The film camera caught my eye instantly, like an otherworldly force singing a siren song. It was placed in a glass cabinet at an antique store, and at thirty-five dollars, it would have been foolish to leave it there after it had been calling my name.
Holding the camera in my hands felt like the universe had planned it. I began inspecting the 45-year-old camera and discovered it still had film inside. I imagined all that it had captured; the mysteries of an unknown photographer waiting to be exposed. Curiosity sparked inside me as I rewound the film and removed the canister. This could be the discovery of a lifetime.
I was eager to see what was immortalized in film, so I drove straight to the film development lab. Images swirled around my head as I walked up to the desk at the lab. Pastel sunsets, a newborn baby in the arms of their parents, portraits of friends at birthday parties. A childish smile crept across my face. I handed the film to the man behind the desk at the lab as he told me I would have my photographs in two weeks. I left thinking that I might die from the anticipation.
Three slow weeks had passed with nothing but silence from the lab. I assumed they were inundated with film to develop, but I was getting increasingly impatient to see the photographs. I called to ask why it was taking so long, and the person on the other end explained that they had contacted the police and had given them the slides. Perplexed, I persisted in getting answers, but they insisted they couldn’t say.
The moment I stepped out the door of the film lab, I received a phone call from the police. The voice on the other side of the phone sounded young, like a rookie police officer. He asked me to come into the station right away and answer some questions. I jumped into the car, my heart racing faster than I could drive. My body turned to jelly as I stepped onto the path and approached the station. The minute I arrived, I was escorted into an interrogation room by two senior police officers with stern looks on their faces. An unwelcoming steel chair was waiting for me on the far side of the table. As I sat down, they began asking their questions.
“How did you get your hands on this film?”
“I bought it second-hand at an antique store.”
“So, you have no connection to the film or the camera it was in?”
“No, not at all.”
“And no idea who owned the camera?”
“Are you sure? Because what you’re about to see is impossible.”
“Yes, I’m sure. What is going on?”
The two officers looked at each other with concern.
“Okay. We need you to look at the developed slides. Just take it slow, and brace yourself for some disturbing images.”
One of the officers slid a small box marked ‘evidence’ across the table between us, took off the lid and pulled out a bag that contained the slides. He hesitantly placed the bag in front of me and gestured for me to open it. My hands trembled as I reached for the bag, making it difficult to grip. I pulled out the first few slides and held them to the fluorescent lights.
Illuminated blurs of red seeped across the slides in my hands. An amalgamation of flesh, bone and blood was the subject of the photographs. I glanced at the officers to see that they were as horrified as I was. I scanned the images, each more harrowing than the last. I could feel my stomach turning but I was curious to see what else was captured. I grabbed the final slide and it was as if I was looking in a mirror in a haunted house - my terror-stricken face staring back at me. Dread flooded my body and turned it cold, and I had to fight the urge to faint. I was holding thirty-six little viewing windows to a gruesome death – my death.
I never thought about how I would die. I was content with the unexpected, the reaper peacefully collecting me when it was my time. But now that I was exposed to my death, it was imprinted on my memory. My eyelids turned into those slides when I closed my eyes, my terrified face in every mirror I passed. The prophecy of my death was told by an unknown owner of the vintage camera, and there was no date stamp.