The Eye of the Beholder

Scotomaphobia- Fear of going blind

eye of the beholderCount the whispers. Hear their silence. Count the specks of dust on that lens you call an eye. Clutch at the black spaces in between. Scream at the fingers that come slowly, reaching, taking those specks away one at a time: specks of life, specks of light as the lens is capped. Darkness.

I swim there in my dreams; drown in my nightmares. All is dark… but I am not asleep. I rip the caps from my eyes; lids spring up: open. My pillow whispers silently, draws me back into the nightmares, but my head is no longer there. I hear the wind creaking in distant trees; hear their sad whispers. They drift to me through window slats; play with the darkness; crawl up my skin. My hair stands up, each wagging a solitary finger at the cold air. My face feels its bite, breaking through the sweat already cold, resting there. I cannot see the wind.

Breathe in. Breathe out. The scent of my musty shack. Damp wood from last night’s rain is slapped together around me, above me, beneath me: a wet almost rich enough to taste… but not to see.

My feet swing round, hit the floor, body braced for the impact. Too late. Bare soles slap the cold, wooden planks. The chill rushes from feet to head, like the first crack of a lightning storm. My head rumbles in reply. It swims through the darkness, swims in pain. The blackened nightmare of wakefulness begins to spin.

One hand reaches to my head, the other for — the wall, a lamp, bed frame — something, probing forth in the ink. The world is rolling, my hand is waving, then, I am rolling. My head finds the wall before my hand: the second crack of this storm.

My heart beats the bass drum in this song, but not a steady beat. Like a spasmodic drummer, it knocks faster and faster, screaming inside its cage. My skin crawls. I sweat. I shake. I fall. I feel the cold wood against my face, hear my heart drown out the wind’s whispers, smell my own fear, see… darkness.

The lens caps have been polished and cleaned, all specks of life stolen. They have been worked at to perfection, my darkness complete. I reach for a cane, a walking stick, something to hold me up, to centre me, to direct me in the night. My eyes give me no aid; neither do my possessions. I am not ready for this darkness to remain, not ready, not ready… not ready.

I squeeze my eyes shut and open, shut and open. Blink, flash, dark, dark: no change in what I do not see. Not even a perceived change from red to black: the heat of wakefulness on closed eyes. Are they closed? Are they open? I poke. It stings. They are open. No darker spot appears where I have poked, no greater blackness added as I prod my eye, or close it against the self-inflicted pain.

I have never been afraid to sleep, never afraid to dream. Everyone must follow the gods of nature, Time herself the dictator. All sleep, all dream, all have nightmares as Time dictates. All wake. These truths are unchanged, and not to be feared. However, one unknown stands admits them all, a Judas in their ranks. Not all open their eyes.

Blink. Fresh tears gather in my lashes, the darkness shifting from black to wetted greys. My tears shift from those of fear, to those of joy, drying on my cheeks. I press one foot beneath me, then the other, hand on wall to calm my head. The rain in my eyes stops; the pounding of my head stills; the lightning shooting through my veins is no more. I leave the storm on the floor with nightmare whispers.

The switch flicks up, light-bulbs buzzing with new-found vigour. Shadows recede to the corners, leaving nothing but dust behind. The dust of my house. The dust of my home. Dust, those specks of light, specks of life, on a discarded lens cap.

One room still sits in darkness, waiting to be disturbed. It sits how it always has: alone and waiting. I turn the wick up on that oil lamp, the only light in that room. There is no electric buzz here, no distractions from that outer world to this still room. No voices from my pillow, no storm from the floor. It is a world of my own, lit by that single lamp, but coming to life beneath my fingers. Tap, tap, tap, the oil-wrought light illuminates those keys, but I need no aid from it. My mind, vision, slips into the world of taps, world of clicks, world where I am the only God. I am the God of Light, the God of Life, the God of Sight.

No one in my world, the one I control, will ever go blind. No one here needs eyes. Why? Because my finger clicks say it is so. My imagination makes it real. No eyes, no need: seeing with the mind.

