I am aware of the fingers clutching my jaw, the green eyes that incarcerate my shrinking visual field. He won’t come with me, not this time, this time it’s a rite of passage. He blows the smoke into my mouth. I feel my uvula shudder.
Today I become a man or I lose my shit trying.
Leaves and slicks of mud slow my passage. The air is full of bone fragments. Each inhale is pitiless. I drop my nose inside the collar of my leather trench drawing in lozenges of moist breath. The sky is split like an oyster, specks of pearl dust igniting within haunting procession of chaste grays. The traffic lights read as eyeless sockets, there are no cars only paper cranes skittering across the tarmac like disembodied teeth.
I turn into a coffee shop after I hear carnival music gearing up in the distance. Any minute the clowns will take to the streets. I fucking hate clowns. The barista is a heavyset man in his late 40s with an unfolding lotus tattooed on the crest of his scalp. The delicate pinks don’t suit his mystique but it’s not really my business. He has no tongue so instead he just hands me a mug and points to an alcove rimmed with books. There is an old couple in the cafe but they are immersed in conversation, the woman is anyway. The man hasn’t spoken a word. Never will if he’s careful.
The titles twist beneath my gaze like amputated lizard tails. I pluck a book from the frame and behind it bobs a gold eye, I put the book back but it’s too late I am aware of his presence. One by one the books retreat until there is a space only slightly larger than a human head.
A cane emerges, a heavy black boot, a trousered leg, a black t-shirt that reads “Don’t eat the meatloaf” and a head of immaculate silver hair. All 7ft of a not quite human male comes from a space adequate only for a newborn. He steps down onto the bench and takes a seat across from me. I can see the mechanics in his left eye but the right is a perfect halo of gold. He points at the jukebox with a slim finger.
“It’s your turn.”
We’ve done this half a dozen times. No matter what I pick, it’s always Rachmaninoff. I put in my copper coin. Rachmaninoff’s “The Isle the of Dead” starts in sinister as hell. I return to the booth.
He pulls out a toaster (from God knows where) and polishes the silver surface until I can see my reflection. I stare at the face which is presumably mine. I am missing an eye. I look terrible. The image before me swirls until I am looking at a room with a CRT television and an old recliner. I’ve been in that room. Skin vacuumed to the leather upholstery watching reruns of the Twilight Zone with a blue haired birched faced crone. She’s got a beak like a magpie and irises the color of curdled milk. She wears a yellow-tinted wedding dress that sags on her fleshless bones. My right eye aches. The memory of her talon screwing through the pupil. The sick wet pop, the severance of the optic with a grubby fingernail, the vomit inducing pain. I turn away from the makeshift theater.
“Why do you keep showing me this?” I hide my nerves in my mug of coffee. I know the answer already.
“I need to know which will it be, the right or the left?” He asks pulling the ceramic cup from my lips.
“What’s the difference?” I’ve altered the script and he’s quiet for a moment.
“The left eye can see the future; the right can see the good in any person.”
I pretend to consider his response but I already have my next question. “Can I alter this future?”
He leans back in his seat long legs caging mine.
“All but death. To know when everyone would die and be powerless to alter the course sounds like a mental breakdown waiting to happen.”
“Answer me, what did the hag want with my eye?” I ask bowels cringing.
“She wanted to watch television.” Was that an answer or a suggestion?
“She stole my eye to watch freaking Nick at Nite? Are you screwing with me?”
“Her world consists of a series of small rooms, and each room contains two items: a television and a recliner,” he answers and I suppose the explanation makes sense. If all I had was a TV I’d want at least one working eye.
“Why the wedding dress?” His gold eye darkens until it’s the color of honey.
“She killed her husband. Too much television not enough love.” He answers his eye returning to its original luminosity.
“I’ll give you the right one.”
I turn away to avoid witnessing the extraction.
He places the eye in my empty socket it assimilates rapidly, like a virus. My brain itches I settle with tugging on my hair. I open my new eye blinking cautiously. I expect the alien to have an empty socket but he has a brown eye, a brown eye that looks unnervingly familiar.
“That’s my eye, bastard.” My indignation does nothing to dislodge his smile.
“A gift, this eye. I released her from prison, a lifetime given for a lifetime taken. She’s served,” he explains. I start stirring my coffee though it has neither sugar nor cream.
“Then why didn’t you give me back my own bloody eye.” I sit down my spoon with a little too much noise.
“You didn’t ask. Besides, this eye is no good to you.” I look more closely at the eye in question its cloudy and textured like a discarded snake skin. Next I study the alien hoping to find “the good” but in him I see nothing but infinite soul expanding space.
“Am I free to go?” I ask as the scene peels away all but his serrated smile before the credits, as I wipe a single bloody tear from my cheek.