A couple buys an antique camera from another planet that they realize takes photos one hour into the future.
Ixan examined the foreign boxy “L” shaped gray device. The bottom had a slot to insert something, and what that was, Ixan had no clue, other than it had to be thin. On the front was a circle that seemed like an old-fashioned lens, and the top had a tiny red button on the right corner. There was a worn, brown leather strap attached to carry the device. Ixan stopped himself from putting the strap around himself as the gadget had a delicate quality to it with its lightweight, and Ixan didn’t want to invoke the wrath of the kind shopkeeper.
“Hey, Adriyel,” Ixan called out in a hushed tone to his girlfriend. “Come, look at this thing.”
Adriyel walked over with her arms folded. “What did you find now?”
“I don’t know. I thought you might know.”
“I don’t know either,” Adriyel said as the snakes in her hair moved with unease. “This shop is giving me the creeps. Let’s get out of here.”
“I see you found an Insta Photo Camera,” the shopkeeper said with glee as she strolled over to the couple. She was a young human woman with black hair in a bun and wore a red dress more fitting for date night than an antique shop clerk. She had introduced herself to the couple earlier as Raven.
“Never seen a camera like that,” Ixan confessed to Raven.
“That’s because I acquired it from Earth.”
“I wonder what the pictures look like,” Adriyel said, her interest peaked.
Raven pulled out a small, white piece of paper from behind a rustic wooden counter. “Would you like to test it?”
“Yes!” Ixan exclaimed.
Raven handed him the paper. “Simply put this in the slot in the button, point the camera, and press the red button on top.”
Ixan followed the instructions, taking a selfie. The camera buzzed and whirled for a few seconds before it printed out a photo. The picture developed in front of them, showing Ixan at a different location with a red smudge on his purple cheek.
“That was unexpected,” Adriyel commented, confused.
Ixan’s feelings were the opposite. “This is so rad. It’s like the camera remixes the image. How much?”
“It’s 5,000 shinnies and comes with a pack of 13 photos.”
“Sounds like you’re trying to get rid of it,” Adriyel accused. “Especially something that’s supposedly from Earth.”
“Once you use all 13 photos, that’s it,” Raven explained.
“I’ll take it,” Ixan said. “This will be fun to use throughout our date today.”
Adriyel agreed, and so Ixan paid for the camera. Raven assured Ixan the strap was sturdy if he wanted to sling it over his shoulder. The two carried about their romantic outing in downtown Helvetica, wandering through a few other boutiques before they stopped for a snack at Pi’s Pie Time.
The smell of freshly baked goods greeted them, along with warm welcomes from a ragtag trio of workers in matching aprons behind the glass cabinets. The largest of the three was a chrisom minotaur, who had the smoothness of a ballerina despite his wrestler physique. Moving with slow and cautious precision, he placed tiny adorable pies inside a display case from a massive tray he held with one hand without any unsteady shakes. A dark-skinned human woman near in size with the minotaur approached them from behind the counter.
“What can we make for you today?” the woman asked as an animated tattoo of a white bear performed tricks on a unicycle around her sleeveless arms.
“A small cherry pie for me,” Adriyel politely requested.
“Same for me,” Ixan added.
They paid for their order and took a seat, sinking into a soft, flora pattern couch. The intimate coffee shop bakery had about a dozen tables and several sofas scattered about as a mellow rock tune filled the air. As they waited, the couple chatted about the vibrant landscape paintings done by a local artist that adorned the walls.
A moment later, the women who took their order bought out their cherry pies. As she walked over to them, she didn’t notice the bag someone had left behind a chair and tripped over it. She managed to keep a grip on one pie, but Ixan’s face caught the other. Adriyel laughed.
“I am so sorry,” the woman profusely apologized.
“It’s okay,” Ixan admitted. “It’s just pie.”
“I’ll get you another one.”
The woman left, and Adriyel stopped laughing. Disbelief covered her face as she stared at her boyfriend.
“What’s wrong? Is there something in my teeth?” Ixan joked.
“Pull out that selfie you took with that Insta camera.”
Ixan pulled out the photo from his hoodie and handed it to her.
Adriyel held the photo up side by side to his face. “This is a perfect match. It’s like the camera took a photo of you an hour into the future.”
“Let’s test it out.” Ixan filled the camera and took a picture of Adriyel. In the photograph, Adriyel was smiling, covered in bubbles. “I don’t see you getting covered in bubbles in the next hour.”
The woman returned with another pie and two strips of paper. “If you’re interested, I got a pair of tickets to a concert tonight. A promoter dropped off a few earlier today for us to giveaway.”
Adriyel enthusiastically took the tickets. “I love Valiance Refuges! I’ve always wanted to see them live. Thank you!”
The woman smiled. “You’re welcome. Enjoy the show, and so sorry about the pie.”
With the show starting soon, the couple finished their meal and leisurely made their way to the concert venue. The lights dimmed in the historic building as the stage curtains opened to a mellow guitar solo, followed by a thunderous drum beat and cannons spraying foam bubbles, covering the audience.
The crowd cheered while Adriyel and Ixan looked at each other, unsettled.
“That’s two for two,” Adriyel stated with worry.
“Let’s take a photo of us together,” Ixan said, still skeptical.
They huddled together for a selfie. In the printed photo was only Adriyel. She was crying. Thinking he frame themselves wrong, he took two more shots, each solo. Adriyel’s photo had her still crying while Ixan’s was blank.
“Okay, this thing is just messing with us,” Ixan grumbled. “Let’s just enjoy the show and go home afterward.”
It took a few songs and some alcoholic drinks, but their mood did improve. They left the venue in cheerful spirits, discussing their favorite moments. For them to rate this experience as one of their favorites was high praise, considering the couple attended a concert about every other week.
“Next time that band’s in town, we gotta see them,” Ixan said to Adriyel.
“I’ll keep tabs on their schedule. Hold on. What’s that noise?”
Adriyel looked up while Ixan shrugged. A dragon, twice their size with a wing on fire, was spiraling out of control, falling toward them.
“Watch out!” Adriyel screamed as she ran to the side.
Confused and a little intoxicated, Ixan sluggishly looked around for the danger, only to see the dragon too late. The dragon crashed into him. Adriyel cried out. Strangers nearby rushed over to help.
The next day, Adriyel returned to the antique curiosities shop with the camera strapped around her. The retail space was empty, with only a “For Lease” sign on the door.
This story was inspired by a simple writing prompt about an old camera that photos one hour into the future. Since the last few of my stories have taken place on Earth, I decided to give this concept a sci-fi setting and place it on The Black Planet. I also worked in a pie shop that I have featured in one of my books I’m writing currently.
If you want to help support me, join me on Patreon and one of the rewards is early access to my short stories. I’ll also post locked/exclusive stories that I’ve submitted to publications, like this one here, about a shop that sells personalities.
Thank you to Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle for bringing the shop scene to life.
Thank you for reading!