Maggie turned her head away and chanted, “You’re not real. You’re not real. Not real. Not real!”
She could feel the cold air in the room and when she glanced back, the form stood over her bed, deathly still and staring down.
The thing was perfect. It wore her mother’s form and expression. The same one her mother had always worn when she wanted to tell Maggie something serious. The same one she wore when she lectured her about coming in late or when she brought home a boy she didn’t like or when she broke the news of her father’s departure and finally, when she told Maggie she was ill.
Maggie closed her eyes again and sobbed into her pillow. “Mama.” She whimpered and shook her head. “Why are you here now!?”
A flash of their life together passed like photographs across Maggie’s mind’s eye. Her mother lifting her from the tub after a warm bath, rubbing her down with a huge, green, fluffy towel, her mother at the stove making pancakes on a bright Sunday morning, mother storming into the principal’s office to defend Maggie from a bullying teacher, her joy at Maggie’s acceptance into university and countless Christmases and Birthday presents to each other.
Maggie turned over again and slowly opened her eyes and stared back at the thing by the bed. “Are you real?” Maggie said and with an acute awareness of every shift in her movement beneath the covers, slowly sat up.
The thing by the bed nodded gently. Though no sound came out, it mouthed the words, “I love you.”
Maggie reached out and turned on the lamp. When light flooded the room, the apparition was gone and with it, Maggie’s joy. “I love you too, Mom.” She said and with a sob, turned off the light and wishing for another visit in her dreams, fell back to sleep.