The contents of his uncle’s safe deposit box were arranged across Brian Vail’s desktop. He moved the monitor, keyboard, and mouse of his PC to one side to make room. He wouldn’t be using the computer because he already had. The notes, letters, drawings, and other minutia organized in front of him contained far more relevant information about his condition than the internet did.
The origin of the sight was shrouded in mystery, though his Uncle Ellis, the most recent possessor of this ability before Brian, thought it went back to the 12th or 13th century, an ancestor who lived in either Southern France or Spain. He’s nameless, but was thought to be a mystic, one who dared to seek out the literal face of God.
Whether he did this to himself or his master discovered his efforts at the forbidden and did it to him, around 900 years or so ago, he was the first, the first to be given the sight.
What happened to him is unknown, but he was obviously married and had at least one son. That was the beginning.
“It’ll take weeks for me to work through all of this, maybe months.”
Brian was a best-selling author of mystery novels, so doing painstaking research wasn’t foreign to him. Doing painstaking research that had a direct bearing on his life, his future, and the damnable visions he kept experiencing was foreign to him. He wanted answers, and he wanted them now.
Brian did the math and as near as he could work it out, he was the thirtieth one to possess the sight. Thirty generations between the first and him.
It was the tenth who was the first to go blind, at least that’s what his journal said.
Juan de Palmyra, a merchant by trade, married and had two sons who both died in childhood. He would have a daughter and finally another son, one who lived to adulthood.
He received the sight upon the death of his father when Juan was twenty-seven. He said he believed it a sin to record the nature of his visions, but also said in his journal, through the hand of his wife, that they had finally driven him blind when he was just past fifty.
However, through he could not see the world around him, he could still perceive the unseen. The visions persisted throughout the rest of his life.
Brian heavily closed the translated tome of Juan de Palmyra. There was so much more material to go through, but this was the most troubling information he’d found so far.
Uncle Ellis’ notes said that out of the twenty-nine men who came before him, nine had gone completely blind. The reasons were uncertain, but perhaps there was a physical aspect to the sight after all. Maybe some of these men were susceptible to optic diseases, and the strain of the visions caused eventual blindness.
What a horrible thought, to not be able to see anything except what no one else could see.
Brian left the restaurant in downtown Los Angeles later than he wanted to. It must have been after eleven when he said goodnight to Mallory and John. Brian had known Mallory since they were kids, and when she married John, the writer discovered his best friend’s husband was a big fan of his novels, but not an obnoxious one. Brian considered it a challenge to write a story leaving all the clues in sight, just to see if John could solve it before the final chapter.
When he had arrived, the Friday night crowds had consumed all of the convenient parking spaces, so he had to park a few blocks away. Now, walking back to his car, Brian was surprised when the kid stepped out of the shadows holding a knife.
“Just give me your wallet and you won’t get hurt.”
He seemed young, maybe fifteen, desperate.
“Sure. You can have it. Just stay calm.”
“The fucking wallet! Now!”
Brian reached toward his back pocket, and then his vision narrowed and the unbidden images began.
A little kid crying as his Daddy walked out on his Mommy and brothers and sisters.
Mommy working three jobs just to feed them all.
His younger sister Maze being shot and killed during a random drive-by.
This kid smoking pot for the first time at age nine.
A runaway at thirteen, living on the streets since then, hustling to get by. This was his first armed robbery.
“You can put the knife away, Leon. I know all about you.”
“What the fuck? I said gimme your wallet.”
Brian kept both hands at his sides, careful not to make any sudden moves. He kept his face impassive and his voice calm and steady. He laid it all out for Leon, everything he’d seen in the visions, everything he’d learned about the life of a fifteen year old boy in just a few seconds.
“How’d you know that?” He was still holding the knife out in front, pointing it at Brian, but he was trembling. Brian thought there was a better chance of Leon running than trying to kill him. He didn’t want the kid to do either.
“Look, Leon. If you need money, you can put the knife away.”
Brian reached back and got his wallet. Without looking, he pulled out all the cash he was carrying and held it out.
“Here, take it.”
Leon’s hands were shaking so hard he could barely hold his knife. He was staring at the cash, deciding what he needed the most right now.
Leon’s hand shot out and grabbed the money.
“Why’d you do that?”
“Because you obviously need it more than I do. I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you one more thing.”
Brian always kept a few business cards on him. He never knew when he’d see someone at a meeting or a party who he’d want to call him. It had his number but only a P.O. Box for an address.
“If you decide you want to try a different way to make a living, call me.”
“Who are you supposed to be?”
“It’s not who I am, but that I’m willing to help that matters.”
“Sure, whatever.” Leon grabbed the card and along with the cash, stuffed it into his jacket pocket.
Brian couldn’t see if he was going to call him, but he could see what Leon would be doing for the rest of the night. Thankfully, he was going to throw the knife in a dumpster, and in the morning, call his Aunt in Chino and ask for a place to stay.
“Good luck, Leon. Your Aunt Shayna will say ‘yes’.”
Brian looked at Leon just long enough to see the baffled and astonished expression on the kid’s face, then he turned and walked to where he’d parked his car. When he started it and turned on the headlights, Leon was gone.
Brian was about to pull his car onto S Hope when a man walking down the sidewalk was caught in his headlights. The guy was momentarily startled, as if he’d been lost in thought and hadn’t noticed Brian’s car. He whirled to look at Brian.
He must have been in his mid-thiries, brown hair, average looks, height, and build. There was nothing to make him stand out from anyone else, except that Brian’s vision narrowed and focused intently on him.
Brian had to concentrate to keep his foot on the brake and his hands on the wheel. Blood, a tremendous amount of blood. Feeding. Twin fangs piercing too many throats to count.
A night time attack. A funeral. A grieving wife and three little kids. Three nights later, he crawled out of his grave.
“Oh my God,” Brian whispered to himself. By then, the man who had been in his headlights was gone.
“They’re real. Vampires are real. His name is Sean Becker and he’s a vampire.”
Brian got back to his condo in Long Beach well after midnight, and after two strong drinks, still couldn’t sleep until dawn.
I introduced Brian Vail in Tunnel Vision and this is the fourth story in my series about him.
I based the main action of the tale very loosely on a nine-year-old news story about a 31-year-old social worker and his would be mugger. In that story, the social worker handed over his wallet to the mugger, and then gave him his coat too. They ended up going out to a diner and at the end of the meal, the social worker said the mugger would have to pay since he had his wallet.
In my story, Brian won Leon over, not be showing kindness to everyone, but by showing him that he knew Leon, his past, and even a little about his future. It gave the kid a chance to think, and that’s all he really needed.
At the end of my story, I “plugged in” another character from another ongoing series. Vampire Sean Becker was last seen in my short story When Sean Met Sally, which was a chronicle of Sean’s encounter with a zombie.
Now Brian knows that vampires exist, and he knows the name of one of them. Sean has rather honed senses, but it’s not sure if he picked up on Brian’s eldrich sight.
I suppose all that is for another time.
Brian next appears in the Sean Becker series story Saving Jenny.
3 thoughts on “What I See When I Look At You”
An elf in the comic ElfQuest gave his eyesight to be able to see clearly with his heart, and Odin gave one eye to become the wisest of all gods and creatures. Still, seems like a hard burden to carry, with or without normal vision.
The difference here is that Brian didn’t ask for this second sight. It just happened to him.
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That is without doubt a major difference.
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