The old cemetery was quiet and peaceful under the gibbous moon. Christine knelt in front of her parents’ grave, lost in thought. It was one of those times when she allowed herself to be completely still and alone with her thoughts without worrying about anything in her life. A solitary cloud sailed across the sky and briefly covered the moon. When the dim light reappeared, a laneway had opened up in front of her, leading to a farmhouse half hidden behind a stand of old trees and bushes and undergrowth.
She rose from her kneeling position and followed the laneway, curious as to what the farmhouse was all about. By the time she fought her way through the trees and emerged on the other side, the farmhouse had turned into a large family plot with various tombstones arranged in a circle. Some were too old to be deciphered in the weak light, others still new enough to read clearly. Her grandparents were there under their joint marker, and her aunt Alice, her father’s sister, under a single, simple stone.
Aunt Alice had never married and had looked after her parents instead, then continued running the farm after they died. Christine wondered if the same fate awaited her, being buried alone under a nondescript stone. She did have men in her life, but never anything permanent. Either the man who was taking her out stopped calling her, or she tired of the relationship and terminated it herself. She could never commit herself to anything more, not knowing, as she did, where she would be next.
She walked around among the tombstones, reading whatever inscriptions she could when the cemetery suddenly shifted, as if it had rotated around an invisible axis, and she didn’t know where she was anymore. They always seemed to happen to her, those shifts in time and space, and she never knew why and how. She always found her way out of the puzzle again, but the shifts were confusing and disconcerting nonetheless. It sometimes made her brain hurt, trying to figure it all out. If it had just been a simple maze, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but the constant changes tended to weigh heavily on her.
Once she went to a department store to buy herself some new clothes, only to find herself going up an escalator in a different store. She did find some clothes on the second floor and she bought them simply because they were there and because she was there, but when she brought them home and tried them on again, they just didn’t seem to be quite right and she never wore any of them. Her apartment was getting rather cluttered with things she bought when she didn’t mean to, just because she found herself in some store and the things were there. Most of the time, she didn’t even know how she found her way out of the store and home again. So the things just kept piling up without her ever doing anything with them beyond putting them among all the other possessions.
Another cloud came sailing across the moon and obliterated the light, and the cemetery shifted again. When the moon came back, she was kneeling in front of her parents’ grave again, but the large family plot with her relatives had disappeared. It had long become a part of her life, this feeling lost in a world that so often didn’t make sense, this feeling of confusion in a shifting time. Sometimes she found her own way out, sometimes the world rotated again on its own, but she never knew how and when she would find her way again.
Once she found herself in an elevator in one of the office towers downtown when she wasn’t even downtown. The elevator took her to the very top of the building, opened the door, and left her to her own devices. A short flight of stairs led her to a heavy steel door and she found herself on the roof top surrounded by flower gardens and bushes and trees. She still had a flower she picked from one of the beds, pressed between the pages of her diary, even though she didn’t know how she brought it home.
The cemetery shifted again and she was sitting on a boulder among unfamiliar graves in a part of the cemetery she didn’t recognize. She was just trying to reorient herself, when a large bank of black clouds covered the sky and obliterated the moon. She almost panicked in the sudden darkness, but then, she was used to finding herself caught in unpredictable situations and somehow always knew how to get back home. She might not have known where she was or what she was doing there, but in the end, she always reached her apartment and locked herself into the safety of her four walls.
She took her diary from the shelf above her desk, picked up a pen, and made herself comfortable in her chair. “Dear Diary,” she began.
Peter Baltensperger writes from Ontario, Canada.