by R.J. Astruc
read by Amy Tapia
For three days the implants burn inside my head like coals, but on the fourth day the burning goes away and I can feel my new eyes sort of settling inside my skull, as if they’ve finally accepted their home. When I tell my Sanako this he holds my hands very tight and kisses the bandages around my head and says, “I can’t wait until you can see me, Lei-Lei.”
His voice is thick with emotion and I know he’s crying, even before I feel the tears on my palms. It’s funny, I’ve never been able to see, but every time I touch my Sanako’s face I imagine I’m seeing it, the fur of his chin and the dimple in his left cheek and the wrinkles in his forehead.
“I can’t wait either,” I tell him, my mouth very close to his ear. “Tomorrow the bandages come off.”
That night I go to sleep happy. I often think I am a burden to my Sanako but I know that with my new eyes I won’t be. In fact I will be better-than-human. My implants are RDR34s, top of the line bionics that my Sanako had imported from America. The little radar lenses are covered by smooth plastic shells that look (Sanako tells me) just like real eyes. When they heal I won’t be able to see in colour, but I’ll be able to see depth, a hundred million diverse and unique shades of depth, which should (the doctors tell me) make up for it. The implants are also very powerful: a slight adjustment and I’ll be able to focus on objects miles away and see through walls like superman.
My Sanako always says: Only the best for my wife.
That night I dream in darkness but it is the last time I will dream like this, in voices and smells and doubts—my doubts, the deep-dark doubts my Sanako says I should never entertain—and so I welcome them. Tell me about my Sanako’s adultery, his infidelity, his shame at his dumb blind burden-of-a-wife! I shout this to my demons, proudly, loudly, because tomorrow I will see, and they cannot take anything more from me.
When I wake up the next morning my Sanako is not at my side. I am not worried; I hear his voice downstairs, deep and sweet, talking to someone else. Perhaps my sister, who often visits our house in the early mornings; or one of his work colleagues. I expect he has snuck away early to prepare some wonderful surprise for me, a first feast for my new eyes. I know I am supposed to wait for him; he has to make the adjustments so that my eyes focus correctly. But I can’t wait! I leap from the bed and tear the bandages from my face.
And then, I see.
What a world I live in! A world of lines and shapes and texture, and all of it different and unusual and curious, the bed dark and straight and the carpet like froth and when I go to the window the thin curtains are transparent and I can see (see!) through them into the courtyard where trees grow and stones sit and walls stand and there is a whole world, a whole maze of lines and light that would make me weep with joy, if plastic eyes could ever cry.
For a time I hold myself there, shaking. It is so big! The world is so big! I can’t get over it. I am so happy, so ecstatic—and then I remember that this is a happiness I should be sharing with my Sanako, my wonderful Sanako, who worked so hard to make this possible.
It is my turn to surprise him, I think. I tiptoe down the stairs with my nightgown wrapped about me. He is in the kitchen; he is laughing; and I hear my sister laughing too. As quiet as a mouse, I push open the door and step in.
They are naked.
My husband and my sister.
They are naked in my kitchen, shamelessly, their backs to me; they are naked in my kitchen they are having an affair in my kitchen, my husband and my sister doing it while poor stupid Blind Lei who is Such A Burden sits stupidly in her bed with her head turbaned in bandages, none the wiser; and now these two libertines adulterers liars are laughing at me.
All the demon-doubts in me come screaming into my head and I pick up a knife from the sideboard; I grab my Sanako by the skin of his back which comes surreally away from his bones like paper or cotton and force him onto the ground; I put the knife up to his teeth and I make him swallow it.
After that I don’t think of much at all, my head is strangely blank and somewhere my sister is screaming.
“Why, Lei? Why?” weeps my sister. “What did he do? What is wrong with you?”
I want to make her eat the knife too. Except I can’t bear to move again. What sort of cruelty is this? Why would a man give his wife sight only to parade his mistress before her? What kind of man? I dig my fingers into Sanako’s chest; I want to tear out his wicked heart and drain its poison away…
But. As I scratch his chest, his skin feels wrong. His skin comes away in my hand. His skin feels like cotton. And I remember then the transparent curtains and what the doctor said about the settings and adjustments and how I could maybe see through walls.
