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My grandmother, who lived with us when we were growing up, was a very old-fashioned Catholic and always globetrotting on pilgrimages and bringing back bits of “saints” with her from the sites they visited. Here’s a story about that: 

“Mama brought *something* back with her,” I overheard my mother say to my father. My grandmother had just returned from Italy where she had been on pilgrimage to several religious sites. My mother’s words made me excited, thinking that she meant souvenirs or gifts of some kind. My sister and I had quite a collection of memorabilia from our grandmother’s frequent travels. Turns out, I wouldn’t call what she brought home a gift… 

That evening, our grandmother told us about her journey and showed us the relics she had brought home from whichever holy site they’d visited. I don’t remember realizing the weirdness of this at the time, but “relics” usually refer to the physical remains of a saint or holy person. This time it was supposed to be a finger bone of some saint, which she passed around to us as casually as she had the postcards from Rome. 

Soon, it was time for bed. Our grandmother took her souvenirs into her bedroom, setting the relic in a place of pride on her dresser. This dresser shared a wall with our bedroom; on our side was a tall, narrow bookcase displaying photos from our First Communions, rosaries and memorabilia from grandma’s past trips, and a small glow in the dark statue of St. Michael. We went through our usual bedtime rituals – pajamas and “Now I lay me down to sleep”-ing – and quickly drifted off. 

In the middle of the night, I came awake to the sensation of someone in the room. I looked straight ahead, across the room from our bunk bed and saw a dark shadowy figure standing in front of our bookcase. Although it had no discernible features, I had the distinct feeling that it was staring at me. A moment later, I heard my sister ask from the top bunk, “Are you awake?” “Yes,” I whispered. A moment later, she asked “…Do you see that?” I responded “Yes?” doubtfully and as quietly as possible. I heard the quiet whoof of the blankets flipping over my sister’s head, as she hid her eyes – later, she told me, “I had to save myself!”  

I stared at the being, willing my eyes to stay open, trying not to blink. I sensed the shadow turn towards the bookshelf, extending a limb as if reaching for something. At that moment, the moon peeked through the clouds, casting a pale beam of light which briefly illuminated the statue of St. Michael. The shadow figure jerked back and I felt a wave of anger pulse towards me. I pulled the covers up over my head for what meager protection they would provide and felt a rush of air fly past. Within moments, it felt like we were alone again. I peeked out from under the covers and the room was empty, aside from the pale glow of St. Michael’s statue on the shelf. 

My mother must’ve had a word with our grandmother after we told her about this experience, because from then on, any saintly body parts – phalanges or otherwise – were strictly kept in my grandmother’s sitting room in the basement. That didn’t necessarily prevent encounters – the basement always felt *wrong* after she returned from a trip – but we never had another shadowy visitor in our room. I still wonder to whom – or what – that finger bone really belonged, but I am glad our mysterious visitor never returned.

Reader Story Submitted by: Amanda

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