By Lili Zamudio
Flipping through the pictures on her phone, one caught her attention. “What the hell?” She thought to herself as she pressed her thumb to the screen. It was dark, but she could make out a little piece of what looked like fabric in the corner. She swiped left, a picture with her boyfriend. She swiped right, twice, a picture of her dinner with him that night. That was a week ago. She figured it was a picture accidentally taken in her back pocket. She pressed the trashcan. Delete photo. And it was gone.
A few more weeks passed, and the morning after her and her boyfriend went to the movies and spent their first night together, she found another picture that seemed out of place. Still lying in bed with him, with the bright morning filling room, she tapped it. It looked to be the same picture from weeks before, but it was a little clearer, just not enough. She didn’t make the connection, but now she could see the fabric in the corner better. It looked like the pink comforter on her bed. A smile spread across her face. “You weirdo!” She leaned over to snuggle him. He hugged her close, and didn’t say a word. To her, this confirmed her assumption. He had tried to take a picture of her sleeping, but neither the picture, nor the relationship worked out.
“Damn it! This fucking phone is glitchy!” It kept randomly duplicating the picture from that night intermittently for a month, a sick reminder of her failed relationship. It wasn’t a big deal, except she couldn’t delete it anymore. She’d press the trashcan. She’d press delete photo, but it was still there. By the end of the month she had 17 of the same picture. She’d just shake her head every time she found another duplicate. Except for she realized the picture was getting just a little lighter every time. It was hard to notice from picture to picture, but looking at the original, and the last one, she could definitely see more of her comforter. She could even make out a bulge, her leg maybe, in the latest one. “Great, now I have a constant reminder of the night I spent with that asshole. How am I dumb enough to sleep with someone after two dates and think it was love? We didn’t even have much in common.”
The first thing she would do every morning now was snatch the phone off the dock on her nightstand and look. Finding those mysterious pictures became an obsession for her. She wasn’t sure what was happening or why, but she couldn’t wait to upgrade her phone to get rid of this one. She had stopped taking pictures of her own. They wouldn’t save anymore. All she saw was dark squares getting progressively lighter. She started to think maybe she should have stayed with him.
As the picture continued getting clearer, she began to see the bulge, definitely her leg under the comforter, swell into a curve, her hip, and her hand resting on it, her signature sleep pose. She had to admit, this was starting to freak her out, especially when she noticed all the pictures were categorized into different dates. It was as if each picture had been taken on a different night.
She couldn’t wait for the torture to stop, so she started a countdown to her upgrade day, set an alarm to it and everything, 29 days. Now, she could take solace in checking her countdown everyday, after finding a new, clearer picture of herself everyday.
By the time the countdown indicated 15 days left, she could see the bulge of her leg, her hip, her hand, and some of her shoulder covered with her long black hair. By day nine she started losing sleep, getting maybe four hours in small bursts, checking her phone every time she woke up to see if the picture had appeared yet. She had circles under her eyes, had trouble focusing in class at the university, even her English composition teacher sent her to the counselor, but her story was too surreal, so she didn’t tell it. She used the break up with her boyfriend a month ago as an excuse. “We were perfect for each other. It’s been hard.” Even she almost believed her lies.
She went in to Best Buy with five days left to go, pleading for the upgrade. “It’ll be an additional charge of $200 for early upgrade, ma’am,” a boy not much older than her explained, “ there’s nothing I can do about that.” She didn’t mean to cry, but five days seemed like an eternity.
Day three shocked her. She clicked on photos, clicked the latest abomination, and saw her leg, hip, hand, shoulder covered with her long, black hair, and the left side of her face. Her eyes were open, lifeless, her lips grey. She threw the phone across the room, sobbing, hoping to hear it shatter. The cover flew apart in two pieces, and the screen shattered; she felt a sense of relief. When she finally gathered herself enough to go pick it up, she had to stabilize herself at the sight if the glowing screen.
After she picked up the pieces, she decided that she could live without Facebook, and texting, and her email for two days. She shut the phone off and put it away. She tried to distract herself with her friends that day, take her mind off that horrible image that had imprinted itself on the inside of her eyelids. Even when she blinked, she could see it. She didn’t sleep that night.
She breathed a deep sigh, “First thing tomorrow.” She stayed up all night, sitting on her bed, afraid to close her eyes. She just sat there because no matter what she did, watch TV, read, browse the internet, her mind would take her back to that image.
The hours passed and eventually light started streaming in her apartment window. She blinked fast and slowly turned her head to face the early morning sun. She smiled. For the first time in weeks, she finally smiled. “I made it.”
There was still the issue of getting the phone. She couldn’t resist. She really shouldn’t have turned it on. With a trembling finger she waited for the app icons to come up. When the photos icon appeared, she took a deep breath. She pressed it. There, on the screen appeared the endless tiles, all the same, progressively lighter. The last one was different. There it was, clear as day, her sitting on her bed, looking towards the light streaming from the window, just like a half hour ago before she got ready, before she got out of bed, but her body was grey and broken, distorted, and her eyes a pale, crystalline shade of blue, her mouth agape, dried brown blood smeared across her neck.
It took days for the fire department to show up. They found her in the living room, dressed, purse across her chest, keys in one hand, phone in the other. “Weird, she was so young.” The phone flashed an alert. The paramedic removed the phone from her hand hoping it wasn’t a phone call. He let out a chuckle and turned to his partner. “Oh dang, that sucks, she missed her upgrade date.”