Friday, November 13, 2009

Camera Obscura

This was, almost certainly, a very bad idea.

Martin busied himself setting up the camera to take a self-portrait. Too many options, too many buttons. His hands began to shake, as they had done before.

The girl in the bed stirred in her sleep.

"Young woman", Martin corrected himself. "She's a woman, not a girl."

He sat on the edge of the bed in the motel room and fiddled a little more till he found the self-timer.

This was so not a good idea, his daughter would say. But he had to. He had to see what the camera would show him about himself.

It was a secondhand camera. He’d bought it at a garage sale. Cheap. There hadn't seemed anything special about it, nor about the old man who sold it.

Martin looked up from the camera. It had been fun at first. He smiled, remembering the "naughty" pictures he had taken of his wife. It was the most risqué thing they had ever done. She had enthusiastically flashed a thigh, a buttock cheek, a glimpse of a breast.

The young woman stirred in the bed, and Martin looked around guiltily. She had rolled over, the side of one breast exposed.

Martin stared at her. He had taken a picture of his wife exactly like that. Except the camera viewfinder had shown, not a breast, but a mastectomy scar.

Two months later, after a biopsy and five weeks of radiation treatment, she was healthy and whole. The camera had given him advance warning.

He bent towards the camera again, his fingers starting to tremble as he moved through the menu options. He concentrated, willing his fingers steady. He needed to do this. The camera seemed able to show him things, people. How they really are.

It had shown him a lot. That husband and wife, neighbors. The affair. Their divorce. It was a surprise to everyone. Everyone except Martin. The image in the camera viewfinder had shown the husband kissing someone passionately. Someone not his wife. The photographs he had taken showed nothing of the sort.

That was the first time he had tried to see what the camera would show him of himself. His hands were shaking so much that he'd dropped it both times he'd tried. After that he'd stopped trying, a little relieved.

But he had to now. Now things were different.

The young woman stirred again in the bed. She rolled over in her sleep onto her back. Under the sheets he could see how her legs were spread, inviting. Martin sat looking at her. This was the image he had seen in the camera viewfinder when he took a picture without her knowing.

She was Angela, his administrative assistant. He had hired her away from another manager. He blushed. He’d hired her after seeing that image.

The camera had helped him get a position where he needed an administrative assistant. It had shown him his own manager's "indiscretion" with the firm's receptionist.

It helped him close business with customers. He had become quite the favorite of upper management.

Martin steeled himself to finish setting up the timer. His hands were sweating, making it difficult to avoid dropping the camera. He griped it tightly. His head hurt.

This was the first time he had ever been unfaithful to his wife. Sure, he had thought of women in the past. But that was just thinking. He had never done anything like this before. He shook his head, trying to clear it, trying to stop it throbbing.

If he were honest with himself, he would have to say that before, before the camera, women weren’t interested in him. Before Angela, opportunity had never presented itself.

So he had to see what had changed. He had to see if the camera would show him something about himself. Something he couldn't see.

His wife thought he had changed. She'd said so. Even before Angela. He'd laughed it off. Things were going well for him at work for a change. That was all.

Martin sighed. He knew that wasn't all. So he had to do this. He concentrated hard, forcing his fingers to obey, blocking out the pain in his temples.

Done. He got the timer set. Everything was ready.

Martin placed the camera on the table, on top of the Bible he'd found in the room, and stood next to the window. The time ticked by slowly. He almost moved to see what was wrong when the flash lit up the room and he heard the click of the shutter.

He hurried to the table, picked up the camera and sat on the side of the bed. He looked at the viewfinder. There he was, standing beside the window, his shadow thrown against the curtain in the light of the flash.

There he stood, by himself. Nothing special. Nothing different. It was just him. Nothing had changed. There was nothing wrong!

Martin's hands shook, this time with relief. It was all right. Everything was all right.

He looked up from the camera and his blood froze.

His shadow was still there. Still there by the window. Still there where the flash had thrown it. Standing there, all by itself. Solid.

It breathed, a deep slow breathing that seemed to take in all the air of the room before it exhaled.

Martin whimpered as it moved toward him. It bent over him and Martin's skin chilled.

Its voice seemed to shake the very air around him.

"You didn't think it was all for you, did you?"

Martin started as he felt Angela press herself against him from behind, her skin fiery hot against his. She leaned close and brought her mouth to his ear. Her voice was soft, a whisper.

"Now, let us show you what happens next."


  1. This is what happens when one steals away an administrative assistant. One enters the Twilight Zone.

    Eerie and wonderful. Though I did think that maybe SBC would come in through window and start asking questions. :)

  2. Curiosity killed the cat. :) I don't suppose this will turn out well for him...

  3. Ah, the fool just could not leave well enough alone. Now he's let the jinni out of the bottle, or should I say, out of the camera. Nice one, Kevin.

  4. Thanks for the read and comments, folks.

    @Marisa - sorry, I think the SBC is sleeping now. This is one "adventure" it's likely to miss

    @Laura - No, I don't suppose any good can come of this...

    @Jon - But, who could leave this alone?

  5. Quite the creepy story this week!

  6. Creepy story -- in a good way.

    I am a bit confused at the end. Did the shadow sleep with the assistant, or did the assistant know about the shadow's sentience?

  7. @Tim - Something very non-SBC this week, yes (I blame NaNo) :-}

    @Deb - glad you enjoyed the story. I suspect Angela knows far more about the shadow than is going to be good for Martin

  8. Stealing admin staff away from colleagues is always a hide into nothing! Horror in a camera - there's a first time for everthing!