‘What do you think sweetheart?’ Ely asked Connie.
‘Wow. This is just perfect.’ Connie can’t hide her excitement as the newly wed couple look onto their first house to start a family.
It was summer of 1998. Ely Acosta surprised her wife Connie, a couple of days after their beach wedding in the South. He purchased a home in the historical Ibarra Street. A place known as the seat of the elites in the early 1900s. What made the street more special is its well-preserved antiquated houses and architectures that resemble the grandeur of the past. Ely knew, as his wife Connie is a culture enthusiast, the vista of ancestral houses in Ibarra Street alone will make Connie fell in love at the first gaze.
‘How do you find this place?’ The marveled Connie asks as she stares on the panoramic, solemn lake just meters away from the backyard.
‘Well. Marrying an aspiring anthropologist is quite tough. Aside from I should be a bit weird too sometimes, I need to be more inquisitive to please her.’ The conceited Ely winked to his wife.
The couple spent the first week furnishing the house together. From cleaning, to painting walls ang designing, they enjoyed every moment as they are starting to live as a married couple. The two just can’t hide their thrill as they saw the progress every end of the day.
One afternoon, as Connie was mapping the parquetted floor of the masters bedroom, she suddenly stopped after hearing something from the back of her head. She then noticed a coffee stain like markings on the cream painted wall. As she walks closer, she starts seeing various images imprinted on the wall. Some kind of an abstract painting in light grey then she suddenly got startled after seeing a collage of freaky faces staring right at her and voices started to reverberate around the room.
Ely rushed to the room and found his wife in shock sitting on the floor while pointing on the wall.
‘What’s that sweetheart?’
‘Ely. The wall!’
Ely found nothing on the wall. And said he turned on the TV down from the sala. ‘I’m sorry sweetheart I’m watching this stupid game show, maybe that’s what you heard. Come, let’s go to the kitchen. Help me make some dinner.’
That same night, the couple decided to eat at the backyard where they can see the beautiful solemn lake and feel the soothing winds from the whistling trees. Connie still feel uneasy and can’t take out the earlier incident in her troubled mind. But she decided not to talk about for it may spoil the night with her husband. She brought her camera to take some random pictures, the beauty of the place along with Ely’s efforts to make her feel comfortable helped to bring back a smile on her face. Until she completely managed to ignore the incident at the master’s bedroom. She took a stolen shot of Ely while picking stray pieces of tree branches for their campfire, then grab the bottle of wine from the picnic basket.
It was a romantic, magnificent night indeed.
Two weeks have passed, and the newly wed couple is living in tranquility. Ely started his dayjob while Connie continue writing her non-fiction book about humanities and local cultures. One rainy and windy evening, as Connie was writing on the sala while waiting for Ely, she heard a clicking sound from behind and got startled from a sudden flash of light like that of a camera. She stood up and turned but to her fear, no one was there. She’s alone, lights are off, and as the wind touches her skin, another flash. Now coming from the roof straight to the floor. She was about to shout in extreme fear when a smash from the glass window shut her off and left her frozen, numb and shock. It was a tree branch. Then a loud constant knocking at the door followed. It was Ely.
‘Connie sweetheart. It was raining like son of a B last night. Lightning and thunders are all over the place and God forbid, I was chilling wet and the last thing I will come up is to scare you with a damn camera. Come on now. You’ve stayed overnight on some ghastly places like caves and old mining sites, digging for hundred year old skeletons and remains for your studies and now, a freakin tree branch will make us move in a rush? Come on sweetheart. We can’t find a place like this anymore, we are destined to live here. Please.’
‘I have never got that scared in my life, Ely. And I swear to God I know what I’m talking about. It’s a camera flash not lightning. If not because of that tree branch I will never knew it was raining hard last night.’
Another month had passed and Connie chose to stay silent about her frigthening experiences inside the house. Until one morning, as Connie was walking on her way back home from the grocery store, a young boy suddenly approached her.
‘You better leave that house madam. You better leave.’
The boy already left before Connie opened her mouth. He didn’t look back at her after telling his short message. And the marveled Connie felt more troubled as she saw the boy turned two blocks away quickly. She tried to chase the boy and after she turned to the corner, he’s already gone for her dissapointment.
‘What do you think Mrs. Hermin?’ asked Kristoffer.
‘I think that will do Kris, looks lively right?’
‘Yes Mrs. Hermin. Have a seat please and I will take photographs of him first, then I will call you in a bit for the family portrait.
Kristoffer is a well-known freelance professional photographer. He’s well skilled, passionate, creative and is undeniably the highest earning photographer in the city. His father, a professional photographer as well once said, ‘Taking photographs don’t pay all the bills. Make it a hobby, then find a damn job”. But Kris proved him wrong. For he have this one exclusive service unkown to many. The main source of his fortune is his obession and expertise for taking pictures of corpses. And most of his patrons are from the rich and noble. Only the aristocrats can afford his secretive, taboo practice.
