Posted on October 28th, 2004 by Jack Leirone
The first thing that came to him when he awoke was the thorn’s snag of a question of whether or not he had actually climbed the ladder out of that painful sleep, dreams of a crescent grin in a dark night, dreams of black flowers grown like eyebrows to his own grave. Strength had left him, but if it had left him entirely, this simple paradox would have pinned him to madness, jailed him into piercing insanity. His mind held on like that boat in a night’s angry squall strung to the failing wooden dock that gave it the connection to land, soon to be torn and carried around amidst the rolling mountains of waves into the endless, cavernous obscurity of neverwhere.
The second thing that came to him when he awoke was the mind-squeezing annoyance that someone had turned out the lights, leaving him (apparently) on a biobed in the murky mystery of pitch darkness. Black, though, did not seem to even come close to describing what he saw; it was something darker black, more seething and obfuscated and sinister, than any coal he had ever seen. Not even the terrible clandestine jet black of the matter between the stars seemed even to compare to this black. Nothing he had seen had been darker than this.
The third thing that came to him was that he was blind.
Jack Leirone heard bustling feet on the carpet of sickbay, little scraping shooting stars across a tiny atmosphere, making those minute wish, wish, wish noises as they scuttled this way and that. Voices were both obstreperous and submissive and maddening all assembled like tent around his face. He found it stupid and obscene to give even one thought to the wallet of Cruel Joke. This was real, and he knew it. Mainly because his memory, above all else, still clung to him. “MEDICAL EMERGENCY, COMPUTER SEAL THE CONTROL ROOM.”
Somewhere, he heard a familiar voice. And in this infuriating state of feeling as if he was lingering in the limbo between slumber and stinging reality, he was unsure if had actually called out or if it was merely a figment of his nightmare. “Nicole? Nicole! Where are you? Nicole! Oh, God -” Later in the future he would look back on these words and wish he had said them in his mind: “Oh, God – was my ignorance, was my fault so terrible so as to deserve never to see her face again? Never to see the only smile anyone has ever given me? God, damn it, if my brief failure is justified by robbing me of the sight of that woman, then you are unjust! The scales are tilted, God, if I am forever banned from looking upon her cheek, beholding her eyes, drowning my soul in her hair – and feeling the world change when I close my eyelids when our lips touch.”
And Jack felt his left hand fall down off the side of the biobed and dangle, a pendulum of bicep and five wilting fingers, pale as dead snow. This swinging, swooping arm, as it mimicked a grandfather clock, took all that was him, and changed it. Jack was blind.