The shutter snaps, back and forth at a fraction of a second, in perfect harmony with the bright white lights arranged carefully around the lovely young girl in front of me. For the moment, her eyes still retain that youthful sparkle, full of hope and excitement, all of her dreams for the future swimming in pools of bright green. I’ll see much more of this girl before that intoxicating gleam gives way to the glassy cynicism which comes to them all, after a while.

Tribal people used to fear the camera, superstitious that in copying their likeness, it would also take possession of their soul. A rather silly idea, of course. The camera is a simple tool, a mechanical object built by man, who possesses no such power.

As for me, I do appreciate a good prop. My sense of mischief is as legendary as my charm and cunning, and I am neither powerless nor, strictly, a man. You’d like me, if we were to meet, but I’m not somebody you’d seek out. You’ve certainly heard of me.

My next client is a waif like blonde. I’ve already worked with her on countless occasions, but this will be the last. Like all those who appear before my lens she is a rising star, sought after by photographers and magazines. But of course she is. That’s the allure of my camera, my talent.

But her eyes have lost the last of that essential shine. She’s lasted longer than most, I’ll give her that. I’ve certainly had my worth out of this one. At 24, she’s got plenty of career left, and she’ll do well. She doesn’t need me any more, and she has nothing further to offer me. Our trade is complete.

Later, in a bar near the studios, I’m sitting at a tall table alone, drinking a gin and tonic. It is the first and last drink that I will have that evening, and I am nearing the bottom of the glass. My face isn’t anywhere near as well known as my name, and that suits my purposes perfectly, as it always has.

Time was, I’d have to practically trot from door to door, like a common salesman. Hours spent in cheap drinking dens and whorehouses, seeking out the weak and the vulnerable and those who have little left to lose. People used to have better values, higher morals. People used to fear judgement, and live their lives trying hard to avoid the likes of me. All those ‘God-fearing’ men and women, behaving perfectly in order to secure their place in eternity. But it was never God they feared, was it? Not really.

Now, they flock to me, like sheep to a shepherd. In any city, there’s no shortage of vibrant young souls eager for fame and success, and prepared to do whatever it takes to get there. Even if that means losing a part of themselves.

Oh, but what a small part! Nothing that you’d notice. Barely missed, if missed at all.

Carefully, I watch the room, scanning faces for something that is undefinable, but which I will certainly find amongst these beautiful, fashionable children. Groups cluster together, disband, regroup, and as a curtain of bodies unfolds, there she is. Dark hair, sky rocketing cheekbones, enormous brown eyes. Maybe 18 years old, but more likely younger, with a fake ID that the bar tender won’t look at too closely. The perfect combination of uncertainty and grace, mixed up with that Vogue-spread haughtiness.

I thumb a business card from my wallet, draining my glass and standing up. As I reach her, I barely slow my pace. I hand her the card as I pass, and automatically she takes it, her eyes widening slightly as she catches the name on the top. Out of the corner of my eye, I see her turn to speak, but I’m still walking towards the door.

She’ll call me. Those eyes will grace mine through the curvature of my lens, bright at first, growing dull and empty after a time.

Oh she’ll be safe enough. If it’s what she wants, then I’ll make her a star. I make them all stars. But I won’t ask a thing of her that she won’t give willingly, and I’ll never lay a hand on her, even if she asks me to.

I’m not that sort of predator.

© 2014 Amy L. Griffiths


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