In the town I live in, there’s this nice park with a relatively large and deep pond in it. Urban myth has it, that it’s home to a giant catfish and every couple years the newspapers like to run a wild story about how it’s supposedly eaten a dachshund or even a small child, but of course there’s never any substance to these stories. In fact there’s no hard evidence that this catfish exists at all, even though occasionally people claim to have seen it.


None of those people however had so much as a suspicion about the far stranger thing that went on in this park, even though it was basically right under their noses.


Along one side of the pond there used to be an about 30 feet wide and very dense stretch of shrubbery, and right up against that shrubbery were a couple of benches and it was on one of those benches that the old lady used to sit.


Grandma Rags we called her, because she was always wrapped in the exact same set of multi-layer clothing every day, no matter the weather. A wrinkly green-gray skirt, a red jacket, a thick beige blanket around her shoulders, a large headscarf pulled far over her face and tattered brown gloves. Beyond that, nobody paid her much mind, she just sat there all day and never talked to anyone. To me, like I suppose most people, she was almost part of the parks scenery. But over time I began to wonder. She wasn’t always there, naturally, just often enough to be a regular sight, but on the days she showed up she stayed seated on that bench all day, never moving, never getting up and at no point did I ever see her arrive or leave. Heck, one night as I made my way home from a party at 5 am, I came through the park and she was already there.


But still, I would’ve never been any the wiser if not at one point some idiot in city council had decided to have the stretch of shrubbery along the pond cut down. There were a couple of protests from citizens who wanted to preserve it, but ultimately city council had its way. And from the day the shrubbery was gone, Grandma Rags was never seen again.


I wasn’t the only one who noticed. People had gotten so used to her presence, now that she was gone she was the subject of more talk than she had ever been while she was there. But asking about her turned up nothing, nobody had known her personally. I heard some people even went so far as to report her missing but if so, that didn’t yield any results either. Others said the police weren’t investigating her case, because she hadn’t had any legal documents to prove her existence in the first place.


One or two years later I happened to end up in an internship in the very department of city development that had been responsible for removing the shrubbery by the pond. At this point nobody really talked anymore about the shrubbery or Grandma Rags, but I occasionally cracked some jokes to my superiors about them being responsible for the old lady’s disappearance. Most of them just rolled their eyes and moved on, but one guy looked particularly tired, every time I mentioned her in his presence. I didn’t mean much by it, but it must have really gotten to him, because at one point he pulled me aside and said:


“Look, I wouldn’t worry so much about this Grandma Rags if I were you, I’m pretty sure she’s doing just fine.”


Of course that was the worst thing he could possibly have said to shut me up.


“Why? Do you know anything about her?”


He gave me a long scrutinizing look, then seemed to reach a decision and said


“As a matter of fact I do.”


With that he waved me to follow him into his office, locked the door behind him and went to his computer.


“You know how the park got a new set of CCTV cameras shortly before we cut the shrubs? Ones that had better night vision?”


He turned his monitor around so I could see the screen. On it was a grainy black-and-white image of the park. The quality wasn’t great, but I could make out Grandma Rags on her bench. The timestamp showed 1:50 am, two years earlier.


“Hey, aren’t you supposed to keep those only for 24 hours?”


“Yes, and this is strictly speaking not a legal copy, but look!”


He fast forwarded a little, then let it play. All the while Grandma Rags sat stoicly in her spot on the bench. Shortly before the 3 am mark she finally got up, in a much smoother motion than I would have expected from such an old lady. So fluid, in fact, that It almost looked as if she had no bones. What followed was even weirder. First she knelt down in front of the bench, then, without missing a beat, laid herself face down on the ground and slid backwards under the bench. Just like that she was gone, the whole thing having taken just under a second. Had I seen it in person I might have just put it off as a hallucination, but here it was on tape, ready to be replayed over and over again until I could no longer sustain any doubts that, yes I had really just seen that.


“And that’s not all” the guy said.


“What? What more could there possibly be to it?”


“When the workers cut down that shrubbery, they came upon a hole in the ground, sealed off with a piece of bark. And inside, neatly folded and piled up, though maybe a little damp, lay the old womans skirt, jacket, blanket, headscarf and gloves.”