Created by Katherine Haden.

Created by Katherine Haden.

Katherine Haden

I have photographs of

Seas of umbrellas and petrichor in eulogy

Spinning dresses and finery

Lilting notes of symphony

Monochrome figures and their misery

But of all the things I have seen

None have stolen my breath quite as much

As you and your apathy.

He was a figure with a suit cut out of the fabric of the night, tall and thin, moving fluidly as a shadow. His skin was paper-white, his eyes cast in darkness beneath a fedora. He walked with head held high despite heavy rainfall, yet it seemed to avoid him as if the raindrops themselves knew he would not tolerate such an inconvenience. The light of streetlamps shone in puddles on the cobblestone street, yet it seemed to shatter when he passed by, overtaken by his shadow. His footsteps were soundless, his long strides brisk and precise.

The facade of a dance hall loomed among the storefronts, its elaborate architecture and arched windows like a rose among weeds. He stopped in front of it and looked up at the bricks for a moment, then grasped the camera hanging from his neck and brought it up to his eyes–or where they should have been. 


The shot was perfect, as expected. He stepped into the doorway, sweeping the vast room for his next subject.

A tall, thin young woman in a form-fitting dress sat back in her chair; her legs were crossed–and bare below the knee. Her dark hair had been chopped into a bob. She stared up at him through heavy eyelashes and strong slashes of eyeliner; her gaze was filled with a sort of quiet frustration that stilled his steps. A feeling half out of reach, half indescribable, fury or raw intensity. 

“Miss.” His voice was wispy and rough, covered in dust and cobwebs.


He pulled out the chair across from her and sat down. “Your name.”

At that, she sat up straight, the look in her eyes intensifying and taking on a tinge of indignance. “Why, I never gave you permission to sit down!”

“I need your name.”

Perhaps it was the way he seemed to absorb the light that was cascading from the center chandelier, or the way the shadows covered his eyes so completely they seemed to disappear, but she finally lost her nerve and broke eye contact. “It’s Ophelia,” she mumbled in a sulky tone quite unfitting for someone of her class. And of course he had noticed her class–she practically dripped with jewelry. “Now you tell me your name. It’s only fair.”

“Oh, no, you don’t need my name. I only asked yours out of necessity.”

Ophelia raised a painstakingly shaped eyebrow. “You are an awfully strange man.”

“If you must, you may refer to me as Traveler.” She shook her head, but her painted lips betrayed the slightest beginning of a smile.

Then, just as abruptly as he had sat down, he stood up again. “Come with me and I’ll show you something special.”

Ophelia looked positively affronted. “Oh, please. You are only a stranger, most likely a kidnapper. I’d be a fool if I went anywhere with you!” Yet her interest had been kindled already, and he knew it would stick in her mind until she satisfied it. “…How special, exactly?”

The traveler’s neutral expression stretched into a smile. “It’s the strangest thing you’ll ever see in your life–I guarantee it.”

They made an odd pair, one dressed in white, the other in pitch black, going for a stroll on the second floor balcony that wrapped around the room and overlooked the dance floor. He offered her his arm, but she protested– “Don’t bother pretending to be a gentleman; it’s too late for that!”–and so they walked a few feet apart. The traveler was pleased to find that Ophelia could keep pace with him regardless. 

Below them, men and women in various stages of frivolity whirled around, kicking their legs back and forth in a frenzied, twisting dance that made the walls pulse with energy. The music swelled to match, trumpet and saxophone and piano weaving together into a vivacious melody.

What is this song’s name?” The traveler had to raise his voice slightly to be heard over a cymbal crash.

Ophelia regarded him curiously. “It’s the Charleston, of course. Haven’t you heard it before? It’s been playing all the time these days, especially in dance halls like this one.” She smirked when he shook his head. “You aren’t from around here, are you?”

“That would be one way to put it.”

“You really are strange.”

“And that would be another.”

“So that strange thing you were going to show me…”

“Oh–yes. One moment.” He had forgotten. How…uncharacteristic of him. The music had fallen away, and they were utterly alone. He swept his camera from his pocket with a flourish. Ophelia’s hands flew to her mouth as she stared at it. 

