Writing Prompt: Day 88

88.jpgDay 88 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: A character takes a photo that changes their life.

Shannon: “Hey,” a large bodyguard shouted from across the street. “Did you just take a picture,” he pointed at me and I stopped breathing. “I need to see your camera. Don’t make this hard,” he advised.

I booked it, running for the large crowd, going against natural instinct. I figured I probably couldn’t outrun him, but I might be able to confuse him. If I present this photo to my boss I could finally stop taking paparazzi photos, and finally get promoted to the travel position I’d been working for since I started as intern. The bodyguard would have to pry this golden ticket from my bloody hands. Even if that meant I was the evil one, I wasn’t going down without a fight.

Erin: For 73 years of my life I was taking pictures. The medium may have changed, but ultimately the product didn’t. I wasn’t capturing photos, I was capturing moments, emotions, and people who only existed in that instant of the flash of my camera.

That’s what was so appealing to me, how people didn’t really exist in my opinion. The person who walked into their boss’s office, was not the same one who walked out to pack up their desk and leave. The girl at the counter of the fast-food restaurant, hardened more into a stranger as she was being yelled at by a man who would not recognize himself once the death of his wife fully sank in. Hell, someone walking in for a photo was always one notch more self-assured or discouraged once I showed them the print.

Only children go to their graves as they were at 2 years old. I know the notion is morbid, but life is morbid. We die and are born every day, as new people and new experiences hurt and enthrall us. Pictures are the definition of survival. They may fade, but the people and the emotion they evoke from within them have a life and have a chance to be alive because I was there to deem the moment worthy. In that way, sometimes I feel like a hero. Without cameras and those of us behind them, immortality would have no meaning.

Only once have I questioned this philosophy. When I looked back at the photo of my future wife feeding the ducks at the park. As I was transported back to that day I remembered her being so loving. Both to the animals and then to me as I explained why I was taking photos of a complete stranger. That photo changed my life. Because my Kaley was the only subject I ever knew of that didn’t need my saving. The photograph was nearly as beautiful as her, but she stayed that woman.

Every photograph her mother showed me prior was also that woman. She had managed to keep the little girl finger-painting in her, and the tough athlete playing through an injured ankle, she even managed to keep a little of the sister laughing so hard soda came out of her nose and made her cry. She brought those people to her daily life, they worked together and the sum of their influence was the most wonderful woman to ever exist.

So even though I didn’t need to, I took pictures. Lots of them. And boy am I glad I did, because even though she projected the moments that made her till her dying breath, the day did come where I needed those pictures. When I took out the photo album for the first time it was almost like my brush with a miracle wasn’t quite finished.

Explain a sight that could change a life?

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One thought on “Writing Prompt: Day 88

