Sepia-filtered Photograph


A man and a woman, arm in arm, sat staring through a dusty window to the interior of an empty house. Atop the fireplace, a cavernous welcoming presence that emanated an earthy aroma, they overlooked what was meant to be a family room. Their frozen expressions paradoxically oozed a feeling a warmth. And there was a dynamic to their wide eyes reflecting an iris-ful of camera flash, though they remained unmoving. Straight-toothed smiles were plastered to their faces, and yet still seemed so genuine.

Across the mantle they silently conversed with a beaming gown-clad young graduate displaying her paper pride and joy, and an aesthetic mash-up of the other photo's faces. But today, their silence echoed on the now carpetless floor, which bore the surface of the rough scarred foundation that was never meant to see the light of day. The over trafficked, secret stealing carpet had been rolled up and hauled away hours ago.

Soon they were pulled from their glass walled house and could only watch it disappear into a soggy box with duct-taped edges. Instead, the man and woman, arm in arm, hovered in the air, pinched between slippery fingers. The sepia-filtered photo helicoptered to the floor; resting gracefully amongst a sprawling paper metropolis.

But the city was short lived, compressed into a tight stack, and laid to rest permeated by that earthy aroma. Beneath them, the air adopted a foreboding quality as it stirred to life. A single flame swallowed its little wooden protrusion and sailed through the echoes of a quick-stricken match. The fireplace roared its oblivious call, throwing heat onto the glue stained floorboards.

The sepia-filtered photo intensified the golden iridescent glow of the fire. And soon, the corners curled upward, wrapping themselves ever tighter. Bubbling and oozing, the clear glossy film poured slowly away from the center and exposed those timeless faces to the hungry flames. The photo writhed in the sweltering heat, until the fire began to poke holes into it's thinning interior. Eaten by glowing embers, their smiles disintegrated into sickly greying wisps of ash to be carried away by invisible currents on the air. The eyes stared upward, to a starless sky. They were unmoving, but not wholly oblivious. Without the rest of the photo, they were helpless and alone.

Eventually, they were buried under a thick manila folder containing the crushing weight of a freshly written police report. More photos—square shots of two forensically analyzed bullet casings, an old revolver, and a little red shoebox the man once kept on the top shelf of his bedroom closet—flew end over end into the fireplace. And those same faces, a man and a woman no longer arm in arm, blackened to ash and crumbled into the growing mass of embers.

The End

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