Welcome the Nightby Shaun Allan / Science Fiction
Welcome the Night
By Shaun Allan
Copyright 2011 Shaun Allan
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For my girls who helped me to see.
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Also by Shaun Allan
Tooth, the Whole Tooth and Nothing But the Tooth
The House on the Moor
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Welcome the Night
Given the amount of time Brantley had been down the hole, it was amazing his single, lid-less eye could still focus. The darkness of the long night before had kept him warm, held him safe, but now the circle of sunlight high above pierced down at him, boring its way into his head. He didn't want to look at it. He'd convinced himself countless times to look away, look away, but eventually he always looked back, looked up. The brilliant white disc called to him and as he stared at it, unable to blink, unable to tear his face away, he felt he'd surely go blind.
But perhaps that wasn't so bad. Maybe, that was for the best. He was lost, had been lost for a long, long time. If he couldn't find himself, why did he need to see? If he was lost, with no path left to take, what good was sight at all? Especially his.
In a world where the nights were long, but the days were interminably longer, the inability to blink, to close one's eye, to blank it all out, was like drowning in a sea of vision. Everything became a cacophony of stimulus. Just once, Brantley wished he could shut it all out, but he couldn't. His only sanctuary was night time, darkness caused by the absence of the sun, for artificial darkness, merely an absence of light wasn't enough. His eye, his beautiful, purest azure window into his soul, was also his ever open window onto the world. He didn't know why. He didn't know how.
Brantley could see. Not in the simplest, bifocal, quasi-three-dimensional way that everyone else - so called 'normal' people - could see. Brantley could SEE. In. Through. Beyond.
At one time, he revelled in this ability. He could hold a book, then, without opening it, read the foreword, the first page, the next page and the next. He could read a note on the fridge door, then, without even touching it, look into the fridge to see if there was anything to eat, or to drink. And yes, he could look at a beautiful woman, and he could see through her clothes.
But it didn't stop there, and it couldn't stop there. Brantley couldn't control his vision. He couldn't focus. So he could see through the binding of the novel, and read the pages, but then he'd go further. The fibres of the page. The glue of the spine. He could see the body of the beautiful woman. And further. The skin, the bones, the veins and the nerves.
So he tried not to look. But he couldn't close his eye. Glasses, or the cyclopean equivalent, opaque and close against his head, were useless. The glass may as well have been transparent. Bandages and other bindings, wrapped so many times about his head he felt he'd suffocate, worked for a few seconds, but then they'd become grey, instead of black, and grainy images would appear. Then the world, in all it's glory, would descend upon him, sweeping him away in all its majesty and its colour and its horror and his pain.
Once, Brantley had dropped a key. It was on one of the rare occasions he'd dared to venture outside. He had to feel the breeze in his hair, smell the natural fetid air instead of the cloying, artificially clean air of his room. He had to taste the dust that hung on the wind, and to feel the grime against his cheek. He needed to step outside once in a while to feel, to experience the pollution and murk and the chaos, because that was real. That was normal!
So he'd stepped outside. He'd faced the inevitable discord his eye forced him to suffer. His teeth gritted, not just against the pollution, but in resolve and in determination, Brantley had walked to the fields outside of town. How he'd managed it he wasn't sure. His 'over'-vision had assaulted him in every way possible, but he hadn't succumbed, as he had on so many other occasions. He'd reached the fields, insipid greens of bristling grass, and had felt almost free. Then he'd dropped his key.
Bending down, his hand on the ground for support, an ant skittered across his finger. Brantley couldn't help but glance at it. Because it was so small, he had to look closely, to peer at it. And in it. And through it.
He'd never seen an ant before. He'd never seen a molecule before.
He remembered vomiting, but not much more before finding himself back in his room, shaking as if he had a fever.
He knew he wasn't the only one. There were others like him, or so he'd been told. Others, with one eye. With no lid. With sight so profound it sometimes drove them mad. Apparently there was a cure. No, not a cure. An aid. A device that could be worn, that could temper their vision, and dull it to a more acceptable, a more bearable level. But it was expensive, and there weren't many of them about. They were made to order, as 'special' people like Brantley simply weren't financially agreeable enough to warrant any mass production. So Brantley lived in his world of intensity.
