Wednesday 31 July 2013

Full Flight.

By Hannah Begg.

His eyes opened, and for the first time, he saw.

He gasped in surprise as the bright lights flooded his vision. Buckling forward, he pressed the palms of his hands against his closed eyes.

“Stop - turn the power down!” cried a worried voice. “Turn it down, quick!”

He felt a gentle hand on his back and a quiet voice in his ear: “Just breathe, okay? One step at a time.”

Slowly sitting up, he peeled his hands away from his face and began to open one eye. Light streamed in; objects swam into view. Blinking both eyes, he started to see faces - hundreds of faces - staring up at him, mouths open, eyes wide.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” a voice echoed throughout the hall, “the Aspectus 3.0 has now been switched on. We are witnessing a life-changing moment in history as Subject A experiences sight for the first time.”

He slowly raised a trembling hand out in front of him - his fingers were so long, his skin so pale; the sleeve of his shirt was a vivid colour with delicate stitching etched across the fabric. He stared, captivated, as his eyes focused on the intricate web of material resting on his skin. He’d worn this shirt before, carefully folded the sleeves away from his wrists a dozen times - and now he felt unnerved. It looked so different from what he’d always imagined.  

The spotlight was heating his skin. Looking out at the crowd, the scene before him began to blur. The faces staring back were a patchwork of images; shadows criss-crossed in every direction; the depth of the room was an endless sea of shapes and colours. Blinking hard, he tried to focus as the room began to spin.

“Jonathon,” came a familiar voice; he felt his brother’s hand rest lightly on his shoulder. “How’re you doing?”

Letting out a breath, he reached for his brother’s hand, steadying himself; he turned - and found himself looking up into the unknown face of a man. The broad smile, the penetrating eyes... This wasn’t the face he’d been picturing for thirty years. 

“Jonathon? Are you okay?”

He stared up into the man’s face, suddenly disoriented; the voice was the one he’d been hearing for thirty years, but the face was that of a stranger’s...

Dropping his brother’s hand, he hunched forwards, pressing his hands over his eyes.

The voice was booming into the microphone again. “A monumental occasion, ladies and gentlemen. Subject A, experiencing sight for the first time in his life, thanks to many years of research and dedication...”

The booming voice was becoming distorted, reverberating around Jonathon’s head, making his ears ache. He pressed his hands harder against his face, dizziness washing over him, nausea rising in his throat. Worried voices began speaking all around him... They sounded muffled, distant - he couldn’t make out the words. Opening his eyes, he was confronted by several concerned faces peering down at him. Blinking, he felt the lights in the room becoming even brighter, dazzling him, as a loud buzzing filled his mind. Looking down, he realised someone was resting a hand on his arm - but he couldn’t feel it. His arm felt numb; his skin was beginning to tingle.

Firmly closing his eyes, he stood up.

Taking a deep breath, he shouted, “I can't do this.”

The buzzing in his head grew louder; someone passed his walking stick into his outstretched hand. His fingers gripped the familiar wooden handle, and he spun round, keeping his eyes tightly closed as he strode from the auditorium.

Making his way along twisting corridors, he pushed through the heavy doors and felt the cold, fresh air whip across his face. Breathing deeply, he stood as his heartbeat began to slow, and his hands stopped trembling. Keeping his eyes firmly closed, he made his way across the stretch of pavement until he reached the picnic tables. Feeling his way onto one of the wide seats, he sat down heavily. His muscles relaxed; sitting quietly, he listened to the traffic rumbling in the distance, the birds chirping high above.

Far behind him, he heard the heavy doors open and close, and someone making their way across the pavement.

His brother sighed as he sat down next to him. “It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?”

Jonathon didn’t reply, keeping his eyes closed, face tilted upwards, the sun warming his skin.

His brother spoke again. “It’ll take a while to get used to it. Just take your time, no rush.”

They sat in silence for several moments. A car horn sounded in the distance; traffic continued to rumble along.

Jonathon took a slow breath in, lowered his face and turned towards his brother. Clearing his throat, he began to speak in a soft voice. “I listen to things,” he murmured. “I hear the world around me; I feel my way through each day. Life is about music, sweet-tasting coffee, rough sand between my toes...” He paused, listening to the birds singing in the trees above. “Just then, in there, I gained the sense of sight... but I felt like I was losing my other senses.”

His brother was silent beside him.

Jonathon spoke softly again. “What if I can’t handle this?” He took a breath, and his voice cracked as he spoke again: “Being blind is all I’ve ever known.”

He felt his brother’s hand rest lightly on his arm. “It’s a massive change,” he said. “And I’m sure it’s completely overwhelming. But,” he added, squeezing Jonathon’s arm, “I think it’ll be worth taking the leap. One step at a time. Open your eyes.”

Jonathon shook his head. “I’m not ready.”

“Open them slowly,” his brother persisted. “Oh - look up! You’ve always wanted to see one of these!”

“One of what?” Jon asked, keeping his eyes tightly closed.

“Listen,” his brother said. They sat in silence for a moment, and then Jon heard it - delicate, lilting notes, high above.

“It’s one of those honey-eating birds,” his brother murmured beside him, giving his arm another squeeze. “It’s up in the tree.”

Jon sat still, eyes closed, listening to the musical notes as they floated down from the sky; his mind began to form an image of a tiny bird balancing high above, jumping from branch to branch as its song got swept along by the gentle breeze.

“Jon,” his brother’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Open your eyes.”

“But -” 

“Now! Trust me.”

With his heart racing, Jonathon opened his eyes; he squinted as the bright sun flooded his vision. Clutching the seat, he blinked furiously as objects began to swim into view.

“There, Jon, up there,” his brother persisted. “Look up at the sky.”

Peering up, he ignored the confusion of colour and movement that swayed before his vision; swallowing against the panic that was rising in his throat, he squinted at the smooth, empty sky. 

“It’s... endless,” Jon murmured. Then he let out a gasp as something small swooped across his vision, high above; the brightly coloured bird sailed through the air, its wings outstretched, its feathers glinting in the sun. Landing lightly in a tree in the distance, it let out a high-pitched call.

Jon stared, mouth open, as the bird’s song drifted down through the branches.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” his brother asked softly. Jon didn’t reply; the musical notes were floating through the leaves, dancing across the stretch of space and filling Jon’s mind as he watched the bird singing, its head lifted towards the sky, its wings tucked neatly by its sides.

He sat motionless as the sun warmed his face, and he slowly began to smile.

1 comment:

  1. Loved it. You embraced the limited length to keep the focus on the key moments while still giving the world of the story enough colour to make it feel real. I especially liked the way you captured the disorientation Jon was experiencing, and felt that you ended it perfectly with the bird in the sky.


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