Stacy set the Polaroid camera on the oak desk. Releasing her grip on it gave her a strange sense of freedom, as if fate itself was trying to fuse her to the camera and she was cutting the connection each time she broke away from the handheld item. The camera seemed to hum, faintly rattling the surface of the desk, but Stacy knew it was her imagination. Cameras didn’t hum.
Then again, cameras didn’t do what this camera did.
The intercom installed near her front door chimed, startling her. Stacy rushed to it and hit the faded blue button to let her friend, Renee, into the building.
Unaware that it was nearing evening, Stacy peered through the sliding glass door. Sunlight shone down on children playing in the swimming pool below. Life moved freely in the present tense, unaffected by the camera and its unholy powers.
Stacy opened the front door a crack in anticipation of when Renee would finally get off the slow elevator and make it to her apartment, and then she rushed to the camera and lifted it off the desk. It felt warm and comfortable in her hand. There were only two pieces of film left in the cartridge. Though her grandfather had bequeathed her the camera – the only personal item he cared to mention in his will – he hadn’t thought to leave her with extra film. Polaroid film was surprisingly hard to come by, and Stacy had only managed to find a handful of it in her search of the city weeks earlier.
She stared into the front of the camera, at the little slot where the Polaroids came out, and wondered what strange spirit inhabited the machine. The pictures it took were of a supernatural order. Were they really pictures of the past? The future? Both?
Stacy flinched, and the camera fumbled through her hands, landing softly on the area rug. She dove for the item, cradling it in her arms as if she had dropped a newborn.
Renee stood over her, arms crossed, eyebrows raised. She smelled of lavender, and she wore the same purple skirt and blouse Stacy had seen her buy at the local pawn shop earlier in the week.
Stacy stood to her feet and set the camera on the desk. “Sorry, you startled me.”
“You’re the one who opened the door for me.”
Stacy nodded, her cheeks flush with embarrassment. “I know.”
Renee set her purse on the office chair and picked up the camera, examining it. “Any luck in deciphering this thing?”
Stacy shook her head, pulling her long brown hair back to wrap it in a ponytail. “No.”
“How many pictures have you taken with it now?”
“Okay. That’s one more than the two you took with me the other day.”
“That’s why I wanted you over.”
“So, the first picture was of the desk-“
“Yes. The desk.” Stacy turned and stared at the piece of furniture.
“Okay.” Renee grabbed Stacy’s shoulder and turned her toward her. “The picture of the desk turned out weird. The desk wasn’t in it, but this apartment was. And in place of your desk was a large black table with drugs scattered all over the top of it.”
“Right,” Stacy confirmed, taking the camera from Renee.
“And on the table was a newspaper with a 1976 date on it.”
Stacy nodded. “And the second picture was of the swimming pool. Instead, the camera developed a photograph of a piece of highway.”
Renee nodded, and then went to Stacy’s fridge and rummaged through it for something to snack on. She had been dancing for the last few hours, and she was famished. She grabbed a cheese stick out of the bottom drawer and slammed the fridge door. “And then we heard on the news that they were planning on building a freeway through this area in ten years.”
Stacy opened the top drawer of the desk and rifled through the stack of items, fishing out a Polaroid. “I didn’t want to show anyone this.”
Renee held her right hand out while she ate the cheese stick with her left. “C’mon. Give it up. We’re in this together, remember? Besides, we don’t know what this camera is doing or what it’s still capable of. You need my help.”
Stacy set the photo in Renee’s hand.
Renee finished her cheese stick, tossed the wrapper in the garbage can, and then looked down at the photograph. Her posture froze, and she let out a slight gasp. “This is me?”
Stacy nodded. She moved Renee’s purse from the chair to the desk before taking a seat in the chair. “I took a picture of you when you were leaving the other day. By accident. I think I pushed the button when I was holding the camera.”
“Is that…That’s blood on the door.”
Stacy nodded. “I think so.”
Renee held the picture up, examining it from multiple angles. “I’m on the floor?”
Stacy cleared her throat. “When I took the picture, you were walking out the door.”
“But…but now I’m on the floor, and there’s blood all over the door.”
“What does it mean? Is it a photo of the future?”
“It can’t be of the past. Unless you were assaulted here before.”
Renee shook her head. “Never stepped foot in this building until you started living here. Nothing like that has happened to me during this time. Or ever, for that matter.” She looked at the photo more closely. “Wait, is there someone in the hallway?”
Stacy moved in close to scan the photo. Beyond the doorway, in the low-light darkness of the hallway, a figure materialized, eyes red, collar red with what could easily be perceived as blood. “Who is that?”
Renee peered closer at the photo. “That’s you…”