Sam was dead. He was sure of it...with a heavy heart and eyes blurry with tears, AJ exited the hospital. He didn't want to be there when they had to tell Sharon. He couldn't face them. How would he be able to look his sister in the eye and offer sincere condolences? HE was the one that started it all, HE activated the accursed camera...HE should have been the one on the hospital bed, hanging on to life by the most slender of threads.
There were bikes right outside the hospital gates...he walked past them, ambling aimlessly along the road. AJ had no idea of where he was going...all he wanted to do was to walk and clear his thoughts. Images of Sam came unbidden to his mind. Wave after wave of agonising sorrow washed over him. Nothing was ever going to be the same again. No more Sam and Simon - the terrific duo. People were staring at him...he realised how he must appear to them... dishevelled, unkempt and apparently clueless. Well, let them stare, what did he care anyway? It was the end, Sam was gone, he would be following the same road shortly. AJ shuddered at the thought of being trapped in the camera with Lauren. Was Sam already there? Silently screaming this very moment...a prisoner of a crazed demonic entity...a vengeful, spiteful spirit.
His mind was made up. He wanted to know how he was going to die...he HAD to look at his picture in the camera. It was time to go home.
The bloody thing was lying on his bed. Had he put it there earlier? He supposed he must have. These days, it was difficult differentiating between reality and fantasy. With not a little trepidation, AJ picked up the camera. He popped open the memory card slot and pulled out the memory card. He had a card reader, viewing the contents on his laptop SHOULD reveal it's dark secrets, he thought.
He was disappointed. It was blank. This was puzzling. The camera had activated itself earlier in the morning and snapped him, so there was supposed to be something showing there.
Maybe it was all over, maybe SHE was satiated...maybe all she wanted was Sam all along and she was at rest now. He refreshed the device and STILL nothing showed.
For the first time since he discovered the horrid truth about Lauren's camera, AJ dared to hope. Excitedly, he fixed the memory card back into the camera and walked outside with it. The first person he saw was Mama Azeez. She was speaking with the Landlord. "Ah, just the person I wanted to see." The landlord beamed enthusively. "I was just telling Mama Azeez that the rent as from next month will be up by five percent. Things are a bit hard now I know, but I have to keep the property maintained."
From a far corner in the compound, he heard a neighbour grumbling openly about the increment.
"Oga landlord, good afternoon sah!"
"Thank you, my boy. That's a nice looking camera you have there."
AJ smiled at the landlord and raised the camera up. "Let me take a few shots of you sir"
Smiling like a simpleton, Baba Salako (the landlord) posed for a couple of pictures. AJ looked in the visor. Nothing was showing there. Good. It was broken, the curse had been lifted. He practically skipped back to his room, troubles momentarily forgotten. There WAS a bright light at the end of this tunnel afterall.
What was that sound? AJ rushed out of his room to investigate...Mama Azeez was standing at the same spot she was a couple of minutes ago. Her eyes were almost bulging out of their sockets, mouth open. She seemed to be in shock. WHAT was THAT she was looking at? It seemed to be a lump of some pinkish stuff...He looked closer and knew what it was in an instant. It was a brain...or at least part of one. AJ slumped...mercifully unconscious before he hit the ground.
They were pouring water on him to revive him. He could see their dirty feet as they moved around him. He could recognise Mama Azeez from her dirty toe nails and...OH LORD! The drying blood and grey matter on her ankle. He turned over and retched. Big mistake. He was staring at Baba Salako or what remained of him. It was easy to see what had happened. The derrick holding the big metal overhead tank had collapsed. The tank filled with water had crushed Baba Salako, killing him instantly.
Kind hands lifted him gently and carried him to his room.
They shut the door behind them and left. AJ turned his head towards the wall to cry. Lauren was lying beside him. She was smiling, yellowing teeth filed to dagger points grinned at him.
"How do you like my latest masterpiece? I did it just for YOUUUUUUU Andrewwwww. I have something special planned for you. Don't you go dying on me...YET!"
AJ was too tired to scream. He had seen too much in the past days to be horrified. He took deep, even breaths.
She was floating a few inches off the bed now.
"Look Andrew, no balloons....heh! Ayuck! Heh! Heh! I'll float with you today Andy...may I call you Andy? I'm sure you won't mind...i'll see you at 7. Wear something nice, won't YOUUUUUU? Don't be late for your funeral...we'll float and we'll scream. Actually, YOU will SCREAMMMM! I scream, you scream, we ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAMMM!!"
She was gone again. AJ looked at the wall clock. It just struck 3. He had 4 hours left to live.
He spent part of the time crying. Part of the time cursing himself. Most of the time he thought of Sam. He remembered the little tyke at his finest hour...and then at his lowest, dying alone on a lonely hospital bed. He thought about Sam's last words...then it hit him. All of a sudden, he KNEW.
AJ had been standing close to the water. He was at the beach. This was the place he chose for the meeting. Something Sam said to him had given him hope...HE hoped he wasn't wrong.
Right on time, the 'sweet mother' song came on...in the air, all around him. AJ looked frantically around for Lauren, then he saw her. She was tearing a hole literally in the air and was appearing. This WAS her true form...it was horrible. Shaggy hair framed a face that was putrefying and stale. In place of her eyes were sockets with maggots oozing from them. Her hands were several tentacles with little suction cups attached to them.
"ANDREWWWW!!" She/It reached out for him.
AJ raised the camera and shouted..."Go back to hell you foul beast!" Then he took HER picture.
The scream was deafening. The smell was even worse. The camera made a sound like several chickens clucking crazily and leapt out of his hands. Lauren was being sucked into the camera! She screamed shrilly, beating at it, but it was useless. Inch by agonising inch, IT/SHE was pulled into it. AJ realised she existed in two dimensions - in the camera as a vengeful sprite and in this plane as an undead abomination. No two things could occupy the same exact space. Bringing them together would destroy her for good. With one last despairing shriek, she was gone.
AJ picked up the now inert camera and threw it far into the water. His job was done. It was finally over.
A few kilometres away, a young boy called Sam opened his eyes on a hospital bed. He asked for his mother. The doctors who had been battling to keep him alive called it a miracle. Though he didn't realise it, today was his 4th birthday. He looked up at them and smiled. He was already an incredibly handsome boy at his young age.
"Mummy! Mummy! Look what I found!"
Little Sally had been playing on the beach with her recently widowed mother. She was 'hunting for shells'
"What's that in your hands honey? Oh. Its a camera. It looks old. It must be spoilt. Throw it away."
Noticing the sad look on Sally's face, her mother relented. "Okay, keep it then. You can put it in my small bag."
Safe and dry inside the bag, a little red light on the camera blinked once...twice...three times, like an obscene wink.