[The excuse for writing this scene is the Four Random Words challenge on RocNaNo. I was at the R-SPEC meeting when the challenge was issued, and I offered my name tag which said “Will Work For Pie” as the default choice if someone was having difficulty coming up with four words. Those are the four words I chose for my inspiration. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
There’s a good chance this scene will make it into one of my books. Stay tuned!]
The procedure had been a complete blur, from the moment the drops were placed in my eyes. At first there were vague shapes, indistinct blurs and shadows seeming to fill my view at random, but those changed to psychedelic pulses of color that seemed to be coming more from my head than my eyes. They would pulse and change with the throbbing of my low-grade headache.
The colors eventually washed out to cottony whiteness, then faded to a gray-black that was more indicative of a lack of sight than a lack of light. I could feel bandages being wrapped around my head, across my eyes.
“There we are! Nurse Ratchett will take you back to your room. We’ll take the bandages off tomorrow, and you can go home then.”
When it came time for the great unveiling, I was all excited. Finally! No more fumbling for the right glasses. No more straining to read menus in poorly lit restaurants. No more double vision after only six hours of reading my favorite paperbacks. No more sandpaper eyes from sleeping wearing contacts. No more being “let go” from jobs because I couldn’t instantly switch from reading six-point type on a spreadsheet to reading the product hanging on a display peg.
No more functional blindness.
The last wrapping came off my face, then the gauze patches. “Go ahead and open your eyes.”
The hospital room was a pointillist painting viewed too closely. If I stared at one thing long enough I could only see spots, but take it in quickly and there was an image there, mostly hospital white. “I thought this was supposed to help my vision. All I see are dots!”
“It will take some time for the procedure to take full effect, however you are well enough to be released today.”
“Well enough? What does that mean?”
“Well, first off there’s no blood or aqueous humor streaking down your face. Your eyes seem to be tracking well enough, and on examination everything seems to be healing nicely. Just go home, take the medicine, and let your vision recover from the procedure. By the time you come back next week I think you will be pleasantly surprised.”
After the taxi dropped me off at home I was able to identify my house key by feel and get inside. I stumbled up the stairs and into bed. Trying to figure out what each dot meant was tiring work, and I drifted quickly off to sleep in the darkened room.
My bladder eventually forced me awake, and I stumbled into the bathroom. As the sleep fell out of my eyes I realized that my sight was better. While I was washing my hands I looked at myself in the mirror.
What happened to my eyes?! The reflection looking back at me had huge, black pupils in the middle of white eyes with no irises. I looked more closely, and realized that the irises were there, just reduced to incredibly skinny rings around the dark pits that were my pupils. I shook my head and reached to turn out the lights, then stopped.
The lights weren’t on.
I looked out the bathroom window. The world outside seemed brightly lit, but then I realized it was all in black and white. No color anywhere. What?!
I raced back into my bedroom to look at the clock. Atomic red numbers, too bright to truly be seen, said 3:12 AM. It was the middle of the night, all the lights were off, and yet to me it was as bright as the middle of the afternoon, only in black and white.
Perfect vision. Right. Only if you’re a cat.
I fell back asleep thinking about what was happening to me, wondering what the implications might be.
When next I awoke it was daylight and I was back in the pointillist world, although the dots seemed to be smaller. As best as I could tell my eyes were back to their usual appearance, with normal sized irises and pupils. I tried putting on my glasses, but they didn’t seem to make any difference. I was stuck at home for at least another day, so I smothered my feelings by eating cherry pie and listened to the radio to occupy my mind until I fell back asleep.
Again I awoke at night, in a strangely bright, black and white world. I could hear the annoying whine of a mosquito somewhere in the room, and then it moved and my eyes were immediately drawn to it, as if it were waving a tiny sign that said “Look at me!” A moment later it was a smear in my palms.
To the bathroom once again, and as I washed my hands in the bright darkness I felt flashes around the edges of my vision. A glance revealed each flash to be something moving — a breeze rustling the shower curtain, the flow of the water in the sink, a spider spinning a web in the corner.
Great. Now I had the motion sensitivity of a frog or something. Perfect.
I pulled out the pill bottle to see if it contained some sort of hallucinogenic, but no, it was just a sedative. Put me to sleep so I don’t freak out while nature takes its course. Thrilling. I popped another pill and went back to bed, wondering what new experience awaited the next time I awoke.
That was lunchtime, and my vision in daylight was almost back to normal, meaning the dots had pretty much shrunk and coalesced into the mildly blurry images I was used to. If you’ve ever seen those TV commercials where they pretend to peel a gauzy film off the picture, that’s what I was seeing. I kept waiting for the film to peel off.
At least things were clear enough so I could make out what I was reading, and I figured my vision was good enough to drive. I so wanted to get out of the house! Just to be sure I tried on my glasses. Neither my regular nor my reading glasses helped things, so I left them at home and headed off to the store.
What an experience! That frog vision of the night before was active even in the daylight. There was a constant stream of flashes around my periphery, and my eyes were giving me a headache by glancing left and right trying to identify what was causing the flashes. I finally forced myself to stare straight ahead and tried to ignore them. I could feel my eyes getting wider and wider until I felt like a rabbit watching all the world around me even though I was focused on where I was going.
The grocery store was even worse. On the street traffic moved more or less predictably, but at the entrance to the store all was chaos. My eyes wanted to be big as saucers, and I had to squint just to close them and remove the crazy man expression from my face. Every few steps I stopped and closed my eyes completely, trying to calm myself down.