  1. Every wall was crammed with images stretched taunt across enormous canvases; some held people, some were greyscale, a few were of random bits of garbage and one in particular was so out of focus you had to be stoned to understand it. Slow, somber dirges droned on from speakers hidden behind the walls, making the exhibit hall feel like a funeral. Though, for a few of these “artists” it would be something of a death of spirit, of ambition, of art career. I stood off to the side, sipping on a complimentary glass of wine that tasted of rotten grapes and old kegs, all the while observing the students as they chattered about their spectacular works.
    While I was meant to be studying each piece, I already knew who wouldn’t make it through this semester and this was all expensive formalities. But, there were a few pupils dotted around, standing quietly beside their artwork and making a serious effort to not make eye contact with anyone. Those three were already in for the next class and didn’t need to worry about this evening, even if they didn’t know it yet. So, it was that I relaxed in the corner just like every year; partially drained glass of suspected poison in hand, tapping my toe along with the terrible musical choice meant to promote intriguing conversations and munching the stale finger food that sat untouched on the table by the door.
    That was the moment I realized there was a girl standing a little off to the side across the room, grinning from ear to ear like a demon. Her eyes shone in the fluorescent lights streaming down on the affair and she had an air of mystery about her. Unfortunately, she wasn’t in my class and the image behind her, a black and white house with a fence around it proclaiming it was private property, held something devastatingly familiar. As I searched the entire photograph five times over for what I had a gut feeling, was something odd, the girl turned her gaze to me. When our eyes met, she beckoned subtly and I forgot how to breathe.
    Something about the strange girl had me on edge, right to my very core. It was the way no one glanced at her as they passed, chatting about how great so-and-so was. But there was something positively bone-chilling about the picture behind her, something that I wasn’t equipped to address properly.
    So, I took the first tentative step toward the girl and ran right into one of my other students, Jay. “Shit, ma’am, watch where you’re going. Hey, come check mine, ‘kay?” his low-riding trousers and backward ball caps pissed me off more than you can imagine, but I figured I owed him as much time as I could, since he wouldn’t be coming back. Without waiting, he’d turned the corner and was beaming from before an enormous replica of his girlfriend’s face; she was certainly very attractive with a nose ring and wild hair, but he brought in pictures of different girls at every showcase. At the art school, we searched out people who would actually make it in life, not just in art.
    Nodding politely, I excused myself amid the fawning of several other young ladies over Jay’s under-thought presentation. As I turned the next corner, I was met with the psychedelic musings of two of my favorite students; they used various techniques and styles to superimpose normal objects into strange places and vice versa. The two of them, one wearing a stark black and white pantsuit while the other sported a pop-culture dress that would have looked great on a canvas, sat with their heads together gossiping about their peers. Carefully admiring their pictures without spending too much thought on it, I continued around the final set and came upon the house.
    But the strange girl who’d been standing there was gone; no one looked up as they passed the piece, no one noticed me as I stood before it and no one commented on the creepy little girl peering out of the second floor window with a dark look in her eyes. As I stepped back to study it, a door opened, hinges squealing horribly, and one of our missing students rushed in breathlessly. After a moment of muttered judgement, everyone went back to chatting up their art or flattering significant friends’ art. I continued to search the picture for something that didn’t fit.
    When the student who’d arrived fashionably late to one of the most important events of the semester, Cassidy, threw down her bag under the photo I was admiring, I was confused at first. Then, my heart began to race like I way dying, and I scanned the crowd for the girl I’d seen there before. I even took a quick jog around the hall, Cassidy eyeing me warily from her post, to ensure the girl wasn’t still there, before settling back down. Confronting Cassidy, she mirrored my concerned expression with her hazel eyes, “You saw her. I thought I was the only one who can see her.” Her face lit up in a dazzling smile as she recounted how the image came about.
    “I was wandering down this long drive by my house; mom always said to stay clear of it lest the spirit of this murdered girl get her hands on me,” there was an odd pause where we both shivered involuntarily. “Anyway, I always thought it was just so I wouldn’t go jumping over the fence or anything. But then I went there and was taking pictures the whole way there, and it was getting kinda late, but not dark,” she continued in a strained voice, “so I just took a couple from the street.” When she stopped suddenly, I glanced down and found her flipping through on her tablet.
    Just before I could scold her for not only being late, but now not paying attention to the assignment, she turned the screen around for me to see. There, on her display, was the unedited version of the image, only there was no little girl in the window. As I opened my mouth to comment, she swiped and the girl appeared. “They’re originals, I swear to god. I was just going through all of them, seeing which looked best in black and white,” Cassidy’s arms trembled slightly as she held the tablet up, before she sighed and shut it off. “I don’t know who she is or how she got in a picture I took two-point-eight seconds after one that doesn’t show her, but that’s the truth.”
    I stared into her eyes, thinking back to all those psych classes I took in my first year of university, and couldn’t see any deception in them. Sighing, I shook my head and smiled warmly, “Nice story Cassidy. Can I tell you a secret?” When she nodded cautiously, still clutching the tablet to her chest, I whispered, “Even without the story, your picture earned you a space in the next semester.” Her face lit up at that before she buried it in her bag, red spreading across her cheeks.

    I woke up on the cold dirt of a driveway under the glow of a full moon at midnight. All around me, the world was devoid of colour; even my hand before my eyes was pale shades of grey that shimmered as dreams do. But as I carefully stood on trembling legs, I shivered in the profound silence around me and listened for any noise at all. Usually my dreams were full of raucous sounds that mimicked those coming from outside my bedroom window, so this kind of absolute silence was unnerving.
    I began to wander forward in a trance-like state, uncertain of where I was going or why. As I moved, barefoot, down the road between stunning trees, a house began to reveal itself to my right; I could see the elegant slant of roofs and ornate windows between the branches. But I couldn’t get my feet to stop stepping forward or speak or run or wake myself up.
    Before I knew it, I was gliding through the chain link fence and was standing in front of the haunted house with its door gaping wide for me. Breathing in, I noticed a stench like something rotting was nearby and turned to watch a few drops of bright red blood drip from a corpse hanging from one of the tall trees. Though every speck of colour everywhere else had been washed away, the girl, Cassidy, was shown in full, horrific colour. Lines of ripped flesh were cut across her body and obscured by the viscera and gore that leaked from the wounds. I stifled a scream by biting my tongue hard enough to taste my own metallic blood.
    When I was able to pry my eyes from the scene, I glanced back at the house in time to see the wicked grin on the little girl’s face in that damned second floor window as her voice echoed in my head, “Come play with me.”

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