Let Me Take Your Picture
My parents own a cabin in rural Tennessee. Since they’re getting older, we’ve been splitting the responsibility of caring for the property. I go down there by myself a few times a year, to get away from the city and check up on the place. I usually stop in Keiser because they have gas, a grocery store, and a little park where I can stretch my legs if I need to.
I have the next couple days off work and decided to spend them at the cabin, so I packed up and left town. Everything was completely normal until I stopped in Keiser.
I pulled off the highway a little after three o’clock and went to the park, thinking I’d go for a walk before getting some food. Nothing was out of the ordinary at first, but as I crested the first small hill, I saw a woman with a stroller blocking the path. She was looking at her phone, unperturbed by the harsh sunlight beaming down on her.
I approached her with trepidation. I found it strange that she’d choose to text there, instead of in the shade of the pavilion to her left? Maybe she was having an intense conversation via text….? I tried to quash the more worrisome thought, maybe she’s on drugs.
I tapped her on the shoulder. “Everything OK, ma’am?” I asked.
The woman didn’t look up. She didn’t even seem to realize I was there.
I went to pass her on my left side when I saw the baby and stopped. It wasn’t moving. Its face was bright red, and chubby little arms lay listlessly against the navy fabric of the stroller. Orange-yellow vomit, long since dried, crusted around its mouth and down its shirt.
“Oh my God.” My voice trembled. That child was dead. I was sure of it. She was standing out here on her fucking phone, and her baby was dead and she didn’t even seem to notice. Gingerly, I reached out and tapped its hand. It was warm, but not as warm as a living human should be.
The woman snapped her head towards me and I jumped. She pressed her lips into a soft, vague smile. I smiled back, hoping it would dispel the confusion I felt.
“You’re so pretty,” she cooed at me.
My smile faltered. Before I could respond, she pointed her phone at me. I saw the minute movements of her thumb pressing down on the shutter button.
I held up a defensive hand and tried to keep my voice calm, but urgent. “Ma’am? You should move to the shade. I’m going to call an ambulance – ”
She released her hand from the stroller and started to walk towards me, still holding out the phone. “You’re so pretty,” she said, moving around to get different angles.
As she got close, I noticed something was wrong with her pupils. One was the size of a pinprick, while the other was fully dilated. I started taking steps backwards. I was officially frightened.
“Let me take your picture,” she cajoled.
“Ma’am, please. Can I use your phone to call for help?” I couldn’t help it; my voice trembled. The sight of that poor little thing in its seat, unresponsive, broke my heart. I cursed my decision to leave my phone behind. This woman was clearly having a mental health crisis.
Her face twisted into an ugly scowl. “Let me take your picture,” she growled. She started walking towards me, then jogging, her phone still extended in her outstretched hand.
I started to run, no longer interested in mediating this problem alone. She yelled after me, “LET ME TAKE YOUR PICTURE!”
I sprinted back down the path, digging for my keys as I went. I yelped when I felt nails dig into my shoulder. When I turned around, the woman grabbed my throat.
It took a minute to realize that she wasn’t trying to choke me. She was trying to hold me still. She centered her phone right in my face and began mindlessly hitting the shutter button again.
I took as deep of a breath as I could – then, I seized the phone. I don’t know where everyone else is, but it’s hot as fuck in Arkansas right now. So her hands were sweaty, and the phone left her grip easily. With a terrified cry, I threw it as hard as I could.
The woman’s eyes widened in shock at the thwack of the phone hitting the asphalt. She began to wheeze, inhaling sharply through her nose and exhaling in loud gasps. Her hands curled into claws, and I swear I saw her skin start to go gray underneath the pink tinge. She let out a shriek. I flinched; she sounded exactly like the coyote calls that sometimes echoed through the trees at night.
Then, to my surprise, she released me and hauled ass towards the phone. Stunned, I froze for a moment before jumping into my car. I pulled out of the parking lot and away from the woman, who had fallen to her knees next to the shattered phone.
I tried to call 911 as I drove, but I kept getting voicemail. I was relieved to see a cop car parked in a diner parking lot up the street. Getting out of the car, I approached the cruiser.
“Officer? There’s a woman in the park, with a baby – ”
A burst of static drowned out the end of my sentence. Voices from the cop’s radio. I could make out snippets – “We need backup”; “EMTs en route”; “-not responding, need-“.
I listened, the churning in my stomach getting worse every moment.
The officer leaned out of the window and smiled at me. “You’re so pretty,” he said.
I started to back away.
“Let me take your picture,” he repeated.
Unable to speak, I shook my head. The noise from his walkie stopped, replaced by a clear male voice: “Let me take your picture.”
What sounded like an explosion crackled through the device, followed by screams and shattering glass. A few seconds later, the original sound rumbled across the parking lot. I looked in the direction of the sound and saw a pyre of smoke rising into the cloudless blue sky.
The cop got out of his car, soft smile on his face, phone pointed at me. “Let me –”
I didn’t let him finish. I ran to my car and got the hell out of Keiser. I drove a few miles down the road and stopped at the truck stop where I am now.
So, can someone please help me get in touch with the authorities? 911 still isn’t answering and I really don’t know what else to do.
I can’t get the image of that baby out of my head. Even worse, although it might just be paranoia, whenever I catch a glimpse of myself in a reflective surface, I can’t help but think…I’m so pretty…I should take a picture.
CREDIT: Professional Succubus
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