“...you will never stop me, Princess, for as long as you raise the sun in the skies over Equestria, there will always be shadows…” the old woman’s voice, weak with age, said the words slowly, carefully. She stopped for breath, looking over to her caregiver to make sure the woman was getting the last words of her story down. A middle-aged brunette with pale skin and her hair tied up with a clip at the back was indeed faithfully typing away at her laptop, concentrating on the screen instead of her. Page smiled, watching her shortish hair bounce in the clip behind her head as she moved. She had almost given up on finding a home care person who would do this for her...was a fast typist who could keep up with her dictation, was a good speller and cared enough to help her finish her final…
The white-haired woman shook her head. What was she doing again? Oh yeah, how could she forget, she wondered, chiding herself. Concentrating took an effort, but then didn’t all good things worth doing?
“...my final story…” she said aloud with an effort. Goddess, she was tired. Was it done? Could she finally just take that darn nap she had been holding off taking the past few hours?
“Read it back, darling,” Page asked. “Please?” she added as an afterthought.
The caregiver, a sweet woman named Amber, did as she had been requested, reading back the last paragraph of the old woman’s story.
“How was that, Page?” the woman asked as she finished reading. She looked over. Her charge was drifting off on the sofa, eyes half shut, her head nodding towards her chest. Reaching over, she tapped her lightly on the arm. “Page? Are you there?”
“Yes, you damn pink alicorn!” the ancient head snapped back up, brought out of her blurred memory of a crystal palace, an Empire freed of tyranny, an overshadowing enigma of darkness and pain blasted into nothingness.
Or was he?
Eyes focusing as well as they could on the other woman, Page shook her head. “Sorry, Amber dear.” She spied the laptop and remembered something. “Are we done? Did I finish?”
Amber smiled, but there was something sad in the smile and even as tired and as far gone as Page was, she could tell something was wrong. “What’s wrong, dearie?”
“N-nothing, Page. Nothing,” the caregiver choked on her words. That was the giveaway. Oh yeah. Right. Those stupid doctors and their stupid need to pass along death sentences. Well screw them.
The brunette caregiver looked up, startled, as she felt a trembling hand brushing against her hair.
“Do you think - “ Page paused as a movement caught her eye by the window to the backyard. The sun was glaring through the slats, casting stripes of shadows on the carpeting in front of it. Prison bars, she thought randomly. Not my prison bars. Not any more.
But one shadow, cast by a movement outside, no doubt, moved strangely to her tired eyes. It was darker than the surrounding shadow bars, moved with a fluid grace, a strange light glimmering against its utter blackness towards the top. Without realizing it, Page moved her hand towards it, hypnotized by its movement - and the possibilities of…
“You did it!” her caregiver blurted out, breaking her concentration. Page blinked and the shadow was gone, but the bars of her shadow prison remained, reaching towards her as they lengthened with the setting sun.
“What?” Page snapped, annoyed she had been distracted from another visit by her enigmatic shadow visitor. “Did what?”
“You did it!” Amber chattered excitedly. “You broke two million words!” She turned the screen towards Page, showing her the word count on Page's user profile, which now included the story the elderly woman had just finished.
Squinting didn’t help much to see the screen and the numbers clearly. Guess I’ll haveta take her word for it. “Oh, oh that’s wonderful!” the old woman agreed, but more in humoring the caregiver than in feeling the thrill of the moment. It had been her dream to write two million words for years now before she died, she always knew she would do it, but as she had gotten older - and sicker - it had become a race against time and death to reach it. Still, something told her she would make it, and being so close this past - last - week, the strain of reaching that goal and finally achieving it was both pleasing and exhausting.
“What’s wrong, Page?” Amber asked, concern in her voice. “I thought you’d be happier.”
There was that movement again, at the window. “We - I am, honey. I’m just so damn tired.”
Afternoon nap. It was routine in the little home and had been getting longer and longer the past two weeks. Sleepy patients made dangerously uncoordinated patients, so Amber decided to let her charge doze on the couch instead of risking trying to move her into a bed. It was knowing the difference in what was supposed to be done and what was safe to be done that made her the last person in the world Page could truly appreciate in this world.
