Monday, July 6, 2009

Two stories by Diane Height

Two stories
by Diane Height

The Hour Door

We live by clocks--always ticking.

I found an old man by the side of the road, and I thought he looked like someone who might have the answer. At least, his eyes told me he was someone who once had answers. But now he was dressed in grubby clothes that made him look almost scary--like a homeless person.

He said I needed to find the Hour Door. That time zones and clocks were man-made, but the hours were still out there wanting to be free, to move on. He said he knew the Door existed, but he never found it, and had grown weary of searching.

He told me to find the quietest place around, at night, and wait for answers. He was sure they would come to me.

I said, “They, meaning answers or something else or the Door?”

When I turned back for his answer, he was gone.

When I travel from one time zone to another, hours can be lost or gained--sometimes an entire day is gone.

I was in a cave and instead of waterfalls--sand was falling everywhere. Beautiful white sand streaming down the sides. Almost floating in the air. When it touched the bottom, it became a type of mist winding through the cave like a path.

Like a child I was curious about the sand--what it would feel like--so I touched it.

Immediately, hour glasses popped up everywhere like jack-in-the-boxes. Some large, some small, and all different shapes and designs. What I liked about the hour glasses were all the colors--each had a different color sand falling down through its center. I thought of rainbows.

When I turned, one wall of the cave was covered with clocks with no hands, but each making a ticking sound.

Another wall had clocks with hands spinning backward then forward, but no ticking.

Then the clocks vanished, but I could still hear ticking.

I tried to find the exit by following the path made by the sand mist.

But as far as I could tell, it didn’t go anywhere and then I saw the old man.

The hours in my life seem to come and go. I think about the hours I have lived and the ones that aren’t yet mine. Where are they and where will they go? If there is a door, where is it? If time is sand, where does it come from?

He was sitting in a corner with his head bent over an old watch, repairing it. His head turned to look at me, but what I saw was my dead father. He was speaking to me, but so slowly that I couldn’t understand his words.

And then I understood.

“My time ran out,” he said.

His face became a clock.

I yelled, “I don’t want to know about time anymore!”

Everything stopped as though time stood still.

“But you’re the one who was so concerned,” a voice said.

I spun around trying to find a body for the voice, but all I saw was the old man repairing his watch.

I looked down at my arms and they were covered in watches, moving like insects. I brushed them off, but they kept coming.

Finally, I saw an opening in the cave and I scrambled to get out. As I tried to move closer to the opening, it seemed to move further and further away from me.

“Like Alice,” a voice said, “but this is no story. This is what it’s all about.”

I looked around at the walls of the cave and I realized they were glass. Sand falling all around me.

I could see the old man’s face or maybe it was my father’s, looking at me through the glass. He said, “You found the Hour Glass.”

“No,” I said, “you told me to find the Hour Door.”

He mumbled, “It’s the same. The door opens and the sand falls grain by grain. You think it’s a door. You think it’s sand. It’s neither, and only by dying can you know.”

I wanted to die--I wanted to know--but it wasn’t time, and as I stand in the doorway still, the grains falling like rain, all I can do is write a story.


Street Ghosts

Something stops me. It always does.
“You know you can’t go any further.”
“I know,” I say to the voice.

Every day and every night, I wander the streets and sidewalks of this old city, watching people go about their business.

I see my young daughter with my husband. She has her hand in his as they walk along. I’ve tried to talk to them, but now I know they can’t see me.

When I know what I have to do, the voice tells me, I can move on.

I don’t know how long I’ve been wandering.

And I don’t know ‘what I have to do.’

I see others like me, street ghosts.

As we pass on the street, we look at each other with haunted eyes, never speaking, just a nod.

I walk by an old brick schoolhouse in the winter, watching my daughter slide down asphalt hillsides covered in ice. Sometimes I stand at the chain-linked fence until she leaves.

If I had tears, I would cry.

In the summer, I look up to see fireworks light up the sky. It’s so bright you might think the sun is shining. Or maybe the moon is exploding. Bright and colorful sparklers are waving in my daughter’s hand. My husband looks at her and smiles.
I smile.

As I turn to leave, a man approaches me and says, “Do you know why you can’t move on?”

I’m startled, but say, “Who are you?”

“This is not your life you’re looking at. It’s what you wanted before you died—-a husband and a daughter to love. You know what you have to do.”

“But I can’t. I thought he would love me after she was gone. But he just looked at me and started to cry for her. I wanted her life—-maybe that’s why she died. Maybe I really wanted her gone. And then one day I died because I couldn’t go on.”

“Yes, I know. You wanted your sister’s life. You didn’t kill her, but she did die, and yet even when she was gone, you couldn’t have it…and so you took your own life. You wonder which is the greater sin.”


“That is what you must do.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You must not see it as a sin.”

“That isn’t possible.”

“If God sees no sin, why can’t you?”

The voice is right, and yet I’m afraid. I am here because I desired, and when I could not have what I desired, I thought life was not worth living.

I was wrong, but can I forgive the one who needs forgiving?

“To forgive what does not need forgiving,” the voice said.

I walk with them. They are patient, and that is what I need.

Author bio:

Diane's writing is inspired by her love of travel, adventure and the world at large. She recently spent time in Africa working with cheetahs to help educate people about this beautiful animal. In an earlier life she passed her wisdom along to 5th graders as an elementary school teacher. When she's not writing, she enjoys her new grandson, Bodhi. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in All Things Girl, Clockwise Cat, Della Donna, Dog Versus Sandwich, Lucrezia, Mirror Dance, Sand, The Short Humour Site, Willows Wept Review, and Yellow Mama.


Anonymous said...

Hi Diane,
Dreamy travels in the veiled area. First I have read of your writing. I suppose you can weave tales for your grandbaby with ease.
Kathy (on line book club buddy)

Graeme said...

I loved "Street Ghosts." The straightforward simplicity of your words really captures not just the fact that the woman is dead, but that her thoughts are dead, too. Great!