Dan moved slowly so
he wouldn't trip, and he could feel the friendly touch of the sunlight spilling
through the attic window. The dust had an aged scent, mixed odors of things
willingly locked away and forgotten. He'd been picking through flea-market-type
odds and ends for about an hour, childhood memories marching through his mind
with the many fragrances of dust. Some blind people find the past to be like a
river running deep with currents of emotion, but to Dan the attic was like a
womb or time capsule. His life was inside the capsule, cruel horizons were
locked on the outside and he was comforted in knowing that once there were good
times. In his memory, moments of inspiration were his sight; a pure inner light
and bright lifeline that kept his personality safe from the many chasms of
sorrow and disappointment.
His cane bumped an
object on the floor, and he could tell it was a necklace. Using the worn
floorboards to his advantage, he picked it up and it slid down the cane into his
hand. He examined it, feeling a thin chain, a large bead, and what was likely a
Before he could
think, the warmth of the sun vanished from the window and the fang went cold in
his hand; unreasonable fear crept over him and he decided to leave the attic.
Not wanting to lose the necklace while climbing down, he fastened it around his
Then he took a step
and his thoughts took off, accelerating past clarity to confusion and pain.
Staggering back, he fell in pile of clothing. It was like he'd landed at the
bottom of a deep well and the impact had cleared the confusion to leave one
brilliant thought in his head. A thought he couldn't fully comprehend, even
though it was the most important thought he'd ever had.
shifted and he realized that the thought was really a large object. Smiling like
an infant, he touched it like it was a new toy. Depth perception stole into his
awareness; the object was a chair. Something was beyond it so he looked up and
was quickly dazzled by lights brighter than his usual emotions.
"I can see," he
whispered as the truth sank in. Moving forward quickly he touched objects, and
as fast as he touched them he understood what they were. After covering the
room, he stopped and looked around, finding that the room made sense to him now.
A sky of gray
shades pulsed outside the window; it was a grim ocean over a world lacking in
form. Turning from the window, he saw something that startled him; it was up in
the corner rafters, and was made of blindness, evil moods and a large chunk of
It threw out
sky-colored wings and whirled down on him. Dan stumbled and struggled against a
flurry of beating wings, shivers, high-pitched cries and dark memories. Poison
hate was invading his mind; he threw the creature over his shoulder and it
crashed through the window. A coat rack and chair went over as he hurried out
It was soaring
through the broken window as he slammed the door, and it thumped against the
wood, causing him to lose his balance and tumble wildly down the stairs.
He’d been alone in
the house since his mother's death a week ago, and now the place took on the
aspect of a sinister cave. He was terrified of its hidden corners. Panic sent
him stumbling down the main stairs, clinging desperately to the railing, and he
didn't stop - he rushed out the door.
On the front walk,
he halted and looked up; the bird thing was circling the house, shining darkness
skated on its monstrous wings. Its one good eye gleamed and it swooped like a
bat. Falling to his knees, he covered his head, then the sun burst through the
clouds and a golden beam struck the creature. It released a sharp cry that broke
one of the front windows, and then it lifted zygodactyl claws, soared upward and
flew off toward the safe darkness on the horizon.
Dan uncovered his
head and let the new sun colors dance in his mind. He wondered why heaven and
hell were being given to him in this quiet suburban neighborhood. He was
undeserving of both; he had sacrificed good and evil to the clockwork of life
just like everyone else. No one had inspiration any more, not without dollar
signs attached. Pain and insecurity were acute now that mediocrity had been
exploded. He began to think about his position as the last living member of the
Mint family, and he felt sad.
Finally, he got to
his feet and grinned; what could you lose when you were the last? A beautiful
woman turned down the walk; the breeze rippled her dress and lifted the locks of
her hair. She had a friendly feminine radiance and sparkling eyes. He didn't
really have to touch her to know who she was or what she was made of, but he
still opened his arms like a man who wasn't sure what he was about to embrace.
She stopped in her
tracks, leaving him poised to embrace the air. Cold astonishment appeared on her
face. "Why are you out here - what's happened?"
"Ann, I can see!
And some kind of bird attacked me."
she said, and they embraced. "You should see a specialist right away. We've got
to know if it's permanent."
"No need to rush
things," he said.
She was looking at
him analytically, and her eyes had gone cold like the first gray sky he'd seen.
The earlier sparkle must've been an illusion; her look wasn't that of a woman
who loved him. He'd felt it in her touch the last month but he hadn't wanted to
believe it. His good fortune was a complication she didn't like much. He got the
feeling that she'd been stringing him along because she hadn't wanted to hurt
him while his mother was dying. He began to retreat within, wishing for the old
safety and security of blindness; he didn't have to open a new room in his heart
for sadness and lost love, the door to an old one was already open and waiting.
"You don't look
well," she said. "And you look funny wearing that necklace. We better go in and
He looked at the
necklace; it was a thin gold chain with an ivory fang. The large bead, it turned
out, was a glass eye. "I found it in the attic. We had better not go inside
right now. I told you about the bird attacking me. It was up in the attic too.
It broke the window."
She looked at the
broken front window. Her short nose twitched and her penciled eyebrows went up.
