Shuttered Soul: Capturing the Unseen

Submitted into Contest #244 in response to: Write a story about a character who risks their life to take a photo.... view prompt

1 comment

Fiction Horror Mystery

In the not-too-distant future, society has become even more interconnected through digital means, yet more isolated in the physical world. Technology has advanced, allowing for the capture of phenomena beyond human perception. The world was rife with urban legends of digital ghosts and cursed media that could affect those who viewed them, blending the supernatural with everyday tech. 

Eli, a down-on-his-luck photographer, was obsessed with capturing the unphotographable. He was always looking for the one amazing photo that would take his career to the next level. He had heard of rumors swirling about a phenomenon called "The Gaze," a apparition that occurred in a desolate part of the city, visible only through the lens of a camera equipped with a special, highly illegal mod that allowed the capture of this "supernatural phenomena". They say that any who stare directly upon "The Gaze" would suffer a terrible fate. Eli was not deterred and saw this as his shot at fame and fortune, a way to rise above the mediocrity that had defined his life so far. 

As he delved deeper into the urban legends surrounding "The Gaze," Eli became more determined to capture it on film. He spent countless hours researching the phenomenon, gathering information from various sources, both reliable and dubious. He learned about the supposed history of "The Gaze," how it was said to be the manifestation of a malevolent spirit that haunted the city's outskirts. Some claimed it was a curse placed on the area by a bitter and vengeful entity, while others believed it to be the result of a tragic accident that occurred long ago. Most of the rumors were just nonsense in the chatrooms.

Despite the many warnings he encountered, Eli was undeterred. He was convinced that if he could capture "The Gaze" on film, he would not only achieve the fame and fortune he so desperately craved but also prove that the supernatural was real. He was determined to be the first person to capture it on camera, and he would stop at nothing to make it happen. 

Eli's obsession with capturing "The Gaze" led him to seek out the assistance of a shadowy figure known only as "The Dealer." This mysterious individual was rumored to possess the highly coveted mod that would allow Eli to capture the supernatural phenomenon. After weeks of searching message boards and tech shops in the city, Eli finally managed to track down The Dealer and arranged a meeting behind a rundown tech shop downtown. 

The Dealer, a tall, gaunt man with sunken eyes and a thin, pale complexion, eyed Eli suspiciously as he approached. "You're the photographer, aren't you?" he asked, his voice barely above a whisper. Eli nodded, his heart racing with anticipation. "Yes, I am. I've heard about the mod you have - the one that can capture supernatural phenomena." The Dealer's eyes narrowed. "You've come to the right place. I have what you need, but it won't come cheap." 

Eli swallowed hard, his mind racing with thoughts of the fortune he would make if he could capture "The Gaze" on film. "How much?" he asked, trying to keep his voice steady. "Ten thousand credits," The Dealer replied, a sinister grin spreading across his face. Eli hesitated, unsure if he could afford such a steep price. But the thought of the fame and fortune that awaited him was too much to resist. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the small stack of credits had left to his name, handing them over to The Dealer. The Dealer counted the credits, a satisfied look on his face. "Very well, I'll give you the mod. But be warned...capturing 'The Gaze' is not for the faint of heart. If you're not careful, you may find yourself face-to-face with a fate far worse than you could ever imagine." Eli contemplated what the man just said and watched him walk away into the dark recesses of the city. 

Armed with the mod and a obsessive determination, Eli gathered his equipment and ventured out to the desolate part of the city where "The Gaze" was said to appear. As he stood at the edge of the area, he felt a chill run down his spine. He could see old structures and rundown businesses that years of declining economy could only produce. The air was thick with an eerie sense of foreboding, and he couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched. 

Ignoring his instincts, Eli set up his camera and attached the mod, focusing the lens on the spot in an open area between the run down buildings where "The Gaze" was rumored to appear. He waited patiently, his heart pounding in his chest as he prepared to capture the unphotographable. About an hour past without seeing anything and he started to think this was a fools errand and he just got scammed out of 10,000 credits when suddenly, a spectral figure began to materialize approximately 200 yards into the field. He knew immediately that it was "The Gaze," and it seemed to be composed of pure energy and possibly terror. Eli could feel the hair on the back of his neck stand on end as he stared at the ghostly figure through the lens of his camera. 

As he snapped photo after photo, Eli felt a sensation wash over him. It was as if he was being drawn into the very essence of "The Gaze," his mind losing focus on reality and time. He continued to take pictures, each one more captivating and unbelievable than the last, until he could no longer resist the pull of the spectral apparition. In a moment of pure desperation, Eli lowered his camera and looked directly at "The Gaze." 

The world around him seemed to fade away as he found himself lost in the ethereal beauty of the whatever he was looking at. He was mesmerized, unable to look away as the figure grew larger and more vibrant before his eyes. As the seconds ticked by like hours, Eli began to feel a nawing sensation coursing through his body. It was as if he was being consumed by the very essence of "The Gaze," and immediately felt as if he was in grave danger. 

Despite the warnings he had received, Eli could not tear his eyes away from the spectral apparition. Suddenly, a blinding light filled his vision, and he felt a searing pain in his chest but not quite a physical pain, but one more akin to “loss and grief”. The last thing he saw before losing consciousness was the ghostly figure of "The Gaze" closer and staring directly into his soul. 

After waking as the morning light was filling the sky and seeing he was unharmed he picked up his gear and disorientingly made his way back to his apartment to review the footage, if thre even was any left on the camera. Praying his whole way home that what took place would finally change his life. 

In the days that followed, Eli's photographs of "The Gaze" became the talk of not only the town, but the entire world. They were hailed as the most captivating and haunting images ever captured, earning him the fame and fortune he had always craved. Interviews, traveling, book deals and all that comes with fame was finally his. He kept so busy in the days following that he didn’t really have time to process much else. 

As his star rose, Eli began to notice something, a cold emptiness within him that wasn’t there before, it was as if he had lost something precious that he could never regain. Something deep and important to all who live or all who have a soul. 

Eventually Eli realized that he had made a terrible mistake. He had been so blinded by his obsession with capturing the unphotographable that he had failed to see the true danger that lay before him. In his quest for fame and fortune, he had unintentionally sacrificed his very soul, and there was no going back. 

His remaining years were spent in horrified agony, a mix of loneliness and longing for something that belongs but is lost. Without his inner happiness the fortune and fame held no sway on his being.  

For while the allure of fame and fortune may be tempting, the price one pays for such desires can be far greater than they could ever imagine.

April 04, 2024 17:14

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Martha Kowalski
17:42 Apr 11, 2024

There wasn't much world-building description yet I could imagine the mood and setting perfectly, there was something beautifully haunting to it


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.