Contest #213 shortlist ⭐️

44 comments

Fiction

Darkness has never terrified me. After all, it’s all I’ve ever known. My world is a vast eternity of sensation devoid of light, but rich in texture and sound and scents. I can feel you enter the room, I can hear your breath, that surprised intake you make when you first see me. I can only assume that I am somehow different from what you expected.

“Mr. Jeremy Blake?” The tentative question ricochets through the room. I hide the grimace that threatens to twist my face. How absurd, as if there was any need for you to ask. How many blind men are there in the vicinity? In fact, I am perfectly aware that, other than the two of us, the room is empty. Empty rooms feel different, sound different, even smell different.

I stand and extend my hand, gesturing to the vacant chair that I know is opposite mine. “Miss Kipling, please have a seat.” I wait to hear your firmly weighted footsteps cross the floor and I register the sound of the springs in the cushioning of the chair groaning as you settle in. I can tell that you are not a wispy, modern woman.

I sit and listen, you can tell much from a person just by listening. You are nervous, your breathing is fast and light and I can hear you fidget with something, perhaps your clothing or a purse or bag. If you have one of those, it is on your lap, as you have not set it down on the floor or on the seat beside you.

“Miss Kipling, I have been informed that you have something of value that you wish for me to examine.”

“Yes, thank you for seeing… I mean… meeting with me.” Ah, you are uncomfortable with my perceived disability. I don’t see myself as disabled. I am perfectly able and it always shocks me to realise that others see me as less.

“You are welcome.” I have become an expert at brushing over the discomfort. I am no longer amused or offended by the prejudices of the sighted people around me. They can’t help who they are, how they perceive the world, so my becoming upset or offended achieves nothing. “May I see the object?”

I hear the bag on your lap open, a click and a slither of fabric as the fastener gives way. I reach my hand out and a small, heavy object is carefully deposited in my palm. You are exceedingly cautious with it. Your movements tell me that you do not trust that I am able to treat the object with the requisite care and respect. You are, of course, so very wrong, but I don’t say anything.

I close my fingers over the object, a locket on a delicate but strong chain. It is smooth, with slightly raised sections and indents making a strange pattern around the circumference. I run my fingers over the markings as I turn the locket in my hands, tracing the pattern from its beginning to its end.

The last time my fingers had seen one of these was at my grandmother’s bedside. I hadn’t seen it since her funeral.

“The picture within the locket, is it a relative of yours?” I ask and I hear the rustling of fabric as you respond. I wait. I need your verbal affirmation because I can’t interpret your body’s response by sound alone. You may have nodded your head, but it also may have been a shake.

You must realise your mistake, because you hurry to respond. “It is of my aunt.”

I run my hands along the rim of the locket. It is hard to tell what is here. The Peripheral Neuropathy that is attacking my hands has caused blind spots. Once my fingers could sense the slightest, most subtle difference in texture, could distinguish a name engraved on the back of a medallion with almost total accuracy. As I aged, and the disease progressed, the accuracy has become less, and I fear the day when I will be truly blind.

“This locket is similar to one I have seen before,” I say, and you don’t seem surprised. “My grandmother had one, but hers had a trail of roses and thorns around the outside and an inscription on the back. I am afraid it is not the same locket.”

“Mr. Blake, there are roses on the frame, and if you turn over, you will see that it is indeed inscribed.” Your words are a breathy rush, an urgency about them that makes me pause and examine the locket again. My fingers stumble over the surface, but can’t seem to identify any flowers. There are markings, but they are foreign and blurred. And as for an inscription, the back of the locket seems smooth.

“I am unable to make out an inscription,” I say.

“It reads, ‘To Bunny with love, Antoine’, I would like to know who Bunny was. My aunt’s name was Penelope.”

Was it a pet name? Did my grandfather refer to my grandmother as Bunny?

“My grandmother’s name was Bonnie.” I grudgingly divulge this fact to you.