He positioned Mrs. Hermin’s youngest in a chair in a well poised structure, as if the boy is an honor student seating in the middle of a class picture. After taking shots in different angles, he called on the family to take their last complete family portrait. Kris just can’t hide his thrill while peeking on the lens, he have this undescribable feeling everytime he is seeing the likes of those emotionless faces of the grieving family. After this session, he will make his own copies of the results and stick on his room wall filled with photographs of corpses. For most people who will have a chance to see his collection, they’ll find it dreadful; but for Kris, staring at his room wall is like browsing a travel catalog full of wonders while sipping his favorite wine.
The following night, Kris with his fiancee Bianca is having a fine dinner at his place. He cooked beef stew and roasted chicken. Perfectly combined with one of Kris’ collections of precious wines. ‘This is really good dear. And I am thrilled that you invited me for a dinner. Even if it’s not a Friday.’ Bianca beamed to his fiancee.
The couple is on their second bottle, dancing along with a romantic song when Bianca, went out of balance and fell on the sala’s white carpeted floor. Red wine poured all over the lady’s white dress. And as Bianca, giggled in laughter, tried to reach for Kristoffer’s hand to pick her up, the Lensman grinned as he was looking at the red wine flowing to the white carpet from his fiancee’s sultry body.
‘Stop.’ Kris motioned his hand to Bianca and rushed to his room to get his camera.
Bianca shrugged as the wine starts to take effect. She kept lied down on the floor and brushed her hair with her hands when Kris came back aiming the camera at her. ‘Don’t move sweetheart, that’s just perfect.’ And Kris hit the shutter constantly in different angles.
‘Can I get up now? I’m getting woozy.’
‘Sweetheart. Could you – could you please pose like a dead woman bathing in blood?’ Kris asked hesitantly.
Bianca suddenly stood up. ‘What did you just said? Kris? You wanted me to play dead in front of you?’
Kris got strucked thinking of what is best to say. ‘Sweetheart I’m kidding. I’m kidding.’ Kris sat on the sofa.
‘Jesus Kris. You scared me.’
‘I’m sorry sweetheart. I won’t do that again.’ As Kris try hard as he could to hide his unrestrained smiling.
One rainy evening of June, 1978, Kris is waken up by the constant ringing of his home phone. ‘Who the hell calls at eleven thirty?’ thought Kris. ‘Hello’
‘Hello. Is this Kris? The photographer?’
‘Yes sir. Speaking. Can I help you?’
‘Could you please come over here in my house. This is Ryan Elman. I got your number from a mutual friend. Could you please come over?’
‘Uhm. With all due respect sir, it’s barely midnight.’ There it goes, he knew Mr. Elman is lamenting, all he needs to hear is one more thing, the price.
‘Kris please. I’m begging you, my son just died in his sleep.’ Mr. Elman, sobbing. ‘I will pay you double. If there’s such a priceless moment for a father then I believe this is. Nothing else. I’m begging you, please.’
Twenty minutes will pass, and the Lensman will be knocking on Mr. Elman’s door.
‘I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. He kissed me goodnight after dinner and – ‘
‘Mr. Elfman – ‘, Kris interrupted. ‘Do you need to call an investigator? or an ambulance? Are you sure your son is dead? I’m here to take photographs. Where is he?’
‘Come upstairs’. Mr. Elfman, carrying a white pillow. Smelling it constantly like a bunch of fragrant flowers.
As Kris felt the boy’s body to position it in a rocking chair, he suddenly felt an unusual feeling. The body is still warm, he checked on the pulse, there’s nothing. ‘How long?’ asked Kris.
‘Just minutes before I called you.’ Mr. Elman answered. Staring at his son deeply.
Kris ignored his client’s softness for he understand the situation. He was about to take the first click when suddenly, ‘Shit! The boy is alive!’. Kris exclaim in awe.
‘What do you mean he’s alive?’
The boy wagged as if he was suddenly awaken from a terrifying nightmare. ‘Papa?’ the boy exclaimed.
But Kris got more terrified after witnessing Mr. Elman stabbed his own son in the flank. Kris’ body numbed in shock as he was looking at the boy’s blood flowing on the parqueted floor. He doesn’t know what to do, he cannot think. Will he run or stay and get killed by this mad client? He doesn’t know. He cannot move a muscle while amidst in the most tragic moment of his existence.
‘What are you waiting for? Go on. Go on.’ The grinning client said in thrill. Wiping the blood off from his kitchen knife. ‘Go on.’
