Cathy caught her reflection in the dirt-stained windows as she passed the row of shops. She watched her curly hair bob up and down with every step she took along the cracked pavement.
It was a sunny Thursday afternoon and Cathy was walking home from school, alone, just like every other school afternoon. All the other kids got driven or walked with their parents, but not Cathy. Her mum hadn't driven her anywhere in years. But it was alright; Mummy needed her rest and Cathy knew that.
She passed the town grocery store and the dentist and the barber. None of them appealed to her, but the ice-cream parlour next to the barber did. She ran ahead and pressed her face up against the shop's window, trying to block out the sunlight so she could see inside.
There were dozen upon dozens of flavours and colours hit her from all around. She had never gone into the shop before, only ever looked in from the outside. But she knew the ice-cream was delicious because all the kids at school said so. It was better than chocolate, they said and Cathy couldn't imagine anything better than chocolate.
Cathy pulled her face away from the window and continued down the street. She hadn't any money on her; she'll bring some tomorrow and buy one then.
She turned the corner; a few more houses and she'd be home. By now she knew the procedure very well. Mummy would be in the lounge and Cathy, as quietly as she could, would make herself a sandwich and eat it in her room. She was never go in the lounge and see Mummy- Mummy will visit her later, when she was feeling better.
Cathy looked up and squinted. A woman was coming up the street with a shining white light around her. Cathy froze.
The woman was very old, around eighty-seven or ninety. She had a stick in one hand and an umbrella in the other, even though it was a bright sunny day. The old woman staggered towards her, walking unsteadily. Cathy noticed the light around the woman getting brighter and brighter.
"Hello dearie, how would you like to help an old lady?" The woman smiled, a weak but very pleasant smile. But Cathy didn't smile back, didn't reply. Instead, she ran off. She ran all the way to the picket fence outside her house, but even then she didn't stop.
She knew what the light meant, and it wasn't good. She'd seen it on her dad the day before he died in the car accident. She'd seen it on Little Emily too, the week before she was admitted into hospital for food poisoning.
The light meant death, and the brighter it was…
Cathy pushed the front door open and ran inside. She shut her eyes and banged her head but it was no use- she couldn't get the bright light out of her head.
She had to talk to Mummy. Mummy would know what to do. Mummy would help the old lady. Mummy would forgive her for disturbing her.
"Mummy?" Cathy's voice was so shaky, she was almost inaudible. "Mummy?"
There was no answer, only a strange ringing sound that echoed in the canals of her ears. She tried again, and again there was no answer.
By this time, Cathy was beginning to feel very frightened. Mummy had never ignored her before. Cathy went upstairs and checked the bathroom- there was no sign of her mummy there. She checked the bedrooms, the garden, the basement, but Mummy was nowhere to be found.
Cathy paused. Did she dare go in? Mummy had strictly told her to stay out of the lounge. But this was important. The old lady needed her help. Cathy tiptoed to the door and opened it. She peered inside.
The room was dark, black nearly, and it took Cathy a while to adjust her eyes. It smelt funny in here too, strong and dank at the same time. She noticed a black mass on the floor and studied it for a moment. It was giving off a weak, pale-blue light, and she could see white and silver sparks flying into the air.
Cathy ventured forward, toward the mass on the floor. "Mummy?"
It didn't move. There was no reply from Mummy.
Cathy ran to the window across the room and pulled the blinds up. Rays of golden sunlight poured in, touching every surface and lighting up the room. Broken glass reflected the sun's light and bounced into corners of the room.
The light hit the mass too, and the mass was Mummy.
Her eyes were closed and her mouth hung slightly open. Cathy hurried over and began to shake her mother's arm. Her skin felt clammy and cold.
"Mummy, mummy, wake up!"
Cathy's head turned right and left, searching desperately for something that could help her mother. Her eyes landed on the phone. The police!
She scrambled over and dialed triple zero with trembling hands. The other end picked up. Her whole body shook as she described her mother's state.
The ambulance is coming, the woman said. Everything will be alright.
The light around her mother was getting brighter by the minute. The white sparks were beginning to turn a dazzling silver and the pale-blue light was expanding, taking over the room.
Cathy continued to scream and the light continued to expand, flooding out the sun's warm yellow glow and replacing it with a cool stillness, a cool stillness that settled in the pit of her stomach and made her feel like she was about to vomit.
Suddenly, the light dimmed and slowly began to fade. The dazzling silver sparks were ebbing away, losing its intensity, and the blue halo around her mother was diminishing, evaporating into the air.
Cathy could no longer feel the cool stillness that had enveloped the room moments before. She could no longer feel her mother's presence.
Mummy had gone.