New Short Story – The Eye Test – by Anthony Self

THE EYES TEST

by

Anthony Self

typewriter love

Sarah blinked awkwardly, a solitary tear rolling down her cheek. The man in the white coat smiled and switched on the light.

“I highly doubt you have glaucoma, but it’s always good to check.” He took a clipboard from atop a nearby pedestal and started making notes with a pen.

Sarah nonchalantly raised her head from the tonometer and wiped the eye that had just taken a puff of air. Whilst the optician was busy formulating his notes, she slipped her glasses back on and mentally noted the first several letters from the eye chart.

E, F, P, T, O, Z, P, E, D.

She recited this back to herself. In the scheme of things she knew that she was only cheating herself by lying about what letters she could clearly see on the chart, and felt only slightly guilty about lying to the optician when the time came to take the test, but she would hate it more if he discovered that she was virtually blind. Sarah knew that this notion was ridiculous. He was her optician, it was his job to ascertain the level of her blindness…but she found him rather handsome, and who knew – maybe with a bit of flirting there was a miniscule chance that he wasn’t married and didn’t have a girlfriend. Halving the miniscule chance into two micro-miniscule chances, there was also the hope that they could get something to eat, have a few drinks and then…

The optician cleared his throat and smiled again. Sarah stirred from her fantasy and smiled back.

“I’m just going to examine the retina at the back of your eye now. I’ll be shining a light into your eye so you may see a shadow afterwards in your vision, but this will soon fade, so don’t worry.” He dropped the clipboard back upon the pedestal and switched the light off. Sarah held her breath as he inched close to her and produced a small black object from his coat. She wasn’t used to people being in her personal space. She could smell his aftershave and wondered if she should say something, maybe light hearted to break the uncomfortable silence. She quickly thought about what she had for lunch. She couldn’t seem to remember having any garlic in the Panini earlier…

“You know,” she whispered, “I bought some glow-in-the-dark contact lenses recently. That way, when I close my eyes I can still see in the dark.”

The optician clicked the apparatus off. She couldn’t gauge his reaction, as there was now a large purple blob pulsating and hovering in her field of vision. He wheeled back to his clipboard and with the hitch of his thumb turned the lights on again.  If he had found the quip amusing, he wasn’t showing it.

“I just have to find your prescription, and then I’ll be right back,” he said, getting up from the chair. She smiled and chided herself inwardly for saying something so child-like. After the door closed behind him Sarah let out a tortured sigh.

E, F, P, T, O, Z, P, E, D.

            She closed her eyes and repeated the letters again aloud in a rhythmic mantra, as if by hearing them audibly they would soothe the social inadequacy she felt at that moment. When she opened them again two things became apparent to her: firstly the floating purple blob was gone from her vision, and second that an eyeball was staring at her from the wall.

At first she thought the eyeball was a small crude drawing pinned to the wooden panelling, or that a child had placed a googly eye sticker next to the wall chart. She likened to think that the optician was good with children, and perhaps even handed out lollipops to them after an eye exam. When she saw the eyeball blink however, she knew that it was real and someone was watching her from behind the walls.

She didn’t freak out, which surprised her. After a moment it seemed like everything around the eye came vividly into focus. The imperceptible flickering fluorescent light of the wall chart; the scuffmarks of shoes on the skirting board; the fraying edges of leather of the chair in front of her. She also realised a few peculiarities about the office itself; the timber-panelled walls seemed peculiar in a modern optician’s, but with all the branding of glasses (Buy one pair of glasses and get another pair half price!) scientific marketing and other paraphernalia. The hole in the wall was about three inches in diameter each way, and scrutinising it closely, Sarah was surprised that she hadn’t noticed it earlier.

She stood up, curious now. She took a few tentative steps forward and before she could come any closer the eye blinked again.

She stopped.

“Hello?”

