Thursday, July 22, 2010

Inspirations of a Soul Stealer

        It is Sunday morning and the park is the epitome of harmony. The world is a bright and cheerful place, or so it would seem. If you were looking closely, really closely, you could easily see that sinister acts were unfurling everywhere.
        For instance, in the branches of an old maple tree a squirrel dreams of being an arsonist. Of flames dancing over the trees as it looked on and cackled. But he did not know how to start a fire. Anyways, there were even more nefarious plots being acted out in this park than the mere aspirations of a would-be felon.
        For instance, a group of ants had assembled a motley crew of gentleman thieves and were preparing to execute a fiendishly clever plan to liberate a fortune from a picnic basket. The haul was big enough that they could finally afford to get out of the business for good. Yet there were even more underhanded undertakings being perpetrated in this park than small-scale grand theft.
        Kids were being bullied, bikini clad beauties were being forced to fend off the unwanted advances of overeager suitors, and joggers were desperately trying to fix their self-images. But the most suspicious of all the park's happenings was going on by the water fountain where a man named Paul Diebs was stealing souls.
        Paul Diebs wasn't a demon or even a monster. He was just a pudgy man in a floppy hat. He liked getting up early and the discounted breakfasts that came with it. He had never gotten the hang of cooking. When he turned 10 years old his father gave him a camera and a roll of film. Now every Sunday morning he would go to the park to steal souls.
        Children, mothers, and lovers: no one was safe. Although, in his defense, he wasn't stealing whole souls. He was just snipping off little bits and pieces and preserving them in a chemical bath of film. In his mind he wasn't doing anything bad. As long as these photos were around these people would live forever. They would never die. They would never be forgotten.
        The sparkle in the eye of a child reaching for the sky by means of swing-set. The caring look on the face of the mother who deals with the aftermath. The gentle embrace of two lovers completing one another. When someone looked upon these photographs, when they stared into the pieces of these souls, these would be emotions they would see. These would be the souls they would touch and these would be the souls they would be touched by.
        It is Saturday night and a dim glow is fighting off the encroaching darkness. Paul Diebs lies in bed holding a well worn photograph as his gaze refuses to leave it. A young women in a yellow sundress has her arms wrapped around a lanky young man in a floppy hat. It was an old photo and the colors were dulled, but even so the woman seems to carry a joyful radiance that seems to surpass the aged nature of the photograph.
        Paul Diebs is crying; his tears make their way over the crinkled terrain of his smiling face. Sorrow and joy have achieved a sort of coexistence. When he finally turns off the light he can still feel the souls in his hand.
        It is Sunday afternoon and a lens cap gives a little snap as it clicks into place. Paul Diebs puts his camera into its case and gets in his car. As he drives home he thinks back to all the specimens his camera now contains: imaginations running free, nurturing natures in action, love spreading out in ever expanding circles. It is all still out there, even if you sometimes have to be looking for such things in order to see them. A knot in Paul Diebs' stomach undoes itself and he feels better.
        It is Sunday evening and the living room is filled with laughter and talk. Friends sip wine and catch up. Someone asks Paul what he did that day.
        “Nothing much. I just went to the park for the usual round of soul stealing,” he said.
        His friend looked at him quizzical so he motioned towards the old camera sitting atop the bookshelf.
        “Oh! You mean you took some photographs?” they asked.
        “Who's to say you aren't doing both?”

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