Promise me!

blind man

Roy had been blind since birth. It wasn’t as bad as growing up sighted and then lose your sight. They say you can’t miss what you’ve never had. Simple, right? No. Roy’s dearest dream was being able to see. He had always been a rebel at heart, refusing to accept things as they were, fighting for something, never happy with what he had. And what did he have? He had a life full of sounds no normal person could hear, of millions of tactile nuances only he felt, of countless subtle smells only he sensed. Yet all that was not enough for him to be happy.

Every day, Roy went for a walk in the local park where he listened to bird songs and people chatter. He walked a familiar path where he knew every brick. As always, he carried his trusty bamboo cane with him, not for guidance for he knew the path too well, but as an extra way to interact with the world. The cane “told” him about the fallen leaves on the path, the dandelions growing between the cobblestones, and made a very pleasant faint echo when it clicked…

That day had been special from the beginning as if there was something in the air: as menacing as an imminent storm, as exciting as an upcoming holiday.

Roy came to the park but could not concentrate on anything. Sounds, touches, smells, the familiar path, the favourite bench - nothing brought him joy that day. Roy’s heart was racing for no reason. He had to sit down to catch his breath.

Then he heard the steps…

A stranger sat down at the bench beside Roy and turned his or her audio player on. Roy could hear the faint music, words, melody, and all; his keen hearing allowed that easily. The song was unfamiliar, the language - foreign.

With the alien song on the background, the stranger said,
“Hello!” they had a very young voice, the voice of a little girl or a little boy.
“Hello,” Roy replied.

The song kept flowing, vibrating, and echoing in his dark world…

“I can cure your blindness if you want. Do you?” asked the little stranger.
“Sure!” Roy smiled; he saw no harm in playing along.
“Okay. But I must warn you first: once you’ve got your sight back, go home right away. Keep your head bowed, don’t raise your eyes from the path. I repeat: don’t raise your eyes, no matter how curious or scared you get. Once you’re home, you will be free. Promise me that you will do what I said.”

The child's fervent speech made Roy feel uneasy.

“I promise,” he said in a serious tone.
“Oh, good,” the child sighed, relieved. “Now close your eyes.”

Struggling with the uneasy feeling, Roy obeyed. He didn’t just close his eyes, he squinted.

The alien song died in the eternal darkness of his blind world. Nobody had tapped the screen or clicked the button to silence it. It just disappeared, as did the child. Roy felt no human presence beside him anymore.

His eyelids began to tremble; he could no longer keep them squinted and there was no need for it. The silly game was over. Roy made a deep breath, opened his eyes and rubbed them to release the tension.

He had already stood up and grabbed his cane when it hit him: he was no longer blind! The dark glasses fell from his face and his the stony path…

He could see! And more: he had the basic knowledge of a sighted person in his mind, he knew what the shapes in front of him were!

It was evening. The sky had already turned the darkest shade of blue. The first stars were flickering out. Below, the park lanterns shone, guarding the path he had walked so many times in the dark.

Roy stepped so lightly he barely felt his feet touch the cobblestones; his happiness lifted him above the ground like invisible wings. The world was beautiful! And it was just evening! How wonderful a day must look then!

Roy forgot everything, the warning and the promise included. He walked the path holding his head high and gaping at thousand amazing things around him.

Finally, at the very edge of the park, he saw a human being, a man. He had never seen one but he recognized instantly what he was, thanks to the basics given to him with the sight. Roy approached the lonely stranger and stared at him, taking it all it: every feature, every little detail, every gesture…

The man felt the unwelcomed gaze and turned around, determined to find out who was watching him. The search was short for Roy stood very close. Their eyes met: Roy’s innocent, curious, wide-open eyes and the stranger’s angry, cruel ones.

“What are you looking at, freak?” he hissed lunging forward.

Hatred distorted the man’s face. A switchblade clicked, opening…

Roy remembered his promise then, remembered the fervent, worried voice of the magical child, remembered… But it was too late.

He backed away with his unarmed hands in front of him. Fear left him out of breath; he couldn’t say a single word. Roy eyes, scared, pleading, met the angry man’s eyes again but found no pity there, only madness. The man’s pupils danced, reflecting the drunken craze but that, Roy didn’t know.

“Stop staring at me!!!” the man bellowed, raising his knife…

...and the world went dark…

(April 3, 2003)

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English is not my native language.
If you see an error or a typo, please, tell me. I will fix it.