Short Stories

Photograph

Prompt: After the kids go to sleep the babysitter snoops and finds something she did not expect.

Corrine did a silent victory dance when she peered through the bedroom door and saw that Perry was fast asleep. It had only taken twenty minutes to get him there, a personal best when it came to new clients.

“Now for the fun part of babysitting,” Corrine whispered as she slipped down the hall and into the Harrison’s bedroom.

As always she started by looking under the bed where she often found secrets, a fact that had never made sense to her. Small children liked to play on the floor so why hide items of a sensitive nature on the floor? Baggies of drugs, dirty magazines, boxes of sex toys…she’d found them all right there under the beds before.

But not under the Harrison’s bed so she moved to her next target, the closet.

She didn’t even have the doors fully open when something tumbled to the floor and she smiled to herself.

“Jackpot,” Corrine murmured as she picked up the red fabric covered hat box and sat on the end of the bed. She didn’t know why but, more often than not, she’d discovered dirty little secrets tucked away in good old fashioned hat boxes. It was like there was a ‘how to hide things’ article that the parents circulated without realizing it was a joke.

She sighed in disappointment when all she found were stacks of photos, the top of each stack featuring Perry. No jackpot after all. But then she realized something was off. Each of those top pictures had not only the little boy but also a teenage girl, a different one in each of the photos.

Only the Harrisons didn’t have a daughter nor did Perry have any cousins. At least that was the excuse Mrs. Harrison had given when Perry had stared at her so oddly. (“He’s just not used to young women.”) Corrine had just assumed the boy was off because the family had moved dozens of times and he was just five years old. It only made sense that that kind of thing would negatively affect such a small child.

But all that meant she had one question. Who were the girls in the photos?

She pulled one stack closer and saw a timestamp on the top picture. 9:45 pm on a Friday night the previous month, just a week before the Harrisons had moved into their house. She didn’t know why but it sent a shiver down her spine.

Then she flipped to the next picture and could barely contain the squeal of horror. Perry and the same girl as in the first photo, a time of 9:50 marked in the corner. But the timestamp wasn’t the first thing Corrine noticed. No that was the face of the girl. The very, very dead girl.

Instead of running away like most sane persons would do Corrine flipped through all the pictures, her heart pounding and bile fighting its way up her throat. There were dozens of the same type of picture, a happy and healthy teen girl on top, a blue faced girl with blood dripping from empty eye sockets below. And the numbers, the times, always repeated.

9:45. 9:50.

But truly the most terrifying thing of all was that in each and every picture Perry was smiling.

Once she reached the last photo, dated two years prior when Perry was little more than a toddler, Corrine shoved the pictures back into the hatbox and the hatbox back into the closet. Her horror mounted. The more she’d looked the more she was hoping to find a sign, a mistake that proved the photos were the result of special effects makeup or computer editing. But there’d been nothing.

And she knew she needed to get the hell out of the house.

She was halfway to the living room where her purse and car keys were strewn across a side table when Perry sleepily called her name.

“What do you need, hon?” she asked, struggling to sound calm. Maybe it was all a joke, maybe it wasn’t. Either way she needed to not sound suspicious.

“Can you read me another story please?” the boy asked. “And this time you should take a picture of us to show mommy and daddy!”

Corrine slowly turned her arm so she could look at the watch on her wrist.

9:39

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