Copyrighted © 2014 Alyssa Hubbard
This short story is part of The Mind, the Body, my horror / body horror short story collection. It can be pre-ordered or purchased October 1, 2014. Enjoy!
I was born in a family of five blue-eyed, blonde-haired southern gentlemen. My mother was decidedly absent for most of my life, having been one of the foolish sort, often times putting too much into her own silly superstitions than what they were worth. She was highly dedicated to the Lord’s word and could often be found praying as she went about her menial tasks. Even the regular obstacles of life sent her into a fit of prayer. But it was a minor annoyance my father had traded for hot meals and sons. As long as she remained useful, he would bare anything to keep her around. My brothers had to deal with it as they grew, but when she had born me in the loft of father’s barn, on a night when the rain pounded the rotted wood and drenched the hay until it too smelled of death and rot, no one would have to listen to her prayers again.
The barn, for her, had become a church. It was the only building with a second story, and the closer she was to God, the better. Father didn’t stop her, even if it stormed. The man had preached to her, hoping to sway her, but she wouldn’t have any of it. It felt too isolated in the house for her. She wanted to have her children where God could see, so the abandoned barn with its cracked ceiling, shuttered windows, and the scent of livestock which never completely went away was where we had all been born. Yet, I would be first baptized in that very same loft.
The night of my birth, she gazed upon my golden head with the love of every mother who had ever existed, cooing and holding me close to her pale bosom. I was her first and only daughter. The first she would be able to teach the Lord’s word to day-in and day-out. I’m sure she had dreams for me, dreams which she had saved just for the day she finally birthed a daughter. It was finally here, all her praying finally come to fruition. She begged to see my eyes, to look into their never-ending blue depths and to see all her love emulated into a single human creation, and when I opened my eyes she found:
She prayed hard that night. Prayed as she left a little, soaked bundle in the loft, wrapped in nothing but a fragment of saddle cloth from a horse my father had put down some months ago. Perhaps she had wanted me put down, too. Perhaps she thought I was some creature born from her sins – not of love, but of atonement. Regardless, it was the last I saw of my mother. It was the last anyone had seen of my mother.
And amongst the men, I grew. My father came for me in the early morning. He thought nothing of my eyes, but rather worried more for my health. It would be foolish to think he did so in the name of parental affection. He cared not whether I lived or died, but what he did worry about was the planting of his crops and the care of his farmland. If he were to keep me alive, would I survive only to lead a life of fragility and be unable to even keep the house? It would be a heavy burden to care for a daughter who would never be able to marry and do the basic task of womanhood. If I showed a hint of weakness, he would take me back into the barn loft. It was an archaic form of euthanasia, one which was often left for the dogs and sick livestock. That was what I was to my father – an asset, minor livestock to be raised and to eventually benefit the family. My death would have been a loss, no matter how minor my worth truly was, and he could only hope that my survival would be a gain.
I can’t hate him for it. The life of a farmer is a hard one, without the added frustrations of a sickly child. But I could certainly never love him for it, either. It didn’t rightly matter. My father wasn’t of the loving sort. Once I had proven my worth, living in and out of that loft for the first portion of my young life, and never once catching illness, even during the heaviest of downpours, I was brought into the house. It wasn’t long after that I was bullied back to it – to seek sanctuary from the torment of my brothers, my teachers, and my classmates. Even the animals had begun to torment me. I felt it in the way they watched me as I walked through the fields. Their blank gazes followed me from dawn till dusk, and never did they get close enough for me to touch. They wouldn’t come near their hay until I’d left it, and even then they barely touched it. It had escalated to the point that they would stop eating all together. My brothers said the hay smelled of death when I touched it, and the animals could smell it, too.
The eye – the single green eye was the physical creation of my torment. Even when I slept, in the darkness I could feel it lurch about in my skull. It was alive, you see. It did what it wanted. Some nights, I awoke in the middle of the night to a burning sensation in my left eye – that eye. It would burn and simmer, like a festering sore inside my skull. Could you imagine? Having a boil burning inside your head? Why did I suffer nightly because of it?
The eye looked at things. During the night, it opened of its own accord, and would simply look. It wouldn’t blink. It wouldn’t close. It would open and gaze out into the night until it dried out, which would then wake me. The only nights of peace I ever received were when it rained. My eye could open and watch and the rain would hydrate it again.
