#SpookyShowcase: The Camera by Kevin Lewis
Welcome to the 9th annual #SpookyShowcase, a Halloween artist and author showcase. A full schedule of submissions can be found here so you don’t miss a single entry for THESE DEADLY CURSES. Now, on to today’s submission!
The Camera by Kevin Lewis
Who knew so much pain could come from one item?
That was my main question when I discovered what was happening.
Up until a year ago, I, Tom Jennings, had a family. Emphasis on the word had.
It all started when my family—wife, Kate, and daughters, Mary, and Sarah—took a road trip to northern Massachusetts. Just a fun family day to get away from everyday life.
We were on our way home when I spotted a sign on the side of the road that said, YARD SALE—ONE MILE.
“Cool!” I said. “Why don’t we stop for a bit?”
“Oh, honey,” my wife said, a bit irritated and tired. “Let’s just get home.”
“I’ll just be a minute. You and the girls can stay in the car.”
I pulled in front of the house and stepped out. The driveway was empty, but there was still a lot of stuff on tables. Different trinkets—old toys, CDs, and even records from a forgotten era—rested on folding tables spread out around the driveway. Nothing was calling out to me.
I was about to call it a day when an item caught my eye. It stood all by itself at the edge of a table. No other items rested next to it, as if they were afraid to be near it.
It was a silver digital camera, and it looked brand new. It was still shiny, and there were no nicks or scratches on it.
“You can have it for free, Mister,” a hoarse voice said.
Startled, I jumped and turned. An elderly man stood in front of me. Age had worn him down; wrinkles covered his face and his hands. He had very little gray hair left on his head.
“I’ve been thinking about getting a digital camera,” I said.
“That was a gift from my granddaughter. She passed about six months ago. Both she and my wife. It was very sudden.”
I felt sad for him and told him so. He informed me that he only had a photograph of just the two of them that he cherished but couldn’t bear to look at it. It was taken with the very same camera I now held in my hand.
“Surely I can give you something for it?” I asked him.
He held up his hands and said, “I couldn’t possibly take anything for it. It’s yours if you want it.”
I never argued over a free item. “Thanks, Mr…?”
“Crowley,” the man said. “Bob Crowley.”
“Thanks, Mr. Crowley. I’m Tom Jennings.”
“Nice to meet you. Have fun with your new camera.”
He walked away.
To mark this special family day, I took a photo with my new camera. Just of Kate, Mary, and Sarah, though. I did everything possible not to have my photo taken. The girls protested at first, claiming it was lame. But I insisted. It was a new purchase, and I wanted to mark family fun day and showcase it to my social media family. I lined my family up next to the fireplace and …click!
For a while, life went by. The girls did very well in school, and my wife prospered in her real estate business. And me? I moseyed along at my insurance company. Life was normal.
Until everything went to hell.
It all started with the girls getting very sick. One day they both awoke with nose bleeds. They had constant stomachaches and, day by day, lost their appetite. We got the girls tested, and it turned out they had early-stage leukemia. Kate and I couldn’t believe it. No one in the family ever had the disease that we were aware of. And that they got it at the same time? Very strange.
The girls went downhill rapidly. They were gone within a year.
Kate and I were devastated. Our house felt so empty. Life went on, but barely.
My family’s strange trouble wasn’t over yet.
One night while driving home from a friend’s party, a tire blew out, and our car sped out of control. The car swerved into a telephone pole. I suffered some scrapes and bruises, but Kate didn’t make it. She was sitting in the front passenger side and was crushed to death by the force of the impact.
My family was gone. I was alone. How could that happen? I lost my entire family in a little over a year.
I didn’t discover the truth until after Kate’s funeral.
I felt so alone in my house, where I had old, framed photos of my wife and the girls and other family members hung around the house. I needed to see more recent photos. Of my wife and girls. As if to trick my mind into thinking they could still be here. Was that strange? It probably was.
When the digital photo age began, Kate had stopped keeping physical photo albums. Those dusty old albums rested in bureaus. Nobody looked at those relics anymore. I hated to admit it, but I had taken some photos from an actual film camera—sue me—that I never developed. It felt weird printing the photos—film and digital— at the photo store, a lost practice.
After returning home, I poured myself a glass of merlot, sat down in my recliner in my living room, and looked through the newly printed photos. All of them were of Kate and the girls taken during dance recitals, family vacations and family get-togethers. Pretty soon, the tears started to flow.
I came to the last photo, the only photo I took with the digital camera before my life went to hell. I was glad I wasn’t holding my wine glass because I would have dropped it. Something wasn’t right. Something was …off.
Standing behind Kate, Mary, and Sarah, were three hooded figures, faces hidden. Their skeletal hands clutched my family’s shoulders as if they were going to whisk them away.
I put the photo down and took a sip of wine.
What was up with this photo? Who were those figures? I knew it hadn’t been tampered with because no one—Kate or the girls—cared to use it. They only took photos with their phones.
I pulled up the photo on my social media pages. There were no hooded skeletal figures. I looked at the photo on my memory card. No mysterious figures present either.
Something weird was going on. I just didn’t know what it was.
I paced my living room, unsure of what to do next. I decided to call Mr. Crowley. It wasn’t hard. I remembered he lived in Barrington, MA, so I searched on FINDYOURNEIGHBOR and retrieved his number.
“Hello?” the hoarse voice said, bringing me back to that day a year ago.