“What- what– is that?! It’s the smallest machine I’ve ever seen!”

“It’s a camera. I told you it would be special, didn’t I?”

“Liar!” she gasped. “Cameras are great big, bulky things, and you need to fold them to carry them around– how is this one supposed to fold? How is it supposed to capture anything?!”

“Would you like to find out?”

There was something in the woman’s eyes that looked like fear now, something hard. She started to back away, still staring at the camera. It reflected the light as much as the traveler absorbed it. “There is something about you,” she whispered. “Something impossible.”

The traveler swept forward, closing the distance between them, and she seemed to realize for the first time how menacing he looked. “Listen to me, Ophelia.” At the sound of her name, she stopped short and her mouth set in a grim line, only the slightest tremble slipping through her facade. “Impossible. Strange. Call it what you like. All I need from you is a photograph.”


“Wow, these photos are great!” The traveler sat across from a young woman who was flipping through a series of photographs of an unsmiling woman. He stirred his coffee aimlessly. The liquid reflected nothing, even as sunlight poured in through the window of his studio. “So this is my grandmother, huh?” She smiled up at him, and he nodded. “She died before I was born, you know, in the Blitz. Real heroic, and a flapper too?! I guess rebellion runs in the family. But I gotta admit, I thought you were a scammer at first! How do you do it? Get all these old photos, I mean?”

Without a word, the traveler stood up from the table and started to walk away. The young woman followed him hurriedly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry! It’s just so– wait, we haven’t discussed payment, have we?”

An idea began to take shape in his mind. “Follow me.” His voice was raw and cracked now.

“Oh- uh, alright then! I’m Amy, by the way. I figure you should know my name if I’m sticking around, right?” They stopped at a pitch-black door. Amy looked up at it with apprehension. “…Wait, I get it now! This is the darkroom where you develop the photos, isn’t it?” The traveler nodded again. “Gosh, it’s awfully nice of you to give me a tour.” 

If he felt remorse as he closed the door behind them, as the lock clicked imperceptibly and the “DARKROOM IN USE” sign flickered on, he showed no sign of it.

He showed Amy around and explained how a photograph was printed from the film and submerged in a developer solution that made the image appear, then a stop bath that stopped development, and finally a fixer that made the image permanent. She clutched the photographs of her grandmother–Ophelia–close to her chest, soaking in the dim red glow of the safelight. “Err, this is all awfully interesting, but it’s still just regular stuff. How do you do…y’know…the time travel part?” Amy piped up from behind him.

The traveler’s head snapped back to her. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, I mean,” she laughed nervously, suddenly all too aware of the closed door and the man blocking her from it, “I kind of suspected it. You were offering to show people never-before-seen images of their dead loved ones! If it really isn’t a scam, how else is it possible?”

He would have done it no matter what. He was already planning to take back the photos. The discovery of his secret merely led him to use a more…distasteful method. 

She didn’t struggle much. Not even when he plunged her face into the developer solution and held her there. Perhaps she didn’t have time to, or perhaps she knew it was futile. And therein lay the secret: Soon enough, Amy’s skull crumpled and shrunk in his hands, paper-thin–because now she was paper. The solution shriveled his hand along with it, but he still took care not to rip the rest of her as he completed the development process. He stared at his newest photograph.

It was alright. He could turn her back whenever he wanted. He was going to turn her back.

If he ever came back.

A more reasonable person may have pointed out that his feelings could not possibly be love. He had known Ophelia for all of half an hour, and half of that she had spent showing profound disinterest with the other half spent afraid of him, and perhaps most obviously, their lives were separated by a hundred years. The traveler did not concern himself with such trivial things. He saw her eyes when he closed his, staring back at him with terror and fascination–much the same way he stared at her. Brown eyes, red lips, black hair, the only colors he could see. Love, infatuation, obsession, what did it matter? None of it mattered. Only her eyes.

The traveler picked up the photo of Ophelia, which had fluttered to the ground in their struggle, and stared at it intently, envisioning the dance hall around them, then pinned it to the black door. He would ask her for a dance, and she would say yes and smile. 

He tucked his camera back into his pocket and stepped through.