Working late was bad enough without feeling guilty every time he looked at the photo on his desk. In it, Holly’s eyes sparkled, radiating warmth and, as always, her smile spread tightly across her face as she always made a point to keep her lips pressed together. Even now, despite the events of the morning, he was drawn in by her face.
Mark couldn’t remember what the fight was about, but he was sure it was over something stupid. And if he was being totally honest, he also knew it had been his fault. It wasn’t the first time he allowed stress from work to creep into his home life.
His eyes wandered once again over to his wife’s face after tapping away at his keyboard for almost an hour. His fingers froze and it felt as though his heart had, too. His eyes burned and watered as he stared, unblinking at the photo. The same photo that had adorned his desk for almost ten years. Well, not the same.
The only spark left in Holly’s eyes was one that ignited fear. Her tightly pressed lips now flung apart in a frozen scream of terror. Mark squeezed his eyes shut and convinced himself that he was just tired. Too many hours staring at a computer screen.
When he opened them, not only was Holly still clutched in the grip of fear, but Mark had to lean in closer because he noticed something else that hadn’t been in the photo before. A shadowy figure lurked behind her. His mind was sluggish with confusion and he reached forward, rubbing the glass with his thumb to make sure it wasn’t just a smudge.
His stomach knotted when the image remained and he scrambled for his phone, dialing his wife with quaking fingers.
Relief washed through Mark when he heard her voice.
“Hey, it’s me. I just…I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”
“Yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” Holly said with a slight edge in her voice. The remnant of their unresolved fight.
“No reason. I was just…”
Mark’s words trailed off as he took another look at the photo. He was shocked to find that the shadowy mass had grown larger. As if it had drawn closer to Holly. As if it was right behind her.
“Mark? Are you still there?”
Before he could respond, the phone—and every molecule in his body—flooded with the sound of her scream. Mark watched in horror as the black outline of a hand slid over Holly’s mouth in the photo and his heart raced as his wife’s scream grew muffled in his ear.
“Holly, I’m coming,” he yelled over and over as he bolted from his desk.
Consumed with getting home and saving her, Mark never heard Holly’s phone hit the floor or the sounds of her struggling end.