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Shadow Ball

It was a Thursday when she first saw it, while standing in the kitchen, microwaving what was left of the morning’s pot of coffee. Late fall afternoon, not quite bright enough to be pleasant, but not quite dark enough for overheads. It looked like a shadow ball.

From the corner of her eye, it was just there. Turning to look fully at it, expecting to focus on an explanation, she didn’t see it any differently. It was as if she had taken a physical picture of the room off of the kitchen, scratched at the dark left corner with her fingernail, and then held that picture up in front of her face. The new view.

She looked and looked. Right up to the point where the microwave dinged at the end of the three minutes and ten seconds she’d set it for, then she decided not to look any more. Walking through the room, mug held in both hands, she let herself get comfortable with the thought "this is just how things are now."

All of Friday came and went and she spent a good portion of it, in the house, looking around for something strange, but there wasn't anything.

On Saturday evening, it was there. In the kitchen again, but this time hovering in the corner where the cat bowls are kept. The shadow ball.

It was as though the room painted white over the refrigerator, brown along the counter top, and dripped flecks of red *boop* *boop* on both oven mitts, but ran out of color in just this one corner. It was a vacancy that you could stick your hand through, into something dark and sizzly on the other side. Anti-warm.

She looked at the shadow ball directly, though fear and logic directed otherwise, and it did something.

Like static on a TV (that isn't really a thing anymore) it buzzed and flexed the light. It held her full attention. It changed again. Shuttering and seizing once, like a cough, and then emitting a puff of something. Smoke? It smelled like an exhale of cigarettes. She couldn't look any more. She had to look for something else.

Breaking away took effort. She let her eyes relax on the kitchen towel, concentrated on her breathing for a second or two, and then forced her foot to move, having faith that her body would help lead her out of this. But then something else happened.

In her mind, there were two voices. One, her own, a meditation of one word. She will not say it.

The other voice, a familiar one. One she'd been missing, that she knew was now the voice of the shadow ball, and it said:

"I go where you go."