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My grandfather recently passed away, leaving all his old possessions with his son, my father. Most of my grandfather’s clothes and appliances went either to charity or the trashcan, with the exception of a box full of old photo albums and family records that contained almost the entire history of my dad’s side of the family.

My dad called as many relatives as he could to look over this massive collection of family history. As he was going over a picture album with two of his distant cousins in our living room, I snuck a book full of old letters and journal entries up to my room. I was quite fond of early 20th century history and figured what better way to understand the period than reading some primary documents of the time.

Most of the letters and entries talked about the pretty mundane topics of housekeeping, gossip about neighbours, and vacation logs. Some of the stuff written during the Depression and WW2 was interesting, but the highlight was some journal entries by someone named ‘Mr. Nick’.

Mr. Nick’s writing style was a bit more formal and poetic, as if he was writing a philosophy book instead of a personal journal. He talked about how he and my grandfather were obsessed with life after death when they were both young, and how they were both searching for a way to achieve immortality with the resources they had. Some of the later entries were written as if Nick had slowly gone mad, making incoherent rants on ‘the spirit cult’ and ‘mechanical traps of the soul’. Next to the final entry was an old photo, of which I assumed to be of Nick dressed in a black suit and a bowler hat. Beneath the photo were the words, ‘Protect Me First, Then I Will Protect You.’

This was a top level of weirdness to me, as none of the other books in the box had any references or photos of this Mr. Nick character. I left the book in my room and went back downstairs to see if my dad knew anything about this guy. As I reached the ground floor, I could see my dad waving away from the doorway to his cousins. However, there was a third man walking with them to their car, sporting the same black suit and bowler hat as Mr. Nick had in the photo.

My dad closed the door and I asked him who the man in the hat and suit was. He told me that it was one of grandpa’s old friends stopping by to pay his respects, noting that he looked very young if he knew my grandpa as long ago as he said. I ran back to my room and flipped to the page with Mr. Nick’s photograph. He had vanished, along with the text beneath it. There was, however, two words that had taken its place: “Thank You”.

Every few weeks now, I look at the empty photograph, and each time, the image of my grandfather slowly fades into it.

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