I went nearer. The cabin looked normal, designed to be completely unnoticed. Nevertheless, an unpleasant prickling sensation went down my spine and when I touched the wall, I couldn’t help but shudder.
I pulled the curtain back and went inside.
There too everything seemed normal: the usual adjustable stool, camera lens behind the glass, slots to put in money or bank cards… Even the strict posture instructions (sit up straight, look ahead etc.) seemed reassuringly ordinary.
A most inoffensive photo booth, without a doubt. Was it possible that I was completely wrong?
No, wait a second, something didn’t seem right.
I looked closer at the poster. Under the instructions in large print, where normally you would expect to see a warning in small letters like: Failure to follow these recommendations may result in the denial of pictures by competent authorities, there was instead something that looked like:
I felt a cold sweat go down my back and the prickling sensation came over me again, more intense this time. Obviously, the people who had built this infernal machine had not bothered to perfect the illusion, probably thinking their potential victims were complete fools.
In the glass in front of me, I saw my pale self, my face deformed by an intense hate. I thought back to the treatment Chunk and my family had made me go through, and I felt bad for them. Poor souls! They had been manipulated like puppets. For what reason? No idea. All I knew is that I had to hit fast, and hard. I raised my heavy spanner and – like a righteous crusader’s sword – brought it down onto the Plexiglas panel with all my might, relying on my glasses’ strength to protect my eyes.
The glass shattered, projecting a storm of translucent particles into the cubicle. I was covered in them, there was some in my hair and on my clothes, but I paid no attention to it. There was a wild urge inside me, and I kept hitting, hitting, hitting, until complete exhaustion.
When I was done, the inside of the photo booth was ravaged, totally unusable, as if a bomb had gone off, and my arm was very painful.
I waited, dazed and panting, for a security officer to collect me – I must have made a fiendish racket – but no one came.
I let my spanner fall, gathered the bit of strength I still had, and escaped without waiting for more.
In the night that followed I managed to sleep a little on the same toilet that had welcomed me earlier in the evening. In the morning, I played hide-and-seek with the cleaning lady, and when the doors opened I made a break for it.
I wasn’t sure what to do. Of course, I had sent that devilish machine to hell, but would that be enough? Would my parents and sister get their memory back or was I condemned to the orphanage?
I wandered for a while in the pedestrian area. Then I opted for the simplest and most dangerous option: I had to go back home and confront the three of them.
(Go to PART 14)