Short fiction by Susan Walsh
I woke up one morning with a third eye. I don’t mean I woke up with new spiritual insight. I mean an actual third eye. Right in the middle of my forehead. It wasn’t brown like my other two eyes. It was an iridescent bluish green, a giant pulsating pearl, twice the size of my real eyes. The new eye was all iris and pupil with no white triangles on either side. Kind of like a cat’s eye. The pupil seemed overly sensitive to light, widening and narrowing giddily. The eye came complete with eyelids that opened and closed and long eyelashes that fluttered. The eye might have been beautiful if it weren’t in the middle of my forehead.
I didn’t realize I’d grown a third eye until I looked into the bathroom mirror. I thought my husband was playing a joke on me. I tried to pry it off but it felt like I was gouging out an eye. That’s when I screamed. Then Richard came running in. When he saw my eye, he screamed. A man scream.
“I’m a Cyclops!”
“No you’re not. Cyclopses have one eye. You have three.”
He was not helping.
I emailed my boss and told him I was throwing up. It was only a partial lie. Every time I saw the eye I felt like I might throw up.
“The third eye is our ability to see what might be, to see potential, it’s a gateway….”
My husband, Googling, sounded almost enthusiastic. I appreciated he hadn’t gone screaming off into the night. But he was starting to get on my nerves.
“I don’t want to see potential. I want to be normal. Two un-visionary eyes.”
He continued reading about “the mind’s eye,” chakras, homing lizards and pineal glands.
“It’s…not…that…kind…of third eye.”
This eye was definitely not my mind’s eye. But it did have a mind of its own. It looked up when I was looked down, left when I looked right. Making me dizzy. My husband suggested we call the eye doctor. As if this were something that could be managed. I began gouging again. My husband called Dr. Stein.
“He said stop gouging at whatever it is and come in at noon.”
“Yeah. Uh, how can I go anywhere?”
“Maybe cut your hair into bangs.”
He was being annoyingly practical. Could I see out of the eye? I had no idea. I hadn’t tried. I closed my regular eyes. But the third eye closed too. So I covered my two brown eyes only. The eye could definitely see. And very well. In fact, it saw so well it saw things I didn’t want to see. The eyes of the millions of dust mites I never knew covered my bed. The fur on a spider. The microscopic bits of skin that apparently flake off us at all times and float into the air. Even the lovely things, the rainbows in water droplets (the eye stayed open when I was in the shower) couldn’t make up for the fact I had a freakish eye in the middle of my forehead.
After my shower, during which I tried to drown the eye, I started cutting my bangs. The eye didn’t like staring at itself. So it turned around. All the way around. Backward. Until it was looking inside my head, through the optic nerve, right up into my brain. And I saw what it saw. The blood and tissue were bad enough. I’d always said my brain was a scary place. But I didn’t need to have it proven to me.
Everything I’d ever learned, forgotten or read, bits and bytes, went spinning and crashing together on different planes, a galaxy of misfiring synapses. The square root of pi was bumped aside by a chicken croquette. Evidence of water on Mars was knocked out by the world’s best margarita mix. No wonder I never got anything done.
And it was loud in there. Tinnitus on steroids. Emotion and rational thought having a shootout. Reason entering the fray, immediately dismissed. The eye flew through it all, like a superhero on a mission, right into a cloud to twits and tweets, chats and links, likes and loves, posts and pins: Kelly Grayson had a millipede in her laundry room. A lost dog was found on Sycamore Street. How to make Mont Blanc Cake . New tone-on-tone decorating ideas. Along with wildfires in California and a hurricane wiping out someplace or other. Unpinned and unhinged.
We need some priorities here.
My mind was not only a more useless place than I imagined, it never let go of anything. It was stuffed with memories I didn’t remember. I was three, swinging on a rusty swing singing “good ship lollypop,” fourteen and throwing a yellow tennis ball to our black and white dog Murray, a gigantic white sand castle being swept away by a gigantic wave.
And people, people lurking everywhere, hiding in corridors, people gross and good: The weird guy at the Y. My fifth grade teacher who picked her nose when she thought we weren’t looking. Grandpas and grandmas, my best friend, my little brother. Pushing through them all, the eye, passed through cobwebs, dropped me into a vault.
Things I don’t want to think about. Phantoms came flying at me, taunting me: I am the chance you didn’t take. I’m the decision you didn’t make. The child you didn’t have. The stories you didn’t write, the wrongs you didn’t right. The years you didn’t live….Until I was face to face with the person I was meant to be but wasn’t.
“I still could be,” I spoke defiantly to the eye. “Life isn’t over, you know.”
“What?” Richard said.
The eye had done a quick 180. And I was back to the present, only seconds had passed. Richard was still Googling.
“Nothing. But if I ever get rid of this freak eye, everything is going to be different.”
“Exactly,” said my husband, still convinced of his chakras and pineals. He kissed me even though I was a freak.
I don’t know what we expected, but the eye doctor was a bit of a disappointment. An ultrasound proved what I already knew. It was an actual eye, with all the eye parts except the sclera. It had an optic nerve that connected with my brain. He was unprofessionally horrified but wanted to notify the media. We hustled out his back door with a referral to an ophthalmologist-cosmetic surgeon.
Night mercifully arrived. I pulled the covers over my face. I’d seen all I needed to see of today. And more than I ever wanted to see.
“Who knows? You might wake up and it will be gone,” he said. “I mean, stranger things have happened.”
I closed my eyes. All three of them.
© 2018 Susan Walsh