I have no way of verifying what I’m about to tell you. It didn’t happen to me. It happened to someone I know. Since this is the case, there’s a good chance you’ll read this believing it’s not true. Maybe you’ll tell yourself that to feel better. You can do that easily. You didn’t see the sincerity of the terror in her eyes when she told me what happened. You didn’t have to urge her to finish when she was stammering too much to continue. You weren’t there to feel her fear as your own. If you had, you would know as well as I do that this is perfectly true.
My friend goes to college in Upstate New York. She’s into hiking and camping and what not. She likes to go camping alone in the mountains, to commune with nature or something. Usually, she’ll go for the entire weekend, heading out after her classes on Friday, and not returning until Sunday afternoon. She rarely takes people with her, preferring to experience the beauty of the land in solitude.
That is, she used to do all that. She stopped after the last time she went. The time when it happened.
It was late Fall last year. She went out in the mountains, per the usual. She brought along a pair of disposable cameras, which she used to take pictures of the wildlife and the trees and the landscapes and all the other wonderful things you can see in Upstate New York. For the entire time she was out there, she didn’t meet a single other human being, not even finding evidence of past campsites. In other words, she spent the weekend in unparalleled isolation.
On Sunday, she returned to civilization, feeling refreshed. She dropped off the pictures to be developed- she had used up all the film on the trip- and went about daily life. On Tuesday, she retrieved her photographs from the developer.
She took them back to her dorm to leaf through them. There were pictures of deer, of trees, of sunrises, all the ones she’d taken. But about halfway through, she found something that puzzled her.
She held a picture of a girl sleeping in tent, taken from above, as though the photographer were leaning over the slumbering figure. The flash illuminated the girl’s face, making it terribly clear who was in the picture. It was herself.
As her initial confusion ebbed, she felt terror filling in the gaps it left behind. She leafed through the remaining pictures rapidly, but they were all ones she had taken, all landscapes and beauty and wildlife.
She spent forever staring at that picture, trying to concoct some explanation that didn’t terrify her, but she couldn’t. Worse yet, if she looked at the picture closely enough, she could see something just behind her back, cast in shadow and out of focus. Something twisted. Something strange. Something like a hand reaching out.