I turn towards the martini bar to my left and crack open a soda from the fridge before stepping towards the most incredible entertainment center I’ve ever seen in the wild.
I hit power and a projector slowly descends from a hidden place in the ceiling simultaneously with a projector screen, revealing the familiar static. After flipping through "channels" for a while and becoming only more depressed with each flip I turn it off and move to the kitchen. The fresh fruit on the counter is spoiling but the food in the fridge is salvageable. After grabbing some crackers and cheese I notice a sign hanging over the foyer doorway I had avoided.
To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world
Before the words can register fully I hear an abrupt and vicious barking from the backyard. I immediately reach for my gun and peek out the kitchen window’s monogrammed curtain.
Outside I see two German Shepherds behind what would appear to be, upon visual examination only, an extremely sturdy chain link fence. The dogs look almost identical save for a dark marking across one of their foreheads. My eyes scan the perimeter of the fence and it seems impenetrable.
“They’ve been out there this whole time…”
Slowly I crack open the kitchen’s backdoor and Cleaver goes wild even though the twins are standing still, but with rapt attention at the edge of the fence thirty feet away. With tremendous difficulty I shove him back into the kitchen and stagger with nervous caution towards the fence. The dogs jump up on it, but the fence barely shakes under their combined weight.
“Why wasn’t this door left open?” I wonder aloud, looking at the latch at the end of the fence that has been firmly shut.
Their water container next to the door catches my eye; it’s empty and dry in the shade. Looking at the dogs again now I can see signs of anxiety. I remember they started barking the minute they had heard me in the kitchen.
I totter back to the edge of the house, fill an empty liter bottle there with a garden hose and refresh them. They finish the liter and I replenish again, we do this dance several times before I return and the dogs have fallen asleep. Cleaver is still barking at me from the kitchen and I return to him. As I wobble down the corridor there are pictures of the stranger and her dogs, other friends, and family smiling into the void. I’ll bet she wouldn’t be smiling if she saw me drinking her hooch.
Misanthropic, I take all the picture frames off the walls and toss them into assorted cans that are carefully laid about the house. She doesn’t live here anymore.
I grab a Sharpie from one of the trays in the hallway and walk to the bathroom mirror nearby. Carefully marking six tallies on it I step back and look at my face for the first time in a long time. My hair is a wild tangle that would only befit a corpse. Scratches that I hadn’t noticed line my forehead. Eyes that were once a cool blue are lined with red. More than the describable change is the one beyond words. I watch now, turning my chin from right to left, and see despair behind those bloodshot eyes. I have nothing to look forward to. I have no reason to believe that anyone exists that would be able to find me, let alone desire to. The lack of information is a feeling I’ve never experienced before. I’d been surrounded by parents, professors, and the internet my entire life. I’ve worked to find the answer through rational means, and yet. What’s the use in venturing further only to be disappointed?
I owe it to my mother to at least search. It is possible that my mind will find a way to cope with this shock, this extreme change, in the case that no one ever comes. But staying here, in this town, when she might be out looking for me is irresponsible. She would be hurt to think that I wouldn’t look. If she is out there, she is certainly looking for me. But I can’t travel like this, with a bad leg and no supplies. Later. I will leave later.