A Short Story: Window to the Soul

They say the eyes are the window to the soul, that all emotion, all of one’s inner feelings are there to see through people’s eyes. Beautiful eyes, sad eyes, strong eyes, lonely eyes, bashful eyes, loving eyes…

Window to the Soul

The yellow, brown and green of her eyes blended into a sparkling hazel iris surrounding a perfect black set pupil. She stood on the edge of an aged grey brick bridge, one foot resting on a small wall which was the only barrier between her and the deep lake below. As she stood in the warm sun on this spring day, she took a creased and worn photograph out of her jeans pocket. The picture comprised a family portrait. There was a smiling mother, wearing a flowing summer dress, pushing a small girl in a pram. The child’s eyes were closed as if asleep but she was laughing. A proud father, handsome in his work uniform, holding a baby boy in his arms who was crying the natural tears of a hungry newly born. She took the step up onto the short wall and, as she did so, the photograph slipped from her hand into the water. Her eyes followed the path of the photograph as it slowly floated down and was eventually washed away under the bridge. She turned her head up to the sky and felt the sun on her face.

This was a university campus like no other. The sky above the university campus was a bright, iridescent blue pitted only with the cleanest white, wispy clouds. Situated on a solitary hill, the university buildings were surrounded by a vast expanse of inviting green field and at the foot of the hill was a deep clear lake over which hung a grey brick bridge. At the top of the hill was the Clock Tower. The Clock Tower was a light grey and white building which would not look out of place in the oldest of universities in England. Every hour, on the hour the clock would strike. At the bottom of the hill was Science City, a bleak, yet strangely inspirational home for the older science and engineering students. The engineering building tower stood proud streaming out white smoke and yellow sulphur into the almost perfect sky. The younger students attended classes and lived in red brick dormitory buildings dotted around the campus. This was a unique community for children of all ages.

Hazel Day was an engineering student at the university. She, so called because of the colour of her eyes, was not just born blind but born without any optical implements at all, no eyeballs, no optical nerve, not even a connection to the brain. Everything else about Hazel was sound, in fact she was in the top percent of her school and university classes, she enjoyed sport and found playing the flute soothing. Hazel wasn’t the only child born with this disability.

Scientists could not work out what was happening when children, all over the world, from families of all ethnicities and backgrounds began being born without eyes. At first, it was thought a freak occurrence or genetic mutation but as the numbers grew the worry increased exponentially. Scientists were pushed for a solution and one ingenious man, not a scientist but an engineer, found an answer. Optical implants which looked amazingly like eyes, were attached to the brain in a new and innovative way. The collaboration between scientists, engineers and surgeons was world renowned. Every family who could afford for their child to have this operation did so, and even those who could not afford it were put on waiting lists for public health care, such was the success of the implants.

However, these scientific advances sealed the fate of each and every one of the people trapped in this idyllic university setting. The clinical trial had been a success, but for a few mishaps, almost every child who had the implant had survived, none had lived extraordinarily long lives but the quality of life was greatly improved for those who could not see. The optical implants gave instant 20/20 vision, which over time did fade but not much quicker than a normal eyesight would fade as you or I would grow older. Of course, spectacles were useless with these artificial eyes. But the wonder scientists and engineers even fixed the error of longevity of equipment and, for a while, optical implants were implanted into every single child born blind. This miraculous advancement, advertised as a cure for blindness, worked brilliantly.

Then something much, much worse happened. It started with a few children suffering horrible headaches and grew and grew until everyone in the first co-hort of children had migraines every day. Doctors could not work out what went wrong, and, if the scientists knew, they did not say either. Then these miracle children started to die. Horribly. Blood streaming from the eyes and ears. Children screaming from the pain. The implant programme was pulled from all over the world. The scientists and engineers were left disgraced and with no hope of gaining funding to find a solution. They all disappeared without a trace. As did the remaining miracle implant children.

The university was built so that the optical implants were protected from the harmful UV light of the real sun by an optical shield. This was the real engineering and scientific miracle. However, no engineer or scientist would take the credit because this university was built for children who were taken from their families. The children were drugged to loose all memory of their previous life, given new names and a new identity and they lived like this, being looked after kindly by the scientists who had shattered their lives in the first place. They lived well and studied and most aided the scientific advancement of the world, their world, around them. All the children except one.

Detective Inspector Brown sat in his car. He had developed a twitch in his right eye that he was so used to now it did not bother him much. He had everything he needed to prove that this is where the children were being taken, but he didn’t understand why no one else see could see it. Bent. They’re all bent now. It was only a matter of time before he had to hand over his badge because he wouldn’t join them. They started to disappear, one by one, and it didn’t take long to work out the connection. Missing scientists and missing children. Find one and you’ve got the other.

His phone began to ring, it was Bradley, his youngest. Damn. He answered but kept his eyes on the scene in front of him. When was Daddy coming home? Soon son, soon. Just after I’ve finished this assignment. Can Daddy speak to Mummy? Alright. Your son misses you. You have a family here. You work too hard. You missed dinner again. Where are you? When will you be home? I don’t want to lose a husband as well as a daughter. Please… He was sorry but he had to go and he hung up the phone. He knew it all anyway. But he also knew that she was in there.

Something caught DI Brown’s attention and he picked up the binoculars on the seat next to him and gazed with a steely eye. There was a building in front of him, a large warehouse with big grey doors and plenty of bordered up windows. Another blacked out van arrived at the grey doors. Another delivery he presumed. He noted this down in his notebook and lit a cigarette. As he watched the grey doors closing, his eye began to twitch again.

Hazel Day stood on the edge of the old grey brick bridge, one foot resting on the small wall which was the only barrier between her and the deep lake below. She took a creased and worn photograph out of her jeans pocket which was comprised of a family portrait. Hazel looked blankly at the picture and the memories flooded back into her mind. The tears that could not flow prickled at the back of her eyes and she took the step up onto the short wall, as she did so, threw the photograph into the water. Her dim, stoic eyes followed the path of the photograph as it slowly floated down and was eventually washed away under the bridge. She looked up into the sky and felt the warm artificial sun on her face, for the last time. As the university clock tower struck the first chime of twelve noon, Hazel closed her eyes and jumped.

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