Here’s Part 1.
Tollin stared at her patient, tipping her head in confusion.
“Why didn’t the teacher want to see the camera again?”
Mel drew a sigh. “You remember I said some of the people who lost their souls in this thing are already buried … that it was too late for them?”
“Yes, I remember.”
“And you remember I told you when Charlie gave it to the photography old guy there was either one or thirteen pictures left, right? ‘Cause the film has either 24 or 36 exposures and it was on 23. Right?”
“Yeah,” Tollin kept waiting for the point.
Another sigh, and she averted her eyes from Tollin’s for a moment, then back.
“Well, he decided to use up the rest of the film before he developed it for Charlie. So this old guy, this teacher — he’s taking a lot of pictures of stuff. Bugs, birds, trees … and his wife comes home. I guess she was out or whatever, but she comes home and he takes her picture.”
Tollin found a creeping sensation in her stomach she couldn’t explain. “And what happened?”
“Well, the old guy told Charlie something … something happened to her. She got, like, all woozy at first, and almost passed out, right there at their front door. So the old guy runs to help her and gets her sat down, and in a minute she’s okay, so he doesn’t think about it. So Charlie’s all worried, and he’s pushing to know what happened, is your wife okay, what does this have to do with our camera, stuff like that, you know? And the old guy finally snaps at him — like, yells and stuff — saying he left his wife upstairs washing the dishes after dinner, and she was fine, and in the middle of developing the film downstairs he hears this huge thump on the ceiling — you know, the floor above him — and he runs upstairs, because she’s not answering him. And she’s laying there, on the floor, staring blank, kinda drooling, like a … like a … I dunno. Like she was … empty. He couldn’t get a response. He called 9-1-1 and they rushed her to the hospital, thinking maybe she had a stroke or something.”
“That would be my first thought too,” Tollin said, her tone absent, gaze drifting into space and glazed.
“Yeah, well, you’re a doctor. Why not think that? But they couldn’t find out what was wrong with her. Her heart rate just kept slowing down. Finally, she died. So the old guy, he’s all messed up over it, and he goes home. He’s sort of freaking out, you know? I mean, his wife just died, and no one can say why. So he goes back to his developing room and you know what picture he was working on when she fell?”
Tollin refocused on Mel’s face. “His wife’s?”
She nodded, grave-faced and dark-eyed. “Yeah. His wife’s. And you know what it looked like?”
“Like the others — double-exposed, with the fainter image looking horrified and clawing to get out. Just like the other thirteen.”