But that had only been the beginning of my torment. It had taken on a life of its own, it had developed a voice – one which seemed to echo in my brain and bounce about in my skull.
It would whisper, “Dream not through the night.”
And I would plead, “No, Devil. I wish to sleep. Why must you torment me so?”
“Your sleep will be wrought with fears. We must pray.”
“No, no! I will not hold council with you, Devil. Leave me to rest.”
But the eye never would rest. It continued on with its ramblings until I could hardly tell my own thoughts from those of the eye. The rambling ranged from prayer to pleas, and once those prayers slipped into my waking hours, I knew something needed to be done. I was becoming like my mother, a paranoid zealot. As I prayed in the field, I swore to myself and to God that I would be rid of my demon – my mother – once and for all.
It was a disgusting act, and it could all be traced back to my birth. Back to when my mother left me to soak in the rain. My first night alive on this planet, and the woman who carried me for nine months left me in the soaked hay to rot in the rain. Was I not worth those nine months? Had my conception and birth truly been for nothing? She had been the one who created me. She had been the one to make the eye. Why did I have to suffer for the sins of my mother?
Was that why she feared me so? Because she feared herself?
But it didn’t matter. The water, the thing which I had survived and found comfort in, had cleansed me and my eye. Cleansed it so I could see what needed to be done. There was one night, when the rain began to pour and my right eye opened to join my left in its vigil that I became truly aware of what needed to be done. The lightning danced above like chains in the sky and lit my loft until it was filled with the strangest shadows. In the night I listened closely and heard the steady thrum of the blood within my body and the heart in my chest. My body was telling me something. My body was revolting against the devilish organ held within my socket. My body wanted to rid itself of the green boil inside my face, and I was happy to oblige. It was during that night, as I soaked in the rain and breathed in the heavy scent of manure and wet hay that I truly studied my body, and from there I made my plan.
The next morning, I sent my eldest brother to town with every penny I had. He pitied my unfortunate soul and did what I asked of him with little questioning. I was beyond grateful. I couldn’t go out in public. Not until it was done. He came back that evening with what I most desired, but had most feared. It was a tiny hand mirror, encrusted in silver metal which had begun to tarnish green – a fitting color, I decided. The glass itself was completely intact, and that was all I had cared about. It would do for my task. Yet, what had begun to haunt me more so than the eye was that of my own reflection. I did my best to avoid meeting my own gaze, but my curiosity always managed to lure me in, and throughout my morning chores I would find myself sliding the mirror from my pocket to study my visage.
I was a woman. There was no question about it. I don’t wish to seem prideful, but if I had been born without the eye, my father would have had no problem finding a husband for me. My cream skin was tinted honey, a shade which was uncommon amongst the burnt farmer daughters. My hair had been bleached white from years toiling out in the sun when most of my female peers had been kept indoors. I was more than a farmer’s daughter, I was exotic. Yet, as beautiful and exotic as I appeared, all who I came in contact with feared me. Perhaps I was feared for more than just my eyes – though they were a sight to behold, too. They had bags beneath them, one of the few flaws to be found, but when gazing into them, first blue, then green, I found myself hypnotized. I decided then it was some form of witchcraft or magic and promptly stopped myself from looking any longer. I wouldn’t. Not until it was time.
Night seemed to crawl into the day, and I waited anxiously in my loft once my chores had been completed. I set the mirror up on hay bales I had stacked during the day. I needed it to be my station. Before the sun had completely disappeared, I fumbled in the hay and the darkness where I found my candle, wrapped in the very saddle cloth which had kept me alive at my birth. It was special, that way. I lit the wick and set the candle beside my mirror. Within seconds I heard the soft shuffle and clatter of my brother with dinner. He clambered up the ladder, loud, but silent. He simply slid the tray across the floor and I listened a bit longer for him to slide down the ladder and fumble out of the barn again, leaving me once more in silence.
I felt my way over to the tray and pulled it to my work station where I studied it under the candle light. It was chicken of some kind, though I could scarcely make out its shape. The dim light of the candle casted a shadow over the meal, darkening the meat until it looked like something more. Like a child, perhaps? I plucked up the silverware and held it close to the candle. A knife and a spoon were my tools, and the latter was what I chose. With my remaining utensil, I stabbed the shadowy chicken and watched a blackened fluid pour from the wound. I couldn’t tell if it was blood or juices. I took it as an omen and my body physically wilted at the impending surgery which I was about to perform.
