Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Eyes That Follow You Round A Room - A Poem And A Prose Piece

A day for feeling mentally a little wrecked and I'm proud of myself because I made it to the Writers' Cafe this morning and managed not to walk out even though I was feeling totally nauseous with anxiety and for a while could hardly process verbal inputs among the noises from other parts of the cafe.  And the wallpaper?  Oh God the wallpaper.  I find it difficult on the best of days.  Today it came alive and at times engulfed my whole existence.

Our theme this morning was "Eyes That Follow You Round A Room" based on art work, John Berger and our own thoughts.  I wanted to get out of that place.  Instead I managed to write a few words.  The poem below.  And I had an idea, the first fruits of which are below in prose.  One scene out of what could be a larger tale.  I just free wrote it and the scene was not quite the one I'd had in my mind when I began.

The wall of wallpaper.  Someone CHOSE this paper.

The Joy of Painting

Alone unpainted.
Forced to bear my existence
Among silenced lives.

The don't speak to me.
Except to say their contentment
Is found on canvas.

In paint there's no pain.
Even the eyes of The Scream
Are calmer than my own.

Without words they call:
Join us.  Stretch yourself.  Bare flesh
and blood is your paint.

No walking future.
A blade is the artist's brush
Releasing my life.

In death I'll be preserved.
Freed into quiet.  Lifted high.
Held, framed on a wall.

The Faceless One

Having forced open the French window it was still difficult to climb inside, across a large desk and into Doctor Wilson's study.  On the way I knocked my knee hard into the window ledge, placed my hand down painfully onto something jagged, and knocked something heavy to the floor.  When it landed on the floor the thud sounded to me more like the chiming of the clock in St. Matthew's church down in the village square and I held myself motionless, hardly daring to breathe.  No lights were turned on though and I could hear nothing beyond the ambience of the night.

Once in the study I turned on my flashlight and found that the jagged item had been a crystal of some variety, purple and sharp.  I removed my glove to check my hand and was relieved to see that there was no blood.  Nevertheless I wiped down the crystal carefully.  The thud had been caused by a large paperweight.  I was only slightly shocked to see that the resin contained two human ears and a tongue.  I placed it carefully back on the desk hoping that I'd put it roughly where it had been before.  It wasn't what I had come for and it wouldn't do anyone any good were I to remove it.

I turned and scanned the study with my flashlight until the beam hit the bookcases on the other side of the room.  Somewhere among them was my prize.  I began to tiptoe towards the books, worried that each step would cause an almighty creak in the floorboards and the doctor would wake and discover me.  I didn't want to consider whether I might be able to talk my way out of the situation.  I doubted I could.

As I crept past a green leather sofa in the centre of the room I heard a squelching noise behind me.  Faint.  But definitely present.  I swung round and shone my light in the direction of the sound.  Nothing.  I was alone.  I scanned the room with the beam a few more times to make sure before turning back to my goal.  Two more steps.  The noise again.  I turned.  Was everything the same?  I thought so.  Something was making that noise though and my heart beat faster.  I knew I was beginning to sweat and hoped beyond hope that I could find the book and escape.  The doctor's study would be the worst place for a full blown panic attack.

I took deep breaths.  Willed myself to relax.  Told myself I was alone.  And then, I am almost ashamed to admit it, I crossed myself and said a prayer before heading with greater speed to the bookcases.  The squelch squelch began again and I tried to ignore it.  There's nothing there.  Nothing there.  Nothing there.  I tried to convince myself but in that situation I was the queen of sceptics.

I shone my flashlight across each shelf of books in turn.  Books of anatomy and physics were scattered among volumes of stage magic and actual magic and books of stories and poems by writers so obscure their names didn't even ring vague bells in my mind.  All the time the squelching.  Louder.  Closer.  Or was I imagining it?

I cursed my luck as I didn't find what I was seeking until the final shelf.  A precious book.  At least it was precious to me.  Because it had been mine.  I hadn't bought this book in a shop.  I had hand crafted each page, making the paper and the binding myself.  And I'd filled it with the results of my own researches.  Ten years of work distilled into one journal.  Stolen by Doctor Wilson.  The theft had taken place the previous year and it had taken this long to discover the perpetrator.  I hoped he hadn't been able to decode too many of my ciphered scratchings and drawings.

I hastily took the book and placed it into my bag.  Turning I saw a hint of movement on the dark floor.  The squelching stopped.  I shone my flashlight at the movement and there, in the middle of the floor, I saw two eyes.  Just eyes.  The eyeballs and connecting tissue that would normally hold an eye to a head.  No head.  No face.  No eyelids.  Just eyes.  Staring up at me.

I realised in that moment that the eyes had been following me round the room.  I realised too that Doctor Wilson's experiments had progressed further than I feared.  If he could remove a person's eyes and they could continue to live apart he had followed his science to a level I hadn't dreamed.  Perhaps I could help.  Rescue these instruments of vision.  Perhaps even one day locate the face they had been cut from and restore them.  Maybe I could find a way to communicate with an eye and it would help me find its true home.

Without a further thought I picked up the two eyes and placed them in my bag with my journal.  Thought could wait until I was standing in a place safer than the doctor's study.  I climbed back across the desk and out of the window, sliding it closed behind me.

And then I ran, putting as much distance as I could between myself and the night.

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