Thursday morning revved up like any morning. Blue, brown, green, yellow. The color through the window, the color on his plate. Eggs and grass. Coffee and sky. He hardly noticed. Even so, he smirked at his own cleverness. Shoulda been an artist. Throwing the dishes in the sink, he grabbed his keys and shut the door. One more day. Then, the mountain. One more epic climb before the surgery.
He throttled the Alfa Romeo through the corner, then let it cruise as he negotiated traffic with both eyes in the mirror. Distracted, something was different about his reflection. He should know. He spent a lot of time in it. Before he could decide what it was, he saw a truck pull up so fast behind him that he braced himself for the mash to his backside.
But it didn’t. No way the truck stopped in time, but he felt no impact. No mash. Only nauseous. And faint. Out of obsessive habit he looked in the mirror, and saw his skin gone sickly green, his eyes backwards. Left was right, right was left. Grabbing his face with both hands, he rubbed his eyes and forehead as if to undo this grotesque dream. The skin on his hands felt sticky, slick. Tree geckos flooded his mind. Wake up. Wake up.
Something was off. Everything was off. The lightheadedness got worse, his tongue felt inside out. He clutched the steering wheel as an anchor but the intensity of sensation of the leather on his fingers caused him to recoil. As if touching fire. He tried to scream. Mottled puffs of air bubbled up through his contracted trachea. Some alien warble squeaked out. Brxhruhhhhh…
He opened his eyes as wide as they could go, sight fading. Everything converting to grey, as if he were in a wet Caravaggio being squeegeed into abstract, all colors mashed together. Within a few minutes, no vision at all. Useless orbs.
On the other side of the world, geologists recorded unconventional seismic activity. Weather centers, geostationary satellites, and space stations flooded with frantic demands. All sensors worldwide registered impossible data. Before anyone could analyze or speculate or respond, all people lost their sight. Something was off. Everything was off.
No one knew. Far off the coast of Finland, a small lighthouse made of crimson bricks shifted. One of the bricks sunk into the Baltic Sea. The cause: Sudden radioactive decay of one atom at its core. This brick was not like the others. This brick was not a brick. It was a slag of squarish residue from Lake Lappajärvi where a meteor mashed the backside of the earth 76 million years before. That time, whoever was driving felt the impact.
This artifact held the slenderest magnetic pulse that kept the earth tilted on its axis at the exact sequence of degree and warp required for human sight. Once it was gone, even though all the rest of the recipes and ingredients of the complex matrix that keeps life intact was unmoved, vision ended. Orientation to reality was unseated. Other senses respond. The plastic brain renegotiates. A new story begins.
What was left of universal blindness was questions. Had we seen all that could be seen? Had we looked at all the hues, shapes, distances, lights and darknesses? Had we noticed the tear on the hair of the pulsing sun? Had we perceived the shaking and shadow of a stranger’s gaze? Had we captured all the fragments of rags of moments forever?
This tiny atom danced in its perfect rhythm all those years, eons, epochs. Now, it was tired. It no longer danced the dance. All the glories and injustices visions witnessed were now dusts of memory. Something. Everything. What if we had known?