It was too late. I had gone too far to stop, and my resolve was strengthened by the cacophony of thunder above. I rested my meal in my lap, clenched the spoon, and gazed into the mirror. It would be the last time I looked in the mirror and saw my face as it had been. I lifted the spoon to my face and pressed the chilled metal against my bottom eyelid. Sweat and cold metal will forever be the most frightening of combinations, and it would haunt me for years to come. I took in a shaking breath, then shoved in the spoon.
It was a searing pain at first. My body writhed and revolted against the intrusion, more so than it ever had over the very organ which I was scooping from my socket. My hand twitched with agony and heated trails of blood warmed my cheek. I wanted to stop. I wanted to pull it out and start over, but I couldn’t. I had to pull out the eye first. My heart was thrumming even harder in my chest which only made it harder to breathe. I was going to faint. As dark as it was in the loft, nothing could compare to the darkness which intruded my mind, gradually covering my brain with a fuzzy mold which made it hard to even think.
The thunder cheered above, right before a steady stream of rain began to pour in. It cooled my flesh and washed away the blood. My body seemed to calm at its arrival. I took in one breath, another, and another, then I began at my work again, determined to finish what I had started. I would succeed. I tried to look into the mirror, to steady my work, but my vision had blurred to the point I couldn’t see through the darkness.
I shut my blue eye and scooped. With a rush of air the spoon came free, and for a moment I felt a slight pull, then nothing. A fleshy blob plopped against the skin of my cheek, and all was silent except for the gentle pitter patter of the rain above. I couldn’t really feel the eye, but there it was, warming my cheek and occasionally tugging from the force of the rain. All that was left between me and the bane of my existence was a string of flesh. All I had to do was break it, and I would be free. But for a split second, I felt the urge to push the eye back into place. Perhaps the eye was more powerful than I had ever imagined, or perhaps it was my own fear coming back to haunt me. I could fix it if I wanted to. I could start over and all would be well. It was a feeling so jarring, my hands trembled with anticipation, and the spoon clattered to the floor, slipping from my grip. Could it be pushed back in? I raised my hand as if to try, but then I thought of that damn eye and its demands. I couldn’t let that thing win.
I gripped the fleshy pulp in my hand and yanked it free.
The moment it was separated from the cord, I felt an intense rush of nausea, and I was wrought with the image – or perhaps a memory – of my mother pulling me free from her, screaming and writhing in a world of rain and lightning.
The organ plopped into the plate at my lap. I focused my remaining eye there just in time for a strike of lightning to illuminate the loft so I could see my blood mixing amongst the juice and the meats. There was no way I could tell the difference. I had lost my appetite.
Then I gazed into the mirror. All I could see was the smudge of my silhouette amongst the darkness. I needed another flash of lightning. One more and I could see my freedom. The result of my operation would finally be revealed to me. I needed to know it was all truly finished. I would be normal. I would finally be normal.
Oh, but what a fool I was.
The lightning flashed.
I met my gaze in the mirror, and where my green eye had been there was now a gaping hole in my skull. Darkness returned and all fell silent once more. I reached up to my face and slid a finger into the cavern. Empty – it was totally empty. I had mutilated myself. Rather than carry the burden of a different eye, I had performed the ultimate sin: I had destroyed God’s creation. Perhaps it hadn’t been my mother’s sin which I had carried. Perhaps it had been my own. Or worse yet, perhaps it had been a gift. What had I done? My heart didn’t thrum, my body didn’t writhe. I just sat there: numb.
Then, within the silence, I could hear the voice of a woman echoing within the confines of my socket. My mother, I assumed. She was praying.
“Please, Lord. Forgive me for not trusting in your plan. You have given me the task of raising a child with such a gift, but I cannot. My fears will not let me, though I know you have a reason for it all. Have mercy on my weak soul, and on her blessed one. Please don’t let her suffer, and please do not let her become me.”
I let out a sob and lay on the hay. It no longer smelled of death, but instead had taken on the aroma of blood and viscera. I was deafened by what sounded like the cry of a newborn. I didn’t realize it was my own voice fading into the downpour until I finally allowed my consciousness to disappear completely.
And for the first time since my birth, I slept.
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