Perfect Vision

As evening faded, the fireflies came out. They flickered around us in the grass, tiny and bright. Gradually, they adjusted tempo and began to flash in unison. Beside me, Fisher was just a black silhouette against the sky.

He sighed and I was struck by the eeriness of someone else breathing. Even after a week of light and noise and freedom, I couldn’t help but be accustomed to silence. When he breathed out, he sounded tired. I liked that he sounded any way at all.

Since leaving the house on Norman Street, I found myself intermittently gripped by a sudden, awful suspicion that nothing was real. Now, the sensation rose again, gnawing at me, insisting that I’d only created Fisher and the fireflies and the country road because the deep boredoms of my storage box and my attic were in danger of becoming fatal.

I replayed preceding days, finding it suddenly imperative that I trace my path back along its trajectory. From attic to street, to a train and then a bus, and finally, a five-mile walk down a long road into the center of a small, sleepy town. Then, when I could be certain that my narrative was complete, without gaps or unexplained jumps, the panic in my chest subsided. I had come from somewhere.

Beside me, Fisher cleared his throat. “Will Aurelia punish you for being out so late?”

I found the question too baffling to answer. Since my arrival in Bliss, my aunt had shown little interest in my comings and goings. She existed in a slow, peaceful world that did not extend beyond her studio and her greenhouse. Her realm was narrow, like my wooden box, and she did not like to look past it.

In the field next to us, a shallow creek wound aimlessly through pastureland. I watched it for a minute as it rippled and shone. Then I breathed in sharply.

A girl lay face-down in the water. From so far away, her skin was bluish. Her hair looked white under the moon.

I stopped, reaching for Fisher’s arm. “Look. Do you see that?”

He shook his head, squinting out at the dark pasture.

“Look, just look. She’s in the creek, white and naked.”

“There’s nothing there.”

But I was already struggling through the fence, wading out into the tall grass. I crossed the pasture and knelt beside the stream, reaching for the girl, tugging at her wrist. She was heavy and her hair stuck to my arms and tangled between my fingers. Her skin felt cold, slippery with a film of plant scum.

Fisher started after me, slower at the fence, taking a minute to navigate the network of wire. He came up beside me and stopped a few feet from where I crouched over the girl.

I held her by the wrist as though presenting her, offering her hand. Her fingers hung limp and blue, flopping when I waved them at him. “Can’t you see?”

“Your hands are full of water,” he said, and the sound of his voice made me feel breathless.

“No, she’s real—a girl—she’s a real girl.” I let her wrist fall and her arm splashed back down into the stream.

He was looking at me too kindly, holding out his hand. “Come on. Get up out of the mud.”

“Why can’t you see her?”

He took my hand and pulled me to my feet. “I don’t know, but I can’t.”

I stood in the grass, drying my hands on the front of my shirt, turning again to look at the girl who lay face-down, hair fanning out like a pale web in the current.

She rested at my feet, cold like twilight and creek water. Beside me, Fisher was solid and warm, but oddly featureless in the dark. I had a sudden, desperate conviction that if he touched me, it might prove that I was real. I wanted him to grab me and shake me, or press me hard against his chest, and then I might be sure that I was solid, and not a figment of my own imagination.

I was standing in a meadow at dusk, inhabiting a place either outside or inside my head. Each possibility stretched off toward a vast and distant horizon. I had no definite sense of time or territory, and no way of knowing which world was the real one.

14 thoughts on “Perfect Vision

  1. Eerie. Invisible dead bodies are the worst kind!

    Also, I was compelled to read that last paragraph out loud in the Rod Serling voice. I’m not at all sure why.

  2. Is this the same character as the girl in ‘Time after Blind’?

    “…if he touched me, it might prove that I was real.” I like this line. I’m reminded of all the times I felt I wasn’t noticed. It’s strange though I was good at school, sports, everything, but swimming. People did notice me, but I never knew. The loneliness crept up on me in the dark. I gave up on everything. Maybe that’s too harsh. I never completed anything.

    Is it because I look for these similarities in my life, or are these stories/messages hidden in your writing?

    You’re a private person, but your writing is expressive. It’s strange that being good at something doesn’t stop you being hurt. It’s like I have to be hurt (touched) to believe I’m real.

    ” … which world was (is) the real one.” I enjoy our conversations.

  3. Haha–pretty much everything I write oozes in that direction, even when I don’t start out with creepy in mind.

    Synchronized fireflies might be the creepiest thing ever, btw

    awww, I always think it’s kind of cute. I mean, it’s sort of like Firefly High School–everyone buys their jeans from the same store.

  4. Also, I was compelled to read that last paragraph out loud in the Rod Serling voice.

    That. Is awesome.

  5. I actually have a Jane Austen voice I reserve just for things like literary criticism. It’s an embarrassingly bad Jane Austen voice, but it makes me pay attention, because (imaginary) Jane Austen always knows what she’s talking about.

  6. Yes, this is the same character. One day, I’d like to write an entire novel about her, but for now, I think of her snippets.

    And I really appreciate how closely you read our work–you’re quite expressive in your own right.

  7. Gotta trust that Austen, I hear she’s done quite well for herself. I also always have my fallback British accent, which I do far too well (something I suspect is related to being really into a lot of British bands and completely memorizing albums’ worth of lyrics), and which makes everything hilarious.

    …In the Twilight Zone. I need to just add that to the end of everything.

  8. Hahaha!

    But no, it’s definitely creepy.

    I think my fondness for this story stems from a rather unhealthy empathy for the narrator’s situation. You write it so well I forget that it’s not the kind of dissociation that happens to everyone. 😉

  9. Just you wait–if I stick with these guys long enough, they’ll get positively romantic. Given enough time, even my most pragmatic demons always do 😀

  10. I don’t know why I’m surprised anymore when something you write gives me the willies. Yes, invisible dead bodies will do it every time. I’ve got to stop reading your posts right before bed!

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