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Second Sight

by johngilbert 

Posted: 10 March 2004
Word Count: 3419
Summary: When blindness becomes a blessing.

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"Do you mind?"
The gentle voice and tap on his thigh made Thomas swivel instinctively on the barstool, but then he smiled. "Less and less." He shook his head and realigned his knees. "You got away, then."
"I did. I'm getting used to being cunning." There was a pause filled with the slight creak from the stool next to him. A lick of cool air caressed his cheek as Eve motioned for the barman. "When did you get here?"
"Andrea dropped me off," Thomas replied, "She's taking Purdy for a midday pedicure."
"And how does Purdy feel about that?"
"Somehow I think she knew last night. She wouldn't settle. But she'll be happy when she gets back. Everyone hates long nails - work dogs included."
Eve laughed. Thomas heard the rustle of the barman's shirt as he approached.
"Do you want another?" Eve asked.
Thomas shook his head. "We could go for a walk."
"Won't Andrea expect you to be in here when she gets back?" Eve's voice rose slightly in surprise.
"No, I told her I'd find my own way home."
During the past four weeks he and Eve had met Monday lunchtimes when both had the beginning-of-the-week blues. In all that time, Thomas had never shown the slightest inclination but to sit at the bar and drink his two-pint ration. Today, however, was different, and not just because Purdy was absent from her usual place, lying at the side of his stool.
No, today he had woken with the unusual urge to know more about Eve, certainly more than he had found out the first time they had bumped into each other. On that first occasion, when Eve had left to go to the toilet, he had asked the bartender to describe his new friend. "Short black hair, jeans, black leather jacket. You've got a stunner there," the barman had added.
The description, and the subtle, peachy smell of her perfume, had been enough for Thomas, and Eve had been content to sit and talk. There had been no question of anything else, not in Eve's voice or the way she acted towards him. Now, though, Thomas wanted more and here was a chance.
He turned to face her, aware that his companion was seeing his swollen eyelids beneath the tinted glasses. "I've got my stick - but you can walk me back."
"I don't know where you live."
It was Thomas' turn to smile. "You will."

