When we got back to where we started from, we noticed things had changed. If someone had told us everyone had moved two feet to the right, we would have believed them. But no one else seemed to have noticed. They moved along the same tracks they always had. Automated, almost.
We kept bumping into things, stubbing our toes, reach for things that weren’t there, but close. Three days in, and we couldn’t shake the feeling. Something wasn’t right. Maybe it was us, we said, when we’d wake up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep.
The forest around Doe’s heart began as a flower garden. Daisies, buttercups and hyacinth. Fragrant and inviting, under a high sun. She replanted them when they were trampled. A few times. Eventually adding thistles.
Then she decided shrubs and hedges might do a better job. And for a while, they did. Now there’s a tight copse of pine and spruce surrounding it. Their needled branches interlocking, blocking out the light. The sap-filled trunk gumming up the axes and saws of eager lumberjacks.
Inside the circles of trees, it’s cool and damp and quiet. Doe knows her heart is finally safe.
The singer had a voice like a tin rake. Its tines bent from hitting rock and roots. But there was warmth in it. Like an old wood-stove. And the company was good. Good enough for a rainy October night, anyway. Another round wouldn’t hurt.
The first act finished and the bar went dark. Under the table, he reached for his date’s knee. She pulled it away, but gave him a little smile. The stage lights came up and some fat guy in a suit came out, apologizing, the show had to cancel. The band never made it, got lost somewhere.
The next morning, Goat tried to put the pieces back together. He swept his memories, scratching at the corners, dragging everything to a pile in the middle of his mind. From there, he sifted through the dirt and debris, separating, like with like. He gathered the ceramic shards in his lap.
This was bad, he knew, almost unrepairable. Taking the pieces, he shuffled to the kitchen table, and set them down. He pulled the glue from the usual drawer and set about putting it back together, as best he could.
He’d have to be more careful, he told himself, again.
The day after he had a tooth pulled, Bear attended a funeral. Some girl he’d gone to high school with. He tried to remember if they’d ever spoke, but couldn’t. His mother made him go, she knew the girl’s mother, from the Church Social Committee.
He never liked churches, the ceilings were too high. They were too quiet and even whispers echoed.
While the priest went through his rituals, Bear noticed several people swatting, with their hands or hymnals, at the air. The air got thicker, and he realized it was a cloud of bees coming down from the rafters.
The plodding tyranny of life was stabbed, suddenly, pierced, by a shaft of life, of love – that – surprised those with slumped shoulders and upturned collars and gray faces. The ashes fell from their hats, as they shook and looked up at the light shining, reflecting off grime-streaked windows of the building towering up and over them all.
This was something they’d known before but had forgotten, they now believed. A thought – that – life hadn’t always been this way, squirmed and fought and surfaced.
The authorities also saw the lights and sent out dark-visored, heavy-booted guards to quell any possible unrest.
He didn’t know what to make of the kid, not now, sitting across from her teacher, and not at home either. It didn’t seem serious, but the spinster across from him seemed to think it was.
So what if the kid drew people with windows for eyes? She’s seven.
He was up for apples, an expression he was pretty sure meant he’d had his kids later in life, and didn’t have the energy for these kinds of conversations. He told the teacher the drawings seemed fine. Hell, it was a little poetic, if literal, now that he thought about it.
After her divorce, Janet decided that she needed to get away from everything and decided to spend a month at the cabin her grandfather built.
In the mornings, Janet’d walk along the shore, kicking at the lake in too-big rubber boots and wearing an old sweater she’d found in a closet that still smelled of her grandfather’s cigars.
She cleaned out the attic one afternoon. Then the basement the next. Then she rearranged the furniture in the living room. Outside, she raked the leaves into a pile almost as tall as she was and let herself fall backwards into it.