Tribulations Under Shifting Skies

Author | Peter Baltensperger

The office on the fourteenth floor rotated slowly around an invisible axis to provide a different outlook, a new approach. The weather outside mutated from brilliant sunshine to pouring rain. Dallas Conway adjusted her position in her leather chair to accommodate the new direction. It was the last thing she wanted to do, the sunshine outside having suited her well for the first part of the morning. It had been overcast when she arrived at the office, the sky a depressing non-descript gray, but the sun broke through before she even finished her first coffee, clarifying the uncertainties of her four walls.

She told her wall clock that she wanted to go on record as being completely opposed to the rotation, even though she knew well enough that another one would happen before long, most likely when she least expected it. She also knew that she should be used to the rotations after her years with the company, but repetitions didn’t do much to her frame of mind, regardless of how often they occurred.

She looked out the window and tried to derive some relevance from the torrential rain. There were no signposts in the downpour to guide her through her thoughts, no markers for her mind to attach itself to a direction. All she could hear was the drumming of the raindrops against the glass, the muted howling of the wind. She turned back to her desk, shifted some files from one side of her computer to the other, rammed some staples into collated piles of paper, brought up an empty spreadsheet on her screen. She worked quickly and efficiently at her tasks as she always did, mixing necessities with half-hearted pleasure the way she liked to work. She was a valued employee.

The office went through one more morning rotation, much to her chagrin, but it was only minutes to the lunch hour bell. At least that. A fierce snowstorm was raging outside, and she hadn’t brought her skis. She put a final period on the spreadsheet without numbers, pulled on her boots, and wrapped herself into her down-filled jacket. The elevator was already crowded with skis, their bearers giddy with excitement. She managed to squeeze herself in among them, even though she didn’t know where she was going to go. So much was a matter of chance, she sometimes couldn’t decide between coming and going, especially so soon after a rotation. She gave herself over to the animated crowd to avoid having to make up her mind. It made her feel better not to decide.

Since she didn’t have any skis, she pulled the fur-lined hood of her jacket over her face and braced herself against the storm to head to her favorite bistro in the next block. She kept close to the buildings, out of the undulating sidewalk confusion. She felt most comfortable in her own spaces, conducting her life along the safety of straight lines. It was probably for that reason, she mused, that she disliked the rotations. Change always required adjustments, and she didn’t like the one any more than the other.

She did make it to her bistro relatively unscathed by the turbulence of the lunch hour crowd, although she wasn’t able to gather any consolations for herself. Snow storms tended to do that to her, numbing her mind and her hands until she found it difficult to distinguish between what was and what could have been. Her eyes being blurred by the driving snow didn’t help, even when she shielded her face. She wasn’t meant to live in unpredictable rotations, and didn’t like surprises of any kind.

The evenings were the most perturbing parts of her days, despite the absence of rotations. She lived in a beautiful apartment in a brand-new tower, not on the fourteenth floor but high up enough. She had a panoramic view of the city and always knew exactly what the weather was doing outside. Yet she could never quite compose herself enough to find herself or her ultimate destiny. She looked everywhere she possibly could, in dark corners and out the big windows, in her nightmares and in her mirrors, without ever being able to descry the images she saw or decipher her reflections, regardless of how clear or how blurred they happened to be.

Sometimes she had a man with her, once or twice a beautiful clown, once a drum major from a downtown parade, a few times somebody she didn’t know. It didn’t matter. They couldn’t provide her with what she needed in the complexity of her existence. She gave much, and she expected much, and nothing was ever enough. She gyrated and flailed and screamed herself through orgasm after orgasm, thinking that the next one would bring her the revelation, the ultimate release, and it never did.

Sometimes she felt she might be better off if her apartment life were governed by the same unpredictable rotations as her office existence, but the thought produced too many anxieties to be pursued. At least in her apartment, she was able to watch the moon when the night was clear, count the snowflakes tumbling past her window, listen to the rain drumming against the glass. She should have been content. Only she could never quite understand the implications of her nights, couldn’t grasp the meaning of rain or snow or clear skies.

In the end, she always wrapped herself into her blankets and listened to the night revolve, trying to extricate some sort of significance from the cosmic rotations despite the fact that her revolving office didn’t provide her with any solutions. Her nightmares weren’t of any help, any more than her daydreams of indicative resolutions or her wishful thinking about snowflakes not falling and raindrops splashing into her face. And despite her experiences, she still sometimes felt she might find her fulfillment in a particularly meaningful rotation, only she could never quite fathom when the time was exactly right.


About the Author | Peter Baltensperger is a Canadian writer of Swiss origin and the author of ten books of various genres. His work has also appeared in several hundred print and on-line publications around the world over the past several decades. He makes his home in London, Canada with his wife Viki and their four cats and two rather rambunctious puppies.