Chapter~Three

Photographic Anomaly

 

Sandy ate at the pub, which was almost empty. Sandy felt the gaze of a young man, but she did not have the nerve to look directly at him. His gaze made her uneasy and she changed her position at the booth so that she was faced away from the interior of the room. Amanda was not working so the pub’s owner, who generally tended the bar, saw to her needs. He was a stout man wearing dark trousers and white shirt covered by a dark green apron. Sandy found she had no appetite so had lemonade and a sconce.

Back at her unit, Sandy emerged from the shower; it was then that she saw a dark bluish-red blotch about the size of a human hand on her buttocks! The area felt warm and tender, much like a sunburn!

“What happened to you girl?” Sandy asked herself. “Do you recall bumping into anything? No, you only felt the touch! There was something there and you know it…But what? Ghosts? Noooo!” Sandy shook her head, “Your nerves are getting the best of you, that’s all!”

After throwing on her robe and slippers and with a towel around her wet hair, Sandy returned to her room. Although still daylight, Sandy put on her pajamas, as she had no plans of going out again. She allowed her hair to air-dry as she typed up her recommendations for the renovation of WinShire Castle.

Sandy listened to her voice recorder as she typed out her thoughts from the device. Occasionally, she pause the recorder to edit her notes, and thus was absorbed in her thoughts when once again a strange sound came from the recorder.

“What?” Sandy gazed at the recorder as if suddenly it was an entity unto itself. She rewound the recorder and listened again. It was not a clear voice as the first one had been but instead was barely an audible wail, a mournful sound that continued for several seconds on the recorder. She connected the recorder to the laptop, transferring its data to the computer. When done, she ran the special software to evaluate just where she was at the time of the sound and the time.

Once revealed she learned that it was when she was in the stairwell and on her way down and not going up. Although she had felt the ‘touch’ on the roof, there was no sound recorded there. The recorder was voice activated and she had no control over when it recorded sounds. It was more convenience to keep it on that setting so all she needs do was speak to record.

“Wow!” sighed Sandy. “What’s going on?” For a long moment, she thoughtfully considered her next move. “You always thought that paranormal activity only occurred at night. That’s what the waitress said. ‘Don’t get caught there after dark.’ Then, why are you seeing it in the day? Not sure if you should return tomorrow or wait until the film is developed. You need to call the supervisor and see if he wants you to stay. You need help! But, if you asked for help then you’ll have to split the commission. Not sure, you’ll want to do that! No! Don’t give up yet! You must prove yourself to get anywhere in selling real-estate!”

This conversation which Sandy had with herself and talking to herself aided her comprehension. With her mind made up, Sandy shut down the laptop, put away her equipment, and decided to clear her mind by watching a movie on television.

Sandy’s night was a restless one, filled with disturbing dreams, phantoms darting about, invisible arms holding her and a white terrain, not snowy white, but misty white! Then she was running, the phantoms giving chase. With a little effort, she soared into the sky. Higher and higher, now everything was black and the feeling she associated with closed in places now she associated with this tremendous height! Her stomach churned and she could not catch her breath. A white mist enveloped her, then she was falling, she tried to levitate again, but she felt the heaviness of her mortal body and the pulled of gravity, she was tumbling and then…

Sandy stifled a cry as she came awake and sat up in bed. It was daylight, six thirty by her watch. The feeling the dreams imposed upon her stayed with her most of the day, a dread that she could not shake. Something was so wrong! But what? Deciding not to visit the castle until she had viewed the photographs, she spent the day walking around Rockwell.

The day had grown warm, so white shorts with a polka-dotted white tank top and slides were the extent of her attire. She had lunch at the pub where the waitress again tended her. Amanda, the waitress, escorted her to a seat and took her order.

“Do you want the Special of the Day?” Amanda asked. “It’s a quarter pound burger, with lettuce, tomato on a toasted rye bun.”

“Sounds good,” replied Sandy.

“What’re you drinking? A pot of tea?”

“No, a lemonade.”

Amanda clicked her tongue, winked, and made to leave.

“Wait!”

Amanda twisted without turning completely around. “Yeah, Miss? Something else for you?”

Sandy hesitated as she tried to think of the best way to approach the topic. Maybe just come right out with it was the best.

Amanda returned to Sandy’s booth with a concern expression, “You had a bad experience at that castle, did you love?”

Sandy sighed and nodded, “Something happened. Can you spare a second?”

Amanda glanced around, saw that the Pub was not busy and that no one trying to get her attention, “Sure, Miss.”

Sandy took a deep breath, she was about to reveal something to a stranger, something she wasa skeptic about, but she was quickly adjusting to it! “I was touched!” There, she said it.

Amanda got the ‘uh oh’ expression and did not appear surprised. “Oh, you don’t say.”

Sandy nodded.

“I’ve heard that before. Anything else? Did you ... see something?”

Sandy nodded. Amanda again glanced around; checking her customers, saw that no one needed her. Hastily Amanda sat down in the seat opposite Sandy. Sandy was surprised at this action and it gave her the feeling that there was something serious going on at the castle. Something she was denying. She took another deep breath, oh but this was hard.

