Author : Deirdre Coles

The key is, you never take anything from really rich people. They’re paranoid, and they often have their own kinds of security. It’s much better, usually, to aim lower.

Jackson had gotten four decent cameras from the wedding of anxious, pregnant young bride and a sullen groom on Friday evening. With all the booze and bonhomie in the hotel ballroom, nobody was keeping a close eye on their stuff.

As he walked past another reception room, a flash of peacock blue caught his eye, a woman twirling around in a long glittering dress, and he stepped inside.

The room made him nervous right away. He didn’t look toward the woman in blue. In a long-practiced maneuver, he scooped up a serving tray, brought it over to the nearest table, and picked up a few empty glasses, a couple of plates, and a camera, with a napkin draped over it.

Back at his apartment, he decided not to sell this one right away. The camera was really beautiful. It was a very pale iridescent yellow, with intricate sculpted buttons with no words.
He experimented with it a bit, and figured out how to take a picture of the two sugar maples across the street outside his window.

But when he looked at his photo, the trees were scorched and ringed with litter. The pavement was cracked and buckled, the buildings in ruins., with broken glass everywhere.

Jackson was starting to get a bad feeling. He took a deep breath and took another picture, this one at an angle of the street corner. On the camera’s screen, the building on the corner was gone, with only one partial wall remaining.

Nobody like Jackson survived for long by being stubborn, or ignoring their instincts, so he didn’t waste much time arguing with himself. He walked down the street to a playground and took a picture of a toddler in the sandbox. Never a good idea to take a picture of a kid, but Jackson was in no mood to be careful. He heard an exclamation behind him and walked swiftly away.

As soon as he got around the corner he took a closer look. The chubby toddler with her Viking-blond hair had become a gaunt, sunburned preteen. So, not much time, then.

Jackson sighed as he turned the camera around and took a picture of his own face. He thought he’d expected the bare, grinning skull looking back at him, but it came as a shock all the same.

He walked slowly back to his apartment. The first thing to do, he thought, was to get far away from all the big cities. And the camera might help him figure out where.

Back in the hotel, a creature who now looked not at all like a woman in peacock blue frowned at her companion.

“I thought you said the human would get rid of it, if it foretold his death?”

The other creature shifted uneasily. “It seems they may have changed since my last visit. Or maybe this one is different than most.”

“Perhaps we should prepare for a longer visit, then. It seems we have a great deal more to learn.”

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