I keep telling myself that I don't need to, that it's obsessive and neurotic, but it seems I'm not easily convinced. So after five uncomfortable minute staring at the TV telling myself that EastEnders is interesting and I want to watch it, I gave up and turned it off. I felt slightly guilty as I went into the hall and got my coat from the rack and pulled my shoes from the cupboard, but that had passed by the time I'd put them both on and checked my pockets for my keys.
"I'm just checking," I mumbled to myself as I went out, and checked that the door had locked behind me.
The evening was just settling into night and the street-lights were on, casting little pools of orange glow along the street to the end. They stopped there and the streets became lanes as the village petered out to mostly fields. I turned left at the end of the street and carried on alone in the dark. "Just checking," I whispered.
At the end of the lane were the tall, wrought-iron gates that stood to impress visitors. Aside each of them was a low box hedge that might deter children, but that an adult could easily jump. The gates weren't locked, probably in recognition of the fact that they were there for show, not protection. I wondered briefly if the inside needed protection, and then put that macabre thought aside and went in.
Harry died two weeks ago, and I've not quite got used to him not being there any more. That, I think, is why I find myself coming down here, to his grave, every evening, just checking. Checking to see that the grave is there, that he really is dead, waiting patiently for my subconscious to accept the reality of the situation. Every evening is the same; I stand for a few minutes reading his gravestone, feel sad and a little lonely, and then I go back home and hope that when I wake up tomorrow I'll have accepted it.
So it was something of a surprise to see that Harry's grave had been dug up and the coffin lifted out and laid on the pile of earth. The coffin had been opened, its lid lay propped up on the coffin. And the coffin was empty.
I stared at it for what felt like hours. All this time I'd been checking, and now something had changed. And I had no idea what to do about it.