Unlike the morning before, there was no ceremonious opening of my eyes this dawn. I had barely slept through the night, hoping every moment to hear the sound of life ring outside my window. Each moment of silence that passed had seemed like an eternity. Each creak in my floorboards brought me out of bed to the front door, both hopeful and fearful of company. Without the dog there I might have wandered outside in the middle of the night, even if only to be greeted by empty roads.
The moment I see the break of dawn outside my windows I jump in the shower. Not knowing what I might encounter, I grab a small pack and load water, a map, a sweater, and snacks after I slip on my sneakers. It is not a day for my usual flip flops. Cleaver is almost bouncing as I ready myself. Before I unlock the door I feel my heart skip a beat. Instead of exiting I first run to Karen’s room and grab a baseball bat out of her closet.
“You can never be too careful,” I tell the dog and he bounds out of the door when I open it.
Again, the roads are bare and through the streets I see no movement. I head up the hill, it’s almost vertical, and towards town. It will take me an hour at most. I went to school here, my family lived here for a short time, and I learned to drive here. I know this town.
Cleaver is running ahead of me like a maniac, sniffing everything he sees, peeing everywhere. He barks at other dogs occasionally. There are many others. More than I have ever seen loose. Some still have leashes attached to their collars as they run past us. We pass by a dirt road and I hear a Rottweiler bark. Suddenly I’m grateful I grabbed the bat.
At every home we pass, the front door is wide open. Each time I go by, I expect to see someone step out as bewildered as I, calling out to the strange girl in the street. But each time I am disappointed, and that disappointment turns to an unnerving itch in my awareness. Perhaps it is only within this town? There must be others… left behind? There are so many possibilities racing through my mind that I try to shove them out. A hypothesis is just an excuse to make me feel less uncomfortable and I will not draw conclusions until I have seen what downtown looks like. Certainly anyone left in this area would head there.