Author Topic: Chapter 1  (Read 10663 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 1
« on: June 10, 2022, 01:03:53 AM »
Chapter 1

When the camera turned on, it showed the inside of a small apartment. Multiple photographs and newspaper clippings had been hung on the wall in the background, though the details were hard to make out. The remaining onscreen area included a work chair, the edge of what could be a kitchenette, and a window overlooking other apartment buildings. The voices of children playing filtered through it, possibly from a playground or schoolyard. They were soon drowned out by a coughing noise from off-camera. The source, a brown-haired woman in her late twenties, moved around the camera into view, and sat heavily on the chair.

"My name is Petra Hildebrand," she began in a trembling voice, looking as though she might start coughing again. "I'm making this recording partly for you, whoever you are. You need to know what I've seen these past few days, even if you don't understand it yet. I hope that you'll take me at my word, and not assume this is a lie or a trick. Maybe you have the resources to verify it- I don't know."

She coughed a few more times, looking off-screen. "The other part is for me. I can't explain what I've seen, even to myself. Maybe if I lay it out here, on camera, it will make more sense. Besides, one of those unexplainable things attacked me." Petra raised a shaking arm as evidence. "Ever since, I've been all over the place. One second I'm burning up, the next I'm freezing to death. My hands are shaking so badly I could barely turn this thing on, much less put pen to paper or use a keyboard! I can't eat, or sleep, and I can hardly concentrate at all." She hesitated, focusing on the camera again. "I woke up in the ER after it happened, but the doctor couldn't find anything wrong with me. He gave me a prescription for an anti-psychotic!" She added bitterly, before scoffing. "For all I know, he was right."

Something changed in Petra's expression, and she seemed more determined. "If I am dying, you need to know what happened. I don't want this to happen to anyone else. I don't know what happened to Didi. I hope she got away safely. And mom, if you're seeing this, I love you." Taking a deep breath, she lifted up a small photo for the camera. "It all started with this."


There was so much in a photograph. Whether it was an old man feeding some birds, or some kids playing frisbee badly, or a young woman walking her dog. Each photo had its own story to tell: a thousand words in a picture.

Even the bad ones told a story, but those were usually tragedies. Petra sorted through her recent haul in the office darkroom, hanging any ones she deemed acceptable up to dry. Her usual beat was City Hall, or the courthouse, or the police department. Today had been a welcome change to all that, out in the park on a Saturday.

People behaved differently on weekends, but it was even more pronounced in areas like the park. Despite the massive press of humanity all around them, folks could relax in a way. Fall was already in full force, and the leaves had turned a hundred different shades of red and gold. The park was already starting to get a new carpet as a result, giving her a lot of fodder for background shots.

There. That was a good one. Petra leaned back, admiring the elderly man giving directions to some tourists. He was short, with brown hair and eyes, but the wrinkles on his face and hands told a story of long experience. Just as she had when taking the shot, Petra knew he looked familiar.

How did she know him? He certainly wasn't one of the protestors who frequented City Hall- she knew all of them pretty well. Did he live in her apartment building, or work in the office somewhere? Just to be sure, Petra made another copy of his photo to take home.

Vancouver was beautiful this time of day. The sun was just setting over the Pacific, highlighting the clouds all around it in a beautiful halo. The waves on the distant shore seemed to sparkle as they filtered the light. Her apartment wasn't on the water, unfortunately, but she did get a good view during her commute to and from White Rock.

Petra nodded at her neighbor Andrew from down the hall, as she picked up her mail. He looked distracted and sleep-deprived, unsurprisingly. He didn't just have a girlfriend now, but a two-week-old baby as well. Petra had offered to babysit eventually, but only after Tina was a few years old. Petra was no good with babies.

Her apartment was nothing special, considering her modest income. It wasn't a studio, but space was definitely in short supply. The view out the side was pretty good though, overlooking a schoolyard and playground. She knew some of those kids, having tutored them up until last year.

Some of her earlier drawings graced the south and east walls, and they had served as inspiration for her. Before becoming a photographer, she'd tried being a painter, but turned out to be no good at that either. With just pencil and paper though, she had some skill. The other walls sported candid shots she'd taken over the last two years, mostly of people in extreme emotional states. The woman whose son was just sentenced to life imprisonment. The protestor facing his first arrest. The child crying on the street as his house burned down. At least no one had been hurt when she took that last photo.

As her food heated up, Petra took out the old man's photo again and examined it more closely. Despite his wrinkles, his age was frustratingly hard to pin down. Perhaps fifty or sixty? He had no gray hair that she could see, but he had been in the background of the shot. She'd actually been shooting the kids in front of him at the time. She knew it would just eat at her until she figured it out, so she went into the far back of her bedroom closet and fished out a big cardboard box. Inside were the albums her mom had tearfully packed for her, the day before she moved here.

Petra leafed through them one after another, feeling the nostalgia mix with nausea at how awkward she looked in some of them. She may take a good photo, but she certainly didn't make a good one. Scores of pictures of her parents and grandparents, and even black and white photos taken before that. Her father's people had moved here from Germany just before the first world war. They hadn't settled in Vancouver initially, but one more generation had seen them move out here to the west coast.

There! There he was, arm around her father's shoulders, smiling contentedly at the camera, which had probably been held by her mom. Petra felt a bittersweet wave at seeing so many pictures of her dad. He had died young, in a car crash just a few days after Petra's fourth birthday. She barely remembered him at all, but these albums were a good way to keep his face familiar.

Blinking a bit, Petra tried to focus on the other man. His hair was a bit longer and he was sporting a mustache, but otherwise he looked the same. She compared it to her own photo several times, but it was definitely the same man.

How could that be? The photo in the album had been taken before she'd been born, at least twenty-five years ago! Petra looked through the other albums systematically, hoping to get more of a look at him. He showed up in a half-dozen other photos, usually with her dad and sometimes her mom as well. His clothing changed, and he'd apparently shaved his facial hair for the later ones, but it was him. According to the names on the back, he was Darius. He hadn't aged a day!

Petra certainly didn't remember any Darius from back then. Her mother had gotten married again, several times in fact, but never to anyone looking like him. It was too late to call her, but Petra resolved to keep looking into this. Something told her it was more than just a lookalike or someone with unusually good genes.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2022, 01:11:11 AM by Daen »