17 January 2016

Short Story: Behind Your Eyes

Long time no post. I know, I know. 

No much pre-amble to this one, just something that popped into my head and I scribbled down. This is Behind Your Eyes

Sit down doctor, please. I need to speak to you.

You remember me, right? You introduced yourself to me about a week ago, over the staff kitchen counter. I don’t know what it was about you that made me look you in the eye, but I did. I don’t usually do that. If you’ve observed me for a while before saying hello, you’d have known that. 

I looked you in the eye and now, I need to tell you something I’ve never told anyone. You might not believe it. You certainly won’t like it. It could get me fired or worse, but I have to not care right now. I have to tell you my secret. 

When I look people directly in the eye, I can see how they’re going to die.

I don’t see when, or why, just how. I don’t know why I can see these things. It’s been this way my whole life. My earliest memory is of my mother leaning in close to kiss me goodnight, and seeing a flash of headlights and churning tires in the pale blue of her eyes. I didn’t know what it meant. Not then. Not until I was seven, and she was killed by a hit-and-run driver. That was when I realised what I’d been seeing. 

Sometimes I look into people’s eyes and see the face of another. That’s scary. Sometimes I see the face of the person walking beside them. That’s even scarier. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

I learnt the hard way not to interfere. The end result is always the same; someone always dies. But if I try to stop it my involvement becomes the catalyst for their death. When I was younger I looked into the face of a woman just before she crossed a busy rode, and saw a speeding lorry looming in her eyes. I cried out for her to turn back as she stepped off the pavement. She heard me. She stopped in the road and turned. The van came. She died, and I ran. Any time I think about trying to interfere, I remember her face when she turned back towards me. I was the last thing she ever saw. 

That’s why I work here, among the elderly. These folks have already survived anything that might try to kill them off prematurely, so I rarely see anything frightening in their milky eyes. They’re dying simply of time. Too much time. All things considered, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing to be dying of. 

The sick thing is, there are things that I’ve simply gotten used to seeing over the years. Disease. Car accidents. Even murder doesn’t shock me as much as it should anymore. The worst ones are the suicides. A bottle of pills, a length of rope, a tall building… an automatic rifle. It takes everything I have not to reach out and grab them, shake them, tell them how precious life is. But I can’t. What if it was my imploring of them not to take their own life that plants the seed in their mind? Like I said, I don’t know when their lives will end. Just how.

I keep my head down not just because I don’t want to see how the people around me are going to perish. I do it because I’ve developed my own little warped theory that, until I observe a person’s cause of death, it can still be changed. It goes back to the woman in the road. If I hadn’t looked into her eyes, I wouldn’t have shouted out to her. If I hadn’t have shouted, maybe she would have seen the van. Got out of the way in time. There’s no way of knowing, but it gives me comfort knowing that my ignorance of gruesome deaths could be the thing that allows people to live longer, less tragically altered lives.

It helps me sleep better at night, anyway. Some of the time.

After my mother was gone I went into care. The counsellors and care workers tried their best with me, but I was well past the age of being blissfully unaware of the true nature of my situation. I knew I was alone in the world, and now I knew what the disturbing things I saw in people’s eyes meant. At best the other children thought I was weird. At worst, they were terrified of me. My young mind thought it would be a kindness to warn others of how they would die. As it turns out, people don’t like to hear this kind of thing from a seven-year-old child. You live, you learn. And then you die.

From then on I shut down. I barely spoke and never looked anyone in the eye. They sent me for all sorts of physical and psychological tests, getting nowhere. Doctors of all fields tried to ask me what was wrong, but I’d learnt my lesson by then. I didn’t tell young Dr Matthews, who gave me a lollipop after every visit, that he would die engulfed in flames in his own bed. I didn’t tell Dr Edmund with the bright bow ties that his heart would betray him. I screamed bloody murder the day I met Dr Nichols, after seeing the face of a home intruder wielding a gun lurking behind his polished spectacles.

But I can’t keep quiet any longer. You’ve got to help me doctor, because I think you’re the only one who will. I thought I’d learned to cope with my twisted gift but it’s become apparent that I’m not coping as well as I might. Because when I look into your eyes, the only thing I see staring back at me is myself.

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