Tall grasses and weeds had been replaced by creeping ivies and thyme, so the orderly row of houses looked as if their front gardens had been recently tended. It looked almost normal, except for the empty silence.
This was Chandler’s Folly, the purpose-built town with the perfect stone churches, the manicured playgrounds, the houses lovingly occupied, families living in tolerant accord, and the crazy system of never-used underground tunnels. A little girl had fled the town into the woods when the world ended, scrubbing along for weeks before she stumbled upon me and Plato; thin, dirty, and unable to remember even her name.
Now my dog Plato leaned up against the girl, who had named herself Folly, as if to support her, as we three stood in the middle of the road gazing at tidy home after tidy home, waiting for her to move or speak. She’d agreed to come and I’d explained that it might be tough. It was tough for me and Plato to search for my parents and sisters. But strangely, the only way we could have survived was to realize that we were completely alone. My parents were not going to bail me out. My sisters no longer existed.
Finally, Folly said, “Do you see anyone?”
“No Folly, I don’t.” It was probable she didn’t trust her own eyes. “Which way is your house?”
“They look alike,” said Folly.
“What colour was your house?” I prompted.
“Yellow,” said Folly. Well, that narrowed it down to about two hundred.
“What else do you remember?”
“The horses,” said Folly. She kneeled down and wrapped her arms around Plato’s neck. He bore the hug with great fortitude and patience.
Folly then closed her eyes. “Can we go now?”
“Back to the motel?”
Folly nodded, eyes still tightly shut. “Don’t make me look,” she said.
So Plato and I guided her back to the red Jag, and she sat in the back while Plato took the passenger seat beside me. I drove straight ahead instead of turning around and going back the way we’d come. Folly had her eyes closed, but I wanted a bit of a look around.
That’s when I saw a body on the porch of a two storey, neo-Victorian house, not far from the domed library. At least it looked like a body, slumped in a rocking chair, as still and frozen in time as everything else in Chandler’s Folly. I coasted the Jag to a stop. Plato and I had already travelled half-way across the country, and the only body, living or dead, we’d encountered was Folly’s.
Plato saw the body too— hard to tell if it was a man or a woman— and whimpered softly. I glanced at Folly, who was tense and stiff, her hands now covering her eyes as back-up protection.
“Folly,” I said, “I’m gonna go drop you off at the Best Western. Could you find some soup and bread for dinner?”
She said, “Yes. Are we gone?”
“Not yet,” I said.