Biggs passed the photograph back to Chance, “I’m sorry. For the tenth time, I don’t see him, and you’re starting to freak me out.”
Chance snatched the photo from Biggs and held it in front of his face peering at it, into it, as much as he dare, for to him is was clear as day. The trip out to Billing’s Pass was one of the best days ever. In the photo, as he remembered taking it, were his three best friends in the world, Biggs, Toad and Captain Don.
The three stood by the sign that labeled the site of the falling water as Ellinger Falls. Captain Don was holding out his hands to the sign channeling Vanna White. For the first dozen times he looked at it, the image seemed fairly normal and mostly like he remembered it, but after that, a face, no – the likeness of a whole person began to appear as if it were some time delayed photo bomb coming to life.
It was a man whose face was pale with dark eyes, or at least there were dark circles under his eyes. He was taller than the three of them, and yet he looked hunched over as if he was standing on a rock or something behind them and was forced to bend in to avoid having his head cut off by the frame. The grinning face was wedged between Toad and Captain Don while hands had formed on their shoulders as if he was just one of the gang, one big happy family.
“You have to see it,” Chance urged holding out the image to Biggs again. “He’s right there!”
“Sorry man,” Biggs said waving away the image. “I see what I see, or don’t see.” He got up and moved into the kitchen.
Chance looked at the image again, but again…it changed. As he looked at it, watched it, the image began to shift in his hands. It wasn’t the gradual sort of, hey I don’t remember that being there before kind of change. This time there was real movement.
The hands on the boy’s shoulders grew longer. The fingers seemed to wither into what looked like claws and the grip seemed to increase with the finger tips drawing into points like claws that began to dig into the boy’s flesh. A small trickle of blood dripped from Captain Don’s shoulder as he stood there smiling with his hands reaching out to the sign. Ellinger Falls. Captain Don didn’t seem to notice or care.
The skin on the face drew taught to render a bonier appearance and the simple, sly grin grew wider and wider until it sat disproportionately and nearly all-consuming on the face. The lips pulled back incapable of maintaining their hold over the emerging fence of teeth behind them. The teeth were jagged and broken in spots, yet also pointed and sharp as if they were filed into dangerously sharp points.
Chance watched silently as the strange image of the man began to sway as if he were held back from him, trapped in place by the images of the boys before him, his friends. It pulled and weaved looking for a means of escape. Finding none, he stopped to find Chance’s gaze and held it. The clawed fingertips dug deeper into the soft shoulders they perched upon.
Chance’s arms quivered with a cool ripple of bumps as the hair stood on end.
If it were even possible, the thing’s grin grew wider. The rows of dangerous teeth opened, yet remained loosely connected by thin quivering strands of saliva and what looked like what might be blood.
As the dark eyes held his gaze, Chance was helpless to look away. Behind him, as the mouth of the thing in the image moved, a soft, gravel-filled whisper rose up from what sounded like just behind him. A hot light ‘breath’ brushed against his ear that carried with it the stench of garbage and rot.