But he couldn't. After the field, he couldn't go on. He'd tried, years before, to blind himself. After sitting with a pen in his hand for half a day, he'd finally tried to plunge it into his socket, but it wouldn't go. The lens was somehow too strong, too hard. He didn't even feel the jab of the pen. His only option, he thought, was darkness.
A room, with shutters closed, and blinds down and curtains drawn wasn't enough. Only true night time took away the day's onslaught. So he waited until dusk, and left his room. He didn't know where he would go, but made for the fields he had so briefly walked upon before. A cave perhaps. Hills rose a few miles from town and grew into mountains further away. Just one, small cave, deep enough to be naturally dark. It didn't have to be much more than a depression, Brantley didn't mind. Just something.
He came upon the well by almost falling into it. For one who saw everything, whether he liked it or not, Brantley thought it ironic he didn't see the well before it was almost too late. Was it chance? Fortune? Either way, it was deep, and so inviting. With an anxious look to the horizon where the sun would inevitably rise far too soon, he eased himself over the edge. Handholds were few and more than once Brantley almost lost his grip as he descended into beautiful complete darkness. His fortune, naturally, couldn't last, and a rock, embedded tight into the wall, came loose as he lent his weight to it. When he came to, he found he had landed roughly and his leg was broken. Blood, drying slowly, soaked his trousers. But he didn't care. It was dark. It was enough. The pain would fade eventually.
He couldn't move for a long time. He didn't try to. He was content to simply lay there and drink in the darkness. Then day came, as it must do, and the disc of searing brightness hung above him, taunting him, laughing at him. And he could see. The mud of the walls. The worms burrowing through the mud. The intricate muscles of the worm's bodies. Brantley screamed. He screamed and he screamed and he screamed. When he was hoarse, he hung his head. He couldn't climb out because of his leg. He was miles from anywhere so nobody could hear his cries. He was alone in a well that, possibly, no-one even knew about.
He stared at the floor of the well, his cursed eye showing him each individual grain of dirt, and the stones and the rocks beneath and beyond. Ever down. But closer, just below the surface, covered only by a fine layer of mud, was something else. He grunted with effort as he shifted his body just enough to reach for the object. It glinted as he brushed it clean. It was a visor of some sort. A large oval lens with an elasticated strap attached. It looked makeshift and cheap, but Brantley knew what it must be. He frantically pulled it on, and was instantly plunged into a blackness he had only ever dreamed about. The sun was gone. The mud and the worms and their muscles were gone. For the first time in his life, Brantley couldn't see!
A smile, perhaps the only one he'd ever made, spread across his face. He laughed, his initial giggles becoming more manic as they grew. Brantley, ignoring the pain from his shattered leg, felt for the wall of the well and heaved himself up. Climbing up the well was near impossible, especially as he kept slipping and jarring his leg against the wall, but he was somehow managing. Until his hand slipped, and his good leg gave way, and he fell back to the floor, landing awkwardly, hearing his arm snap, and feeling the pain shooting through to join that in his leg.
When he awoke he couldn't remember where he was. He panicked, the complete absence of light scaring him until he touched his head and felt the visor. He went to pull it off, but hesitated. He realised his situation. He'd realised it before finding the visor and before breaking his arm. He couldn't get out and he wouldn't be found.
Brantley pulled off the visor and looked at it, in it, through it, beyond it.
Then he turned his eye to the sun, high above him.
About the Author:
A writer of many prize winning short stories and poems, Shaun Allan has written for more years than he would perhaps care to remember. Having once run an online poetry and prose magazine, he has appeared on Sky television to debate, against a major literary agent, the pros and cons of internet publishing as opposed to the more traditional method. Many of his personal experiences and memories are woven into Sin (the main character in his book of the same name) point of view and sense of humour although he can’t, at this point, teleport.
Read other works by Shaun online at:
Sin has a blog, detailing his experiences and thoughts whilst in the mental asylum and the people and patients he meets there, at http://singularityspoint.blogspot.com