This was first published on a blog tour by Winged Reviews. Thanks for the support!

Have you ever wondered what happens during d-mat jumps? You know, you’re in a booth somewhere, the lights kick in, and then you’re somewhere else you wanted to be. Some people say the lights don’t do anything–they’re just to distract you from what the machines are doing; all the horrible parts are edited out so we don’t remember them when we arrive. But what really happens in those horrible parts? Is there a moment you don’t exist? When you’re neither really alive nor really dead? When you’re not even real at all, between?

I think we all wonder a bit. That’s why everyone tries to take pictures when d-matting, even if it’s just once, in the hope of seeing something weird when we arrive. Maybe you’ll see heaven, or an alien’s backyard, or whatever. Just because no one ever has before, that doesn’t stop you trying. You don’t ever really wonder what it would be like if you did see something.

There was this guy who found out by accident. He loved taking pictures using the pattern of an ancient camera he found in an archive, with film and all the gear you need to develop it. The results were a fuzzy kind of high-def and you could only see them on paper, not in your lenses, but it was briefly a thing. He exhibited, because it was so quirky and weird.

One day he was jumping with his girlfriend and he decided to take her picture in transit. The light, the mirrors, all that. They went through a few times and he took nearly a whole roll of film. Maybe he was planning to use all of it, but no one will ever know, because three shots from the end, without any warning at all, he arrived dead. Dead as a doornail, whatever that means.

The official explanation was myocardial infarction, which is what doctors say when they don’t really know why someone’s heart has stopped.

When the girlfriend developed the film, at first she thought something had gone wrong with it, because the pictures were dark instead of white, and white is what you’d expect with the bright lights on inside the booth. These were real dark, like the camera was pointing down a mineshaft.

The girlfriend kept putting the prints into the developing liquid anyway, kept pinning them up as people used to long ago, kept peering through red light in the hope of seeing something. And slowly, photo by photo, an image did become visible. It was a person with grinning teeth, holding a tall staff of some kind with fingers that were long and horribly thin. Two big, black eyes stared out at the girlfriend, in the blood red cave of the darkroom, just as they had stared right down the lens of the camera as her boyfriend had died.

She burned the photos, exposed the rest of the film and smashed the camera. She didn’t want to know what her boyfriend had captured staring back at him out of the dark. Film works where lenses don’t because it takes real chemistry, or alchemy, as they used to call it, to capture a thing like this. It was the very act of taking those pictures was what called it forth, out of the dark. Her boyfriend had captured it and it had come to capture him in return.

The last photo showed a skeleton holding a scythe. Waiting for him and all of us all in the gulf between.


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