I came to just as someone was slipping clamps under my eyelids, peeling them back and forcing them open. I couldn’t blink. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t even scream. Just gasp. All I could do was gasp.
Above me, a man in a mask was aiming a sharp light directly into my eye. I couldn’t see him that well. Everything else in the room was a blur. But I could feel the tears streaming down my face.
From somewhere in the room came the sounds of a classical piano. It was meant to be calming. I almost laughed.
“You’re alright, Mr. Harvin,” said the masked man as he wiped my tears away. “Do you remember me?”
I tried to shake my head. Tried to blink. But my head was as immobile as my eyelids.
“I was afraid of that.” He pushed a small swab against the edges of my eyes, soaking up the excess tears. “Mary,” he said, “Mr. Harvin’s…relapsed.”
“Should I get John?”
“No, we’ll be fine. You’re fine, aren’t you, Mr. Harvin? Do you know where you are?”
I tried to shake my head again, but something held me tight. A strap. And there was a piece of cloth draped over my left eye, submerging it in darkness.
“Ah well, this will be over soon. Tell me, can you feel this?” he asked as he pushed the swab across my cornea.
I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel anything.
I gasped harder.
“Good, good,” the masked man smiled, his cheeks bulging over his mask. “Alright. Just relax.”
Relax? Are you fucking mad? Relax?!
The man put away the swab and held up a long piece of metal with a few spokes at the end of it. “This is to mark the points of incision. So I don’t miss,” he said, winking.
My eyes were unbearably dry and felt like they were going to crack. I squeezed against the clamps hooked under my eyelids. Any little leeway to give moisture to my eyes. But there was none. The clamps were locked and unmoving. The man brought the metal stick down onto my eye. I could see a ring of color left behind from where he pressed it into my soft cornea.
“It’ll wash off. Don’t you worry.”
I gasped some more. It was all I could do.
A moment later, a spray of liquid flushed across my eye, giving me such relief that my gasps stopped.
“Better?” the man said. “Hold on to those happy thoughts, because this next part might be a bit upsetting.”
He held up a squat metal device that looked like a miniature can-opener with a circle in its center and slowly brought it closer to my eye.
I struggled, twisting this way and that, pushing my lids against the grips. But there was nowhere to go to. No way to escape what happened next.
The can opener came down and rested on my eye, my pupil stuck in the hole in the center. The pressure was immense, like a stranger’s fingers pressing against your exposed eye, but the pain was mysteriously not present.
“Good,” said the man. “Now hold still. This gets a little tricky here.”
I did no such thing. I struggled and pulled against his grip, against the straps that held me down, against the can opener squeezing my eye. It was no use.
As he brought the second metal piece down on my pupil, I tried to scream again. But there were only gasps.
The second piece pressed against my pupil, the painless pressure making me want to vomit. Then the metal started…moving.
It slid, like a can opener, in a circle across my eye. I could hear the soft sounds of its gears as pieces of my eye shifted under its weight.
“Mr. Harvin, I would advise you to stop moving,” the man said. “There’s a very small blade being inserted into your eye right now. Any kind of struggling could render you permanently blind.”
I stopped moving, waiting for this hellish torture to end.
A few moments later, it did. He pulled the metal from my eye and in an instant my already blurry vision was flooded in red. I could smell the iron.
The man in the mask sighed. “They did a poor job of preparing you. There shouldn’t be this much blood.” He reached down and softly laid some gauze across the slice encircling my cornea. I could taste the bloody-stricken tears coursing down my cheeks.
The man held up a pair of tweezers. “Things might get a little fuzzy after this part. But don’t worry.” He brought the tweezers down and clamped onto the sliced section of my eye, the lens covering my pupil. Then, slowly, he pulled it away and the world went from being blurry to being utterly abstract. I couldn’t see shapes. Only colors. Everything was a mosaic of smearing colors, tinted with red.
“Now, Mr. Harvin. This part is the most important part. You’re going to see a bright light. You need to look directly into it. Do you hear me? Look directly into the light. Don’t look away, or you’ll be very badly injured. Do you understand?” “Please let me go,” I tried to say. But the words, like the room, smeared together into an incomprehensible madness. “I’ll take that as a yes,” the man said. “Remember. Do not look away from the light.”
I looked ahead, terrified of what might happen if I continued to struggle. It was clear to me that escape was impossible. A moment later, a bright light flashed directly into my eye. It strobed and spun and though I could smell my eye being burned, I couldn’t feel a thing. There was only the sickly-sweet smell of simmering flesh and the flowing piano concerto filling the room. My gasps threatened to break through my chest.
Then, just as quickly as it began, the bright lights disappeared.
I tried to cry out as the man doused my exposed eyeball in liquid again. A second later, my vision, as blurry as it was, returned, the man’s tweezers sliding across my pupil.
“Just making sure it’s on there for good. Don’t want it slipping off unexpectedly, eh?” he laughed.
Across the room, a door opened.
“Dad?” someone said from the door.
“He’s doing fine, John,” said the masked man.
The someone from the door came up to me and took my hand. “Dad, you alright?” he said.
“Dad?” I slurred.
“It’s me. It’s John. You remember me?”
John…John…John? Can’t remember… I shook my head, then squeezed his hand. “Help,” I mouthed.
“You’ve got one more eye to go, and then we’ll get you out of here, alright?” John said.
“One more to go, Mr. Harvin,” the masked man said, grinning.
John stood up and let go of my hand and I glanced down.
My hand? When did my hand get so…old?
A young man stepped away from me as the masked man moved the cloth off of my other eye.
“The medications for this aren’t going to conflict with his other meds, right?” I heard the man who had just been holding my hand say as he stepped out of the room with a woman. “I know you said they wouldn’t in the consultation, but I just wanted to be sure.”
“He’ll be fine,” the woman said. “So long as you keep him mostly sedated for the next week, there’ll be little chance of him injuring himself.”
“He didn’t remember me,” said someone standing by an open door on the other side of the room. A woman patted someone on the shoulder. “Be strong. He’s still young. He’ll get through it. You’re doing this for him. Remember that.”
I felt something tickling my left eye. Then something sharp and heavy pulled my eyelids back, forcing them open. I couldn’t blink. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t even scream. Just gasp. All I could do was gasp.