I was a tiny pin prick in time, a tiny grain of sand, a single raindrop delivered to one very specific spot on this great planet. I existed here, though I belonged nowhere. I was an orphan. A solitary soul, with no father or mother to speak of, no great family history to find pride in, not even one relative known to me. I was alone in the world, with no one to answer to… except for Sister Mary and Sister Agatha. These were the two guardian souls who had found me on that fateful moonlit night– just one, tiny, insignificant babe wrapped in a tatty old gray blanket, tucked into a basket like a loaf of bread.

I can only imagine the look on their faces when first they saw me. Mary probably cried out hysterically and fretted her hands like she always does. Agatha, I’m sure, stood with her arms crossed, jaw set beneath a steely gaze, shaking her head in disapproval, as was her way even now. One of them was as unhinged as they come, and the other made of unforgiving stone– though in truth, and only I knew this, they were both the kindest of angels. They had taken me in after all, without a penny to my name and nothing to offer but dirty diapers and the curious souls that had attached themselves to me when I entered this world.

Yes, two unusual souls had in fact laid claim to me upon my birth. One beautiful soul of love and protection, my great great grandmother, Maggie Bell. And the other one, a  very dark and malevolent spirit, for whom I had no name other than Shadow Man. These two were constant in my life from birth to present, a never-ending battle of wills.

For every fire the Shadow Man started, by tipping candles or whatever other means he found, Maggie Bell would burst pipes or call a rainstorm to dowse the flames. On the nights that Shadow Man would pull at my legs to make me cry, or sit on my chest and steal my breath, Maggie bell would jab one of the sisters in the side and put it in their mind to come check on me. On one occasion the Shadow Man had even endeavored to lure a murderer to my window, but Maggie Bell was there and had jabbed one boney ghost finger into the resident cat’s ribs, causing him to jump sprawling into the madman’s face. He had run away bloodied and screaming into the night.

Somehow, the nuns had never known of either of these spirits. One ever-vigilant in my protection and the other hell-bent on my destruction. I grew up knowing them very well, though keeping them secret, for fear that my place here would be traded instead for a spot at the nuthouse. That is until one day I let it slip.

Just before my 10th birthday, a mysterious package had arrived with my name on it, though I knew of no one who would send me anything. We three, the sisters and I looked at each other in surprise and then a little warily toward the package. They urged me on and, with trembling fingers, I pulled at the twine that held the bundle together and the brown sack-paper fell away to reveal a stack of photos and a small note on top, “Mother died in childbirth, so I couldn’t keep you. Now, I am on my deathbed and full of regrets. I will be gone before this package reaches you, I’m sorry. This is the very least I could do. You should know your family. Sincerely and with deep apologies, your father, Samuel H. McTavish.”

One after another, I lifted the photos for inspection, flipping them over to read the names and dates on the back. There were a few photos of my parents together in various poses and settings, one photo of my Grandmother Faith with grandfather Samuel, whom I guessed my father was named for. One photo was of my mother, very obviously pregnant with me. I lingered on this one for a moment before passing it to the sisters who looked over each of the photos in stony silence. And then a photo with a face that I actually recognized– “Maggie Bell?” I whispered. The sisters both stopped and stared at me curiously and then to one another.

“Dear one,” Mary began, but hesitated. The obvious question was, how did i know this woman in the photo? But she couldn’t seem to articulate the words, as she knew there could be no rational answer. I had grown here from a newborn infant and had never met another soul outside of the convent walls. But there was something in both of their expressions that pushed at me. The pressure of the moment urging me forward, against my better judgement. I took the leap.

Lashes lowered over my cheeks in shame, I whispered, “She protects me from the Shadow Man.”

Both women gasped, taking a step back from me. I felt something between us strain, and once again I felt I was an orphan in the world. For surely a child marked by such evil would not be welcomed here in this holy place.

There was a long silence, and then–

“Well, bless your little soul,” Agatha said in a voice as tender as I had ever heard from her, “You must be meant for good things.” She shook her head and looked me over with curious eyes.

Sister Mary nodded in agreement as she pulled me into her protective arms, planting a kiss on top of my head.

I stood stunned by their acceptance, unable to speak. A humble little grain of sand, a tiny pinprick on the map, the smallest raindrop in a storm of emotions. My darkest secret exposed, I felt more at home than I ever thought I could.

** This story was inspired by a true ghost story. The orphan, the nuns, the names etc are fictional, but the two ghosts and the stack of photos revealed are actually based on my own experiences. See the story of the shadow man and Maggie Bell**

Copyright © 2019 Davina Rush

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