From the author: A whimsical vignette; just a slice of domestic life.
Melanie’s eyes, as ever, hold me immobile in their manifold gaze. Manifold. Well, they aren’t all looking right at me, but a lot of them are.
Melanie’s green eyes are sunshine through new Spring leaves, so clear and fresh-minted; hopeful, somehow.
Her blue eyes are, say, fathomless crystalline lagoons. Or shards of ice, I don’t know. Blue is blue.
Melanie’s brown eyes, now, those are something. Sanguine, dreamy, rich and lively in a dozen shades from weak tea to black tar. Wise. They cheer me up on days like this.
Every day is like this. Well, onward.
Melanie’s voice scrapes those thoughts away like a wire brush. “Enough wool-gathering.”
She’s come up on my right side, my blind side. “Don’t touch the jar.” Hard, lustrous, like polished rosewood, that voice.
How does she move around the house without a sound? Never stumbles, never has so much as a bruise on her perfect white, perfect smooth skin.
I tell her, “One of them is mine.” (It is: the lone hazel eyeball, always drifting to the bottom of the jar.)
My own voice sounds like a cranky child. I know Melanie’s little ears, her shell-like, preternaturally sensitive, goddamn bat-like ears can detect every little note of failure and inadequacy.
“Mine now.” That’s all she says. She’s already walking away, no hurry, giving me plenty of time to turn and watch. Her silk gown is so sheer I can see the two eyes tattooed on her buttocks. They’re copied off the lady’s eyes in that Rossetti painting, Regina Cordium, and they’re mysterious because they’re veiled, and because they’re a little wall-eyed so you can’t tell where they’re looking.
But they're also comical, I think anyway, because they go up and down and they just about describe an infinity symbol as she shifts her weight from the ball of one dainty bare foot to the other and those bountiful hips roll.
Oh, and the vertical line between them makes it look like her ass is frowning. An exasperated ass.
She had those tats done some years back, when she could still see. Her husband, surely a fellow ass-man, called her “Four-Eyes.” His own eyes were brown with green flecks. Cheer-me-up-please eyes, I call them. Currently drifting in the jar, a reminder of better days.
How many eyes does one woman need? She’s got her tattooed ass-eyes, plus thirty-three eyes in the jar, plus the two unsleeping golden eyes tattooed on her eyelids, stitched flat across her empty sockets. Those two are a masterpiece.
So thirty-seven eyes all told, I guess. The only reason it’s an odd number is because I’m more useful to her if I can see to work. In this kingdom, the one-eyed man is a slave. Guess I save some money not going to those 3-D movies. Stupid fad.
(Oh, the guy that did those eyelid tattoos was reputedly the best skin artist in the Valley. Nice easygoing man, always humming to himself. His eyes are clear and calm, and gray, and, yes, in the jar. To me, they look somehow startled. He did not see it coming.)
She drifts off, now, down the long hallway, a willowy pale shape enclosed by four hard planes. All the interior surfaces of the house are stone, floor, walls and ceiling. Little inset lights in odd places. As per her design specs. We live in a tomb. I imagine it helps her find her way around by echoes, and she always seems to know where I am; but her little feet don’t make a sound.
There's no music allowed, either, but I hum.
She’s right, anyway, I was loafing, and my chores won’t do themselves. Most of my day is taken up with household repairs, dusting, tending the herb garden. I go out in the afternoon to shop and surreptitiously photograph prospects.
I try to pick people who won’t be missed. Some people, hell, their absence might even benefit society. Just two a year, one in January, one in July. The Earth’s perihelion and aphelion, don’t ask me why. She’s got her quirks.
It’s Thursday, so I make grilled lamb cutlets, on watercress with mashed sweet potato and fresh rosemary. Purple Peeps for dessert, as always. Nine months ago, I could only find yellow Peeps, and that was a bad day. I don’t know how she knows the difference, but she does.
Same thing with the white tablecloth. She requires it be spotless, and I’m sure as hell not going to question her ability to detect a stain.
“Come cut up my meat.” Cut her meat, right – considering what Melanie can do in five seconds with a hot melon scoop, assistance with utensils is the last thing she needs, but it’s one of my duties.
I take my time, enjoying the aroma of real food, lamb and asparagus, rising from her gold-rimmed platter. She hears my deep inhalation, snaps: “The blinds.” I go open them, let in the amber evening light. I can’t even remember how much I paid to provide this ocean sunset for her every evening, when this was my house. Building the house on this hill for this view cost almost all I had in my old life.
Behind me I hear the soft expensive clink of gold-plated dinnerware. She loves her dinner. Seriously; it’s one of three things she loves. My clay bowl is waiting for me, at the other end of the table, I’m not going to forget to eat, but she reminds me every time. “Enjoy your kibble.”
I do. She diminished me to that level practically without effort, the second weekend. I enjoy my kibble. It's the expensive kind, grain-free, no by-products.
This story originally appeared in 1) Dark Valentine; 2) Jersey Devil Press.