The eye kept staring at her. She suddenly felt unnerved; the initial decision of standing up and speaking to the eye shrivelling within itself and now her internal monologue was screaming at her to leave the room, to leave this place, immediately. She conducted a half-turn when a single germ of a thought crept into her mind, manacling itself firmly like a vice. Some deep rooted foreboding thought that kept her still. The eye was locked on her like some kind of military style missile weapon. She was the target, painted in its sight. She felt that if she left this room, she would die.

The door opened. The Optician was half muttering to himself with his head down looking at his clipboard when some kind of ethereal notion made him look up to see Sarah’s confused and frightened expression.

There was a thin, rasping sound that came from behind the walls. The voice was hoarse, as if the owner was chewing on a dozen marbles.

“Effffp Toz-Ped.”

The optician lowered the clipboard. His eyes darted from Sarah to the hole in the wall.

“Please tell me you heard that.” Sarah squeaked.

The optician quickly closed the door behind him. He dropped the clipboard on the pedestal and stood silent for a moment. He ran a hand through his hair.

“You’ve met Horace, I see.” he said, as a way of explanation.

Sarah blinked several times in rapid succession. “Horace?”

“HOOOOORACE!” Shrieked the voice from behind the wall. Sarah jumped, looking at the solitary eye. It blinked again, and then vanished. There was a dark chasm now in its place, and Sarah didn’t know whether this was better or not. The optician shook his head, leant forward and put his hands on Sarah’s shoulders.

“Just remember, do whatever Horace asks. It’s best not to upset him.”

Sarah stood numb. Her mouth opened to ask a question but in her peripheral vision she could see something coming out of the hole.

A dirty, thick finger poked out, wagging in earnest.

“Ssssuckyssssuckyssssuckyssssucky,” Horace hissed. The optician bowed his head.

“Can we do this later, Horace?” he asked, with a notable tremble in his voice.

There was a high-pitched scream from behind the wall. Sarah likened it to a wounded animal. After the shriek abruptly ended, there was a moment of sobbing. Sarah tried to move, but the optician held her firmly in place. The sobbing was incessant, but after a moment Sarah noticed a change – the sobbing had turned into laughter.

“Blackee?” Horace manically bawled.

At this word, she felt the optician’s grip tighten on her shoulders. He looked up her now, and she could see that tears were streaming down his face.

“Remember what I said, okay?” he said, before releasing his grasp on her and moving toward the hole in the wall. He removed his coat and gingerly motioned his head forward to the hole. The optician opened his mouth slowly and enclosed it around the dirty, stumpy finger. The noise that came from behind the wall was now filled with giddiness. Sarah looked away as she saw the contours of the optician’s cheeks rise and fall as the finger probed around inside. There were strange, suckling noises and then she heard the optician gag.

“Very good, Horace,” the optician croaked. He put his coat back on.  When Sarah looked at the hole, the eye was back, looking at her.

“lickylickylickylicky,” he snarled.

The optician sighed again. Resignedly, he motioned for Sarah.

“He wants you to lick his eye.” He said, flatly.

It was at this point that Sarah screamed. She fled from the room. The optician turned to the wall. He leant up against it, a metallic and filthy taste in his mouth. He quietly knocked his head against it.

“Blackee…blackee…black…” Horace whispered.

 

********

 

The waitress brought the plate of beans, hash browns, sausages and coffee to the handsome man in the booth in front of the window. He acknowledged her with a smile, and she wondered if he was married or had a girlfriend. He always came to this café in the morning, and although they never really spoke apart from morning pleasantries, she wondered if he came in here for other reasons than breakfast. She noticed he was reading a newspaper, and was scrutinising an article in particular.

“I heard about that,” the waitress said, gesturing towards the picture in the paper. “Terrible.”

The man nodded his head.

“Poor woman. Found wandering the streets in hysterics. Funny thing though,” she carefully lowered the plate on the table, “when the police came to interview her she’d gone completely blind and deaf. Pretty weird, if you ask me.”

The man gravely shook his head.

“Can I get you anything else?” she said, flashing her best smile at the handsome man. He said no, and returned to his paper. The waitress went about her morning chores, and forgot about the conversation an hour later.

black tree

 

Photo by Tomek Dzido

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