|A picture of Womby made twenty years ago in real time!|
It was only a five mile walk to the tiny settlement of Sueville,that appeared to be a subsistence tribe. There was no sign of any industry, nor any shops. As he and Chloe walked into the common area, they found only a tavern connected to the post office, surrounded by very humble houses, a few of them abandoned-looking. The town had a lackluster vibe to it; there was no one on the street. Chloe finally spotted a "Lodgings" sign on a side street. The establishment offered showers, a kitchen and a barracks-style bunk-room for walkers. Since it was already suppertime, they decided to stay.
A quiet boy of about 12 showed them the spacious and surprisingly well-equipped kitchen, the bath house, and a large bunk room, the beds in which were partly divided by low walls. He gestured to them to look inside each of the facilities, then pointed to the lists of rules prominently posted near the doors. He then showed his lapel button that said, I am observing my day of silence. Alan nodded his acknowledgment and paid him for their lodgings. They didn't see anyone else.
"It looks like we might have the place to ourselves," said Alan.
"And maybe the town, too," quipped Chloe. "It sure is quiet here, almost spooky."
The kitchen adjoined an "honor pantry" with a coin box next to stacks of canned or packaged food, all priced. They picked out a Westhill Freeze-dried Beef Stroganoff Dinner and then added some carrots and dried peas and beans. Chloe insisted on paying this time.
As they were putting this banquet together, Chloe asked Alan, "So what would you be doing if you were by yourself?"
Alan glanced at her, "You mean right now? I'd probably be doing this."
"No, I mean, for the evening...like, when you were back at home."
"Ohhh, um, well, I suppose I'd be making supper, then sitting down with a book while I ate it, then maybe take a walk, then come back home and read some more or draw. Or I'd watch a movie on TV. It wasn't too exciting."
"You didn't have friends or someone to visit? No family around?"
"No family in Indiana, but my mom still lives in California. My Dad died when I was 19. I had my friend Michelle, but I really wasn't very sociable otherwise. She'd often come over for dinner, and sometimes stay overnight; but then she'd go back to take care of her mom, who lived nearby." I guess I don't need to hide anything here...
"Wow, sounds like me."
"Yeah? Oh, right."
A dusky soft daylight lingered after supper, so they took a walk to the only tavern, called Strong's, and they sat at a table and ordered wine. There were two other patrons, who glanced their way, then went on talking. At their table, Chloe said, "Well, aren't we the old married couple out to tip a bottle, eh?" Alan smiled and said "cheers" and they clinked their glasses.
They felt lighter as they left Strong's, and they walked out on the dunes, a short distance from the Sueville commons. From the windy dune-top they could see a few house-lights that marked the town of Womby, and more lights of what must be the town of Lizard in the distance. There were no street lights. Dusk was settling to the point where the brightest stars were emerging, and a gibbous moon was well established in the eastern sky.
"Nice out here," said Chloe.
"Yup," said Alan. "I like it here. The place seems so humble, and untamed in a way. I like the people here, too, so far. They seem relaxed, and somehow satisfied. It's much different at home - everywhere you look the land has been changed into cornfields, highways, subdivisions, strip malls. Natural places are small and restricted with rules, and often ignored. People are rushed, and no one takes time to sit and stare at nothing, to just be, like I've seen here."
Neither said anything more as they walked back to their lodgings. Finally, Chloe took Alan's hand, and first said nothing, then, "This is only 'cause we're friends."