People began looking over their shoulders and exchanging glances. Whispering to each other. Who was the stranger dressed in black at the back of the church?
They had expected a quiet affair. The family, a few friends and a couple of old work colleagues. And that was pretty well how it was. Most of the mourners knew each other, or a least knew who they were. Except for that one shadowy figure behind them.
When the time came to leave for the cemetery, they turned and filed out from the gloom of the church into the bright sunlight of the spring morning. But where was the mysterious stranger? He seemed to have vanished as quickly as he had appeared.
They gathered around the grave. The priest offered prayers up for the saving of the departed's soul, and through tear filled eyes, the bereaved saw the stranger moving slowly around at the rear of the assembled crowd.
As the coffin was lowered into the ground, the stranger moved silently forward and threw a hand of soil onto the cask. But no one felt him push his way to the front. And no one saw him leave. He just disappeared.
The wake was a solemn affair. There was mush discussion about the man in black. Nobody knew him, but everyone felt as if they should.
In a tree outside sat a large black bird. Watching. Observing. Head darting from one side to the other. As the people left, it silently and slowly flapped its wings. As if in slow motion. Then it flew up and up and up. Higher and higher until it disappeared from view.