“What have you done, Lei?” my sister cries.
And finally, I see.
The Nature of Evil
by John Rosenman
read by Jason Warden
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“I recognized you, you know.”
Olson looked up from his newspaper and saw a man about his age sitting across from him at the table. “Excuse me?”
The man gave him a knowing smile. “I said, ‘I recognize you.’”
Olson set down the paper. The holiday season had been busy, and he had worked late at the accountants’ office before stopping for a hamburger on the way home. The last thing he needed was some stranger who claimed to know him.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “But I don’t know you.”
A shrug. “I don’t know you either.”
“I said I recognize you, not that I know you. To be precise, I’ve never met you before.”
Uh-oh, some nut. But Olson was shy with people and didn’t say that. He looked down at his hamburger, which he’d barely touched. Maybe he should take it and go.
The man’s smile widened, revealing sharp incisors. “Aren’t you going to ask me how I recognized you?”
A Christmas carol, “Deck the Halls,” played faintly in the background. “Okay,” Olson asked, “how did you?”
The man pointed at Olson’s tie. “It was your tie. It’s the exact same shade of green that he was wearing that day.”
That who was wearing? Olson would have asked, but he made it a point to avoid uncomfortable, embarrassing situations. In fact, he had developed a sixth sense for them. So he didn’t ask, but the man continued on anyway.
“I knew my wife was seeing someone,” he said. “I even hired a detective to snoop on her. But he found nothing. Then one day, I happened to see a man meet Kate in Brookside Park.” He stared at Olson’s tie. “Your tie is the exact same hue.”
This was crazy, Olson thought. Who recognized someone by the color of his tie? More seriously, though, this man was accusing him of having an affair with his wife, which was outright madness. The idea of him doing something so wrong and dangerous was unthinkable! Olson glanced about the neat, clean fast-food restaurant he sat in, seeing people eating sandwiches and enjoying the Christmas season. It all looked so safe and normal. And yet this complete stranger had invaded his life here and accused him of adultery with his wife.
Olson gulped his Coke and put his hamburger back in its wrapper. “Nice talking to you,” he said, starting to rise.
The stranger reached across the table, seized his arm, and pulled him back down. “Sit,” he said. “Stay and chew the fat with me.”
Olson acquiesced. After all, he didn’t want to create a scene. He’d just sit here a little while longer and see what this man wanted, maybe make him understand that it was a case of mistaken identity. In the event matters did get, well, awkward, he’d just leave.
The man leaned toward him. “Actually, to be precise, it wasn’t just the tie that helped me recognize you. It was also the way you eat your cow meat.”
“The way I eat?”
“Yes. Dainty little nibbles.” The man raised his hand and mimed Olson eating his hamburger. “Are you always that neat and mousy?” He shook his head. “Surely not in bed. Kate liked big bites in the sack. You couldn’t have kept her happy with neat little mousy nibbles.”
Stunned, Olson watched his visitor pull napkins out of the holder, making an untidy mess on the table. Olson, who like to keep things neat, found this act deliberately goading. But even worse, the man had accused him of sinful acts that were quite beyond his nature. Despite Olson’s shock, one word came through clearly. “Liked? Did you say she liked it?”
The man grinned, revealing his sharp incisors again. “Ho, ho, ho, indeed I did. Strictly past tense.” He leaned forward again. “I had to kill her, you know.”
“Kill her?” He couldn’t continue.
“Of course. Just as I’m going to kill you.”
Olson tried to rise but couldn’t. The man’s eyes bored into him, sapping his will.
“L-Look, mister,” Olson said, “this has gone far enough. I-I don’t know who you are, and I never even met your wife. This is a mistake. For your information, I’ve been married seventeen years to the same woman. I’ve never once looked at anyone else.”
“Sure,” the man said. “That’s what the first two said.”