Eight Polaroids

Originally posted July 21, 2022

When investigators finally broke into Fran's apartment, they found little of note. A fridge empty save for a bowl of wrinkled grapes, a collection of unused hair care products, and a bed that hadn't been made or cleaned in months.

They also found a collection of eight polaroids.

The first photograph is of Fran standing in front of an exhibit at the Wasp Museum; a corpse infested by the ghosts of countless beehives. She's smiling, obviously having a great time, but the spotlights illuminating the hive cast a strange pallor over her skin.

The second photograph is of a row of bottles sitting on a pier. It's evidently nighttime; the camera's flash makes their glass too bright and the water behind far too dark. A figure is caught at the edge of the frame in the act of stepping out, their jacket billowing in the wind.

The third photograph is of Fran's bed. It's rumpled and unmade, though nowhere near as filthy as what the investigators found. Clothes litter the floor around it, some Fran's and some not. Sunlight shines in through a window to illuminate the bed and the wand at its center.

The fourth photograph is of a leg stretched out on bathroom tiles; the merest hint of another leg lurks at the edge of the frame. The lighting is stark and precise. There is a rash on the leg; lumpy redness spreading out in rough veins from a weeping sore.

The fifth photograph is out of focus and half obscured. It's nearly impossible to tell what its subject is: a swirl of colors surrounded by streaked whiteness. The stained sun drifting through a cloudy sky? Abstract graffiti on a freshly painted wall? Fran herself? A mystery.

The sixth photograph is of the refrigerator. Open, half-full. Several cuts of meat sit in bowls on the lower shelf; fruit and vegetables throng the upper shelf and cartons of milk fill the door. The refrigerator's light is out. No condensation has formed on its contents.

The seventh photograph is of Fran.

She hasn't been eating well; there is a hungry hollowness to her cheeks that was absent in the first photograph, and her eyes are wide and manic. Her lips and chin are smeared with something dark and viscous, and her shirt is stained.

The eight photograph is entirely black; a textured blackness, full of hints of structure and traces of forms. It is possible that Fran's face is present in several different places within it; it is possible that they're other people, or just meaningless noise.

It is uncomfortable to linger on the eighth photograph.

Rumors about what happened to the investigators tasked with understanding it are unfounded—there are no records of breakdowns, resignations, or suicides. It is merely uncanny, not cursed.

Fran has not yet been located.