Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Rift, Ajar

There’s a dimensional rift in my kitchen floor.

I found it by accident (as one does).


I was emptying the dishwasher. Among the clean dishes was an empty jar that had once contained olives. I go through quite a few olives - they are one of my favorite snacks - and for reasons only a packrat would understand, I save the jars, because, hey, free jar. You never know when you’ll need a jar. This one was special, pristine: the label had come right off, unlike all the others in the cupboard that still had bits of sticky paper around the middle.

I set the jar on the countertop because the cupboard where I store them is the one above the dishwasher, hard to reach when the dishwasher is open, even harder for a short person like me. But like the clumsy heroine of a young adult novel, when the other clean dishes were put away, and the dirty dishes from the sink loaded up, and the dishwasher was closed once again, before I could put the jar with the others in the high cupboard, I clipped it with my elbow. It slid soundlessly across the countertop and fell to the unforgiving tile floor, exploding in a shower of sparkling shards.

I sighed. I just swept this floor, I thought. When had I done that? Last week? The week before? Sometime this month, surely. Barefoot, I stepped carefully around the broken glass, like a cowardly and unmotivated John McClane, toward the broom and dustpan in the laundry room. Yippie-ki-yay.

Some minutes later, having swept the entire kitchen twice over, I dumped the contents of the dustpan into the trash. I remember thinking at the time that it seemed like an inordinately large amount of glass for one little olive jar.


The next day, an ordinary Thursday, I heard an extraordinary noise. It was 11am, and I walked through the house in my pajamas, having a lazy morning before my afternoon shift at the library. The noise was coming from the kitchen: a whispering, scraping sound, such as might be made by a man with a hook for a hand terrorizing young folks in their cars at night, or by a hungry xenomorph moving through the over-sized ductwork that (it should be noted) my home does not have.

I walked fearlessly toward the noise, like the heroine of a young adult novel might, but also rather like the people in horror movies who die in the first twenty minutes of the film before the audience ever gets to see the monster. The only monster I found was Wraith, my tiny spitfire of a cat, batting something across the floor beneath one of the kitchen chairs.

“What have you got there, kitty?” I asked, worried now, for this was the same cat who had at various points in the past presented to me, in my own house, a rodent (fatally menaced), a snake (dead), and a spider as large as her face (alive, and angry).

She sat back, proud of her catch and waiting for a pat. Between her paws was a curved chunk of glass, nearly half of the bottom of the ill-fated jar.

I took it from her before she could cut herself on it and threw it away, wondering all the while how I could have missed such a large piece the day before. I pulled out the broom and swept again, confident that, this time, I had got it all.


Two days later, I heard the noise again. I was in the living room with my laptop and my morning coffee, still in my pajamas at 11am because that’s what weekends are for. I ignored the sound at first, comfortable on my couch even if there might be killers or aliens or killer aliens to contend with, but it went on and on. When I could take it no more, I investigated, only to find the same cat, beneath the same chair, batting around what seemed to me to be the same shard. When she sat back, purring, making the same face she had made the first time, I patted her in the same way I had before, and carried the shard to the trash. There’s a glitch in the matrix, I thought, grabbing the broom.

Perhaps I had died, thoroughly savaged by xenomorphs, and the agents had rewritten the code to bring me back, on account of my status as a heroine in a young adult novel. Regardless of what might have happened to cause it, the fact remained: I could not possibly have missed a piece of glass that size, not twice.


A week passed without incident before I found I had to sweep my kitchen again. Company coming, people to impress: the whole dog and pony show must go on. I dusted, I lit scented candles, I opened the curtains to let the sunshine in, and I swept.

I paused to admire the way the sunlight glittered over the contents of the dustpan: nestled among the dirt and debris were dozens of flecks of glass, no larger than grains of sand. Pieces of the olive jar.

Where did they keep coming from?

More importantly: where had they gone? Those other times I had swept the floor, where had they been hiding? Why were they reappearing now? What message did they bear from that place beyond this one?

I got down on my hands and knees, looking for a crack in reality, ears alert, not for hissing xenomorphs but for the prison guard aliens from Doctor Who, telling me, “Prisoner Zero has escaped.”

It was time to up my arsenal. I put the broom away and fetched the vacuum cleaner.


I kept finding them, fragments of this interdimensional jar. They would catch my eye from across the room, sparkling with inexplicable energy as they waited smack in the middle of the kitchen floor, or hiding beneath the kitchen chair when I sat down to breakfast in my bare feet, never large enough to cut anyone, only to be noticed.

“Where are they coming from?” I said, holding one up to the light after I found it in front of the cabinet where I keep the tupperware.

“What?” my husband asked, busy at the stove preparing carbonara.

“I broke this jar a month ago and I keep finding pieces of it,” I said.

“Hmm,” he said. “Speaking of jars, do we have an empty one where I could save this bacon grease?”

“Check the cupboard above the dishwasher,” I said. “Top shelf.”

He looked where I pointed. “Ah, perfect,” he said, pulling down an empty olive jar: pristine, with no trace of a label.

I’m sure it wasn’t there before.