When I returned back to the campsite, she stood over a tiny fire of kindling, staring deeply into the flames that spat out oddly colored smoke. “What the fuck’s your deal?” I asked with a nervousness that probably sounded angry. She looked up at me quickly before flicking her eyes towards the fire and biting her lower lip nervously.
“Promise you’ll believe me?” I furrowed my brow and sat down on the picnic table. I offered nothing as a response to her; I wasn’t going to promise something I couldn’t hold steady on. “Just don’t laugh. Or think I’m crazy, okay.” I waited a beat, before slowly nodding.
“I saw someone. In the viewfinder. On the beach. There was a little boy; he was standing a little ways out into the water. He looked all beaten up, eyes all swollen and black, with blood trickling down from his face. It got all over his shirt, and his coat. His clothes were all ripped up too, everything. He had on this brown pants with holes in the knees.”
I stared at her, specifically at her eyes. The steely grey irises stared down at the fire, as if she was ashamed to be saying the words. There was a secret honesty there, in that sad, vacant expression. It was one of the rare moments that her bravado was wholly peeled back and she was unabashedly herself. Right down to the scared girl who hid in her inner core. It was breathtaking. And it was terrifying.
She looked up and made eye contact with me for only a split second. In it, I could see her eyes flash green in the waning sunlight, like a wave of herself crashed through the torment of confusion in her head. “That’s not the worst part, though.” She said quietly. “Those are just the unassuming details. What really bothered me was his mouth. It’s where all the blood was coming from. His lips had been pealed back and cut open and his teeth all gone. And his tongue, this abnormally long tongue, flopped out of the empty hole that was his mouth. He tried to scream; I could see it. But nothing came out. Just the stillness of the wind on the water. Then he toppled over, and threw up something.
“That’s when I stopped watching. But instinctively, I pushed the button and the photo slid out. But when I took the camera away from my face, there was nothing. Just the sunset. Like he had never existed. Evaporated right before my eyes. I grabbed for the photo, and there was nothing there either. But, I swear he was there. I watched him for a few seconds, trying to call to me. Trying to make sure I saw him.”
Then she got silent and slid into the tent. She came out a while later and lazily sat on the table with me. She rested her head on my shoulder and watched the flames of the campfire lap at each other in the darkness. I didn’t say much, because there wasn’t much to say. I believed her simply because I had no reason not to. She was visibly shaken, but whether or not it was in her head, I preferred not to take a guess. We sat there in the still darkness for a while, her quietly thinking and me slowly drinking and breathing in the mountain air. Finally, after the stars had come out in a giant wreath over the water we extinguished the fire and returned to bed.