The Magic Camera  By: Ella Harvanek

        You are walking up the creaky stairs into the dark unknown. Your mom told you not to walk up the spiral stairs into the attic, but you don’t care. You want to know what’s up there. What secrets was she hiding? As you get closer and closer to the top of the winding staircase your heart rate quickens. You can hear it pulsating in your ears and you think it’s going to burst out of your chest.  You stop, you have finally reached the top. You look at the door. It looks like it has been untouched for years. You turn the gold door knob and open the door. 

It reveals a room cluttered with junk. You think to yourself, “That’s it? That’s the big ‘secret.’ THAT’S mom was hiding?”. Then you remembered something your father told you once, “Nothing is as it seems at first glance. Always look closer.” Light is streaming through the windows, so you don’t even need to turn on the light. The room smells of mothballs and old books. Which made sense because one wall of this tiny room had bookcases stocked full of books in alphabetical order. Half of the room had normal attic stuff. Holiday decorations, your trophies you won when you were like four and old pillows and bedding that had a flower pattern like your great grandmother's wallpaper. 

The other half was what caught your eye. At first glance it looks like clutter, but when you walk up to it to examine it, it is far from clutter.  It was boxs of old books that if you put them on ebay you would make a fortune, and endless boxes of film. Your mom loved film and that kind of thing. You explore more on this side of the room. After a while and searching through endless boxes, you find an old looking camera. You recognize it, it was a first generation polaroid. 

Under it is a stack of pictures, you flip through a few of the faded photographs. The facial expressions on the people in the photos were bizarre. The people frozen in this one moment, looked either petrified or really sad. You flip to a picture of your father. He went missing 2 years ago after a pretty heated argument with your mom. Some people said he got out while he still could, but you never believed that. He would never do that to you, to your little brother. You pocket the photo and keep investigating.  

You have begged your mom endlessly for a polaroid, and it turns out that there was one in your attic the whole time? This didn’t make any sense. Why would your mother hide this from you when she knew that you wanted one so badly? Maybe she was saving it for a special birthday or christmas present. You start setting up the camera that feels like a fossil in your hand. How did your mother get a hold of such a priceless item. You turn over the camera to find the date. You read “1950”. 

You set up the camera to take a picture to make sure it still works. You couldn’t wait to bring it to your photography teacher, he would have a field day if you brought this in. You feed new film into it as if you were feeding your little brother green beans. Ater ten minutes of struggling with this machine you manage to get half the roll in. 

You check the cloudy window just above all the stacked boxes, to make sure you are picture ready. It did no use though. your frizzy uncontrollable hair that looked as your mother would put it “A rat’s nest”, would never be picture ready. That was a fight for another day though, you just found a 1950 polaroid! 

You click the shutter-release button to snap a picture. At first nothing happened, then this blinding flash issued out of the camera. You feel this strange pressure on your chest like a 80 pound child is sitting on you. As suddenly as this pressure was let on to you it went away. Then suddenly everything went dark and cold. Colder than the attic you were just in moments before. 

You don’t remember what happened after that, but you find yourself lying on a cold hard surface. Your eyes are still closed, you don’t want to open them just yet. Your head is pounding so fiercely that you don’t even know if Advil can cure it. 

You finally decide to open your eyes. You are in what looks like the same attic that your mom told you not to go into and explore. It feels different, the vibe isn’t still happy and mysterious. It is gloomy and cold. Did the flash scare you so bad that you fainted? Is this all in your head? No, it can’t be. This is all in your head. Just get up and get some Advil, yeah that’ll fix it. It was at this moment that you realize that everything was cased in a reddish hue.  

You stand up and look at the cloudy window, where moments before you checked your unruly hair, except it wasn’t the window you had just seen yourself in. It was shattered, you look beyond the window to the outside. This was not the outside that you remember, this is NOT earth. It’s impossible. The outside that you looked at moments before had children playing with their friends, people walking their dogs and your old neighbor knitting on her porch. 

The outside that you were looking at was definitely not that. What you were looking at was painted red with the light from the red sun hanging in the sky. Everything was overgrown with vines and not a living thing in sight. Not even a bird.

In the past 5 years you have replayed this memory in your head over a million times. Not knowing where it all went wrong and no way of contacting anyone from your life on the happy earth. The earth where your mother is, your friends, even ‘big sarah’ your bully. Instead you were left with this lifeless, scorching hot earth and the picture of your father.