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Josephine had fallen in love, and she was sure it wasn’t usuall. She had heard all her friends talk about love, but for her entire 24 years, she had never really understood. She had never truly understood that longing, that yearning, that desperate need to be close to someone. She didn’t really understand the concept of friends, seeing them only as a social convention that ensured that her time was adequately filled. To find herself, therefore, in desperate love came as somewhat of a shock.

She had met the object of her hearts desire at perhaps a rather unusual place. She had taken to visiting her great aunt in hospital. Not out of a sense of family duty, but rather she found her serene. Her great aunt had been in a coma for over a year, since a fall down the stairs. Josephine found that sitting with her in that small room, with only the soft hum of machinery was surprisingly comforting. It helped, of course, that the family was able to praise her for doing so, and effectively abdicate the need to visit the poor woman to Josephine. This seemed to suit both sides equitably.

It was here, sat by her great aunt’s bed that she had had her revelation. A dark shadow had slid into the room, and at first Josephine thought that she was slowly dropping off to sleep; it wouldn’t have been the first time. As she watched, the shadow formed itself into a humanoid shape, mostly made of swirling shadow, but it had a face, a face that seemed eternally sad, and yet at the same time indescribably beautiful. This strange being had long slender hands, and wiry arms, and it reached out for her great aunt.

“What are you doing?” asked Josephine, more curios than afraid.
The strange being paused and looked around, and then, with a slow fluid movement looked at Josephine. She looked into the beings eyes, and the being into hers, and she felt at once the great saddness, the great lonliness. The being stopped, seeming confused, then lowered the hand, and vanished as quickly as it had come through the wall.

Josephine sat for another two hours, waiting to see if it would return, and was surprised to find herself crushed that it didn’t.

What followed was, for Josephine, a long arduous week. Work, and the other trappings that people collectively call life seemed to pass in shades of grey. It was her time with her great aunt, sat hopeful that the stranger would return that brough any kind of colour to her life.

It was on the following Monday, a grey and dismal day filled with the kind of day that simply gets you wet, without seeming to go through the hassle of raining, when she next saw the strange shadow.

She was once again at her great aunts bed, sat in the silence, when the shadows began to form again. She watched, fascinated as the long slender hand began to reach out for her great aunt, and the machine that monitor her heart rate slowly registered it slowing.

“Have you come to take her?” Josephine asked. No fear, simple curiosity.
The being stopped, again, and looked at her. It nodded, and tilted it’s head, almost as though it was questioning. “But if you take her, will I see you again?”. The being nodded at her, slowly. Josephine looked at it, and smiled.

The being reached out it’s hand, and slowly the monitors around her great aunt registered her passing, and a beeping began down the corredor. Suddenly the room was full of doctors and nurses hussling Josephine out of the room. She kept her eyes not on her great aunt, but rather on the being. It moved and danced around the the people, and some people shivered when they got too close. It also kept it’s eyes on Josephine.

Life for Josephine felt empty without her great aunt. She didn’t morn her passing, because anywhere had to be better than that small bed, unable to move or communicate. She missed the silence, the peace.

Time passed for Josephine, and the strange being did not come to see her. She took to visiting the hospital, and volunteered as a hospital visitor. This meant that she could sit for hours with the all kinds of people. She preferred those who were less animated, who didn’t talk. While her co-volunteers found that a little unnerving, it did mean that they needn’t take those shifts, and silently, without any form of verbal agreement, they were all given to Josephine.

As the months slipped away, she began to wonder weather or not she had, infact, dreamed the strange shadow-creature that had slipped into her Great Aunt’s room that night. Weather or not it was some creation of her own imagination. The worrying thing about that, for Josephine was that she was by now aware that she was in love with it. Whatever it was. While she wondered, in those dark moments just before dawn if she should seek some form of professional help, she found that she was unaccountably delieriously happy.

The nights began to draw in, and people turned to the blaze of warm fires, but Josephine stayed with the yellow glow of the hospital lights. It was here, by the bedside of an elderly gentleman that it happened again. The shadows around her began to coalece into a familiar shape, but not exactly familiar. While the same was the same, the face was subtly different. She didn’t know how you could tell these two appart, but this one was subtly, perhaps almost imperceptably different.

“Your not the one I was hoping for” She said with a sigh.
The shadow being froze, and looked at her. Startled, but more irritated than the last one.
“I was hoping for another one. One like you, but with a kinder face”
The eyes of the being darkened, and studied Josephine. She felt as though it was weighing up her soul, her very being. It’s dark-eyes narrows, and then in a movement, dismissed her. It turned to the old gentleman, and reaching out it’s hand, slowly took the life from him.

Josephine was not one to be unnerved, but this experience unerved her in two ways. The first because it showed to her that she was not imagining it, and the second was that whatever these beings were, there was more than one of them. She wasn’t sure what to make of this new development, and spent her time with a more varied type of patient. While she still longed to see her being, she didn’t fancy seeing the other one again.

(to be continued…)

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