"You don't like being led, do you."
"Not by any human, no." Thomas replied. They had stopped at the road before the park -- the noise of unrelenting traffic, the stink of petrol, the vibration of throttling engines. He accepted Eve's restraining touch at his elbow. "Animal's yes, but give humans control and their egos get in the way."
"So you only trust Purdy?"
Thomas nodded. "I suppose so. I feed her: She's got no reason to dump me."
“What about Andrea?”
“She’s a friend, a neighbour. We’re not joined at the hip.”
"Must be a bit lonely, when the one you trust the most can't even argue back."
"Oh Purdy argues back." They started moving forward, across the road to the double gates of the park entrance that Thomas knew must be directly ahead of them. "She'd refuse to take me somewhere if she thought it was dangerous. She knows what's good for me."
"Surely that's training, not deliberate care."
Thomas smiled. "I think you're wrong."
"And what about today. She's not here and I've just walked you across a busy main road. You must trust me."
Thomas laughed. "That's more libido than trust," he replied with bravado.
Eve guided him to a seat where he listened to the couples walking behind them and the flap and splash of birds in the lake before them. For a moment, the woman sitting next to him seemed to disappear and he was alone, surrounded by a world without guidance, a world in which all senses were required simply to breathe.
He was surprised at the sudden sense of lonely panic that welled within him. "Eve?"
A hand touched the back of his hand. "Yes?"
"I think five weeks is enough to know if you trust someone."
"But I still could be anyone."
"You think it's less easy for me to trust because I can't see?" Thomas shook his head. "I need to trust more. And anyway, I may not know where you live but I know enough about you."
"Like what?"
" You're patient, kind, gentle, you always seem to be happy, and you have a sexy voice --"
"Well that could be all an act." Eve sounded amused. "Including the voice."
"And Purdy hasn't growled at you yet."
Eve laughed. "Only because she has been trained to have more restraint."
"But she's also very protective." Thomas frowned. "Okay, surprise me with something I don't know about you."
There was a pause. Thomas felt Eve shift closer to him on the seat. Another pause and then that gentle, assuring voice that made Thomas relax. This time, however, there was a tension in it of the kind Thomas heard only when he was at the gym and Gary was telling stories and lifting weights. "Okay...You want to know more about me; parents, schooling, where I live perhaps?"
"If you want to tell me. You're not going to say Mars are you?"
"No, nothing so wacky. I live in Kennington all alone apart from two suspicious neighbours who are into urban legends..." There was an edge to Eve's voice, an element that Thomas could not identify and did not entirely like.
"They think you're a throat slitter or an axe murderer."
"Nope, just a little odd. I suppose it's because I've cared about them too much, said things to stop them getting hurt when I should have just -- Like I'm beginning to care about you." There was a long pause, probably because Eve had seen his frown, but when she continued it was as if she had forgotten what she had been saying. "Thomas, would you like to see again?"
He laughed. "Is that a getting-to-know-you-more-deeply question? Of course I would like to see again. Being blind for fifteen years, getting used to it, doesn't mean I've lost any of the need to see."
"What if you could?"
"I can't. It's impossible. I've been told that and I accept it -- most days."
"So negative," said Eve, "You want to know something more fundamental about me: I could help you see again."
It was a statement, not a 'what if' and Thomas was wondering how to respond when Eve continued. "Perhaps it's better to show rather than tell."
"Show --"
Eve made a hushing sound, a Zephyer breeze from her lips close to his ear "You don't know me, not really, but I can show you in two seconds what it would take two weeks to convince you of in words. For that we need privacy. Let's take you home."
Unprotesting, Thomas began to rise from the seat. He had been led so often like this, acquiescent beside those who helped him, fearful that their kindness might evaporate. Eager to please. A complete phony when it came to his earlier act of independence.
But Eve's hand restrained him. "We don't need to move. Let everything else move around us."
For a moment, Thomas did not take in what Eve had said, but then felt the change. The cool air had warmed, the breeze had stopped, the splash of ducks on the lake had vanished, and the hard bench under his buttocks grew soft. He began to sink into what had been wood. "Eve."
"Stay still, get used to it".
"What's happened?" said Thomas, alarmed at the change that had confused his senses. It was as if he had been transported, but how, where and by what?
Date rape. The drugs were readily available, and why should he think that only women were victims of the crime. It felt as if he had gone to sleep in the park and woken up here, inside...it made logical sense, but he felt neither dizzy nor disorientated. He had not felt ill at The Swan and the change in atmosphere had been too quick -- instantaneous.
"Date rape?" Said Eve quietly. "If I'd wanted to, I wouldn't have needed any drug to take advantage of you."
"How did you."
"Know what you were thinking - are thinking - the same way I brought you here. And it doesn't stop at small ranking psychic powers. I can know anything, I can know anywhere, anyone."
He recoiled as Eve's fingers brushed his arm. "Don't...touch me."
"Sorry. I'm sorry Thomas, I couldn't wait any longer."
"Wait for what?"
"To ask you. It's not easy too tell someone something they won't believe."
"Am I really sitting at home?"
"Does it feel like the truth?"
Thomas nodded mutely.
"And I brought you here in an instant. Impossible?"
"So you know that whatever I tell you could be probable."
"Yes. But why?"
"Your sight, or lack of it."
"Blindness." Said Thomas as if he were the only person in the world who could admit to it, starkly, as a fact.
"Yes." Eve obviously knew what he wanted to say but there was a pause, put there perhaps to make the words more considered, more believable. "What if you had abilities that made you exactly the opposite of blind, if you could know everything there was to know about yourself."
"I'd be pretty bored."
"What if you knew exactly what was going to happen, today, tomorrow, everyday"
Thomas considered. “I'd probably feel more relaxed about life, if I was completely sure." It was a pity he didn't feel that relaxed now.
"You would if you had control over what happened. But if you didn't and there wasn't any way of being selective: it all hit you in one big flood of sensation, sight and emotion?"
"You know --"
"Every moment," Eve said.
"And you know what will happen to you, to me, to everyone?" Thomas asked.
"Right to the end." There was no sign of levity in Eve's voice. "I even know when and how I am going to die."
"Like yourself, an accident of birth." Eve said as if she had misheard his question, then, after a pause, "But one I can put right with your help."
"My help?" Thomas clutched the soft arm of the sofa on which he was sitting and leaned forward, tensing his legs and the muscles in his shoulders.
"As I said, your blindness, it's psychological."
Thomas laughed. "No it's not."
"It is," Eve said, calmly.
"I lost my sight in a car accident. My face hit the steering wheel."
"You didn't lose your sight in the collision. You remember climbing out of the car don't you."
"You remember being able to see then don't you."
"I can't remember that," Thomas thought, frantically.
"You can remember that." For the first time Eve sounded angry, frustrated. "You're lying to yourself."
"I'm not."
"And that's the problem."
Thomas hit the soft seat on which he sat. "Okay. Just...just tell me, if that's true, why would it help you."
"Your psychological state can help me. Your blindness is the depression of a sense, not the absence of one. As for me, I’m your opposite: I don't want to know what's in store, not for me, not for anyone, not any more. I want to be blind to the future, free of the pain if only for a few hours."
"You know what's in my future, what happens to me?"
"Of course."
"But you're not going to tell me."
Thomas nodded slowly.
"All I want is something you would happily give away. Give me your blindness, “Eve implored, “Let me take it from you."
"What if I made part of the deal that you tell me what happens to me."
"I'd say you haven't considered that part of the deal very well. Would you really want to know? I've lived with this since birth, found out what it's like to know too much. It's not the fun you might imagine it to be. You can't trust, believe or love. You can’t enjoy life when you know more certainly than anyone else alive that it comes to an end."
Thomas nodded, "What happens if I agree?"
"You get to see again."
It was a full minute before Thomas could reply. Finally he said. "And you?"
"I get to be as fallible as any other human being."

"Are you sure this is the first thing you want to see?" Asked Eve.
"Of course. I want to see what sort of a woman you are." Thomas reached out with his hand and felt Eve's fingers entwine with his own. He pulled them to him and kissed each of the smooth tips, listening to the birds again, this time in his own garden "Go ahead, I believe you can do this."
"You don't have to believe."
"It's a big thing you are asking me to take on. It sounds as though belief is in there somewhere."
"If it helps you that's fine. But most real miracles are silent. You only have to brag if you're worried they won't work or won't last."
"And neither of those things will happen?"
"This isn't a miracle for me. I have been able to do this kind of thing for longer than you've been blind. Now, take off those glasses and try to open your eyes."
The first pinprick of light in the darkness might have been an illusion, but in mere seconds more pinpricks appeared like stars glittering in the heavens or holes punched in black paper held up to the Sun.
Thomas let out a thick breath as colour flooded into the light, followed by perspective. Eve's face formed in front of him like a rain of tiny jigsaw pieces: short black hair, blue - almost violet - eyes and a smile designed to welcome him into the seeing world.
"God...Oh God," said Thomas in a surge of breathless excitement.
Eve wore tight washed denim jeans and a yellow silk blouse that reminded Thomas of the sun in a deep summer sky. The real sun was behind him as they sat on a bench in the garden, strong enough to highlight the gloss of Eve's black hair.
He reached out, as if to touch the hot, humid, air. "When I was blind, I was sure I could reach out and feel things other people couldn't see, like breath. I didn't have to see it to touch it. It was there, it was warm and I was more aware of it than anyone else. Do you think I will lose all sense of that?" That had sounded petty, ungrateful for what had just so impossibly happened: but the truth was he did not know what to say to the remarkable woman sitting next to him.
Eve did not seem to have heard what he was saying. She was staring downward, tracing the whorls in the wooden seat, unaware of what was going on around her.
"What's the matter?" Thomas frowned, "Are you okay?"
"I think so," Eve said, uncertainly, "I don't know." And then that smile reappeared a little too quickly. "Just checking that I'm still me."
More weird words to which he found a response. "And are you?"
"I think so. Strange. I can't tell...but I suppose that's only to be expected."
"Can you do what you did before, tell me what I am thinking?"
"You...no. I'm afraid to try, but now, no, there is none of you here with me. I seem to remember there was before but I don't recognise it now."
"And that's what you wanted?"
"I'm not sure: it must have been. I reasoned everything through, saw all the possible paths. I can't see them now. It’s all gone. Only the ordinary physical memories remain -- nothing beyond that. Yes, this must have been how I wanted it."
"So, what now?" Thomas asked.
"I wanna do something extraordinarily human."
"You mean you weren't human before?"
Eve thought for a moment. "I can't answer that. But I am human now."
"A walk. Why don't we go for a walk."
"Had one. I remember that. The park"
"Much too early."
Thomas grabbed Eve's wrist, looked at his watch and laughed. "Two-fifteen, you're right. What about just sitting here in the garden?"
"Too hot for me. I want to do normal, Thomas. Some thing. You're asking me to do nothing."
"All that counts as normal for mere mortals." Thomas assured him.
Eve sighed. "I suppose I'll need to adjust."
"Okay," Thomas said, "We could make love. Is that extraordinary enough for you?"
"Doesn't it have to be dark for that."
Thomas shook his head. "I want to do it in the daylight for a change."

They were both unsure for their own separate reasons: Eve unfamiliar with such intimacy, Thomas unfamiliar with the power of sight.
It was the exotic lust between Thomas' legs that finally gave direction to their hesitant caresses and cast him as the dominant partner. Lips pressed tightly to Eve's stomach, he closed his eyes and trusted his fingers to gently lay patterns of pleasure across Eve's thighs. There was a use for darkness, the thrill of the unexpected but, as they climaxed in a communion of foaming sperm binding each to the other, he knew he would never miss the absolute blackness that had been his life.

The sky blushed above the garden as the sun stole back its light and left the flowerbeds bleached of colour.
Despite the fading glow, each plant, shrub, bush and tree still held its summer power with delicate individual aromas he had come to know since buying the place five years ago. If he closed his eyes, he could still navigate the blooms by scent alone. Not, of course, that he needed - or wanted - to, but he was determined not to lose such a talent.
Eve appeared at the back door to the kitchen. She tightened the belt of the short red robe - a reminder of the recent sex - and made her way down the short crazy-paved path towards Thomas. "There will be another one tomorrow."
"Sun. It does come back up again." Eve grinned, but shivered.
"What's the matter."
"Just an absence of heat. Are you ready to come back in yet?"
"In a moment. I want to watch it get dark." Thomas squeezed Eve's shoulder. He felt the heat and the tensing of muscle through the robe. "Are you happy?"
"How do you mean?"
"It doesn't seem very equal. I've got something positive, you've got something, well, negative."
"It's not negative for me."
"Maybe not for you, but what about other people? You used to help them with your gift?"
"Sometimes - if I felt they needed it."
"And those people who will need that advice in the future, that vision can't come to you anymore."
"Let someone else do the future, I don't do it anymore."
"I suppose I just wanna be sure I've not stolen anything from you." Said Thomas.
Eve shook her head and reached out to hold Thomas' hands. "I'm the one who did all the convincing. This afternoon you weren't even sure this was real. Be sure. This is what I want, and I've gained something impossibly beautiful."

They sat on the bench talking about gifts until Eve no longer answered.
Thomas looked across and found her staring blindly into the star encrusted sky, eyes reflecting but not registering the tiny flickering lights. Her cheek was cold, her lips dry and her hand had slipped loosely into her lap.
For a moment gain became loss. Tears filled Thomas' eyes and the sudden ache of sorrow chewed at his body. Had Eve known she was so soon to die? Did she want a release from the pain of that knowing for just a few hours? Was what she felt simply like the terror experienced by a cancer sufferer who knows they are to die too soon - only more so, for the whole of her life? And had she finally been able to relax, to find peace in a lover's arms?
He looked for confirmation and found it. There, in the calm, frozen lines of his newfound lover's face was a silent smile of surprise.

© John Gilbert, 2004

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Comments by other Members

word`s worth at 11:11 on 10 March 2004  Report this post
Oh John! Magnificent! I was in floods of tears by the last paragraph. You were Eve - knowing what was to come and I was Thomas, led blindly but so trustingly in to this wonderful story. I couldn't stop reading - I was intrigued - who was Eve? Admittedly, I thought transexual at first - then when she transported him to his house and asked him if he wanted to see again - I thought something of a 'divine' nature...I thought perhaps 'Doubting Thomas?' and Jesus or God performing a miracle...and then the bolt out of the blue there about her knowing she was going to die and giving the gift of sight to Thomas and accepting the gift of blindness from him...oh wow...I'm stunned. I'm going to read it again!

Thank you for writing this!



On the senses theme, I wrote something that was up on this site about a time when being deaf was a blessing.

Dee at 11:40 on 10 March 2004  Report this post
Wonderful! Quite wonderful. I can only echo what Nahed has said.

Hardly want to mention this... just one tiny typo right at the start... creek should be creak

What a debut!

Welcome to WW. I hope you stay around to give us more.


Jubbly at 15:08 on 10 March 2004  Report this post
Hello JohnGilbert and welcome to WW. I agree with Dee and Nahed, this is just amazing - I was simply caught up in this mysterious world which is utterly compelling. A beautiful tale of hope and life.

Well done


johngilbert at 17:31 on 10 March 2004  Report this post
Thank you for the comments. I am quite surprised and encouraged at the response. To tell the truth, I have mainly written film journalism and book reviews/author interviews during the past 20 years. I have a whole collection of short fiction that I've written, shown to a few friends and just let sit around because I've been told it's hopeless trying to sell that sort of thing. I'm well into a contemporary fantasy novel now and am now tempted to try a few anthologies and magazines with the shorts. I'm also going to sign up for full membership - though I am having more than a few problems with Paypal which keeps insisting I already have an account.

Hope the next story I upload isn't a disappointment.




PS - I would like to keep the meanings of the characters/story secret for the moment but, suffice to say, just as some people like to link linguistics into their fiction I like to tie in different strands of mythology and either make it into something new or use it to pose a puzzle/riddle. I love this community several of the stories I have read from other contributors are amazing and I want to contribute more.

Dee at 18:29 on 10 March 2004  Report this post
John, looking forward to having you on board and reading more of your work.


Ralph at 13:13 on 13 April 2004  Report this post
Hi John

Hope you don't mind me coming to this so late. Having read "Tallow, " I was too greedy for more to resist.

This is an incredible piece of writing. You have a beautiful way of making imagery powerful without sight; letting sound, touch and smell provoke pictures in the readers mind. And the whole concept was breath-taking. Only writing of your quality could do it justice, and you've excelled yourself in the task...

The moment when Thomas' sight returns to him will live with me forever. "like a rain of jigsaw pieces" was perfect, just perfect.

I know I'm a bit slow on the uptake, but I wasn't sure why Eve changed genders. I like the idea of that kind of intransivity, but I had a hard time negotiating the change between him/her... especially as it comes so late in the piece. I felt as though something had been revealed to Thomas, but not to the reader... but I couldn't quite untangle it.

The other thing was that Eve suggested making love, but the next line seems to belong to Eve as well... I read it as though it was Thomas who actually made the suggestion. Could be completely wrong there, though...

Anyway, these are niggly things, and in no way detracted from the utter pleasure of reading this. Thanks for sharing it.

All the best with your writing, I can't wait to read more.



johngilbert at 13:27 on 13 April 2004  Report this post
Hi Ralph, thank you for the comments - I am going to change the story slightly in line with what you said about Eve suggesting making love...The strange thing was that Eve was a man to start with and this was another of my gay focused short stories. I have enough of them to fill a collection (though haven't tried selling them because the market for collections is almost non-existent). The transgender thing was slightly subconscious but, throughout the story I wanted to provide the reader with subtle misdirections through the characters' viewpoints. Using a heterosexual pairing seemed to work better - though I suppose I might be accused of pandering to a 'wider' audience.



Ralph at 14:07 on 13 April 2004  Report this post
Hi John

I know well the accusation you mean, but I think it would be unfounded. You write so strongly about love and emotion, that it should and can appeal to anyone, regardless of gender and/or sexuality. Or does that sound a little idealistic? OK, so I'm a dreamer...

I'm intrigued by what you say about misdirection through character perspective. With that in mind, I'm reading this as Thomas using "her" when he perceives of Eve in one sense, and "him" when he sees another side.

Strangely, I came to the conclusion that Eve was a man the first time that I read this, I think because of the line: "they climaxed in a communion of foaming sperm binding each to the other." But using "him" and "her" to describe Eve left me feeling that you wanted the reader to believe that that character was both, or neither, gender... The idea of that really appeals to me, but I still struggle to reconcile the mixed pronouns. That's a really personal thing though. I just think pronouns can be enemies to ambiguity...

There's definitely room for a collection like this in my mental market... I'd love to have an anthology of these stories at hand to dive into.

The very best of luck with it.



johngilbert at 14:02 on 20 April 2004  Report this post
Thanks once again, Ralph. Given the response to the stories I am considering throwing out the 'rule book' and just sending 12 of the stories to an agent, see what they make of them. Alternatively, I might just self publish and sell them through Amazon - I understand a few well known novels have done a similar thing.



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