But it wasn’t so bad, or as bad as she herself had seen her old patients go through when Page had once been the caregiver herself, taking care of the old, being at their bedside, watching over them as the light went out in their eyes as they left this world. She remembered taking a week off inbetween those hospice assignments, recovering from the mental and emotional strain of such passings, doing a lot of meditation. That was the best thing about old age, if you could keep your marbles, that is, was the time at last was yours to reflect on a life well-lived, the joys and the the sorrows overcome, the happiness, the pain of losing your loved ones reshaped by a force of will into a celebration of what their lives meant to you in the end.
No one should ever have the story of their lives told in so little detail as yours was, she declared to the window shadow quietly watching over her.
Really? And how would you know how I had lived before my defeat, it asked back in that amused, arrogant tone it always challenged her intellect and understanding with.
Oh shut up, you persnickety King, Page huffed, choosing to ignore him for the moment. She still had time for a few choice words left before she went, so let him wait on her for once.
Again that damn irritating voice. “And what makes you think you have the right to my throne?” she woke up yelling. “My throne!” Eyes straining to focus, Page bit her lip in embarrassment. “Oh, heh, was I talking in my sleep?”
Amber softened. “No, it’s okay, really. Don’t worry,” she smiled. “Are you hungry? You haven’t eaten anything the last two days and I’m worried about you.”
Page took the glass of vitamin-enriched juice the caregiver offered her, sniffed it and gave it back to her. “Eww...yuck! I’m not downing that swill. If you want me to drink something, get me a coke.” She watched the younger woman head off to the kitchen. “Don’t bother trying to extend my life, woman,” she called after her. “I’ve done what I needed to do.” She thought about that. “Didn’t I?” Then she remembered something important. “Oh shit, Amber. Did you post that story?”
“Yes, that was what I wanted to tell you,” Amber told her, coming back with the soda and a glass. “It’s up.”
“Good!” Page’s hand reached out for the can, but Amber moved to give her the glass. “Screw that. Gimme the can,” she growled. Once she had it in her hand, she looked at it, sheepishly handing it back to her. “Can you open it for me?”
Her friend laughed. “Yeah, sure, you mean old mare,” she joked, opening the can and handing it back to the elderly woman.
“I am so glad you’re not one of those stuck up caregivers who always wants me to eat healthy, as if it’ll do any good anymore,” Page mumbled, taking a sip of the acidic drink. “I’ll die as I lived, thank you very much!”
Well said, my dear mare, a deep voice rumbled near the window.
Amber saw Page perk up as she heard something. Her charge turned to the window and froze. She looked over and saw nothing there. Nothing but shadows etching their long fingers across the carpet, reaching towards the couch as twilight deepend outside.
“Who? What? The shadows?” she asked, but then quickly got it. “Oh...you mean him?”
The elderly woman nodded mutely, not daring to break the silence, straining to listen for the voice if it should whisper to her again. Instead, she motioned towards the window with a finger bent with age and one million, nine hundred thousands words.
The caregiver couldn’t help but follow her finger. Even though her client’s characters had been a typing assignment for the last hundred thousand words, those words had been so rich, so vibrant, so real, they had had a way of getting under her skin and in her thoughts until every day, no matter where she went at work and away, Amber’s eyes always travelled to the shadows surrounding her.
Amber caught her breath as she turned her head towards the window, involuntarily snapping around quicker to catch the dark movement at the edges of her vision. She was greeted only by the shadows of the vertical blinds inside and the elongated, pony-shaped shadow touching the edge of the door track to the window.
Her heart skipped several beats as she gripped the edges of the couch, uttering a primal gasp of fear. As fast as it had come, the fear bled away as she realized the pony shape was just the shadow of a stone statue in the garden, standing where it had always been, looking towards the west. The land of shadows, darkness and the dead, she called to memory from her client’s eloquent words. Feeling the fool, but grateful no one was here to witness it other than Page, she sighed heavily.
That was...tasty. The voice sounded pleased.
Page turned to Amber. “He’ll do that, y’know.”
“Feeds on fear,” Amber nodded, laughing shakily. “So you have said.”
The shadows grew as dinnertime approached, claiming their dominion, asserting their influence. Amber went about her housekeeping duties, but always sparing a glance to the elderly Page as she sat on the couch, sipping her drink, never taking her eyes off the shadow bars and the long pony shadow that continued to stretch, spreading until it had passed the barrier of the window and invaded the room. She even spared a giggle as it now looked like it was in jail as it was surrounded by the bars of the shadows on the carpet.
