“Cantrell Creek Photography, we love to shoot you!” Rachael overheard as the receptionist answered the phone. “Yes, we have a slot open for Friday, would you like the photographer to meet you some where or will you be coming in to the studio?”
A down-pouring of emotion came over her as she stood there. How many years had she and Stacey worked for this? It had been ten years – a rocky ten years, but they had made it. It seemed like yesterday that they were struggling to get the funds for their first backdrop, and now here they were rated one of the best photography studios in all of Texas.
“What happened to you?” a voice came from the entrance to her office.
“Huh? what do you mean?” Rachael replied back to Stacey, her best friend and sometimes sister for the last twenty years.
“You look like your either pondering life, or have fallen in love again, and it better not be the later.”
“Just thinking about how far we have come.”
“Awe! Someone’s feeling sentimental! You had better get to it, we’ve got three shoots all across the MetroPlex today.”
The term Soul Mates is usually reserved for married couples, but that was truly what Rachael and Stacey were. They met in high school, both out of place due to other people’s bad decisions. They found each other when they needed each other most, and never stopped needing to lean on each other. They had been through it all, and I mean everything. They had their first babies together, went through bad relationships, strife and beyond. Yet, they had made it through and were all the better for it.
“All right, lets get going,” Rachael said, gathering equipment.
The day went pretty fast, the first shoot of the day was at a repeat customer’s house. The Murphy’s had been customers since the very beginnings of the business. Every year they had pictures of their kids taken in front of a beautiful flowing fountain in their rose garden. After that they met a young couple at the fountains down town for prom pictures, of course paid for by the young woman’s mother. It still amazed Rachael how people would complain about having to pay $250 for on site, quality pictures, but would shell out 500 clams for a hideous dress.
By the last shoot of the day, both girls were ready for Friday margaritas, even though it was only Wednesday.
“Who did you say this last one was?” Rachael said, she could never remember the itinerary for the day, but that’s why she had Stacey. Rachael was the artist and Stacey kept up with the details.
“New clients, The Hatebreeds… The woman didn’t say much, other than making sure we did on site calls.” Stacey raised an eyebrow.
“The what? Hate… Breeds? Are you serious?” Rachael let out a guffaw. Stacey snickered.
“Well, that’s how we made our name.”
It was 4pm before the arrived at the address. “Wow, that looks creepy.” Awed Stacey
It truly was a sight out of a Stephen King movie. There was a old, rusty fence with an “H” in Old English style in the very top. Behind it was what was left of a road being arched by over grown shrubberies. At the end of the dilapidated drive was the biggest, spookiest mansion the girls had ever seen. Black. Pure Black. No trim, not even a different colored roof. The only color was the red velvet curtain peeking from behind the windows like glowing red eyes.
“It doesn’t look like anyone has lived here in decades.” Rachael said with an uncertainty in here voice.
“Man, this shit had cult initiation written all over it.” Stacey joked. Rachael didn’t laugh.
“I really hope this doesn’t turn out like that OTHER mansion we did.”
Rachael spoke of old man Jefferson’s house. Upon arriving they met the senile 95 year old and his hunting dog, Blue. The only problem was that Blue was stuffed about 15 years prior, and wear was starting to show. Not only that, but the old coot insisted that the girls pet Ole’ Blue before they left.
Stacey eased the accelerator through the gate and when the Jeep finally made it to the end of the drive, they were greeted by an old woman who must have been in her 80’s. She was dressed head to toe for the 1890’s, full length Victorian dress, and frizzy gray hair. The poor thing must have had cataracts, Rachael thought, because her eyes were so fogged over they looked gray.
“Good afternoon, I am Mrs. Hatebreed.” She spoke in what sounded like an English accent, but Rachael couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
“Its is a pleasure to meet you, Mrs… Hatebreed. I’m Rachael, and this is Stacey. Will be taking pictures of you today?”
“Oh heavens no! I’m just a mess today!” the old woman giggled. “I called you for a session for my father. I fear he hasn’t much time left, and I thought I would get one final portrait of him to remember him by.”
As they followed the old woman down the twisting hallways and corridors of the ancient house, Rachael whispered, “Did she say father?”