Not far inside the store was a display of sunglasses. I found a pair that was dark and wrapped around, which seemed to help. I had never been able to wear non-prescription sunglasses before, so these were a treat. Plus they helped reduce my peripheral sensitivity, which helped even more. Even though the tag hanging off my nose looked real dorky I kept them on until I got to the checkout.
Back home I gave Margaret a call. “I need some company! I’m stuck at home and driving myself nuts!”
“Well why don’t you come on over here?”
“I tried going to the store and discovered that driving doesn’t really work for me. It’s tough to explain. Can you come over here? Please?”
We shared some pie while I described what was happening.
“You’re getting perfect vision?” she asked. “I’m not sure you realize what you asked for.”
“What do you mean?”
“It sound to me like you’re getting the night vision of a night creature.”
“And the motion sensitivity of an insect hunter.”
“And the peripheral vision of a rabbit or deer.”
“So I expect your vision won’t stop improving until you have the visual acuity of an eagle, the short range vision of a spider, the ultraviolet sensitivity of a bee, and the infrared sensitivity of a mosquito. Plus, perhaps, a bit more. All that wrapped together would make your vision ‘perfect’, don’t you think?”
“But all I really wanted was to not have to wear glasses any more, and not get headaches after reading for hours on end!”
I think the doctor was being exceptionally generous giving you perfect vision. I envy you.”
“Oh yeah? Why don’t you have him give it to you?”
“It’s not that important to me. My eyesight is good enough. I don’t want to go through all the headaches you’re going through.”
“Ha! I’m not really all that interested in the headaches, either!”
We chatted some more and played some cards, then she left so I could get my rest. I took another pill and wondered what was next.
Once again the drugs wore off in the middle of the night, and I staggered to the bathroom wondering what new revelations awaited. This time when I glanced out the window I noticed a deer munching flowers in the back yard. It seemed strangely luminous, and there was a glowing haze around its nose and mouth. It must have noticed me at the window, for its head popped up, leaving a glowing trail of breath behind. Then it darted for the tree line, a comet-like trail in its wake. I could follow its glowing body well into the trees.
Heat. I must now be seeing heat from warm bodies. Just to be sure I looked up into the trees and sure enough, I could see squirrels sleeping in the branches along with the occasional songbird. Weird.
I walked down the hall to the front of the house, the heat of my own body like a lantern reflecting off the walls around me. Looking back up the hall I could see my footsteps fading behind me, showing every step.
I turned and stared out the front window. The road in front of the house was dimly illuminated as it threw off the heat of the day and the traffic. As I watched a car zipped by, a streaking fireball with glowing tire tracks and its wake fading as its exhaust disbursed and cooled. Perfect.
More pills and back to bed. What would the morning bring?
The doorbell woke me at some ungodly hour — ten o’clock, maybe. Still groggy from the drugs I stumbled down the stairs and opened the door.
Margaret was there, in HD.
“Margaret! What happened to you?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean it looks like you had a hard time with the makeup this morning. It’s all … splotchy.”
“I’ll have you know I went to extra effort putting it on this morning. I feared this would happen.”
“Your visual acuity has finally gone beyond human. You are now seeing minor imperfections that no-one else notices. Take my advice and don’t mention them to anyone — they might not be as understanding as I am.”
Embarrassed, I looked past her at the yard. I could see every blade of grass out to the road, see the minor discolorations on the tips where they were recovering from the last mowing. Every time a breeze rustled them they glowed with movement.
I also looked at the flowers, which now had an unusual array of colors. I saw fat bumblebees lumbering from blossom to blossom, seeming to prefer the brightest, bluest ones. They seemed to suck the glow out along with the nectar or whatever it was that bumblebees eat.
A flash of wings overhead drew my gaze like a magnet. It was a fat mourning dove that seemed to be flying with a slight limp, if that were possible. High above it was a jet glittering in the sun. It seemed I could tell which windows had the shades down. Was that possible?
“Wow! I guess you’re right; I can see things I’ve never seen before. I’d better get back inside.”
Turning into the house wasn’t much better. My lack of housekeeping skills was now glaringly evident to me, and the fact that it was an old house only made it worse. The minor irregularities in the floor stood out like lines on a topographical map, with dust and dirt built up in the valleys. Even the imperfections in the top of the kitchen table, which I’d refinished and polished to a high gloss, stood out like paint layered on with a spatula. Argh!
I put on my new sunglasses in an attempt to cut down the visual stimulation, but that introduced new problems. It was like looking through hundred year old glass. The minor optical imperfections made everything wavy and distorted to my now perfect vision. Double argh!
Margaret patiently waited while I called the doctor. “When will it stop?!” I asked.
“It sounds like the procedure is close to fully in effect. Take it slow for the next few days, and when you come in we will have some high quality sunglasses for you to help you moderate your vision. See you then!” He hung up on me. Grr. I practiced deep, cleansing breaths.
Margaret took me out for lunch. I spent most of the trip with my eyes closed, practicing my yoga. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Repeat. The restaurant was nice and dark, but I kept the sunglasses on anyway. I started every time someone moved. Margaret’s patience was amazing.
Back home I mostly sat and watched the back yard. The movement slowly coalesced into a rhythm, the pulse of Nature flowing through my yard. I sat still, watching the sun set and practicing my breathing. I noticed as the day-loving creatures bedded down and the night-lovers awoke. I saw it all.