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Elece Rojas

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As he stares at the picture, he is suddenly taken aback by the realization that is had been forty years since it was shot. It showed him and his long-time friend, during his wedding, posing at a slightly obtuse angle, hands spread open and showing off like a peacock. The dark glasses gave the picture a style he enjoyed, it almost reminded him of the Men In Black movies, and no matter the time or distance, he knew they would always be a team. It was his favorite picture among the flurry of photos they took on that beautiful day, which is why he framed it and kept it in his office. He thought about reaching out to his friend, it had been a couple of years since they spoke, but he knew the love was there, so he picked up the phone and after giving it some thought, sent him a message “Yo! It’s been a long time, what’s good? How’s your wife?”

At the moment he was on a two-hour car drive on his way to meet some college friends to reminisce about the old days and reflect on their lives. His wife stayed home, he had kissed her goodbye before leaving the second time, when he had to return for his phone. He silently enjoyed the ride over to Iowa. After being married for so long and raising three children, he came to appreciate periods of long silence. The phone vibrated on the console in front of him, making a clucking noisa as it moved all the change that lie around with it, but he ignored it.

After sending the message he tried to read, he knew his friend did not pay much mind to his phone, so he figured he would take a while to answer, but his excitement over speaking to his friend meant he could not focus on the words. Instead, he unlocked his phone and clicked on the photo albums, looking through an assortment of pictures that belonged to the day of the wedding. He scrolled slowly through all the pictures, he remembered posing with the best man, the gangster-like photo they took which reminded them of the Sopranos. There was also a picture of his friend walking down a street with all his groomsmen surrounding him. It was a proper backgorund picture he thought, a vertical image that would fit a social media timeline or computer backdrop effortlessly. When he looked back at the framed picture, he noticed a grey smudge on his friends’ shoe, the shoe itself was not dirty on that day, it seemed the picture itself had gotten dirty.

He slipped in and out of consciousness, the taste of blood ran through his mouth. Someone had been speeding and clipped his car right on the rear side, which sent him spiralling out of control. The glass shattered and the car stood sideways, with the driver’s side pointing vertically. Four? Five? Six? He could not recall how many times the car had flipped before hitting a lamp post. Some of the shards had struck his face and he could feel a slight warmth around his neck. His phone had fallen to the bottom of the passenger’s side and drops of blood were falling on it, before the blood could cover his screen, he managed to make out the message sent by his friend “Yo! It’s been a long time, what’s good? How’s your wife?”

The initial grey smudge had now grown. It no longer covered the shoe, for it had spread and he had seen it with his own eyes, all the way up to the waist. The rest of the picture was colourful, as it had been on that day, but his friend was grey from the waist down. He had never believed in signs given by the universe or the supernatural, but this was testing his world view. Right before his eyes the picture slowly covered his friend, as if the image was being edited by a software program. He frantically took his phone and started scrolling through the images, all the other pictures that featured his friend had suffered the same fate.

He could hear the ambulances around him. Help would arrive soon someone had told him. It seemed they could not arrive soon enough. After assessing his state, one fireman said: “His neck has been cut, he’s got time but we have to hurry or he could bleed out.” They eventually managed to take a crane that lowered the car just enough for the men to pry the door open, extract him and place him on a stretcher. “Wife” he said, or atleast tried to, but he felt like he was chocking. “Sir, don’t say anything, we will take care of you, if you speak it’s only going to get worse.” He tried to keep calm but could feel death right around the corner. He was mounted on the ambulance and passed out as he felt the ambulance take off.

Anger swelled up inside him at what he was witnessing, the cancerous greyness had spread to the hands, lower and upper body, along his sleeves and fingertips, his neck was slowly covered by this ant-like greyness, slowly consuming his frame. The more he thought about it, the more he strugggled with trying to make sense of the situation. He could not reconcile his reason with the surrealness of what was going on, he felt the picture was hauting him. The only parts that remained untouched were his head and the area around his poppy and heart, he had decided that reason would not be the way to handle this and tried to find some twisted meaning to what was going on with this picture.

When he woke up, he could feel a sharp pain in his neck, he reached for his neck with his left hand and felt the barbed wires around ir, he then tried to move the rest of his body but it would not follow his commands. He tried saying he needed water, but his lips would barely move and he could only mumble nonsensically. He thought about his wife, and wondered if she was well, if she even suspected the predicament he was in. He knew she would stress over this situation, but he figured all would be well once it was over. That is when he felt a profund pain in his chest, it was as if an elephant had sat on it, his sight turned hazy and he desperately wanted to plead for help but could only muster a moan, which was loud enough for the nurses to notice. “He’s going into cardiac arrest!” one of them said. “Apply CPR, I will make sure to preapre the AED” the other responded. As the last few minutes wound down, he though of the message his friend had sent him, he would have to respond at another time.

Finally, the grey began to spread again, he could feel his eyes start to swell, he wanted to cry profusely, but could only summon a few drops. Now on his knees, slouched in resignation and acceptance, he stared at the image, the greyish ants slowly covered his head and finally, his heart. He let the frame drop from his hand, and touch the floor, he managed to pick his phone and open the other photos, there too, his friend was gone. He stared at the ceiling in search of answers, but they did not respond. He then opened his text messages and waited for his friend to confirm his well-being, but he too, did not respond.

 

 

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