Blink. My eyes flash: open, closed, open, closed. My fingers fly: tap, click, tap, click. This new world swallows me: a world without darkness to claim the light, without eyes to go blind, without that fear stalking from every shadow and screaming everywhere else.

The lights in that outer room blink, spark, flash, go out. The empty lamp bowl screams for more light, cries for my attention, a new bulb to be set in place, but I fear not its silent cries. They are pillow whispers to me. Tap, click, tap, click, light bounces from my fingers, but does not enter that outer-room. It sits in darkness now, in a world I do not control. The lamp is blind, but I am not. That room is blind, but mine is not.

~~~

My chair creeks behind me as I lean back, stretching life into my limbs. Elbows pop. Fingers crack. One final click from that typewriter at which I sit. My world lays silent once again as I press that final key. Full stop.

Light bounces through the window, a joyous morning greeting. It shatters my world of darkness, bounces off the glass clock-pane, spills down on my keys. A short crank and low gong breaks the silent morning: that clock face, bright and shining, chiming out its tune.

I turn the oil lamp down; shut off the artificial flame. A little oil from the lamp should be spilled on my chair wheels. They squeak out quick complaints as I stand, leave the room, leave my world in silence, blind to what might come with the next phrase: the next clicks from my itching fingers. The possibilities bounce about my tired mind, quickly shut out by a new pain: new, but familiar.

I clutch at the door frame, the blackened barrier of that outer world returning. A sharp pain, a quick flash, darkness blocks out all thought, all sight, all control. I stand on shaking knees, see the blindness fade as quickly as it came. My foot stomps down hard, grounding me. My head shakes, greasy locks sliding forth and back.

My coat is waiting, keys are waiting, lock ready to be clicked in place. The light in my outer room still waits for a new bulb, but I hear not the complaint. Light, darkness, sight? They are out of control in this world not of my creation. Here, I am not God. Just a man going blind.

The path greets my feet, and I offer my silent reply. Every step is cherished. Every moment is precious. I watch my feet, measure my steps, keep my head low. The high collar of my coat blocks peripheral, a vision too oft filled with darkness, curiosity turning my eyes to unhealthy places. I chance a twist, chance a glance, chance a look from the path. The sun shoots down from above, bullets to my eyes. Giant red splotches burst like flowers set to bloom, but these flowers hold no beauty. They expand, unfold, fill my eyes like caps on lenses.

I close my eyes, block out the sun, block out the headache arising. My hand shakes as it searches in my coat for darkened glasses. Throwing them on my face, they sit awkward on one ear, off the other. Those red spots recede slowly as my eyes open… too slowly. They creak from darkness into light like a door with monsters to one side. Will I be blind when they open? Will the world still greet me? Will the God of this world grant me one more day to glance at His wonders, touch them with my sight?

The doors creak open. Light pours in. Those red flowers close again. They are nothing but tiny specks now, memories of the sun’s assault… nightmares from my past. Gladness rushes in. I am not ready to go blind.

A stick cracks over my knee, the perfect length for my legs. It presses hard into my palm, firm against the ground. I feel comfort in its presence, some calm as we walk together. I cannot get lost, cannot stumble with this stick to guide my way. Open, close, open, close, my eyes laugh at me with each blink. In the world of my creation, men do not have eyes. No need for eyes, no fear of going blind. It is perfect. Blink. This world is flawed. Blink. I hope God does not curse me for such a thought.

~~~

His coat is white, a grotesque colour to assault my open lenses. They sit beneath my darkened glasses while his white stands, brilliant and glowing beneath those harsh lights above. I press into the cold chair, a machine swings into place, inches from my face. I flinch. I blink. It stops.

“I’m sorry Mr. Olar. You will have to take the glasses off now.” The white coat looks apologetic, though I can hardly see it beyond the stark flashing cloth.

“Can you dim the lights, just — just a touch?” I ask, but my hands are already reaching for the darkened lenses which shield me.

“I’m sorry, sir. These lights don’t dim.” He smiles, a customary response to my customary question.