"No bird could do that."
"Something was in
there. I couldn't see it very well."
"We better call the
"Forget the police.
I'm starving. Let's go down to the restaurant. Lunch is on me."
"You haven't any
money. I should know. I'm your social worker."
"I'm running a tab
with Jack. I'll pay when Mother's insurance comes through."
Maples and oaks
rustled in the breeze. He looked at the millions of ragged leaves, and the world
was a song and a vision, or a zeppelin of human inspiration. At heart, he still
felt like a blind man, but now he felt in control while society and its mighty
clockwork shattered softly at his feet. He was free of its order and free of any
need for Ann - her voice lost resonance and became one with the traffic noise.
The sidewalk stretched on like the palm of a hand of strange destiny. Darkness
ringed the horizon and a faint sound of beating wings was in the rushing air.
They closed in on the restaurant in the way all things close in on an end. He
saw the city as a giant and felt that perhaps a life with Ann would've blinded
him to everything but the shine on the dumb brute's armor. He would've been
allowed some temporary happiness before his grave opened. There would be
something else for him. Maybe he would be alone like his mother had been alone.
He stepped into Jack's thinking he hadn't been defeated in life yet; not yet
because defeat was an acid that wrote its name on your face, and his complexion
restaurant looked cleaner than it smelled, except for Jack who needed a haircut
and shave. Dan drummed his fingers on the marble tabletop and watched Ann go
over the menu. The place was shadowy and the other customers were worn ghosts
who gained their only solidity through drinking beer. He didn't like the place.
He was developing an aversion to being indoors.
Ann flipped a
laminated page. "Most of the young men I deal with on my job are vulgar young
brutes. I've told you that haven't I?"
She was avoiding
his eyes. He assumed that as always she would leap from the usual opening
question into a short speech about their relationship. "Yes, you did."
"There are always
undeveloped individuals and wounded individuals, but what I'm really leading up
to is the gap between us. You're not a brute of course." She coughed as Jack set
down coffee, her eyes drifted like she was thinking of ways to make her point.
"Oh, never mind," she finally said. "I shouldn't be ruining a happy day with
serious talk. I have Thursday off. We can plan a full day - work things out for
you and then have a talk."
They ate in silence
and he watched the people strolling by the window. He figured that most people
were pretty much what they looked to be, but because they hid a lot
deliberately, much of the world was always locked in darkness. With him, his
mind made illusions of the darkness until reality was mostly a dream. If people
agreed a stone was heavy, it was because reality had a definite skeleton.
Skeleton, yes, but the flesh and the beast were different in every person. Now
his beast was tearing off its mask and turning the streets into a chameleon
hide. It pulled at him with wild magnetism that would've overpowered him if it
weren't for the strength he had from the years of blindness. Not wanting to look
out of place he waited patiently until Ann suggested they leave.
She had some work
to return to at her office, and he walked along with her, feeling like her
shadow. Her milky white stockings enhanced the nice curves of her calves and her
white silk blouse made her breasts look almost edible. Her face and neck were
pale, ghostly white. A white that was fascinating to a hungry shadow man. He
thought of her frail collarbones as fine bone trinkets, and her dark hair was
blowing like a kite beside the bleached boards of a tall fence. He was feeling
like he'd always been a proud son of the shadows and another kind of white was
rising in his perception. A white fang; it stabbed and dripped venom in his
heart until the sun went dark and waves of shadows swept across the city. Losing
control he seized her, forced her down against the fence, using the strength of
an iron man. His eyes silenced her scream. Newly grown fangs ripped into the
flesh of her neck and he drank delicious blood until the burning subsided. As he
rose from her sleeping corpse, he knew he was unstoppable, too cunning and
strong for ordinary humans.
He walked through a
new city that was alive with ancient dreams and he was something timeless that
could rear up and challenge the science and sophistication of all things modern.
The skyward-sweeping buildings were keeps in a new larger castle. He followed
the bat wings circling under the drifting cumulus towers. The city's distances
had once been tremendous but now he found them small, his feet alone could
manage them. Eventually the bat creature circled a lightning rod on a sleek
black, tiered scraper and dropped to its rooftop.
Dan knew to take
the elevator to the top floor, but not what awaited him there. At the top, the
elevator stopped and went dark. A few minutes later, it moved up to an unmarked
floor and opened. Dan stepped into a giant room like a dim cavern; it was hung
with heavy gold-ribbed curtains and he saw a number of people sleeping in deep
His eyes adjusted.
A tall man became visible in the center of the room. The man's face was
handsome, ruggedly chiseled though powder pale. His clothes were black as night
and sparkling with gold. He drank deeply from a gold goblet, and then he turned
and walked over to a curtain and threw it open, allowing gray sky to pour in.
The man turned; he
was a black shadow in the gray light. "If only your mother could belong to me
like you do my son. Yes, I see the same sorrow in your eyes." He gestured at the
sky and his cape flowed like liquid. "We could all shed tears over what we have
become, but rather than weep people all try to fix their images onto the world."
"I understand," Dan
said. "In the end only the shadows live on, and we are them."
------ The End