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  • Writer's pictureArthur Ni

The Photograph

Finding happiness after tragedy is a challenge. Some have no issues, others struggle and it doesn't get easier. Jon Fredrickson lost his wife in a tragic car accident three years prior. Obviously tragic as he lost his wife, but tragic in the sense that she didn't do anything wrong. No one really did anything wrong. Perhaps it was due to the weather, an animal that ran out in front of her, or bad luck. It happens, there isn't anyone to blame. Shouldn't blame the dead, that's hardly fair. Either way, Jon was far from happy when his wife died, expectedly so.

Jon wants to find happiness. He knows it isn't easy, he isn't sure how to do it. He has tried drinking, smoking, crying, but nothing works. His wife was the light in his life. One thing he came across by accident was that taking photos of nature seemed to bring him some joy. Perhaps not happiness, but joy. Something about the pure beauty that nature holds, knowing humanity has yet to destroy everything, even if it is few and far between.

He uses his phone, the same one he has had for the last five years. It still works for him, so he feels no need to upgrade. The camera is fine enough, takes good photos, he is doing this for himself, he isn't posting online or trying to sell the photos. He takes the photos, and then looks at them later in the night. Every night. He doesn't know what he is looking for in the photos, but he enjoys looking at them. Perhaps because he took the photos, wishing he took more when she was alive, or maybe he is good at it, and what's not to like there.

His favorite spot to take his photos was a local park. It had a trail that looped around through a small forest of trees. Some local wildlife liked to visit, that was his favorite. The animals gave a unique aspect to the photos, more than just the flower that looked the same as the day before. Since he didn't sleep well due to his, well frankly, deep depression, he found early morning the best time to go out. He typically wouldn't be able to fall asleep until 10PM or 11PM and would be up by 4AM without a single alarm. Falling back asleep didn't work, he would only toss in his bed until he had to leave for work. Going to the park early worked out. There was no one there, just him, and nature.

One night while in the park waiting for nature to make its move in the early dawn light, he sees something move. It was in the corner of his eye, he isn't sure what it was. Not a deer surely, it was too big…too small? It was definitely not a deer. It was noticeable though. He saw it, he thinks. It was there, the constant lack of sleep irrelevant, something moved. He adjusted to try and catch a glance, phone in hand ready to snap a photo. Hovering above the button waiting for it. Waiting. Boom. It goes by, he thinks, and snaps a photo. The flash goes off, which is odd, he always had it off. Looking around there is nothing, sun is breaking the horizon, people are showing up to the park, he needs to get going. 

Looking back at the photo later that night, he is confused about what he is even looking at. When did he take this photo? What even was it? Is it the result of the movement he saw and the flash that went off? It didn't really make sense. He knew logically this photo showed what he saw, but it didn't capture it correctly, or did it? Was it a blur or a clearly defined thing? Probably blur and flash and night and day and confusion all wrapped up that it was just a photo of nothing spectacular at all. But when he looked at it, he felt that it was special. He felt the same way he did when it ran? Flew? Went by him that morning. It wasn't a deer, but what was it? Trying to put into words himself what he was looking at was a challenge in its own right. There were shapes and colors in the photo, but what did they combine to make? Black blurs, light reflecting off something….are those eyes? No surely not that is a tail? Or was this only a shadow? Shadows wouldn't show up with the flash surely. It was nothing at all, simple as that. A mistaken pocket photo, one that didn't answer or seek to answer any questions about the blur movement he saw that morning. Some sleep would have the answers. 

He went back to the park the next morning, waiting to see what he missed before. Nothing odd, nothing unusual. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep playing tricks. Perhaps whatever it was had moved on to somewhere else. Whatever it was was eating away at him. 

Giving up after an uneventful morning at the park, he went back to looking at the photo, the only thing remaining of what he saw, or almost saw. He stared at it in the bathroom at work, while on lunch, even fighting the urge to look at it while he was working. He thought of showing someone else, seeing what they thought, but surely they would just see the blurry photo. They weren't there when it was taken, they couldn't understand. The photo showed nothing at all, but the illusions of a mad man who lost his wife and doesn't get enough sleep. Occam’s Razor.