I grunt, but feel worse that these lips can say. My protection comes off, slowly, but the speed does not help. The lights above buzz with delight, laughing at my squints. I clutch at the machine in front of me, wish for it to claim my peripheral sight, cushioned in special lenses.

It slides into place. The light fades. Nothing but harsh black letters against a white sheet to scream at me.

“Okay, Mr. Olar. What do you see?”

I read the letters off slowly, cherishing the moment. They get smaller. I squint harder. The page is a mess of blurry figures. One lens after another they come, sliding back and forth, adjusting my ability to see: an ability which I cherish.

The machine slides away. Those laughing lights above return to taunt me. The white coat of my doctor is nothing compared to what comes next. I want to close my eyes, but know he will just force them open again. His pointer shines, that wand of death seeking me out. I have no control, stuck in this chair, eyes growing wide. Right, left, right left, the light pierces both sockets, leaves my lenses screaming, red flowers appearing once again. As they recede I hear his words.

“You are doing quite well, Mr. Olar. No need to come in next week. Still no need for glasses.” He laughs, a poor attempt to calm me. His kind smile is better, but still unheard.

I pull glasses from my coat pocket and fix them once again to my face. He may think that I need no glasses, but my eyes lack such education. The world dims, those lights above softened, his white coat turning dull and grey. My short sigh sounds like a grunt, and feels little better.