You seem honest. Your voice doesn’t waver with any detectable lie, but I have been besieged by con-artists. People claiming relationship with me, ready to take from me everything that I have. I must seem like an easy target. A blind old man, searching for lost kin. I can tell you, I am not so easily duped.

The lack of inscription under my finger disturbs me for more reasons that you can possibly know, and my fingers slide repeatedly over the back of the locket, searching for those elusive marks. I can’t feel them, but you say that they are there. I use my nail to scrape over the surface, trying to discover any engraved mark, and sure enough, just as you said, my nail catches in a groove. Urgently, I rub my finger over the spot, and change fingers, swap hands, anything to try to feel what was there. It is as if my fingers are covered in a thin layer of wax. They can’t detect the fine detail in the metal. My heart lurches to a stop before stammering back to life. This is the beginning of the end. How will I see without the sensitivity of my fingers?

I turn the locket over and press my fingers against the ridges along the edge. Perhaps the bumps are flowers. They don’t have the detail that I recall, the distinct petals and leaves of my memory are blurred into lumpy blobs. Are they rose shaped blobs?

“I am sorry, Miss Kipling,” I say, ever so politely, because that is how I was raised. “I am unable to verify that the locket belongs to my grandmother. There has never been anyone in my family called Penelope.”

I pass the locket back and you take it carefully. I can hear the genuine disappointment in your tone as you thank me for my time and stand to leave. I have been raised a gentleman and I stand when you do. Your footsteps tap to the door, but pause before opening it. I can hear you turn to look back at me.

“Goodbye Mr Blake.” Your voice is soft and sad. “I just wanted to say that I was quite shocked to see your face this afternoon. You are the spitting image of my uncle Antony, the same striking profile. It’s the nose, you see. Like a hawk, my father used to say. He was glad that it skipped him. My uncle was not so lucky. Nor was I.”

My fingers fly to my nose. It is a prominent feature. My grandmother had the same profile. She said that on a man it was a noble nose, but as a woman it was a curse to bear. Before I can say a word, the door opens and you step through, stepping out of my life with a solid click as the door latches closed once again. I sink back into my chair.

A locket.

An uncle.

A nose.

Could those three things be the missing link? If only my fingers could see, then I would know for sure.

For the first time, I thought of the darkness with fear. I couldn’t trust my fingers anymore, they were blinded by this disease. I call your name, begging you to come back, but you are gone. I realise in that moment that I am alone and it is getting darker. 

August 28, 2023 11:00

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

44 comments

Michał Przywara
20:56 Sep 05, 2023

What a fantastic premise - a blind man struggling with the prospect of going blind! I suppose no matter where we are in life, we fear losing what we have - and later, after we've lost it, we have the capacity to adapt. Of course, doing so alone makes everything harder, and we get the sense he's lost his last chance to connect with his family. Understandable he's defensive, if people have tried to take advantage before, but still a chilling prospect to face the night alone. The extra nonvisual details really sell this story. Touch plays a...

Reply

Audrey Knox
17:55 Sep 08, 2023

I really like this insight and interpretation. I agree that he is defensive for a justifiable reason, but I also can't help but wonder whether he is more scared of finding what he claims to seek than he is of the status quo of being alone. It's a universal feeling--that denial because we don't want to make ourselves any more vulnerable than we feel we already are.

Reply

Michał Przywara
20:34 Sep 08, 2023

Excellent point! I didn't consider it, but you're right. How often do we find ourselves in a situation, where we simultaneously have a desire to change and a desire to remain the same? These contradictions are fascinating, and definitely worth exploring in stories.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michelle Oliver
22:33 Sep 05, 2023

Thanks for reading. I agree scent could have played a more prominent role. If I ever revisit this one I will probably work something about her perfume or personal fragrance into the story.

Reply

Michał Przywara
22:31 Sep 08, 2023

Woo! Congrats on the shortlist! A worthy story :)

Reply

Michelle Oliver
00:53 Sep 09, 2023

Thanks!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
Marty B
18:57 Sep 02, 2023

I read this as a mystery story, a detective looking for connection to a past that he is desperate to find. The unanswered questions are great! Is this a family member from an undisclosed affair? The blindness (eyes) has created in him an extra sensory ability to perceive people through their sounds, and objects through touch. I really liked the descriptions, using the sounds in the room. The closing line was great too- ' I realise in that moment that I am alone and it is getting darker.' Thanks !

