Another Saturday and as promised, the next instalment of The Photograph.
Last time we were here, our protagonist, BIFF KELLER, was talking about meeting up with his missing friend, THORLEY LANGDON, we tells Biff that he has something to show him, but that he needs to be aware of the dangers.
Enough with the pre-amble, on with the story…
“‘Okay,’ I said slowly.
“‘This is not your usual photo. It…does things.’
“‘It’s a photo. What can it do Thorley?’
“I watched as Thorley took a deep breath, then he walked over to me.
“‘The photo is the one we took on the deck of the Avenger. You, James Moran and me were there. Do you remember the photo? Do you remember why we took it?’
“‘Yes, I remember. It was a double rainbow, clear as well. You said you’d never seen one that clear.’
“‘That’s the one. Now look at this.’ He moved his hands away from his chest and revealed the photograph he was holding; it looked like a regular six by four photograph. I saw the deck of the Avenger, and beyond the bow I saw the double rainbow. But what surprised me were the people standing on the deck. Ten, maybe twelve people stood in a line. I saw George straight away; he was towards the right of the line. He looked like the ten year old I remembered. He wore jeans and a t-shirt. His curly blonde hair had been blown by the wind. He looked sad. Everyone on the line looked sad, although some had wide eyes and looked more surprised, I would say. As I scanned along the line, I saw a lot of faces that I didn’t recognise, but one or two that I did.
“‘Thorley, is that…your dad?’ I pointed to the man standing to the left of George. He wore a trench coat, buttoned up to his chin and stood with his hand resting on George’s shoulder. Thorley’s dad went to work one day, and never came back. Thorley assumed his dad had met someone, run off, you know? In the photo he was looking down at George.
“‘Yes.’ Thorley caressed the picture of his dad and his son briefly.
“‘What does it mean? Where did these people come from? Who are they?’
“‘I don’t know who they all are. Obviously George and my dad,’ He let his finger move along the line and stopped at another face. ‘I think this was one of Georges teachers. Can’t recall his name, but I think that’s him. And this one here,’ He tapped his finger on the picture, indicating the man standing on the far right of the shot. It was an older gentleman with a silver beard and hat. ‘This is Collins, or Cowery, or something like that.’ At that he took back the picture and turned it to his chest, covering it with both hands.
“‘I don’t know that name,’ I said and reached for another look at the picture. Thorley stepped back out of reach.
“‘I can’t take the chance, Biff. Collins or whatever his name is, showed me. It took him Biff, I saw it. It took him.’ He had continued to back away from me until he reached the wall. He stopped and clutched the picture harder.
“‘Took him? What do you mean?’
“‘I mean he was there one minute and gone the next. I was with him when it happened.’
“‘When was this?’ I asked.
“‘Day before yesterday. I was in the park. I was sat with him. We usually met up for a chat; we both like to feed the ducks on the lake, so we had built up a friendship of sorts. Not a great friendship, as I can’t even remember his bloody name.’ He raised his voice and slapped the photograph he held against his chest as he spoke. ‘I showed him the photo.’
“‘And what? He just vanished?’
“‘Well he started to become blurred. At first I thought it was my eyes, so I rubbed them. When I looked again, he had started to …well, fade. I think I heard him scream before he disappeared. I looked around to see if anyone else had seen it. The park was deserted at that time of the morning; I was alone. I don’t know why, but I looked at the picture I still held and there he was. The line of people seemed to have moved along to make room for the extra body.’
“‘He was in the picture?’ This was starting to sound fantastic to me, and I pressed him for more information. ‘How would he do that, Thorley?’
“‘I don’t know, Biff, but I know what I saw. He was sitting next to me, then he was in the picture. I think it takes people who see it. That must be what happened to George. He must have seen the picture.’
“‘What about you? Why aren’t you in it? Why aren’t I in it?’
“‘Don’t know,’ he shrugged. ‘Maybe it doesn’t want everyone, but I can’t take the chance, Biff.
That’s your lot for today. More to come next week…