The loss of Marion’s vision was a gradual thing.
By degrees, the edges of her sight slipped away, the world to her left and right made into old friends she thought of occasionally but never missed. She saw her home, her husband, and, less and less, her children and their children, through a circle that grew ever tighter, like a noose.
When she began to trade paint with nearby cars in parking lots, she left the driving behind and taught herself to take the bus. She made arrangements for the grocer to deliver the week’s groceries on Thursdays.
This Thursday, when the doorbell rang, Marion made her way to the front of the house by touch. She brought her handbag, to pay Mr. Williams, but by the time she opened the door he’d already gone, leaving the groceries on the front step. She brought the bags inside one at a time.
In the bottom of one, next to the milk, was the darkling. It was a spot, a smear, no more than a tear in the light, and it slid around in the vast dark corners of her vision. It went with her into the family room, watched her soaps with her, and when Stan got home smelling like beer, the darkling slipped closer to Marion, where Stan’s vision had always been weakest.
Stan ignored them both.
When he went to bed, the darkling had already found a little to eat, scraps, old glances and smiles and even a kiss Marion or Stan or both had let fall behind the couch. The thing was bigger, now, and bolder, and when it strayed from the corners of her sight she didn’t notice. The room had never been well lit, and the television threw flickering shadows that let the darkling, if it was quick and cunning, as all dark things are, roam the floor and find other things to eat.
When Marion finally saw it, the darkling froze. By now, near to midnight, it knew Marion enough to call her mother, if it called her anything at all. When it crawled up beside her on the sofa, its thick hide slick with lost recollections, she lay her hand against its bulk.
“Hello, there,” she said aloud, and the darkling quivered with joy. “What have we here?”
The darkling had no voice.
“A friend,” she said to herself, and pat it once or twice. “A friend at last, again.”
The darkling fed her back a little of what it had found in the room, old Christmases and birthdays and nights she and Stan had stayed in together. She took what it offered and smiled to herself in the dance of the TV’s light. The corners of the room held nothing for her, and the darkling at her side swelled as she fed it more of her wisps and fragments.
As it grew, the couch springs creaked like they did when Stan sat there. Marion smiled and took it by its new hand. She led it in to where Stan was sleeping. She would give it his voice, and let it remind her of the things she had let remain forgotten for far too long.
Christopher Green was born in the United States. After moving to Australia at the age of 20, he attended Clarion South and has been published in Dreaming Again, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Abyss & Apex. His work has been nominated for an Australian Shadows Award and several Aurealis Awards. When he isn’t writing, he’s thinking about writing, unless he’s talking to his wife, at which point he is most certainly listening to what she has to say. Honest. He maintains a blog at http://christophergreen.wordpress.com