Reply

Michelle Oliver
23:45 Sep 02, 2023

Thank you for your feedback Marty. I really appreciate it.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kevin Logue
06:39 Sep 02, 2023

The choice of blind MC creates super sensory here, really good job getting into that mindset. To start with his dismissive attitude towards his blindness then realise he was losing the only sight he had was great. I was tempted to do something not so unalike for this prompt, as a type one diabetic there is a possiblity of losing sensation in feet and hands, so I was going to try and tap into that but couldn't find the right route. This is super creative with many unspoken layers. Another fantastic entry Michelle, keep up the marvelous work 👍

Reply

Michelle Oliver
07:33 Sep 02, 2023

Thanks Kevin. It was a challenging to remove all visual descriptions and focus on the other senses. Glad you enjoyed it.

Reply

Kevin Logue
17:23 Sep 08, 2023

Congrats on the well desevred short listing! 🎉🎉

Reply

Michelle Oliver
01:05 Sep 09, 2023

Thanks 😊

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Amanda Lieser
00:32 Sep 21, 2023

Hi Michelle, What a bone chilling tale! Congratulations on the short list! I love the way that you created these characters and the choice to have a point of view so direct to us as the reader was absolutely perfect. I also thought that your final lines were beautiful, because they truly expressed the heart of the story. It’s a lesson that all of us must learn about the reality of life-who do we leave behind when we die and what is our legacy? This character simply breathes a legacy of loneliness and that is a true tragedy. The blindness was...

Reply

Michelle Oliver
00:39 Sep 21, 2023

Thank you for reading it and for your analysis. The true tragedy is perhaps his wilful blindness not his legal blindness. The fact that he is losing what little “sight” he had makes him defensive and afraid to open up, therefore has lost everything.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Tommy Goround
19:22 Sep 17, 2023

Oolala. Love the pacing, the unfolding and the delivery. Clapping

Reply

Michelle Oliver
22:40 Sep 17, 2023

Thank you.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Story Time
19:02 Sep 12, 2023

I think you set yourself up for a real challenge here and you excelled at it. I felt fully immersed in that world of touch and darkness. Great job.

Reply

Michelle Oliver
22:36 Sep 12, 2023

Thanks Kevin it was a challenge to remove all sight from my descriptions and transfer the concept of ‘seeing’ to the sense it touch.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Philip Ebuluofor
16:15 Sep 10, 2023

Way of nature. I think with age, we seem to value most things the young don't pay attention to most often. Congrats. My granny's name is Obiodu.

Reply

Michelle Oliver
22:30 Sep 10, 2023

Thanks for reading it.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Delbert Griffith
08:51 Sep 09, 2023

Congrats on the shortlist, my friend! Well deserved, as usual. I really liked this tale, Michelle. "Blind" fingers. Chilling! Cheers!

Reply

Michelle Oliver
15:06 Sep 09, 2023

Thank you. I’m happy that you liked it.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michele Duess
16:07 Sep 08, 2023

I'm glad your story was shortlisted. Congrats!

Reply

Michelle Oliver
01:05 Sep 09, 2023

Thanks so much

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
D Gorman
15:29 Sep 05, 2023

I found Jeremy’s descriptions of how he reads the room with his other senses to be very engaging and well-written. None of it feels far-fetched or exaggerated; it seems entirely plausible that someone without sight might be able to describe not only the movements of an individual in the same room, but what those movements might imply. I’ve read the story twice now and perhaps it is the result of my own lack of focus, but by the end of my reading I am left with more questions than answers, about the narrator and the nature of this meeting. Bu...