There was something he had to be missing. Something in that photo. He started losing more sleep, and stopped going to the park. He just kept looking at the photo he took that lonely morning. The photo had a grasp on him. He had to figure it out, put the puzzle together to see the full image. What was it that he saw, and thinks to have captured an image of. He called off work twice in a row. He couldn't look away. Was the photo changing? Has it always looked so uncertain? He couldn't tell anymore. 

One night, or morning? He wasn't sure, someone knocked on his apartment door. He didn't hear it until the second knock, didn't care til the third. He got up, put some pajama pants on and his robe, still looking down at the photo. 

Opening the door. “Can I help you?” No answer, he wasn't even looking ahead, only at the photo on his phone. He stood there for a while, didn't seem to mind that there was no answer to his question, it was left hanging in the air for any passerby to grab. 

There it was again, the movement in the corner of his eye. The shadow? No the light, no it was something solid, but he didn't know that for sure, only guessing. He looked up, away from his phone, determined to find what this was. He ran out the door, no shoes, pj bottoms and a robe only. He chased after it. He ran up the stairs, where he was certain it went. To the roof out in the sun, it was definitely mid day, the sun was bright and hung in the air glaring down at Jon making his eyes squint in an effort to see in front of him. 

There it was, plain as day, on the edge. Taunting him, come closer, come catch me. I am right here. It didn't say anything, he wasn't sure if it could, but he knew that is what it was thinking, or implying. It wanted to be chased, to be caught, if only Jon could get a little closer. 

He inched, not wanting to startle the figure. He was still trying to determine what exactly it was. It looked just like the photo, what he thought was a blur was actually the perfect photo of the blackness in front of him. An exact likeness of the thing in the corner of his eye, but no longer as he was starting at it head on. Eyes adjusted to the sunlight and saw it for exactly what it was. He didn't know what it was, but he saw it fully. It was there. For a moment he thought to take another photo, but he had spent enough time looking at the one he took and knew it was perfect, it showed this thing off without a detail left out. 

It wasn't nothing, it was something and Jon kept moving closer. Should he touch it? He wasn't sure. Could he touch it, that was unclear. What would happen if he did? He really wanted to touch it. To feel it, what was taunting him. Was it there? He had to know. 

Inch by inch, the thing was not moving further, he was getting closer, inch by inch. He was right there, if only he could reach out, he would know. He had to know. It brought him here, to the edge of his ten story apartment complex. On the roof, just a little further, he would have the answer he had been waiting for. 

Foot hanging, leaning, he was so so close. He could sense it, almost feel it. He would know what it was that had been looming over him for the past week…years? It must have been longer, only realized a week ago in the park. Had he seen it before then? He must have. It was there, in the corner of his eye, he was just never looking, who would? 

He stopped. He thought about his wife, what was her name? He couldn't remember, no that's not right, he knew her name. Yeah, he did, and that's what mattered. It didn't matter what it was, but that he knew it, he remembered her name, that's what mattered. He wasn't sure. It was right there, waiting, dancing on his tongue, his mind. Her name. His wife, he loved her. No, loves her, he still does. 

“Please don't jump sir.” a voice said. From afar, no it was close, right behind him. Man? Woman? Child? Unsure, but a voice, there. He didn't know the voice, it didn't sound like it knew him.

Confused, “I wasn't going to jump? I'm just so close I can grab it, just a little further is all.” Jon said, not turning around,  he was so close. 

“Ok well don't fall?” The voice said, not sure what he was talking about. “Hello? Yes there is a man on top of the roof, he said he isn't going to jump, but he is so close, I think he might fall, he isn't making sense.”

Jon heard what the voice said, it didn't matter, he was fine. He just had to reach a little further and…..grab it.


Inspired by Reedsy Prompt "A photographer captures an image of something unexplainable. What happens next?" Find more here.

Image by Dennis Peterson from Pixabay


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