Philo's Stories

"Silver Halide"
cw: ghosts, death, second person [you]

"who are you?" you ask to the empty air as you look through the loupe at your negatives on a lightbox
you think you feel something brush your hand, but you think nothing of it

later in the week, you're out taking more photos, shooting film that expired decades before you were born
you pull the focus back, feeling it stop
something cold and tingly pervades your fingers
you look into the viewfinder and turn it forward slightly
the tingling stops

when you look at that frame, an ethereal and beautiful girl looks back at you, perfectly in focus
she wasn't there when you took the photo; you'd've remembered her
she's undeniably there in your photo
"how did you get in my picture?"

in the next roll you shoot, she's in a couple pictures, this time holding a whiteboard
in the first frame, it says "hiii, Emily~" in perfect cursive
when you see it, you blush a bit
you've told almost nobody about your choice of name, yet she somehow knows

on a windswept hillside, you set up your tripod and ask a question to the wind
"where are you, my mysterious and beautiful friend?"
her answer is barely louder than a whisper
"with you, around you, and in your camera bag"
"wait, what?"

she isn't in this photo, a gorgeous frame of 4x5 Ektachrome you shot on a camera you've been wanting to use for years
when you ask why, she whispers something about silver halide

late at night in your bedroom, you take a telephoto lens out of your camera bag

although there's some dents in the metal housing and lens cap, the optics are as clear as the day they were made and the focus and aperture are smooth

even though you have to use an adapter from M42 to put it on your camera, it doesn't look or feel at all out of place on a SLR a quarter century newer
"are you there?", you quietly ask, hoping your roommate won't hear and wonder who you're talking to

her voice is still barely louder than a whisper, but her words are perfectly clear
you feel a tingling in your arm and a freezing cheek pressed against yours

"I hope you don't mind me haunting you. I've been lonely trapped in this lens and loved seeing the places we've gone"

"thank you for helping me take those pictures; you always make them come out so well"
"thank you. I was a photographer once, and it's good to know that things haven't really changed much with film in the past 60 years"

after looking at other girls' earrings for long enough, you finally get your ears pierced and put in silver studs
her voice is clearer now when she whispers to you and her suggestions on subjects and composition become ever stranger and more intriguing

"I need your help" she says one day after you shoot a roll of Kodak test film together
"can you destroy the lens I'm in?" she asks
"uhh.. why?"
"we've taken some great photos together, but I think it's time for me to move on from being trapped inside a 135mm lens"

"as long as you're sure" you reply, starting to cry
"I'm sure."
with a hammer and a pin punch, you start shattering the glass of the lenses, starting from the front and working your way back
with the destruction of the final element, she whispers "thank you" and fades out