Epilogue: In Flames
The sun was bright in the blue sky as Tyler walked down the windy palm tree-lined beaches of Honolulu. Clad in his dirty sleeveless shirt and cargo shorts, he scoped out the area in search of trash cans to dig through.
Bingo, he thought, spotting a black metal trash can situated next to a wooden park bench.
As he made his way over, he sized up the man who was sitting on the bench. Despite the heat that day, the man was dressed in a black hoodie with the hood up. His face was concealed by a black hummingbird mask with a long pointy beak.
What’s with this guy? Tyler wondered. He doesn’t seem to be bothering anyone, at least.
He opened up the top of the trash can and dug around for any sort of food he could find. He had hoped for a donut that day, but hadn’t had any luck so far.
Nothing, he thought, disappointed.
As he turned to leave, he noticed the man in black from earlier had disappeared. Sitting on the bench where the man used to be was an old camera.
Huh? Did he leave that there?
Tyler walked closer to get a better look. It was indeed a camera, the type that spat out a photograph right after you took a picture. He remembered his parents having one when he was a kid.
He decided to pick it up and give it a try. There was another homeless man named Bill sleeping under a gazebo nearby. Tyler made his way over, checking out the camera as he walked.
I don’t see a power button, he thought. Weird…
Once he was at his destination, he raised the viewfinder up to his face.
Here goes nothin’...
He pushed in the shutter button, resulting in a flash of red light.
Woah! he thought. Pretty sure it’s not supposed to look like that.
The camera spit out a photo regardless, which was still a grey color. It needed to develop for a few minutes before he could see how it turned out.
He decided to leave for now. He stepped out from the gazebo back into the intense sunlight, waving the photo back and forth. He didn’t know why he was waving it, but he vaguely remembered that it helped the pictures develop faster or something like that.
Eventually, he sat down to rest at a bus stop across the street. Finally getting a moment to relax, he checked to see how the photo was doing and nearly fell off of the bench in shock.
What the hell?!
The photo depicted Bill, as intended. However, Bill appeared to be entirely consumed by bright orange flames.
Tyler rubbed at the photo, thinking it might be some kind of error. After examining it for a while, he simply put it into his pocket, deciding it wasn’t anything to worry about.
It’s just a broken camera, he thought. Maybe I can pawn it off for a few extra bucks or something…
He instantly forgot about the whole ordeal and continued his search for food.
That night, after selling the camera at a nearby second-hand store, Tyler met back up with Bill near the gazebo. The night had gotten surprisingly cold, as they occasionally do near the ocean, so Bill wanted to light a fire using an old steel barrel filled with gasoline-doused trash.
As Bill lit a match, Tyler suddenly remembered that photo he had taken earlier that day.
“You made sure to check for any combustibles, right?” he asked.
Bill nodded drunkenly. “Yeah,” he replied with a hiccup. “Should be ‘aight.”
He dropped the match into the barrel, and the flames leapt to life, burning with a fierce orange intensity. Then “BANG!” There was an explosion from an unnoticed aerosol can that knocked both the men off of their feet.
“RIIIIIIING!” Tyler’s hearing had gone out, giving way to an incessant ringing that overtook everything else.
That drunken idiot, Tyler thought. Why did I trust that guy?
He opened his eyes and carefully sat up. What he saw then made his jaw drop in utter fear.
Just like in the photograph, Bill was engulfed in flames. He rolled around and flailed wildly on the sidewalk, screaming in desperate agony.
Oh god! Tyler thought. That camera did this! It was that camera!
From the beach, the man in the hummingbird mask watched the entire gruesome scene unfold in complete silence.
Just like with those “paranormal investigators” he had given that photograph to a while back, everything was unfolding just as he had planned.
Gloved hands resting comfortably in the pockets of his black hooded sweatshirt, Low stood there and waited for the screams of the burning man to finally subside. Satisfied, he quietly departed, wandering off into the dark starry night.