“First,” Sandy began, “there was a voice on my recorder, a voice that I also heard. It asked, ‘Why are you here?’ Only not in our way of speaking, you know. Then the next day, I was on the top of the Keep taking photographs…I felt a hand on me…my backside… I saw a blue … mist … vapor. It surrounded me and had a human shape. On my voice recorder…later… It recorded moans and groans. I did not hear them at the time. Also, it was freezing on the top of the Keep and in that stairwell.”

Amanda did not say anything but her expression said that she believed what Sandy was saying. Sandy continued with her story.

This part was difficult to reveal. “After I took a showered … I discovered this huge red blotch on my buttocks … Where I was touched. It was tender, like a sunburn.”

Amanda raised her brows, “You don’t say? Not heard of that before. That sounds dangerous Miss. The spirits are active…during the day…that just does not happen…usually. There’s something special ‘bout you. Something the spirits are attracted to. Is it your red hair, I wonder?”

“What’s that got to do with it?”

“The bride was a red-head!”

“Oh!”

“I got to get back to work,” said Amanda when she saw her boss eyeing her. “But take this warning; stay away…or don’t go alone!”

Later that afternoon Sandy stopped at the pharmacy to collect her photographs and went back to her unit to look over them. Sandy sat on the edge of the bed, she removed the stack of photographs, these were large, eight by ten, as she had ordered, which was best for revealing details. Sandy’s jaw dropped! There was fog at the base of the castle; another few were washouts, nothing registered on those prints!

Sandy had not taken any shots in the stairwell and wished now that she had. When she came to the pictures taken on top of the Keep, she was shocked! The pictures felled from her hands and scattered chaotically upon the floor. Dropping to her knees, she resumed examining the photos, not bothering to retrieve them just going through them there on the floor.

Sandy picked up three pictures that she had taken on top of the Keep. There was a shape, a masculine form, vague, misty white, merely an outline of a male’s body, revealing the upper torso exclusively; the lower legs vanished into a murky vapor. She sat down slowly on the bed, as she took in what these photographs revealed!

“Somebody has tampered with your pictures,” she declared. Still she was denying the possibility of WinShire Castle being haunted. “There is no way you could have gotten shots like these!”

After a couple of minutes of deep thought, she collected the photographs, returned them to the large brown envelope, “Confront the chemist! I think someone is having a good laugh at your expense.”

Only minutes later, Sandy angrily shoved the envelope towards the young girl behind the counter. The clerk was about eight-teen years old with dark brown hair pulled back into a single ponytail. She was thin, pasty white with heavy lensed glasses. She wore the store smock and spoke timidly, “Is there a problem, ma’am?”

Calming herself with a deep breath, Sandy said, pronouncing each word deliberately, “Every…single…picture…is defective. I’ve reason to believe that someone has deliberately overexposed the film.”

After a heated discussion with the store manager, whom the clerk hastily summoned, not wanting to deal with this redheaded woman’s anger but redirecting her to hands that are more capable! The manager, a man in his forties, was bald but clean-shaven, removed the filmstrip that were now the negatives from the side pocket on the brown envelope. He invited Sandy into the back room where he placed them in a viewer that enlarged the negatives substantially. He assured her that the images did indeed come from her camera and that those she had in her possession were the real item.

Stunned, Sandy allowed this to sink in; she then apologized to both the clerk and the manager and quickly left, feeling a bit embarrassed at her actions. She returned to the Pub. She would consult with Amanda, the one person she had spoken to concerning the castle. To her dismay, Amanda had already left and the owner refused to give out any personal information.

Sandy returned to her flat. She made no decision right then on rather she should go back to the castle alone or contact her employer. She decided to sleep on it, but sleep did not come. With closed eyes, she kept reviewing the images in the photographs. When natural sleep failed her, she took a sleep aid.

The next morning, Sandy awoke from a dreamless sleep, having made her decision! Yes, she would return to the castle, ghosts, or no ghosts! She would prove herself. Quickly she dressed; her first stop was the Pub for breakfast. She would have them pack a lunch and make sure Amanda knew of Sandy’s plans.

Later at the Pub, Sandy was still a bit groggy from the sleep aid so she ordered black coffee before ordering breakfast. She wanted to show Amanda the pictures, but Amanda was a bit busy. As Sandy was paying her bill at the counter, she saw a chance to speak with Amanda alone.

“Can I see you for a moment?” Sandy whispered.

Amanda agreed. She arranged to take a five-minute break and the two stepped into the narrow hall that led to the bathrooms. Wasting no time, Sandy pulled the pictures from the envelope.

“What do you make of these?”

The anxiety showing plainly on Sandy’s face was quickly reflected on Amanda’s. At first, Amanda did not say a word, as one by one she shuffled through the pictures, looking up when she came to the ones taken on top of the Keep.

“I say, Miss! What have you here?” asked Amanda. “These are pictures of ghosts. I know fully well that is what these are. But taken in the light of day! How strange is this? Pray tell! You’re not planning to return….not alone at least.”

Sandy sighed, “I must.”

“But Miss, you said that you have a bruise on your rear. Never heard tell of that before. Tell you what, I know of someone…”

“Amanda!” the owner called her. “Break’s up!”

“Gotta run, Miss,” she hastily spoke, “Be on the lookout for a man…”

“Amanda!”

“Gotta go, Love….good luck…”

As Amanda hastened away, Sandy replied even after Amanda was out of hearing range, “Man? What man?”