The Garden

Prompt: Recreate

swing in park

“And what were you doing before you started running away?”

“I was on a swing, in the park beside the school,” said Folly.

“Where is the school?”

“Down past that traffic light,” she said.

I accelerated and we lurched forward on the little Yamaha TW we’d found leaning up against someone’s garage door. I wanted to get around quickly for this “game”, not lumber through town from inside a closed vehicle.

Every red light still triggered a stop impulse, but this time I didn’t even slow down. Folly was clinging to me tightly, her hands bunching the front of my down vest.

I saw the swings, and the small adventure playground, the soccer goalposts, and the tiny basketball court, all neatly laid out beside a sprawling one-story elementary school.

“I sat in that swing,” said Folly. “There was a puddle on the ground under it, and my feet got wet.”

“And before that?” I learned that Folly was more comfortable answering questions when we were not face to face. We slowed to a stop and but she did not release her grip on me. I could feel her cheek pressed against my back.

“I— “

“Folly, think now.”

“Everyone died,” she said. “I ran home! And they were dead, too.”

“Where? Which way is home?” This was as far as we’d ever gotten, and I felt it was our last chance to find Folly’s house and get her memories back.

She had the bad memories. The inside of her head was a once a safe garden, but the garden was now overgrown with thorns and weeds and their alien blooms, choking out the lilac and brilliant pinks of the hydrangea and the lime leaves of the ninebark, twining around her thin legs freezing her in place.

I could feel her trembling, and resisted the urge to comfort her. “Which way, Folly?”

“The lane, go down the lane.”

The lane was surfaced in gravel, which resisted and spit and almost caused me to lose control, but I slowed down and we passed by the leafy green back yards of homes that had once housed Folly’s neighbours and friends. She’d told me her house was yellow, and there was only one yellow house, at the end of the lane, on the corner.

“Go in the back way,” said Folly. We got off the bike and opened the gate, stepping into a tidy green garden with a mature ornamental cherry tree, masses of sumac starting to change color, and a small pup tent set up on the flat lawn.

“This is the way you went to school, and to the park?” I asked her.

She nodded. She was wearing a fleece hoodie that was too big for her and fit more like a dress, and denim leggings with rubber boots. Her hair was uncombed and tangled from the bike ride. She was deathly pale.

The gate had a rusted metal bell on it, that clanged when it was shut, no doubt meant as an alert for Folly’s mother or father. The lawn, once carefully tended grass, was now a ground cover of what looked like thyme.

She didn’t look in the pup tent on her way to the back porch, but I did. Inside was a rumpled tartan blanket and a flashlight.

Large-leafed ivy climbed the exterior walls of the house, drooping down over the doorway, which was probably not there the last time she was here.

It was unlocked. I let Folly lead the way, silent. This was her moment, her most important moment, and she had to face it alone and on her own terms. What could I do? A big stupid teenager who knew nothing of her family, her past, what she’d lost. I knew my own loss and I had some idea of what was churning around in her gut, but comfort could only come later.

The house was smaller than the one I grew up in, with the traditional separate, somewhat small rooms: kitchen, dining room, small formal living room, and a very untidy family room. On the floor and tables were boxed games, like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit, open and the contents scattered about the room. There were towels, too, crumpled on the couch, and a bookcase with a full set of encyclopaedias, something I’d never seen before.

Folly picked up a towel and smelled it. She put it down again.

“I know my name now,” she said.

Advertisements

T-bob

Prompt: Illusion

bob hair style-Edit

When ear noodles, which required a 3D-space around and above the helix, became all the fashion, young girls started “stacking” or elongating the ear stem gradually, using string or thread. Because they wanted to hide this dangerous, somewhat deforming practice from parents and teachers, the T-bob became popular, and not just among the ear-stackers.

This presented Mimosa with an ethical problem. She was raised in a strict, Platonic (in the modern, 22nd century sense of the word, not the classical) household, where she learned rules and laws were made out of love, and disobedience caused heartbreak to those in power. She remembered the agonizing, aching remorse when her father concealed his etching income from the government. She remembered the tears of her parents when she refused to tell them what Grandpa said. Yes, she was to be obedient to Grandpa too, but her first allegiance was to her parents. Well, her second allegiance, really.

In any case, the fourteen-year old girl who sat staring at herself in the wall to wall mirror, her back to Mimosa, her hair long, thick, and curly, said, “A T-bob, please.” Mimosa ran her fingers through the girl’s hair. It was softer than it looked. She brushed it away from her face. There was a bandage around the left ear stem.

