People always ask me how I became successful. You've probably heard of me: Gavin Swanson, the handsome, famous photography guru? I’m a master behind the camera, take pictures that look like magic, and you can almost taste the perfection in my photos.
Granted, it wasn’t always that way. I’ve come a long way from that silly teenage boy who used to throw rocks in the creek. It all started one rainy Sunday, on a cold January evening…
I watched my rock disappear into the dirty water, bending down to get another one. My best friend Snapper had just left, but I didn’t see the point in going home right now. Mom was still at work, and it's not like dad ever made dinner anyway.
I was about to throw another stone when a flash caught my eye. It was over on the other side of the creek, and then I saw it again. It looked like the sun was being reflected off of something, but the sun wasn’t out for miles.
It looked like it was going to start pouring any minute, so I grabbed the rope we all used to swing across the creek and pulled it back. We weren’t supposed to swing on it alone (Bridge to Terabithia, anyone?), but… come on! Shiny flashy metal thingy in a wet forest in Minnesota!
I landed on the other side swiftly, skillfully skidding to a stop before I lost my balance. Running over to where I saw the flash, I pushed away some moss and leaves to reveal… a cell phone.
My heart sunk. I got all excited over someone’s lost phone? Jeez, I needed a life.
I trudged back to my house, phone in pocket. Our town was pretty small, so I’d just bring it to school on Monday and ask around. It was pretty old, so I wasn’t inclined to wipe it and keep it for myself. I might’ve, if my own wasn’t light years ahead of it.
I kicked open the door, glancing in the driveway. No blue car, mom wasn’t home. And no red car, thankfully, so dad wasn’t home. I had the house all to myself.
I tossed the phone on the counter and opened the fridge. There was cold pizza in a container, so I plopped it onto a plate and stuck it in the microwave.
I was about to go watch TV when I heard a buzz and a quiet ding. Was that the phone? I thought it was dead.
I picked it up and pressed the power button. No, it was very much alive. I probably shouldn’t have read notifications that weren’t mine, but I was nosy and undisciplined, so I did it anyway.
There was another ding. I frowned at the screen. The phone had no password - talk about bad security - and there was only one app: Faycrost’s Delivery Service.
I gazed at the phone dubiously. What kind of person only used one app? I had at least forty, and Snapper had almost double that number.
Another notification came in, and I clicked on one in curiosity. They all said the same thing: You have one free order.
The app opened under my finger and I blinked. The thing was quick as lightning; even mom’s computer wasn’t that fast. There was only one sentence on the screen:
What is your request?
I raised an eyebrow. What kind of delivery service was this?
The beeping of the microwave brought me out of my trance. I dropped the phone on the counter. Pizza was much more interesting than an outdated, creepy cellular mobile device.
The phone buzzed all evening. I ignored it, since every time I looked it was the same notification. But after a few hours, my curiosity started to get the better of me. I opened the delivery app and decided to play a joke.
I read my response out as I typed. “‘I want… a camera… that will make… my pictures… amazing.’”
My finger hit the SEND button. The reply was almost immediate: Your request is being processed.
And then a minute later: Your request has been approved.
What the heck was that? No fees, shipping costs, credit card numbers? Dang, this phone was weird.
But the phone didn’t buzz again all night. The notifications stopped, the noises stopped, and the device functioned like a normal, everyday cell phone.
I went to bed, because I was still a growing boy and couldn't spend my life poking a possessed phone with a stick. I slept fine, although you’d think the item on the counter would bother me.
I woke up the usual way: I snoozed my alarm clock, accidentally dismissed it, and Snapper blew my phone up with wake-up texts to get me up for school.
When I stumbled down the stairs, there was a note on the counter. It was from mom, letting me know she’d be home late again this evening. No idea where dad was.
The phone was still on the counter, and I tossed it into my bag as I was looking for breakfast. I opted for a bowl of cereal and slung my bag across my back. I was about to arm the system when the doorbell rang.
I looked at the camera, but no one was there. It was probably a package for dad.
I opened the door and looked down at the box, scooping it up. Dad usually ordered stuff from Amazon, but I didn’t see the usual smile anywhere on the box. There wasn’t even a label.
Wait, yes there was. My blood froze as I read it silently.
Faycrost’s Delivery Service.
Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have opened that box. But I was nosy and undisciplined, so I did it anyway. My jaw fell.
Inside was an old field camera with a shiny brown case. I took it out of the box and looked through the lens, snapping a picture. I raised an unimpressed eyebrow. I asked for the picture to look amazing, but this picture didn’t look any different from the ones on my phone. Sure, it was sharp, but so was my phone.
I tried to wipe a smudge from the picture, but my finger went right through the screen. I yelped, dropping the camera like a hot potato.
It landed on my bookbag, so luckily it didn’t break. I picked it up again and hesitantly poked the screen with my index finger. The image rippled for a few seconds, and I tried not to scream as my finger sank into the camera.
I’d taken a picture of a bleach bottle, some soap, and the sink. I wiggled my finger in the camera and turned on the pipe. Water started running, so I stuck my finger under it, shocked.
I pulled my camera out of the screen and gasped. My finger was wet, but my kitchen sink wasn’t on. I stumbled back, placing the camera on the counter. No way. No way, no way, no way, no way, no way.
You probably know how the rest of the story went. There’s a reason I’m the most renowned photographer in the business, and it's all because of a mysterious, phantom delivery app.
But here’s something you don’t know: everyone and everything I took a picture of slowly started to fade away. A month later, we had no kitchen sink. I took a picture of Snapper, and after graduation I never saw him again. I made the mistake of capturing my right leg, and that’s why I walk with a peg.
But don’t tell anyone I told you this story. I’m not supposed to share it with you, and old Faycrost doesn’t know…
You wouldn’t want my camera to get taken away, right? Take this story to your grave. Don’t tell your children, your grandchildren, or your neighbor’s dog when you think no one is looking. This story must never get out.
Because if it does… I might have to come take a picture of you.