This is a short story that is half fiction, half photo essay, using the same photos from my photo story, Snapshots. My goal was to use the same collection of photographs to tell different stories for my final portfolio project in a class, showing that images can be interpreted differently depending on the order.
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I was afraid of the ghost at first.
I found him in the graveyard, one afternoon in the middle of summer. He was no more than a shadow, glimpsed out of the corner of my eye, flitting from tombstone to tombstone. A chill in the air on the bright sunny day. The feeling of eyes on the back of my neck.
I thought I was imagining it. And then little things started happening. I would come back to find my books moved, bag riffled through. I would look for my pen, and then find it in my hand. My camera would take photos on its own. When I developed them, I found myself in the prints.
I stopped going to the graveyard.
That’s when he started following me. To home. To school. To work. He became a second shadow as I walked through the streets, invisible to even me. But I could feel him. I knew when he was there.
I noticed him most when I was taking photos. So, for a while, I stopped. And that made me angry. A stupid ghost wasn’t going to keep me from what I wanted to do. My anger chased the worst of the fear away and I began carrying my camera everywhere.
I went through dozens of rolls of film - though my hands still shook every time I felt him brush against my neck. A lot of the photos turned out blurry. I didn’t care.
Days passed and I grew used to my ghostly companion. Though still wary, I was able to ignore him. Then one afternoon, as I walked the downtown streets, camera in hand, something changed. I was almost home. I only had time for a few more photos.
The sun had begun to set, the buildings casting long shadows over the street. Glancing at a stucco wall that stood to my right, I stopped, raising the camera to frame the vines in the viewfinder.
I felt the ghost move closer, as he had done dozens of times before. The camera drawing him in.
I paused. Curious, I lowered the camera. He moved away. I cocked my head and raised the camera again. He moved closer.
He seems…shy, I thought.
I could almost imagine what he was thinking, “Her eyes are covered - so she must not be able to see me.”
After that, I couldn’t be afraid of him. Because I felt the same way - the camera made me braver too.
I went back to the graveyard that afternoon. The air was heavy with heat, though summer was fading and the leaves had begun to darken and fall. They crunched underfoot as I walked to my favorite tree. I sat, under the shade of the great, gnarly bows, back pressed against moss covered stone.
I tried to read, at first, but he kept flipping the pages before I could finish. I gave up. That wasn’t why I’d come anyway. Setting my book to the side I leaned back, looking up at the sky through the branches of the overhanging tree. I needed to think.
About my ghost.
I had no idea who he was. Or what he wanted. I’d never asked. Or tried to communicate in any way. I’d been too afraid of getting an answer. But now…I think I needed to know. Was he one of the hundreds buried here? Which grave was his? How long had he been dead? Why choose to haunt me? How did he become a ghost?
Then, as quiet as the wind through the grass, I heard a whisper in my mind.
I’m not a ghost.