By, Mat Chacon.
This is a creative writing project for my Masters Degree in Photography with Falmouth University in the UK. We were tasked with completing two photo shoots, and then writing a short story about someone in the future consuming our photographic practice. This is my story. It is part of my Critical Research Journal for my MA Photography degree program, and my favorite assignment so far.
Fig 1: Chacon 2023. Homestead.
Augustine spotted the clapboard farmhouse from the road. A ramshackle homestead that stood out like a spoiling abscess among the barren plains of Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation. A barmy brown liquid leaked from the black water tank strapped to the front porch and pooled into the tufts of grass surrounding the home like a pierced pustule triggering only inflammation and swelling on the host which it grew.
He rode his tired horse to the front of the house, dismounted, and tied his steed to the dry bones of an old whitebark pine tree that rose from the dead earth like a skeleton breaching its grave in search of a life that was no longer there. He shouldered his rifle, a .308 caliber Deer Slayer, and walked up sagging steps of splintering wood. He stood at the threshold, exhaled longingly, and recalled that people had once proudly called this area The Valley of The Bears. That was before the world ended long ago. People no longer referenced anything proudly. They only spoke of The Dark Mother who lived here and the future she revealed to anyone visiting.
Augustine pushed open the door. The house reeked of pestilence. The decaying corpses of Black-headed Grosbeak, White-throated Sparrow, and Common Redpoll birds hung by the neck on spindly strings of twine that had been tacked to the ceiling. The exhausted embers of an expiring fire pulsed within the home’s hearth, giving the dark space a jaundiced glow. A hunched form in a stained, pink terry cloth robe emerged from a back room, shuffling its thickset body toward a flabby cloth recliner in the center of the sad living space. It was an old woman with matted, dirty blonde hair and corrugated brown flesh that hung from her portly frame like wet clumps of clay that had been molded by one of God’s mistakes. She lumbered along like a fat bear looking for a place to shit until she sank her swollen mass into the chair.
She wiped her lips of whatever it was she had just consumed in the other room and hoarsely croaked as a grey liquid streamed from the tip of her gin-blossomed nose.
“Grab that chair and sit with me.” The old woman ordered.
Augustine looked around and found only a dirty coffee table piled with stained Tupperware, but no chair. The only item that resembled anything worth sitting on was an overturned plastic milk crate at his feet. He maneuvered it with his left foot toward the old woman and sat, cradling the Deer Slayer over his lap.
The old woman fingered a mealy pith caked to the bottom of one of the Tupperware containers and pushed it into her mouth. She lapped at her fingers before pulling three polaroids from a pocket in her robe, spreading them on top of the coffee table, and pushing aside the Tupperware piles, letting them clamber to the floor.
“Look,” she ordered.
Augustine squeezed the cherry wood stock of his rifle, debating whether or not to bash in the old woman's skull.
She leaned forward and pushed the images toward Augustine, squinting at him through milky eyes crusted with a white crackle of rheum.
“Let them answer the questions you grip in your heart. The images do not lie.” She slumped in her chair.
Augustine looked at the three images on the table, old monochrome polaroids peeling at the edges. A man screaming into a black void, a wisp of smoke, and a wild flame licking at the darkness enveloping it.
The old woman snorted. “You are a dog. It is your fate to walk the earth in search of a pack you will never find.”
Fig 2: Chacon 2023. Crow.
Augustine emerged from the woman’s home a creature now dispossessed from the world. He looked up and watched a raven gliding in a circle on spiraling updrafts of warm air rising from the old woman’s chimney. He squinted and followed the raven as it sailed on dark wings to its inexorable conclusion.
Augustine wiped blood from the stock of his rifle, bent back his head, and howled, bellowing his beastly oaths into the black pitch of night. He waited for his echoes to bounce off the hills lining the distance and roll back to him, but heard nothing. The world devoured his foul invocations and answered him only with silence.
He shouldered his rifle, pulled the polaroids from his back pocket, and shuffled through them, one by one, allowing their raw truth to consume him. The man, the smoke, the flame. He tossed them to the ground.
He watched as each image was consumed by the fetid, dark syrup soaking the earth. Each polaroid a mirror image of his innermost desires, struggles, and fears. They evoked within him a longing for Heaven.
Augustine spat, disappearing for a moment into his own thoughts. Why would anyone believe this ghastly carnival of human depravity convenes into some hitherto elsewhere for all eternity? Why would anyone want it? No. Such superstition is the religion of fools.
Augustine untied his steed, mounted the beast, and rode into the night, breaching through a bowery womb into a witching black mass, sustained by the demands of his dying world that aberrations such as him must now thrive. That was the lesson of the three images. That was their infection.
Augustine knew he had been doomed by the Dark Mother, forever suckling off her ashen breasts like some caliginous thing gorging on her bloody froth as she coveted him in a bat-winged embrace of demulcent custody for all eternity.
List of Figures
Figure 1: Mat CHACON. 2023. Homestead [Fine Art Photograph of A Homestead in Eastern Washington with Sky Digitally Replaced in Photoshop]. Private collection: Mat Chacon.
Figure 2: Mat CHACON. 2023. Crow [Photograph of A Crow Above Mat's Home on Lake Washington in Seattle, Digitally Enhanced in Photoshop]. Private collection: Mat Chacon.