“Look,” the caregiver joked. “He’s in jail,” she pointed to the pony profile, the head accented by a sharp, pointed blade of a curved horn.
“He’ll be free soon,” Page said. “Come sundown, the shadows will fade, he will be free and so will I.”
Amber felt a twinge of fear at that statement so casually uttered. The prediction of one’s own demise as surely as saying, “I’m heading off to bed, I’ll be in the study…
...I’m going to die when that shadow dies.”
The younger woman shook her head, shivering. If that character of her clients’ had ever had an aura of evil, it had just stepped on Amber’s grave with its steel-toed boots.
The sun was now a swollen, red stain across the sky, partially hidden by the fog rolling in from the bay. The fog was fading the shadow bars quicker now, Amber frowned. You said we would go together, she complained to the shadow profile nearly at her feet.
Talk to that Sun Witch Celestia, it grumbled in its deep stallion’s voice. But fret not. I keep my promises.
I have nothing left. Your story is done, your Highness. Now be done with me.
The shadow at her feet suddenly sprouted bright green eyes with red-slitted, crystal-faceted pupils that regarded her with amusement. The edges glowed purple, but with just the barest hint of his trademark color.
Page screamed, or tried to. Her voice was so weak there was no way Amber could hear it from the other side of the house…
…”and when I came out from the other side of the house...she was...gone…” the caregiver told the paramedics gathered around the still, lifeless body of Page. “What did she die of? Can you tell?” she asked them.
The caregiver was surprised to see them fidget a little. They had come out on numerous times before, even chatted with her while taking Page’s vitals, told her how experience they were and had been doing this for years.
“It was a heart attack, right,” pressed Amber. “That’s what we were expecting, what the doctor told us would happen.”
“We’re - not sure,” the lead paramedic admitted.
“Oh, I guess it isn’t obvious without the hospital tests?” the older woman guessed.
More fidgeting. “Well, no, that’s not it,” the same man admitted. “When we, well...did she hurt herself recently? Have a blow to the head maybe?”
The caregiver quelled the rising fear that had started in the pit of her stomach. “No. Why do you ask?”
“Her eyes,” he said, bending down to the still body, poised over the eyelids they had shut while Amber had been on a phone call to Page’s son, telling him to come over right away. “They’re…”
The caregiver swallowed uneasily. What could be wrong with Page’s eyes? Her own eyes travelled to the carpet where the shadow of the stone pony was now draped over her charge’s body, a straight, narrow shadow, poised like an arrow over her heart.
Something was wrong, something felt wrong with that, but she didn’t know what exactly. Then a flicker of -
“Red!” The paramedic’s hand rested on Page’s eyes, readying to open her lids. He stopped as the woman gasped.
“So you saw them?” he drew the corpse’s eyelid back, revealing a solidly red, bloodshot eye with the pupil shrunken and narrowed like a cat’s eye, the whites...
“Are you alright, ma’am?” one of the other EMTs asked her.
The man over Page forgot about her for the moment, reflexively looking up to see a look of abject fear crossing Amber’s face, her eyes red-tinged, the whites an unhealthy green tint…
Amber looked like she was ready to throw up, her breath coming in shallow gasps. She wasn’t even looking at Page’s body, staring frozen in horror at the shadow that was fading over the dead woman’s body as the sun finally dipped behind the solid wall of fog at the horizon’s edge...the shadow that slithered away from Page and melted into her own shadow...
The paramedic stood, the other three turning, confused, facing the horrified woman. Amber backed away from them, shaking her head. “Ma’am?” Someone of them reached out to touch her arm.
The fear-struck caregiver shrank back from him, spying her laptop sitting on the couch. She grabbed it and ran for the bathroom, shouting, “Oh no, no, no, no, no, NO!!!!”
Amber Leaf tried to retract the last story of Mrs. Page Solaris that day while locked in the bathroom, but for some reason the account was now locked and she could not get in to delete it or the account. The admins, when hearing of the story later, never found the user’s account, but it - and the story of King Sombra could still be clearly seen on the website.
The first comment on the ghost story was from another account that did not exist - and never had, but is still there to this day. All the comment said was, “As long as you raise the sun in the skies over Equestria, there will always be shadows…”