(Part of the In Media Res series based on a image challenge, I did two stories for this one. Here’s the first based on this newspaper article about the online shells we leave behind when we die. Image created by Joel-Peter Witkin.)
“I got another email.”
Ben looked up from his workstation, trying hard to ignore his throbbing headache: “What?”
Evie peered over from her computer and said, “I’m passing the email to you. It’s from a blogger from Connecticut. A girl, she just recently died. Suicide, I think. Can you do the prelims?”
Ben rubbed the ridge of his nose in hopes of trying to assuage the pain. No luck. He replied, “Alright. Send it over. I’ll give it the usual.”
His computer beeped in reply as it received Evie’s forwarded email. He opened the email and read the details. He also saw the picture that had been posted on the Friendster account: she was seated on a chair languidly, long legs prominent like an invitation. But the face was blanked out. More like blackened out by a malicious invisible hand, he thought morbidly.
“Is this some kind of joke?”
“Hey, I just call ’em as I get ’em,” Evie answered distractedly, the white light of her monitor giving her face a pale, dead look.
“Shit.” He looked closer and saw what he missed at first glance: a white dog was seated before the picture. “And what the hell is this dog doing here?”
“What dog are you talking about?”
“The white– oh, never mind.” Ben opened a key form from the database and started to fill it in. Then he made a corresponding notification email to be sent to the people listed in the links. When he looked at the picture again, he almost pissed in his pants.
The picture had faded to an almost sepia-like tone, the blackening in the picture spreading around it like Medusa’s tentacled hair. For a moment, Ben thought it was an executioner’s photo complete with the electric chair. At the foot of the photo, the dog was now grinning though still looking at something not within the picture.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Evie muttered from her table, looking distractedly at him. Then she said, “Oh, who let the dog inside?”
(First published Tuesday, March 15, 2005 at 2:32 P.M.)