The Perfect Shot

By Erika Bolliger

A cool wind rustled the leaves at my feet and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I pulled my thin brown jacket tighter around myself, wishing I had brought something thicker. I looked around nervously for what seemed like the tenth time in the last five minutes, but still I was thankfully alone.

I raised my camera up to my eye again, adjusting the lens to take in the image in front of me. I was at the end of a cobblestone alley, dirty and abandoned. A pile of garbage sat in a corner, surrounded by unreadable graffiti covered walls. In the center, an open rusted gate lead down a brightly lit hallway, with a blue motorcycle leaning against the wall, keys in the ignition. The light of dusk provided haunting shadows and an eerie calm settled over the alley.

My stomach churned uneasily and I longed to escape to the warmth and security of my apartment. I took a couple more steps forward, so I was standing in the entrance of the cement corridor, the rusted iron gates on either side of me. The motorcycle leaned against the wall and created such a striking shadow effect that I couldn't resist. I took another picture, capturing the moment in pristine detail. I was so caught up in the photo I almost didn't notice the sound of spray paint coming from within the blue lit hallway.

The smell hit me first, the strong, pungent odour that can only be from fresh paint. Something inside me that sounded suspiciously like my conscience told me to run, but the photographer inside me overpowered it and I raised my camera to my eye once again, closer to the bike than before.

When I photograph, in that moment, nothing else matters. There's no sound, no smell, nothing except the picture in front of me. It was my own little world, my escape, and unfortunately, my trap.

Rough hands grabbed my waist and tugged me forward, sending me sprawling across the cement. My camera fell from my hand but landed unscathed on the ground. I looked up at my attacker, a surprisingly skinny man with a bald, tattoo-covered head. The volcanoes in his eyes cooled slightly as they met mine, but still he snarled,

“What do you think you're doing here?”

“I-I-I” I stammered, stumbling over my words. “I was just -”

My explanation was cut short by a shout from the entrance of the hallway.

“Police, nobody move!” A loud shout echoed around us.

A wave of relief washed over my whole body.

The burly officer headed straight for me and I thought, thank god!

It was when he grabbed my arm that things got confusing.

“There have been reports of suspicious activity down here.” He said to me angrily.

“Did you know that graffiti is illegal? I'm going to need you to come with me.”

“No!” I shouted, jumping away. “It was him! I-I-I was just taking pictures.” I explained, first gesturing to the sketchy man in the corridor, who had a bemused look on his face, then to my camera.

The officer looked to where I pointed.

“Miss, there's no one there.” He said, exasperated.

I looked back and the man was still there, leaning against his motorcycle without a care in the world, watching as I tried to blame him for the graffiti.

The man waved to me as the police towed me to their car. He followed for a little, then stopped suddenly at the gates and shook his head.

I watched through tinted windows as the man's figure broke apart, and faded, until nothing but a wisp of fog was left in the corridor.

I sat, stunned at what I had just witnessed.

Looking back, I would say it was my imagination playing tricks on me, or a hallucination, but in that moment, I knew I was seeing a ghost. But it wasn't the ghost of a single person. It was the ghost of graffiti, embodied in the man was the souls of the artists, the pain, the anger, the need for expression and the talent. Graffiti wasn't just a way of rebellion for them, it was a way of life, to show to the world that this is who they are. To make their mark.

Weeks later, after paying the fine for the graffiti, I returned to the dark corridor, to find the motorcycle gone, and no suspicious ghost-man in sight. I walked down to where I had first seen him, and smelled fresh paint once again.

On the side of the wall was the most beautiful piece of art I had ever seen. It was a graffiti painting of me, standing in the corridor taking the picture. There was only one person who could have seen me at that time.

I looked down at the writing at the bottom, which said, Graffiti lives in all of us.

There was no signature.

I turned to walk away, not bothering to take a picture of the wall, wanting to hold the moment inside of me, on my mental film.

When I looked back once more, I saw a swirl of mist, and heard a motorcycle rev in the distance.

Did You Know

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