“Yeah, I wonder if HE’S stuffed?” replied Stacey. Rachael had to bite her tongue so hard it might have drawn blood, and whispered back “Well I’ll make sure you get to pet him before we leave!”
Observing the house, it felt more like a very strange museum. There were very old paintings on the walls, but these were no Picasso’s. The eyes of Demons and Devils stared out of nearly every painting. Right before they arrived at the parlor, Stacey had to stop her self from screaming at the sight of a statue of a man being tortured Spanish Inquisition style.
When they arrived in the parlor, Rachael gasped. Death himself sitting beside the fireplace. He was a tall, sallow thing, with sunken in cheeks, what seemed like all eye sockets and no eyes. He had the thinnest hair you have ever seen, what hair was left that is. He was dressed in what literally looked like an old undertaker’s suit.
“Is this how you wold like the pictures taken?” Rachael said, trying to hide her unease.
“Oh, yes dear JUST like this.”
Rachael and Stacey did their usual job, but with more haste.
They shook hands with the old lady and promised their usual 3 day prints.
“Jeez that was too weird!” Stacey remarked.
“Yeah, I’m tempted to say studio only shoots from now on.” Rachael joked, as they hurried into the Jeep. As they exited the drive, Rachael was sure she saw the old man in the rearview, standing by the old lady. Yet when Stacey looked around, he was not there. The both blew it off as stress, not knowing how wrong they both were.
The next morning, Rachael came in early to the office, to get to work digitally enhancing the photos. Ever since she started taking photos, she had been obsessive about making each picture perfect. Although she had cone hundreds of shoots, she had never been 100% happy with how they turned out, but that’s the price you pay for being a perfectionist. That is where Stacey came in, if Stacey said it was ok, then Rachael knew she was done.
“Alright, there not going to do themselves.” Rachael told her self as she closed out her Facebook page.
The first batch up were the photos of the Murphy kids. Rachael always enjoyed going to the Murphy’s for photo shoots. Mrs. Murphy took very good care of her garden. It never failed that she always had new flowers in the garden, but always looked just as perfect as before. Always the same , but always changing. Something of this spoke to Rachael.
That was how she kept her house, and her life. Every 6 months or so, she would get this overwhelming urge to rearrange her entire house. One could trace this back all the way back to when she was a little girl. Her parents never stayed in one place too much, always on the move. Her moving the furniture around was probably just a way to capture part of her childhood. The decoration would change, but the house stayed.
Rachael opened the first JPEG image on her computer on her computer, and got to work. Something was odd with the first picture. It wasn’t blurry, the kids were smiling, and the faces were clear. It was the flowers all the flowers were…. dull. Not only that, the sky looked gray. She thought maybe just the one picture was bad, for the garden was in pristine condition yesterday, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The second and third pictures were the same, actually the entire batch had the same flaw.
“Oh, shit” Rachael though. “The camera’s broke.”
She wasn’t upset because of the camera being broke. She must have 5 or 6 state of the art extras in her closet. This meant she would have to do all three sessions again, at a discounted rate on top of it all.
Rachael decided to go ahead and call her clients with the bad news.
“Hello” A voice answered on the line.
“Good morning, Mrs. Murphy, this is Rachael from Cantrell Creek. There seems to be a problem with the pictures we took yesterday.”
“What kind of problems?” Replied Mrs. Murphy
“Well it seems the picture turned out dull, the flowers have barely any color in them and the sky is gray.”
“Well that is ironic. When I walked outside today, my entire garden was dead. Not one flower left. I am afraid my garden will not have color in it for a very long time.” Mrs. Murphy replied sounding very upset.
Rachael set a new appointment time for her, and went back to the rest of the photos. She opened the batch of the teenage couple, at the fountain. This one stood out to Rachael because the young woman’s dress was the brightest(and ugliest) yellow Rachael had ever seen, surely there was no way THAT would be dull. When she opened the file, she saw a teenage girl wearing a very faded dress under the dreariest sky one had ever seen.
“Well, third times a charm.” Rachael said to herself as she opened the third batch. When the photo poped up on the screen Rachael gasped. The pictures of the old man were too vibrant for the dark mansion she had taken them in. This was strange, but it was not the reason she gasped. The sallow, frail old man Rachael saw the day before looked healthy and younger.