A huge, black form loomed over Grandma, an amorphous, indistinct shape with vague contours, a featureless shadow. Enormous wing-shapes spread wide over her, and across the house and part of the bushes beside Grandma. I looked up at her, but it was just her on the porch, alone, looking off down the street, waiting for me to give her the all-clear, let her know I did it.
My hands trembled, and I stared at the picture again. I flipped backward to view the two pictures I took before, and the darkness behind my subject matched in all three of them. The shape was like the shadow of an angel, but without the angel to cast it. Just the angel’s shadow.
Or a demon’s.
I lifted my wide, panicked eyes to her and snapped my jaw closed when she looked back at me. I tried, tried so hard, not to cry, not to say anything. The shadow wasn’t there when I looked at her with my naked eye, and it wasn’t there when I looked through the viewfinder. It was only there in the digitized image.
“Everything turn out all right, hon?” she called, and smiled.
I put the camera up to my face quick and pretended to shoot down the street, up the hill, into the trees … anywhere so she wouldn’t see my pale face, shaking hands, tears stinging my eyes, threatening to roll down my cheeks. I didn’t want her to see any of that, to ask what was wrong, to make me try and explain what rattled me.
“Yep!” I shouted too loud, hoped I didn’t give away that I wasn’t all right, and tried to sound chipper. “Sure did, thanks Grandma!”
“Do I get to see it?” Her voice teased, a playful nagging.
“Oh … um … I … deleted it. Sorry. It was … just practice, though.”
“Oh, okay, love. I’m going inside for a bit. Go back to the party so you’re not out here alone, all right?” She stood up from the padded chair and it creaked.
“Okay.” I took another look at her, and I didn’t see anything but Grandma. She smiled at me again.
“I’m glad you like your gift, sweetheart.”
“I do, thank you Grandma. And Grandma?”
She turned to me with raised brows.
“I love you.” I tried to smile. I didn’t know if I made it or not.
“I love you too darling.” She nodded to me and went into the house.
I took the camera and looked at that picture again, the towering shadow-figure, its splayed wings stretched out over Grandma, sitting small and defenseless on her padded porch chair. A chill raced up my spine chasing a shiver that burrowed into the base of my skull. I’ll never forget the sensation, the image. Even though half a minute later I really did delete it, I’ll never forget it … never.
Two weeks later, my Grandma had an unexpected heart attack and died in her house, alone. I was devastated … I still am, in some ways. I never forgot that winged shadow, and I never will.