“See you next week.” Another suggestion ignored. I can never be too careful. Not ready to go blind.

~~~

Shamblers. Fumblers. Men crying in the night. The sky has fallen, the moon a reflection beneath my feet, a reflection of the sun. I could run instead of shamble. I could flee instead of fumble. But I would be running blind, fleeing from the ground itself, an impossible feat indeed. Dark, light, dark, light, there is nothing but this change. The sun spins around this new earth-moon apocalyptic world like a gyro going wild. Spin. Flash. Dark. Light.

I blink… to no effect. Am I asleep? Am I awake? Too much is the same for me to tell: the fear, the pain… the darkness. My head hits the floor, and I know that wakefulness has me now. Cold wood, not rough moon stone.

I still shamble, still fumble, still feel that pain pounding a course in my head. I flick the switch. Nothing. Not even a red glow against my useless eyes comes to taunt me. This is true blindness like never before, and it is out of my control.

My headache fades, the pounding turning soft as I clutch knees to my chest. I shake: a man crying in the night. Open, close, open, closed: dark, dark, dark, dark. All is the same. All is blind… even me.

I get up, feeling the defeated fool. Crawling like a child – knee, hand, knee, hand – I find a cracked stick on the ground. It is nothing special, nothing great, not intended for the blind. I was not ready, not prepared, but it will have to do. I press it on the ground and try to stand. My legs shake. Heart quivers. I stand.

The stick swings forth and back, tapping the ground in an arc before me. It is not the knowing clicks of a blind man’s stick, directing his way, but the wild waving of a man-turned-child by fear itself. My knee finds a table edge, something my waving stick should have found, but our communication is unpractised. From table edge to door frame my knee travels, stick slapping forth and back against the jamb: a too late warning.

Everything in this room is right how it should be. My hands crawl along the table, walking stick resting against the door. The oil lamp radiates with light, with life, as I turn that nob… and I can see. Shocked, stunned, what other words can I use? Even a writer’s finger clicks and tongue clacks can grow heavy. The light outside my little room, little world, is still dark.

An afraid man? A curious child? One of the two (or both) finds me at the door again. Up, down, up, down, I flick the switch. The light is gone. The bulb is dead. Now I hear the silent screams. A laugh boils out of my lips, but not of joy: nervous energy crying for release.

I find a bulb amidst the dust in some oft used drawer, screw it into the slot, and those red flowers return. The light blinks on, harsh and white without the shade set in place. I shove the glass bowl against the bulb, twist it into place. Those flowers in my lenses die, wilted by the dim light, not enough to grow by. I stamp my foot, shake my head, ground myself again. Grunt: the most relief I will get.

My fingers fly against those keys, walking stick leaning lonely in the corner. I keep it with me now on such nights, all nights, when darkness threatens to hold me. I shape my world without a care, lost again in the magic my words create. Great black sheets are thrown against the window frame to block the morning when it comes. In here, I am in control. In here, I have everything I need.

Nights go by with finger clicks and days go by with my stick tapping against the ground. Practise, practise, practise. I must be ready for when that day comes… the day when I will go blind. Behold, it stalks me, around the corners, closer now; each day my vision seems to fade. Some nights I cannot close my eyes, not afraid of the dreams or sleep, but what will happen (or not happen) if and when I open those eyes again. Some nights I wish it will come, end my suffering, claim my sight once and for all. But I have no control.

I sit in this writing chair, wheels still creaking, in need of oil, fingers still flying, in need of control. There is one piece left to this puzzle of life, one thing left to calm my fears. My walking stick stands just inside my reach. Black lenses rest in my coat pocket. Closed, open, dark, light, it doesn’t matter: my gait is the same. Practise, practise, practise. I am waiting, I am prepared, ready to go blind.

My pens sit just to one side, black against the white paper like letters to test my vision. I pick them up, one at a time, reciting the letters from memory. I hum the letter-tune, my heart playing the bass. It is still, almost silent. Calm. Ready. One twist, one thrust, one jab, and it is done. I have the control. I am ready to go blind. I hardly feel the pain, numbed over my life by fear.

I tap, I click, I shape my world. In this world I have control. In this world no one has eyes, no need for them. In this world people see with their minds. Tap, click, tap, click. In my world, people see with their imagination. Tap, click, tap click. I never lose my place, never lose sight of those keys. The oil lamp has long since died. The lights outside my world have long since called silently for attention. I care not. In this world, I need no light, no eyes. I my world, I cannot go blind.

Credits:

Music (In order of appearance)
Metropolis Ruin by Fireslice at Jamendo
Ambient Darkness by DJ Chronos at Freesounds
Echoes of Fall by Razvan Veina at Jamendo
Now by Antonio Fiorucci at Jamendo
Limbo? by DirtyJewbs at Freesounds
 
Sound Effects (all provided by Freesounds)
typewriter22.ogg by tams_kp
BreakingSticks by qubodup
Crying 4.wav by ecfike
whispers and screams by Fyodore
Chaos & Screams.flac by qubodup
DSLR mirror slaps by satanicupsman
00888 gride 2.wav by Robinhood76
doctoroffice.mp3 by NoiseCollector
Whoosh Puff by Speedenza
Dbl Click.mp3 by 7778
Ringing in ears1.wav by Hardance
jacket zipping and rustling by Ownederd
keys_rattle6.wav by vibe_crc
Stomp.wav by 000600
chair_sitting_1.wav by FreqMan
Crack Knuckles Bones.wav by spenceomatic
Light Bulb Pop.mp3 by CGEffex
01582 installing light bulb.wav by Robinhood76
man walking away indoors with leather leathery shoes footsteps foley.wav by bulbastre
Igniting Candle Lighter.wav by baidonovan
Thunder Clap OWB KY 441×16.wav by Dave Welsh
00818 wake up 2.wav by Robinhood76
Thump.wav by Macif
Vinyard Walk.wav by digifishmusic
20080918.breathing.wav by dobroide
whispers.wav by thanvannispen
cap close.wav by whorn1
00984 wood hit 4.wav by Robinhood76
SonicSnaps-IDES-FR-white-cane-diff-surfaces.wav by thecityrings
Moaning Chair.aif by Housed1J
Hard HIT in the head.aif by amsempl
mild_surprise_breath.ogg by smcameron
buzz harmonic.aif by lukaspearse
Light Turning On & Off.wav by mookie182
Wind Houling 1 .wav by Bosk1
typewriter_type.wav by tjandrasounds
ClockStrikes12Remix.flac by acclivity
Ticking Clock by AntumDeluge
Heart Beat by thenudo
 
Cover Art
Created by Daniel J. Weber using the following images:
Eye see you 3 by Kit Keat on Flickr
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