Reply

Michelle Oliver
22:37 Sep 05, 2023

As the author of the story I too have questions, but I felt the story was about his hands, and his relationship with the world through them. As a blind man, I am sure there are so many things in his world that are not known, or seen, or understood, things a sighted person takes for granted. I hoped that feeling of uncertainty about what is going on in the story would make the reader feel a sense of discomfort and perhaps understand that a blind person would have these big gaps in their knowledge about the world too.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Delbert Griffith
10:54 Aug 30, 2023

Wow! What a chilling realization, a blind man that fears becoming truly blind. The inner dialogue captures his exquisite, searing pain, but it is muted until the very end. The fear is palpable. What a great piece, Michelle! This is the type of writing that thrills me. Nicely done, my friend. Nicely done indeed. Cheers!

Reply

Michelle Oliver
11:45 Aug 30, 2023

Thank you. It was interesting to write. Take away the most commonly used sense and try to write without visuals the way a blind man would perceive his world.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mary Bendickson
20:51 Aug 29, 2023

Hope the judges can see and feel this one, Michelle. It's so perspective.🫶 Congrats on the shortlist. I knew it deserved it 🥳

Reply

Michelle Oliver
22:24 Aug 29, 2023

Thank you Mary for your feedback and the vote of confidence.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Howard Halsall
12:14 Aug 29, 2023

Hey Michelle, That’s a really powerful story. Your descriptions are vivid and sent a chill up my spine. You’ve captured the loss of feeling through superb inner monologue and the sense of encroaching fear is most palpable. Well done. HH

Reply

Michelle Oliver
12:21 Aug 29, 2023

Thank you for reading it. I was trying to describe the world the way a blind man would, taking away all sight and focusing on other senses. I appreciate the feedback.

Reply

Howard Halsall
12:26 Aug 29, 2023

In that case, Michelle, you’ve more than succeeded in achieving your objective. HH

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Tom Skye
11:52 Aug 29, 2023

Brilliant inner monologue running through this one. It was very effective, the way the mystery of the locket and the main character's ailment were constantly taking each other's place as the main point of focus. Like the character was wrestling with multiple things and spiralling into madness. Great work.

Reply

Michelle Oliver
12:10 Aug 29, 2023

Thanks for reading. It was a bit of a ‘what if’ thought that sparked this story. What if you relied on your sense of touch to interact with the world, to solve a mystery? Then what if that sense was unreliable? Wrestling with multiple things was exactly what I was hoping to achieve, so I’m happy it worked.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
16:57 Aug 28, 2023

Brilliant Michelle. I was mulling over the prompts today and had a very similar idea for this one. glad I read you're before I started writing! You did a better job of it than I would have done! Great writing as always and the plight of the mc is heartbreaking.

Reply

Michelle Oliver
12:07 Aug 29, 2023

Thanks for reading. We must have had the same thought. Human touch is so important to a blind man, but what if that was decaying away?

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Russell Mickler
17:17 Sep 02, 2023

Hey there, Michelle! At first blush, the narrator is very introspective, judgy, creepy. The lost sensation in the extremities is well-played. The names are clever, Kipling and Blake. A dark ending, and we’re left wondering about the locket and the strange visitor. I think the tone in this was good. The descriptions describing things like the locket are also pretty strong in this work. A creative piece …! Nicely done - R

Reply

Michelle Oliver
23:44 Sep 02, 2023

Thank you for your feedback, it’s truly appreciated.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Unknown User
17:30 Sep 01, 2023

<removed by user>

Reply

Michelle Oliver
23:46 Sep 01, 2023

Thanks for reading it.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Ty Warmbrodt
14:26 Aug 29, 2023

Great writing, Michelle! I need to start reading your stuff before I waste the $5.

Reply

Michelle Oliver
22:24 Aug 29, 2023

Thanks for the compliment Ty. I think of the $5 like a coffee and cake with friends, but instead of feeding my stomach and expanding my waistline, it feeds my soul and connects me with great people.

Reply

Ty Warmbrodt
23:14 Aug 29, 2023

Thats a great way to look at it - lol. I have met a lot of great people on here that are amazing writers, so it is worth it. And I learn from everyone a read. I love your attitude.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply