Tunnel Vision


Actor Peter Haskell in the 1972 film “The Eyes of Charles Sand”

“You should be relieved, Brian. Your vision is perfectly normal, which frankly is pretty extraordinary for a man of your age.”

“Then what the hell is going on, Mallory? Why do I get these episodes or visions that make me feel like I’m going blind?”

Brian Vail and Mallory Nelson had grown up together. They remained close friends throughout high school, through university, through their marriages and his divorce. He became a best-selling author of mysteries and she became an ophthalmologist and mother of three. Brian was her children’s honorary uncle.

“Bri, in over twenty years in practice, I’ve never heard of symptoms like yours. I’ll do another search factoring in your test results, but I can’t find a physical cause. Maybe it has something to do with some other aspect of your health.”

“Scratch that, Mal. I had my annual physical a month ago. Doc said I’m perfectly fit, amazingly good blood chemistry, strong as a bull.”

“As often as you go to the gym, you should be.” Brian’s almost compulsive attendance of his gym was a joke between them.

“If you find out anything, let me know.” Brian got out of the examination chair and then he gave Mallory a short hug. “Say ‘hi’ to John and the kids.”

“Sure I will, and don’t worry. I’ll keep researching this. There’s got to be a reason.”

Last month, Brian’s uncle died. It wasn’t really a surprise. Uncle Ellis took pretty poor care of his health, so the cancer diagnosis last year wasn’t shocking. At forty-five, Brian knew he was approaching the time in his life when the older generation would start passing away.

The funny thing was, Brian had a dream about his uncle the night before he died. That part wasn’t such startling since Ellis was terminal, but what he dreamed about was.

Brian was a little boy again and Uncle Ellis was taking him fishing. Ellis loved fishing and although it wasn’t particularly interesting to seven-year-old Brian, he loved being his uncle, so he went along with it.

They’d just cast their lines out into the lake, set their poles and were waiting. Uncle Ellis took off his sunglasses so he could see into the cooler to pull out a couple of sodas for them.

When his uncle turned back and Brian saw his face, he screamed and abruptly woke up.

Uncle Ellis had no eyes. His sockets were completely empty. There was no blood. His eyes were just gone.

The first incident took place two days later, a day before Ellis’ funeral.

Brian and his aunt had finished making the arrangements at the mortuary. He’d dropped his Aunt back off at her home in Fullerton and was driving back to his place in Long Beach. Stopped at a light, he casually looked around and noticed people waiting at a bus stop.

Then it was as if the brilliant sunlight had been put on a dimmer switch. Brian experienced tunnel vision. All he could see was one of the women at the bus stop. She glowed when everything else was gray. Then she collapsed on the sidewalk and rapidly decomposed.

All this happened in a matter of seconds. The sound of a horn behind him shook Brian out of his spell. The light was green. The woman and everyone else at the bus stop was fine.

As he slowly accelerated, Brian felt his heart pounding in his chest and he broke out in a cold sweat.

It got worse. The next morning, he saw a photo of the same woman when he looked up the local news online. She was dead. She’d just gotten off her bus and was crossing the street when she was hit and killed by a drunken driver.

“I saw her collapse and decompose and now she’s dead.”

The second time was totally different and just as horrific. Uncle Ellis’ memorial service. It was open coffin. One by one, family members and friends took one last look at his body. To everyone else, Ellis looked like a wax mannequin. When Brian walked up to the coffin and looked down, he saw something else.

Ellis’ eyes snapped open and the same empty sockets Brian had dreamed about stared at him. All he could see was his uncle’s face. The rest of the room, everything around him seemed grayed or blacked out, as if Brian were looking down a dark tunnel.

Ellis’s face contorted, his mouth opened and twisted. “It’s your’s now. Your’s.”

Brian’s vision snapped back to normal, but he staggered at the shock. Everyone thought he’d been overcome by grief, but the truth was much more terrible.

That afternoon, he made an appointment with Mallory for the widest possible range of vision exams. Something had to be wrong with his eyes. Either that, or he was going crazy.

That’s the one thing Mallory didn’t mention, but maybe she hinted at it when she suggested his experiences might have another cause.

But middle-aged men, especially those who had no history of mental illness or substance abuse, just didn’t suddenly start hallucinating. Then there was the issue of Beth Wixstead, the woman he saw at the bus stop, the woman who’d been killed by a drunk driver. It couldn’t have been a coincidence that he had his vision of her, and later that day, she died.

But if it wasn’t a mental aberration, and it wasn’t his eyesight, then what?

A month later, Brian went to the cemetery to visit Ellis’s grave. He wanted to see the gravestone. Somehow, he thought it would bring some sort of closure to his death, to Brian’s grief.

He brought flowers. He placed them on the grave. The stone his Aunt had ordered was very tasteful, just like she was. Considerate and brief. “Ellis Patrick Vail, December 12, 1942 – March 20, 2017, Beloved husband and a man of vision.”

His Aunt and Uncle couldn’t have children, so they kind of adopted Brian. Brian’s Dad died when he was an infant, and his Aunt and Uncle helped his Mom raise him. Mom had died over twenty years ago, so Sharon and Ellis were all that he had as far as family was concerned.

Now Ellis was gone.

Brian walked away from his uncle’s grave. It was a pleasant spring day as he strolled back toward the parking lot. He approached a fresh grave. For some reason, Brian stopped and looked at the mound of dirt wondering who it was.

“Never send to know for whom the bell tolls, Brian.” He muttered to himself remembering an old poem. Then the world seemed to black out except for the tunnel he was looking through. She hadn’t been there a second ago. She was young, probably not even thirty, beautiful, dressed in a silky gown.

“Help me,” she pleaded.

Brian tried to turn away and run, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t even close his eyes.

“This can’t be happening. It’s not real.”

She clutched her midsection and blood gushed through her fingers and down her dress.

“Find the man who killed me, please. It wasn’t a mugger like the police think. It was Charles. Find him. Make him pay. I can’t rest until you do. You’re the only one now, Brian.”

Brian’s vision cleared as he staggered backward a few steps. “What the hell?”

He looked around. Same sunny spring day, no one around. No one else to witness Brian’s strange behavior. It was like the vision didn’t happen.

He remembered his dream and the vision at the mortuary.

“What’s the connection between Uncle Ellis and what’s happening to me?”

Brian turned and rapidly started walking back to his car. “Aunt Sharon. If anyone knows what’s going on, it’s got to be her.”

The one thing Brian’s strange vision didn’t show him was the sealed envelope that was locked in the desk in his Uncle’s home office, the one with his name on it. Aunt Sharon was holding the key and waiting.

Kaleya Phillips recently wrote a story on her “Grim’s Crypt” blog called Four Eyes: Ghost Edition. It’s an engrossing tale about a young women who suddenly can see the supernatural.

It reminded me of a 1972 made for TV movie called The Eyes of Charles Sand, the story of a man who inherited the ability to see the supernatural from his recently deceased Uncle (so you can see where I’m getting my source material, although I think of myself as updating this aging story, not ripping it off).

I also thought about a series of films made for BBC television called Second Sight (1999-2000) starring Clive Owen. A homicide detective is hiding the fact that he is slowly going blind, but as his eyesight begins to fade, he starts seeing visions that provide clues to the cases he’s working on.

I saw part of the original episodes, and the show was amazing, but I’d rented the DVDs from my local public library, and the discs were so damaged, they became unplayable after a certain point.

Anyway, this is the start of a mini-series of my own. Who is Brian Vail and what is the secret of his strange visions? How did he acquire them from his Uncle and how were they transferred to Brian? How many of Brian’s ancestors possessed this bizarre sight and what is its origin? Are the answers in the letter that Ellis left behind for Brian?

Find out in the next chapter. Let me know what you think.

Read The Ghost of Natalie Edwards and see the next adventure of Brian Vail.

10 thoughts on “Tunnel Vision

  1. This is awesome. Brian’s experience in developing extra sight is far more disturbing than my characters’. Seeing people’s deaths can be quite traumatic, but now the dead wants his help. Can’t wait to see what unfolds for Brian.


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