It was the third day when the fear changed.
The first day, no one knew what was going on. At 22:47 GMT, people just started to fall over dead across the entire planet. No reason, no cause, no warning. Sleeping, walking, driving, in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of sex, young, old, infant sick, healthy - it didn't matter. One moment alive, the next minute it was a light switch was switched off and they just fell over. That's even what we took to calling it - "Switched"
For the most part it wasn't catastrophic. At any given time if a plane had a pilot that switched, there was a co-pilot that took over. One car in a highway of thousands would cause an accident but people started to drive more carefully. When the news started to report it, people went home and stayed there. World-wide, any country that could declared a national disaster and ordered everyone to stay hom. By the second night they figured out that, about one percent of the population had switched that first day. One the third day, they announced it was one percent each day. No cause detectable, no way to revive even if they were in an operating room with a full team standing by. By then, most people needed food, to get rid of the occasional body, and (of course) to riot. Places burned, people were killed normally, rights were suppressed and fingers were pointed, all without purpose. Eventually, some people went back to work to prop up the world for a little while while they all looked for answers.
By day ten they announced that it wasn't one percent of the original population every day, but one percent of the remaining population every day. So instead of having 90 days left, Humanity probably about five years. It gave people some hope that a cure could be found before we were extinct. Most everyone went back to work then, everyone with any science background had unlimited resources to test any wild theory they had. Searches were done across the entire planet for the trigger. Governments and corporations were scoured for any secret projects that might have caused it. Archeologists and paleontologists and geologists searched history for anything like this that might have happened before. When it hit the astronauts in orbit, astronomers searched the stars and space for answers. Some religious leaders claimed they knew what happened and if people would just follow them it would be alright. After the first few were ripped apart by mobs they generally stopped.
By the end of the two weeks, almost a billion people had died, and by end of the month it was almost twice that. Plans were made to start consolidating populations. If it was the end of days, no one wanted to be alone. Three and a half months and half the world was gone. Civilization was collapsing in on itself, but it was doing it almost politely. "So sorry, don't forget to turn off the lights and good night forever."
Six months and the process had become almost institutionalized. Wake up, check to see if the person you were sleeping with was dead, then your neighbors and the guy across the street. If they were, haul them to the nearest major intersection to be picked up and disposed of. I don't think anyone had any real hope it would stop by then. The suicide rate would rise and fall and rise again, although murder was pretty unheard of. That might have been because it felt pretty hopeless.
Rural areas major cities were abandoned, in favor of more "right sized" areas which were abandoned as smaller and smaller ones were needed. The smell of burning bodies became rarer as it became easier just to leave them to the elements as we moved on.
When year four showed it's ugly head, there were less then 150 people in our colony, with one or two dying every day. Everyone had taken to sleeping alone, since after the third or fourth time you wake up next to a corpse it gets pretty old.
By the end of that year we figured there were only the four of us left on the entire continent, and maybe only 100 people left in the world. I didn't talk to the others about it, but I was hoping, praying, that once there were less then 100 people left to choose from, the angel of death would leave us alone.
And two months later, it looked like my prayers were answered. Everyday the same three faces greeted me and lasted through the day, staying alive. I started to weep and cry for joy instead of in fear. Were we spared? Was it over? In the the fourth month we stopped sleeping alone. We wanted the company and it looked like it was finally over.
This morning Beth woke us up screaming. Seth had switched.