Not meaning to speak, Mimosa still said, “Oh dear.”

The girl, whose name was Lucy, looked sharply at Mimosa. She saw a short, pale, rather pudgy woman in her early twenties, who, like many hairdressers, had over-processed hair which desperately needed a trim; in this case, ash blonde in colour.

“I have to ask,” said Mimosa. “Do your parents know you are stacking?”

Lucy lowered her head, and Mimosa did not see the eye-roll. “Yes she does,” said Lucy, looking up again. “She says it’s up to me. When she was my age she got a blood tattoo, you know, right?” Mimosa hoped that tattoo was not readily visible. People wouldn’t hire you, not even for a grade C job, if you had a blood tattoo. The Plato Group had banned them, out of love and concern for the physical and mental health of the people.

“Well, this is permanent too,” Mimosa said, trying to avoid the tone and cadence of her mother’s voice, but failing. She heard her mother speak, as clearly as if she was inhabiting Mimosa’s body. “And Plato doesn’t want you to do it.”

Lucy said something about Plato that Mimosa stridently refused to hear, lest she had to report the girl. Then silence.

“Will you report me?” Lucy said suddenly. She looked around, she looked above the entrance door, where the recorders were usually placed. No one tried to hide them: What would be the point?

She looked at Mimosa, behind her, in the mirror. Even from a few feet away, Mimosa could see chocolate-coloured flecks in Lucy’s hazel eyes. They were pretty, and unusual. All around the hazel and chocolate there was white. Her own eyes were grey, like her mother’s, like her Grandpa’s eyes.

The room felt cold, and at that moment Jared, her business partner, burst into the shop, his lunch break over. “Hey Mim. And Lucy, isn’t it? I made the appointment. I’m Jared.”

Lucy did not look at him or smile. Jared paused, then went to the back lounge for a minute. Mimosa was still and quiet, her hands on the back of Lucy’s chair.

When Jared reappeared he strode to where the two young women were frozen in place.

“T-bob, Lucy? It would look fab. Mim, I’ll do it!”

“No,” said Mimosa. She put a large, clean white towel around Lucy’s shoulders, and picked up the brush again. “I will.”

The Body

Prompt: Devastation

victorian-house-1cr-2jpeg

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.

PPFT

Prompt: Storm

Flare man

Never, in the history of mankind, was there a storm like the one on May 27, the fifth anniversary of the Plato Polar Fermentation Treluge (PPFT).

I won’t sugar-coat it. It was bloody. It was violent. There were floods, hailstorms, plagues. No one survived it.

Except for me and my dog, Plato. Almost everything was named Plato, before the storm. Plato Pharmaceutical, Plato Food Industries, Plato Fermented Beverages, Plato Health Care. When I named Plato, when he was a tiny puppy, I thought Plato was the greatest name, because Plato was the greatest, most benevolent, most generous, most brilliantly wise entity in existence. Everyone pretty much felt the same.

The plague was handy, because it took all the bodies away, so Plato and I did not have to avoid bodies, step over them or drive around them, or worry about catching diseases from them.

We took up residence in a beautiful house which was conveniently located near shops and restaurants. Not that we went to restaurants. They are definitely not much fun if no one is serving you. But many had very large freezers housing fine delicacies. The city where Plato and I lived still had power, gas, electricity. We didn’t know how long these services would last, so we stockpiled frozen food into huge, well-insulated walk-in freezers.

We wondered four things:
1. Was it possible to learn how to maintain the power plant, or could we live without electricity?
2. What place accessible by car would be the best place for us to live?
3. Were Plato and I the only ones who survived the storm?
4. What the heck was going on?

We had already accessed Facebook and other social media sites, sending out friend requests to everyone in the world, but so far had received no response. We had a short-wave radio that we kept active. We sent up beacons and flares, usually at nightfall, every twenty-four hours.

I’m not that clever, or skillful at much, so I had no real idea of how Plato and I should spend our days and nights. Usually we were serious for a few days, making lists, taking inventory, stockpiling useful information, journaling the end of the world, then played for a few days, binging and speeding. Before things started getting overgrown, we could do almost anything we wanted.

We didn’t think much about being alone in the world. It was too much to think about, really.

Sometimes we slept outside, on cots, with the canopy of the sky above us. We were looking for signs: actual signs of other survivors, like the flares we sent up, anything. But what we saw and understood was something more than I could describe in my journal.

Plato and I were alone on a planet that died, but were not alone.