Joyland

Vancouver |

The Sky Turned Black

by Dan Schwartz

And I wish it would again, but it has been twenty-one days so far and nothing has changed. People have been going about their business as if nothing had happened. The papers are running with the story that it was an eclipse, but no eclipse I know of works that way. Magazines of less character are crying conspiracy, but I feel that something like that is too big to be quiet. People I’ve talked to have shrugged it off already, throwing up their hands and saying, “Well, that was something.” That’s fine. I can sympathize. Yet I feel like I am the only one who wants to get back to the way things were. I eat at diners now almost every night, because that’s where I was when it happened. If I miss a night I feel terrible until I go to sleep, because this could be it, this could be the night it happens again. But it never is. I keep waiting for history to repeat itself, but it never, ever does. I bought a pair of sunglasses to try to mimic the effect. They don’t entirely work, but they let me get halfway. I guess that’s all I can ask. *** Every Tuesday is the same. I go to the same diner, the one off West Georgia Street, and I order a burger, no tomatoes. Sitting across from me is Mary, who says she is forty-five. She is staring at her mozzarella sticks. "These are terrible," she says. She wrote about the sky on her blog, and I found it while searching for something, anything that would back me up. I was the only one who left a comment. Mary doesn't believe in God, but I do. I am convinced that He is behind this. "And what are you going to say," she asks me, "when you see him?" "I'm going to ask him to let me stay there, to let me live that again." "Then you'll be stuck." "Then I'll know the truth," I say, maybe a little too forcefully. Mary thinks that I am wrong. She is entitled to her own opinion. "If it happens again," she says, "you'll just get over it. People already have. You'll see it, and you'll notice it, and then you'll move on." "And what are you going to do?" She takes a sip of her coffee and looks out the window, the same window that I am looking out of. "I'm going to relax," she says. "Because it will be over." *** What I remember is that I was sitting down at the diner, waiting for my meal to arrive, when I looked out the window. And then suddenly I saw it. The sky changed – the sun hadn’t set, it just wasn’t there. Everything was gone. All around me was darkness. People started to feel it. This is when I knew – that everything wasn’t there. That there was no earth around me anymore. That I was waiting for something to come – for nothing. Then, almost as instantly as it had arrived, it had gone. The waitress came and gave me my burger like nothing happened. *** Mary has her own life. She has a husband and two dogs. I've met all of them. She invited me over to dinner one night. Greg's a nice enough guy – but he doesn't believe me. He says it was just a flash of something, very quick, but not enough to take notice, like an earthquake you can't even feel the tremors of. Tuesdays have come and gone, and Mary agrees to meet me every time. The waitress always knows when I need more coffee; this is the sign of a good diner. "What do you expect will happen?" Mary says. Sometimes I wish that I smoked, because this is where I would flick the ashes into a tray and say something clever. But this province doesn't even allow smoking in diners like these anymore. So I just say, "I don't know." She leans against the side of the booth. “Well, I hope you expect something,” she says. I look away from the window. For a second I almost see it – I think I do – the sky changes, and everyone stops and looks up, and we all realize that this is it, this is how it’s going to happen, and that all of it, everything, will finally, irreversibly, be at an end. But when I look back outside the sky is grey and everyone is fine. Mary leans back and says, “Told you.” My life is over. I mean every word.