Ronald Connor sat on the sandy shore and stared up at the cliff where it all began. It would be the last thing he’d ever see. His peripheral vision was closing in on him. He could see the trees, the buildings, the tower, all through a continually narrowing tunnel.
“I wish I could have seen your face one more time.” He deliberately left her, Shannon, his fiancée, left everyone else who loved him, because his going blind wasn’t something he wanted to share. He didn’t want their pity, their concern, their last second attempts at trying to cure him, or even to understand exactly what was happening to him.
He’d been studying the alien spores brought back from the dwarf planet Ceres by the Demeter probe. They were different. In color, a bluish-green that faintly glowed. In texture, thousands upon thousands of tiny hexagons, like an infinite beehive had been impressed on their surface. They were different enough from what he expected to allow them to make a breach in the containment, just large enough to allow the spores to travel up through the electron microscope and into his eyes. His optic nerves deteriorated in just a few weeks.
The tunnel continued to narrow and darkness rapidly conquered the light. “I’m blind.”
Then something rippled in his visual cortex, reconstructed his optic nerves, invaded his entire nervous system.
“I can still see.”
The spores didn’t destroy his human sight. They gave him something better.
Ron stood up and “looked around.” He wasn’t just seeing with his eyes, he was “seeing” with everything.
All five of his senses were feeding into his visual cortex, he could “see” the wind, not because it was moving the trees, but because he could feel it on his skin, feel it brushing aside his hair. He could see the ocean, not just what it looked like, but as if the smell of the sea was visual, as if the sound of the waves lapping up onto shore were somehow added to what it looked like.
“I wonder if I were to eat a bagel, would I see the flavor of the bread and cream cheese?” He chuckled at the half-absurdity.
The lab was on the cliff. It had been sealed off after the accident. The spores had been contained again, this time in a much stronger barrier, so there was no danger to others. He could go back, maybe even continue his research.
“But what will I see when I look at the spores again?”
He had seen her walking down the path to the beach behind him, so he wasn’t surprised. He could see the worried look on her face, see the accelerated heart beat, both from the walk down here and the anxiety, see the wind and what it was doing to her hair, see her faint, sweet scent.
His back was still toward her. “I don’t know what my eyes look like, but something extraordinary’s happened, Shannon.”
He turned around to face her.
“Oh my God, Ron! Your eyes!”
She was slowly backing away from him. She looked afraid, and by looked, it was not just her facial expression and body posture, but the change in her heart rate, body temperature, body odor. He could see her fear, and then what she looked like changed as she regained control.
“I’m so sorry, Ron. I was just startled. I didn’t think you would look like this.”
He could see the subtle interplay of her thoughts and emotions, conducted by all of his senses.
“Your eyes look just like the spores, the same color and texture, the same faint glow, just one solid color, no pupil or iris.”
“Shannon, I can still see, only better. The spores didn’t just rewrite my eyes and optic nerves, they tapped into all my senses. I can see not just with my eyes, but smell, touch, taste, hearing are all part of my sight now, my strange and wonderful sight.”
He could see she didn’t believe him or at least that she was skeptical.
“Why not go back to the ophthalmologist and redo the tests?” He was trying to appeal to her rationality hoping to calm her down.
She wasn’t afraid of him exactly, but he could see her doubt, as if she believed the spores might have damaged his brain, his sanity.
“I see a demonstration is in order.” Ron expertly walked backwards and took a short hop onto a rock that was directly behind him. He leapt from one natural platform to the other on the sand, avoided stepping into tidal pools without seeming to look at them, and then walked up to within a few feet right in front of her and stopped.
“Do you still think that I’m blind?”
“You can’t be but…” She suddenly was hugging him and what Ron saw was astonishing. Love, pleasure, heat, pressure, texture, scent, skin, hair, everything that a person experiences when they’re holding onto someone else became a unified vision of Shannon, who she was, what she means to him. He was really seeing her, everything she was, for the first time in his life.
He gently pulled her away, still with his arms around her, and looked into her eyes. How amazing her eyes looked when he looked with everything.
He began thinking of how revolutionary his eyes had become. With the miracle of the spores, he could share his strange sight with the woman he loves. But should he?
Recently, I wrote two short pieces of flash fiction and received requests from several readers to expand them both. The first was Time’s Window, which I developed into Time’s Window Expanded. The second tale was Strange Sight. The story you’ve just read is my expanded version. Let me know what you think.