All hell broke loose when Thomas and Sienna uploaded a photo on social media to commemorate their tenth wedding anniversary. A creepy face appeared in the image, triggering a chain of events that brought the happy couple face-to-face with a horrifying truth.
Sienna responded, “Ten years of us.”
As the camera’s timer counted down, Sienna thought she heard a soft sound in the hallway behind her. Her attention flickered, but she quickly dismissed it and focused instead on their anniversary photo, another one of the pictures that captured their lives.
Their home had more than enough littered around and adorning the walls.
Thomas sighed, nostalgic all of a sudden. “I remember when we first moved in here… We spent two nights sleeping on the floor,” he said, wrinkles forming in the corners of his eyes.
In the morning, the sun woke her up, but as she blinked into the light, Sienna realized that something else was also disturbing their peace.
“Check that, hon,” Thomas said, his voice thick with sleep. “It’s been pinging for a while now.”
Sienna reached for her nightstand, her eyes half-closed, and brought the phone to her face. Too many social media notifications had appeared. She checked them, rising a bit on the bed to get comfortable.
Thomas moved his body over to see her phone. “Weird? Like what?”
Sienna’s brow creased as she read some comments. “A strange face is in the background, they say. But that’s impossible, right?”
He sighed, grabbing the phone and studying the photo. “Probably just shadows or something. Don’t let it bother you.” He shook his head and gave her the phone back, then rose from the bed for the day. But Sienna continued reading.
There was one comment with a screenshot highlighting a creepy childlike face near her shoulder in their photo. “Thomas… What the hell is that?” she whispered in dread, her finger touching the screen.
But Sienna was terrified, remembering the noise she had heard as the camera took the photo. So, she searched on her phone until she found the original picture in the gallery app.
“This isn’t a glitch. It’s too defined, too real. Look at its expression,” she argued, her eyes wide and wild.
Thomas still wasn’t convinced, but Sienna wouldn’t let it go. She went through the pictures. “Look. In every photo, there’s this strange, hazy presence,” she pointed out. “I think… it could be a ghost. Maybe our house is haunted.”
As they contemplated the eerie discovery, Sienna went to the spot where the camera had been and began taking photos, searching for a logical explanation. But the experiment was cut short as she screamed in fright when hands closed over her shoulders.
“Relax, love. It’s me,” her husband said, chuckling a bit. “Forget about that photo. We’ve got lunch reservations, remember?”
Sienna agreed and got ready but apprehensively looked around the house before leaving. She continued to stare intently around as Thomas opened the car door for her and later walked to the driver’s seat.
That night, Sienna was awakened by a mournful cry and footsteps in their house. “Darling, wake up. Do you hear that?” she whispered, hearing sobs from the hallway.
Thomas woke and heard the noise, too. He immediately grabbed the phone.
“We can’t call 911 for a ghost!” Sienna argued, but he insisted on protecting them from a real-life threat. After finishing the call, he grabbed his gun and went to check things out.
They cautiously approached the source of the mysterious sounds in their home. Thomas checked the guest bedroom, but footsteps echoed downstairs. They took each step carefully, hearing more noise–another language—coming from the kitchen.
Sienna jumped a little and yelped again after finally seeing the truth about their home intruder. This was no ghost. Instead, they discovered the unsettling presence of a malnourished boy — the same one from their photo. He was crying, his pale, bony face completely covered in tears and snot.
“Freeze!” Thomas shouted, but the boy sobbed and shook his head. Her husband focused on the intruder and lowered his arm, realizing there was no danger. “Hey there, it’s okay. We won’t hurt you.”
Despite her racing heart, Sienna’s fear turned to sympathy at his pleas. “You’re hungry, right?” she asked, grinning tenderly.
“Hungry, yes.” The boy nodded.
“What’s your name?”
As Sienna prepared a sandwich for Nikolai, the couple realized the boy had not meant to break in. He needed real help. “Where did you come from?” she asked gently.
Nikolai remained silent, revealing that he had run from a “bad place.”
That perked him up a little. “You will help Mama?” he asked, sniffing.
Sienna stuttered for a second but nodded, “Of course we will, sweetheart. Just tell us how we can find her.”
“I see bear on wall and flowers in garden… flowers like sky. I run to wire wall, but big dog is there,” Nikolai sobbed again. “I bad son. I run, and now Mama alone.”
A knock interrupted them. It was the police answering Thomas’s earlier call. Nikolai panicked and tried to escape through a window, despite Sienna saying, “It’s okay, it’s the police. They’ll help us find your mom!”
One of their curious neighbors, Nancy, recognized the ‘ghost’ from their anniversary photo. She joined the search, and others eventually did, too.
Finally, Sienna arrived at a neglected Victorian house and knocked. No response. She jumped at the sound of barking nearby. It was coming from behind a metal fence. “Wire wall,” she whispered, looking around, noting the chicory flowers as Nikolai’s words came to mind.
Investigating further, she found a boarded window and heard a woman’s plea for help from inside. She had her phone in her hand in a second to call the police. She then called Thomas. Soon, he arrived, and other neighbors gathered.
The search for Nikolai led to the basement, where he was found and quickly reunited with his mother. A police officer thanked Sienna for her role in the rescue. “Ma’am, thank you for alerting us to this situation. Your quick response helped these people.”
“What about the man who did this?’ Sienna asked, wrapping her arms around herself.
The officer reassured her, “We’ve already sent officers to arrest him at his job. Nikolai and Asya will be taken to a safe place. It seems she came here from Russia as some kind of mail-order bride. The legality of her immigrant status is unknown at this point, but we’ll ensure they get the help they need.”
After a while, Thomas and Sienna returned home. They sat back on the couch, sighing in disbelief that their picture led to all this. Thomas snapped his fingers as if he remembered something, and Sienna watched curiously, tilting her head as he reached for his briefcase.
“I believe the latest photo for the mantle deserves a special place,” he announced, holding up a framed print of the now-infamous photo the couple had posted on social media.
“It’s the best of the bunch,” Sienna quipped, and they both giggled.
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