Peeking at his lenses, Kris can’t hide his terror while looking at the boy in throe. He started clicking his camera dire straight while the boy is dying then suddenly, he stopped. Sweat rilled all over his paled face after seeing the boy died eyes open. It was the first time he actually took a series of photos of a dying human being up to the last breath.
Mr. Elman tapped the gawking photographer in the shoulder. ‘Should be nice ey? Alright. My turn.’
Mr. Elman stood beside his dead son on the chair and unleashed his terrifying grin while motioning to the shaking-bewildered photographer to start taking photos. Kris wanted to rush to the door as fast as he could but his knees are rigid. He never imagined himself in dread while taking photos of the dead, but now, seeing the dead and the living together staring straight at him in one frame from his camera is grisly terrifying.
The lensman believe he turned cold years ago after his obsession for dead people began. And besides, all he ever felt was excitement, amazement. But not this time. His hands are wobbly, his voice was tremulous. He got this ominous feeling that he will be the next corpse once he stop hitting the shutter.
Kris can’t believe he just reached his home, or better yet to say, he’s questioning his fate why did that madman didn’t kill him after witnessing how Mr. Elman killed his own son. The fourty thousand pesos in his hand didn’t help to calm his troubled mind. He saw a murder just a few feet away from him, and the murderer paid him. ‘What have I done?’ he muttered.
It’s four in the morning, but the troubled lensman can’t close his eyes in fear. He stayed lying in the bed for a couple of hours in deep paranoia, thinking if he let his eyes shut for a few seconds, it will be over. He started seeing strange images in the ceiling, he started hearing various voices from the wall. He is being swarmed by those souls from his wicked collection, cursing him simultaneously.
Then he shrank sideways in his bed and started to giggle. Not long enough, he is laughing peculiarly alone in the dark, cold room.
April 20, 1978. Kristoffer’s dead body has been discovered a day after. Nearby, are shattered photos of his corpse in different angles. And though the responding authorities are puzzled, they are convinced that someone other than the victim actually took those pictures. There is no way that a dying man would take photos of himself in different odd-whimsical poses.
Anthony Sy is one of the responding investigators on the case of Kristoffer Domingo. He will never forget that day for that was the first time he got shivered on a crime scene.
‘Holy Mother of God.’ . The terrified investigator muttered after he saw one of the stray pictures of the Lensman’s emotionless face, with its left eye shut as if the victim is peeking on his camera, and about to take a picture of his onlooker. And after the authorities pulled down the red satin curtain covering the room wall, over a hundred photographs of glaring, grinning people were exposed. Undead.
And the perplexed investigators will stay puzzled on this unsolved case, forever.
‘Mikey. Mikey I’m home!’ Susanna called on his son in excitement. It’s been four days away from her son due to an important business trip. If the trip isn’t that necessary she will rather stay with Mikey and work at home. Four days are like four years of working and thinking about her only beloved son. Then she noticed a white envelope lying on the coffee table.
‘Signed. With undying love and devotion.’ A note reads. Susanna opened the envelope, it was the annulment papers. Signed by her ex-husband Ryan Elman. She smiled bitterly. Then another note.
‘How emotional our photograph is. Your son begged to wait for you so we can have a family picture before we part. But I just can’t endure the pain anymore. I loved your son like my own Susanna. I loved you despite of everything. But, oh well, the truth is, everything fades. Even love is never spared.’
And after Susanna flipped the first photograph, she passed out.
Ryan Elman, in grin, dragged his ex-wife to the kitchen and approached the drawers to get the trash bags. Minutes later, Ryan, sitting in the bed staring at the lifeless mother and son, saw the noble lensman once again. Holding his camera.
‘Kris. Just in time ‘ey!’ Ryan Elman winked, and stabbed himself in the chest.
After her sudden encounter with the mysterious man earlier, Connie constantly hears the message as she tries hard to get some sleep.
‘You better leave that house madam. You better leave.’
She have finally decided, whether Ely agreed or not, they will leave the house.
April 20, 1999. Ely woke up and kissed his wife Connie in the right shoulder before getting up to make breakfast. He beamed and thought of his wife while smelling the aroma of fried rice and eggs when a white, medium sized envelope lying in the dining table caught his attention.
A note reads, ‘You have been warned. – The Lensman.’
Ely was shocked. As he stares on the photograph of himself, sleeping in the bed in fetus position while his wife, Connie lay dead, eyes widened, mouth humungously opened as if she saw the most terrifying thing beyond words. Ely rushed to the room.
He found the corpse of his wife in a rocking chair, swarmed by dead, grinning people staring right at him; Then a voice from behind.
‘Just in time ey! Go on. Go on.’
And Ibarra Street have been deafened by Ely Acosta’s fierce yelling.