“Hi, Mr. Crowley. This is Tom Jennings. Do you remember me? I was the one who took the digital camera from you at your garage sale about a year ago.”
Silence on the other end. I couldn’t tell if he was still there or if the line had been disconnected.
“Ye…Yes, I do remember you.”
“I have some questions about that camera you gave me.”
“What kind of questions?”
“Did you have any problems with it?”
“It happened to you, didn’t it?” Mr. Crowley asked.
“What happened to me?”
“You took a photo of someone. And now that someone is gone.”
I swallowed hard and said, “They’re all gone.”
“It’s a cursed camera. When you snap a photo of someone the …” The silence returned.
“What?” I asked. “What happens after you take a photo of someone.
“The Grim Reapers go after anyone in the photo.”
“You heard me. Once they latch onto someone, the poor souls can’t escape it.”
“Who did they take from you, Mr. Crowley?”
“My wife and granddaughter. My granddaughter had been living with us. She bought us a digital camera so we could capture as many memories as possible. I only captured pain. Upon getting the camera, I took a photo of them. Not long after, my granddaughter died in a plane crash, and my wife received a startling diagnosis. Cancer. Right out of the blue. It was inoperable. She too died within a year.”
“I’m sorry.” What else could I say?
“After they both passed, I printed out the photo of my wife and granddaughter.”
“I just did the same.”
“And you saw them, didn’t you?” Mr. Crowley paused. I nodded, even though he couldn’t see me. Mr. Crowley continued: “You saw the hooded figures with the skeletal hands gripping your family’s shoulders. So did I! I researched this phenomenon at my local library. There was a book about cursed objects. I looked up “camera,” and there was a section that stated that some spirits hide in cameras, and when someone takes a photo, they latch onto the photo’s object or objects. That blasted camera! I cursed my own family! I set death upon them!”
“Then why did you give it to me? Why didn’t you destroy it?”
“I did, Mr. Jennings. I set it on the floor of my garage and smashed it to pieces with a sledgehammer. I thought that would be the end of it. I was wrong. It sat on my kitchen table the next morning, waiting for me. I thought it was a joke. It couldn’t be the same camera. I checked the memory card and, sure enough, that dreaded photo was there! And it was glaring up at me. I never thought an object, any object for that matter, could glare at a human being. But this camera did. It’s an evil object, Mr. Jennings!”
“Then why did you give it to me?” I asked again.
There was silence on the other end. Mr. Crowley spoke: “I’ve thought about that. I thought about that action even before I put it up for the yard sale. The only thing I could think of was that it needed to be used. As morbid as it sounds, death, like life, needs to occur.”
“That’s insane. You’re crazy!”
“Perhaps, but it’s still true. In the end, we will all meet death. Some of us sooner than others.”
“Screw you!” I said and hung up.
I collapsed on the couch and ran my hand through my hair. I was mad at Mr. Crowley but mostly mad at myself. I had cursed my own family. Clicked them away to an early death.
The camera rested on the coffee table. Like Mr. Crowley had said, I felt it glaring at me, the lens boring into my mind, my soul. All I wanted was for this thing to be out of my house and my life forever.
But how? How could I get rid of it? According to Mr. Crowley, smashing it to a pulp didn’t do the trick. Perhaps fire? Yeah, a fire would burn away the evil. Look at how I sounded? A morbid lunatic. But it was worth a shot.
I stoked the fire.
I held the camera as I stood in front of the flames. This object that had cursed my family to an early death was in the palm of my hand. Its fate was in my hand. I stared at it and the fire. Then I tossed it in. The orange flame engulfed the silver camera. Sparks flew out and metal cracked and exploded. In half an hour, the camera was a pile of crushed metal and glass.
I doused the fire.
After ridding myself of this horrible object, I decided to visit my family. It was a gray afternoon when I arrived at the cemetery. I stood over the gravestone that held my wife and girls. I placed a bouquet on the grave and said, “I destroyed the evil. That camera will never bother anyone again.”
I was glad I was alone in the cemetery because I would have sounded like one of those crazy horror movie characters.
It was night by the time I returned home. I entered the kitchen and froze in my tracks.
The camera sat on the kitchen table.
It can’t be, I thought. I destroyed that thing in the fire.
I slowly picked it up, afraid to be bitten by it. I knew it wouldn’t—couldn’t—bite me. It just destroyed my soul. That was worse.
Still clutching the camera in my hand, I entered the living room.
Mr. Crowley was right. It couldn’t be destroyed. It needed to be used to claim more lives.
I looked at a framed photo on the mantle of myself with my family, now gone. Tears poured down my cheek. I couldn’t do what Mr. Crowley did. I couldn’t sell or give the camera to someone else. I wouldn’t be the cause of another family’s ruination.
I dug a big hole in my backyard and chucked the cursed object into it. I buried it deep so no one will ever find it.
But not before I took a picture of myself. I wanted to see my family.
I missed them so much.
About the Author
Kevin Lewis is a graduate of Emerson College. He is the author of many short stories, most of them in the horror genre. Kevin’s stories have appeared in publications such as Blood Moon Rising Magazine, MicroHorror, Sonar4 Science Fiction and Horror E-zine, Open Casket Press, Hocus Pocus & Co., FunDead Publications, and Eighth Tower Publications. His novella, The Catcreeper, is available from Unnerving as part of the Rewind or Die book series. Kevin is a member of New England Horror Writers and resides in Massachusetts.