Her mouth opened wide and inhaled deeply, with a sound like rushing wind. I waited for the exhale, but it never came. Instead, a strange stillness came upon her. It was like watching cement turn from tacky to set in an instant. And at that same moment, it poured forth. Not from one point, but from every inch of her. A cascade of diamonds, rushing forward as water through a newly-burst dam. I had never seen anything so beautiful. I watched in awe as it swirled and coalesced, rising ever upwards. Then the machines around her started beeping in frenzy. I was pushed aside, scolded, as doctors and nurses crashed through the curtain, barking orders, grabbing instruments. I knew they were too late. I could see it. The piece of her that was missing, the one they were trying to put back with their jump leads and oxygen masks. It circled overhead, paused for a brief second, then vanished. It wasn’t coming back. Since then I’ve seen hundreds of them. Each one is unique, but you can divide them roughly into two types. The first are like Majory’s. Shining, sparkling. Some like glittering jewels, others like dappled sunlight, or vibrant fireworks. Then there are the others. The dark ones. The ones that make me shudder to behold. They don’t so much burst forth, as ooze out like dripping pus. Sometimes they coil, and slink like venomous serpents. Other times they bubble and drip. The first time I saw a dark one I was polishing the corridor outside the operating theatres, with one of those great big buffing machines. It slunk under the door, sludgy and viscous like black tar. Pulsing and hissing, it came directly towards me, wrapping itself around my feet. I kicked at it, and it shrank back, and sunk through the floor. Later I overheard the doctors talking to the police. Apparently it had belonged to a guy who bled out on the surgeon’s table. His liver had been punctured in a knife fight. By all accounts he’d been the one that started it. That was the day I realised I was more than just an observer. It was the way it had targeted me, coiled round my legs, it wanted something from me. It knew what I was, though I didn’t yet know myself. PAGE 46 After that, I got to wondering. There must be a reason, must be a purpose, for my new found sight. Next time I saw one of the shiny ones, I didn’t just stand back and watch. I held out my hand, wondered if it would acknowledge me like the other one did. This one was like a cloud of champagne. It bubbled, and danced, and shone. It came to me. Tentatively at first. It edged ever nearer, its colours shifting through the spectrum as it brushed my skin like a morning breeze, before settling in my open palm. I stared for a long minute at the impossible wonder in my grasp. What was I to do with it? I grabbed a specimen jar from the supply trolley nearby, very undignified but needs must, and unscrewed the lid. “Do you want to come with me?” I whispered to the ball of light. It surged forward, filling the jar. I screwed the lid on, and put it in my pocket. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it, but I knew the answer would come, it always does. It was later that night, as I walked home, that the Lord revealed to me my mission. I heard the screams coming from the alley behind the old boarded-up butcher’s shop. A female. She was in trouble. I raced down the gravel track, brambles ripping at my overalls, and saw her. A young woman, trembling, cowering in the bushes. A dark figure looming over her, knife in hand. “Get away from her!” I shouted, and he turned to face me, lunging forward in an instant, his knife aimed at my chest. The girl was a quick-thinker, very impressive given the circumstances, and thrust out one stiletto-clad foot. The guy tripped, hitting a tree trunk on the way down, knocking himself out cold. The girl scrambled to her feet, and fled shouting “thank you!” over her shoulder as she disappeared. I called out to her, tried to get her to stay, to give a report to the police, but she was gone. I guess I can’t blame her, she’d already been trapped in an alley with one strange guy, her panic responses must have been ramped up. The guy at my feet started to groan, I picked up the dropped knife. I was going to pull it on him, keep him there ‘til the police arrived. I’d fished out my mobile phone and dialled the first “9” when a notion hit me, and I changed my mind.