew like the back of his hands. He used to live there as a kid, until the beginning of the war; for sure the city had expanded a lot by then, but in the end, down deep, it remained like it had always been.
Not now, however: everything had just changed, again.
Nothing remained but him, and the feeble crackling of the many cars burning in the distance. But they were not important, Mauro said to himself — all he wished was some human voice for him to hear, just a single one. To no avail, for hours on end he walked by the streets and squares and alleys' forlornness, for so much drained of any living sound they were.
From time to time, he prodded what appeared to be dead bodies with his cane; not that he could be certain of that, as he got anything but the courage to reach down and check.
The very act of walking started to become quite grueling for him, as he was hitting benches and signposts on his way over and over. Such occurrences had always been rare, but they were not all that strange in the end, he realised; all in all, his familiarity with the city couldn't really be demerged from the soundscape that had so abruptly been taken away from it. Or, maybe, it was just because he was panicking, and he should be needing to stop to recollect himself and breathe.
Yet, Mauro wanted to carry on regardless — because, come on, he was going to find someone sooner or later, wasn't he?
But still, after walking for who knows how long, he hadn't met anyone yet.
Was he strolling around in circles? Did he get lost? Mauro finally stopped to catch some breath. Had he lost his sanity once and for all? Had his unrelenting old age finally won the siege and taken his mind?
Definitely no: everything just didn't make any sense. It was just another evening, people were going to get out for a walk, to have dinner at a restaurant, or anything else: for God's sake, he couldn't really be alone! Was he dead, perhaps?
Uncannily, he felt the city being indeed quite much the same as it was at the time of his departure ages ago: bleak, empty, dead.
Why? Was it some sort of punishment? Did he do something bad to deserve this?
Even if he took a few steps out of the line every now and then, he was convinced he had always behaved well after all, as a man and also as a father. What could he possibly have done to deserve this kind of retribution right when he was finally coming back home?
A harrowing screech put a hard stop to Mauro's frantic flow of thoughts. Way before he could make up his mind on what was going on, he was struck by a fierce blast that sent him hurtling through the ground, and while he was getting up, another distant sound of explosion tore the stillness of the night. Then the silence fell again, and Mauro dragged himself close to a nearby wall to lean against and rest. Now all he wanted was to just find some reprieve, to put back some order in his head and dwindle the raving thoughts; but he learnt he really couldn't, such was his disheartening for the present circumstances.
He remained there, slumped on the ground, for what could have been several hours, until his phone tune began ringing out loud.
"Incoming call from Rosaria", chirped the vocal assistant. He picked up the call and answered her daughter before the phone tune could even play for a second time.
"Dad! Are you ok?"
"I-i'm good Rosie, more or less."
"Oh, thank God, you're well", she whimpered, and then she let go a deep sigh. Perhaps even more than Mauro's, his daughter's voice was shrouded in despair.
"Yes, yes love, I'm ok, kind of. Thank you for… for calling me. Do you know what is happening here?"
"Dad, they're speaking about it on the first chann-" she said, before being interrupted by a loud static sound coming from the tv. "I can't believe it… now all the channels are… gone?
"Rosaria? What happened?"
"We've just lost the tv signal… It seems other channels have gone, too. But I don't really care, all I need is to know you're safe."
"Why, honey, do you know what happened here?"
"It's about Naples, dad. They're all dead there. Everyone is dead there."

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