My mother died on October 31st when I was 20 years old. She died suddenly, unexpectedly. The problem was “undetected” and “undiagnosed.” That’s what I was told. That’s what I believed until years later when I read her last month of diary entries.
I was away at school when my mom died. I was supposed to go to a Halloween party, but after the phone call I stayed in the dorm crying away my cheap costume make-up.
I went home for the funeral. I changed the ticket that my mom had bought for me to go home for Christmas. I wouldn’t be doing that now.
I only stayed a few days, then I went back to school. My Aunt Kate took care everything. She was my dad’s sister not my mom’s, but she and mom became close after my dad died. Kate told me she’d pack up some things she thought I’d want later. Everything else was donated or sold.
The box labeled “Annie’s stuff” was held for me throughout school and during a transitional period when I had three roommates and very little space to myself. I never thought about it. When I finally moved into my own place my aunt dropped off the box as a housewarming gift.
I didn’t open it right away. I figured it was just junk from my room when I was a teenager. The taped up box sat in my closet until one night when I got drunk and nostalgic and was feeling particularly sorry for myself. Poor little orphan Annie.
The box had trophies from sports I hadn’t played in years, high school yearbooks, a few framed photographs, and some family albums. There was some of my mom’s jewelry, which wasn’t my style. Other than my dad’s wedding ring, which I’d never actually seen before, it was all the sort of stuff I expected would be in the box, but at the bottom was a surprise: A dozen journals filled my mom’s exquisite cursive.
I sat on the floor surrounded by pieces of my long, lost life and began to read. I passed out on the floor after reading myself into unconsciousness. I read more the next night after work. On the weekend I started reading while having my first cup of coffee.
Her diary entries were not extraordinary, just retellings of her days, but I devoured them anyway. She’d go through long periods of not writing then do streaks of daily entries. I was overwhelmed by memories of things we did and things she liked and things that annoyed her.
I had let myself forget how much I missed my mom. It had been a long time since I cried that hard. At least the crying made me read slower and helped the books last longer.
When I picked up the final book I flipped through the pages. Half of them were blank. The unfinished annals of an unfinished life.
The early entries in that final book were the same sorts of things I’d seen in the others, but the words were heavy with my foreknowledge: My mom is going to die at the end of this book.
Each page told a life oblivious to what was going to happen: our beach trip that July, taking me back to school in August, the cooling weather in September. Even the September 30th entry only described a frustrating visit to the supermarket, which is why I was not at all prepared for the perplexing revelation I read after turning the page to October 1st.
I saw the Man with the Shadow Voice tonight. Not in a dream. In real life again. Or I thought I saw him. Maybe I imagined it. Maybe it was just someone who looked like him.
But nobody else looks like him.
If it was him I know what he has come for. This time I know better than to argue. This time I know I must die.
This is the first part of The October Diary, a work of fiction by Kim Z Dale being released serially during October 2015. A new installment is posted each day. The next piece of the story can be read here.
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