Continuing on our serialization of a photography themed short story, here is Part 3 of "In the Blink of an Eye." If you didn't manage to read Part 1 and Part 2, then catch up to find out what Charlie Sydcup videoed during a trip to the City of London and what his image processing revealed.
The sequence of images must have been the last moments of the builder as he plunged to his death. He flicked back to his recent video and cross-checked the features and objects in the scene. It was unmistakably 20 Fenchurch Street and could only have been that morning - he recognized the young couple looking back in to the scene as the events unfolded. But the ending… what was that? Who was the woman?
"What on earth am I seeing?" he whispered to himself. "I feel like I am looking in to his life."
Charlie paused, reflecting upon the last scene that had flashed before him. It had clearly happened before the morning’s events, before the builder’s death. Was that his partner, his wife? He could see the disapproval, the anger, being directed at the builder. The death was clearly significant, traumatic, and he had assumed that he was simply watching a ‘replay’ of the scene. But was the significance more important? Was this last scene an argument? A separation? An event seared in to the memory?
He carried on talking to himself. "Maybe I’m looking in to his soul. And it's not only what I’m seeing, but how I’m seeing it!"
The flash of light was fast – a tenth of a second – and he had only managed to capture it because the builder had been looking straight at him. And given the sensitivity of the camera to NIR it couldn’t be visible to the human eye. And if light was coming out, being emitted, from the eye how was it being generated and how did it produce those images?
So many questions! Charlie thought. Then, more loudly, “I’ve got to find out more.”
He looked at his watch and realized that time was getting tight for him to return to work on time. He grabbed his camera, put another memory card in and slid it into the rucksack. Leaving the tripod behind, he left the flat and ran down the stairs, jumping four at a time until he reached the bottom. This time he went out the back and grabbed his bike from the secure storage area, leaving by the rear entrance and cycling up to Waterloo Station before turning alongside the Thames, switching on to the river footpath at Westminster Bridge. He soon came alongside the hospital building and padlocked his bike in the parking area before trotting through the lower staff entrance.
Charlie went to the staff lockers and threw on his uniform, clipping his ID badge to the outside. As a night cleaner, his shift was in the Harris building on the wards. He slipped his camera in his pocket and walked over to Harris, going through the double doors of Jeffries, a ward for elderly male patients.
"Good evening Jane," he jovially greeted the nurse in charge of the ward.
"Evening Charlie. You OK?" she replied.
"Of course! 'Night is time when everyone sleeps except for us!'" he recounted in his usual refrain. "I'm starting here tonight, but just need to do a site walk first."
"No problems, just shout if you need anything."
She smiled at him from her station and then carried on with her paperwork. The ward had twenty beds in all and he slowly made his way down the room making a mental note of the patients in their beds. Most had headphones on and were watching TV - visiting had finished so the place was quiet.
He was interested in the private suite at the end of the ward that the staff called eel which was a bastardization of EoL for End of Life. It was where patients expecting to pass away were taken to offer specialist care and privacy for family members. Looking through the window he saw an elderly man sleeping. He quickly glanced over his shoulder and, with everyone else busy, slipped in to the room. The patient's notes - a Mr Stowe - showed that he was emaciated and clearly in very poor health requiring supplementary oxygen. Two things jumped off the page - he had a DNR and no next-of-kin. Thoughts raced… could he?
He retreated from the room, his mind swimming in possibilities. He needed to work, to think. Come back later. He walked back down the ward and, just outside the doors, opened the facilities storage room to collect his large double-broom, bucket and mop. He worked his way systematically through the ward, sweeping all the large open areas first, before using a smaller brush to enable him to clean under and around beds and cabinets. Some areas were curtained off so these he left. His mind still raced… the old man was dying, going to die. Could he capture that moment? See into his soul? He finished the sweeping and, after filling his bucket, mopped the floor. He cleaned around the nurses’ station, smiling at Jane. She was illuminated by a small desk lamp in the darkness of the now asleep ward.
He worked his way back down the central aisle, past the rows of beds, lined up like coffins in a cemetery. It was 2am, the ward was deathly quiet - he peeped in to the eel room. The man was still asleep - Charlie again entered the room and still there was no response from the patient. Charlie made a snap decision - his heart beat faster, sweat instantly appearing on his palms. He pulled the camera out of his pocket, securing it to a portable camera mount, wrapping the flexible legs around the TV bracket high up on the wall. He set the camera to record, checking the image, before leaving.
Lead image courtesy of Free-Photos via Pixabay, used under Creative Commons.