From deep inside the womb he crawls
His mother clenches way too hard
Bone-to-skull two pops tight squeeze
Birthed a boy whose eyes can breathe
What once was full now is hollow
His sockets lost what they must swallow
On his face two gaping holes
And just down sight two dangling balls
Helix looked up from his paper, then back down, then back up again at the board. His hand making a slight rotation in unison with each glance. To the right of his eye, a Mercator projection of our sacred sphere, worn from decades of abuse from restless teenagers. He was cornered on every other side by the current generation of those same sweaty teenagers. Everything in the drab classroom seemed to blend together, it made it difficult for Helix to navigate. His teacher, Mr. LeBlanc, appeared to be some sort of bleak vertical extension of the classroom’s floor. He rotated his eye from scalp to scalp, greasy-short, greasy-long, clean-long, buzzed. The 30-year-old map was truly the only refreshing sight. His only friend in the class was the guy with three hands perched up in the top right corner, by the door. Every day, he sat and waited until his friend struck 3 o’clock, so that he could get home and rest his eyes.
Today was going smoothly, he had switched eyes a total of four times, one for each class, and only had to change his artificial mucus bucket twice. He knew class was about to finish, so he pointed his left eye toward the floor to look for it. He found it, let go of his eye and submerged his gloved hand inside the clear liquid. The sound of the submersion of his hand in the goo was a grotesque one, but something he had gotten used to over the past several years. He pulled his hand out slowly, allowing the excess artificial mucus to slowly slide off. He picked his left eye back up with the gloved hand and raised it towards the front of the classroom. He caught a glimpse of some of his classmates staring at him as he completed the process. He recalled that around the same time last year, some of his classmates replaced his mucus bucket with ketchup when he wasn’t looking, and he was horrified upon re-greasing to find his vision filled with the red condiment.
The bell for the end of the day was a symphony to Helix’s ears. He loved the end of the day, watching everyone scramble, unable to stop and enjoy the moment. Nobody observed as Mr. LeBlanc packed his things with his head hung low as if admitting defeat. It was as if, buried deep within the final bell, was a high-frequency tone that assumed control of the general public’s motor function, compelling them all towards the door at the same time, at high speed.
Helix always waited until the classroom was clear to pack up his things, as he wanted to avoid bumping into people or dropping his eye by accident. Once the classroom was cleared, he pocketed his pencil, and with his free hand, picked up his binder and bucket and left, his eye raised before him in his hand.
He approached his locker in the southern corridor upon which was crudely engraved “Testicle Eyes”, one of the several names he had learned to put up with. The high school environment seemed a lot harsher than elementary school despite following the same students into it. He knelt down and placed the bucket and binder on the floor. He pointed his left eye at his locker and opened it with his free right hand. He always fumbled for things even when looking at them because his depth perception was thrown off with only one eye out at a time. Helix placed his bucket on the top shelf, pulled out his bag, threw it over his shoulder and headed off. He left with a smile, eye raised. Today was his birthday, nothing bad had happened at school, and his eyes were clean and functioning.
Helix was greeted by Linda, his mother.
“Hi honey, I made you some chocolate chip banana loaf and there’s also a glass of orange juice with it. Don’t forget your grandparents and uncle are coming for dinner tonight”, she said said, placing his snack tray neatly in his hand.
“Thanks mom, I’ll be up in my room”, he responded.
Helix was always happy on his birthday. He appreciated everything his family did to help him. He felt they didn’t even need to try to make him happy. He never blamed his mother for his unfortunately miscalculated birth, but he felt sometimes that his family blamed him for the burden he seemed to cause. His eyes were permanently dislodged from his skull, dangling by his optic nerves. The only case of its kind in the world, according to specialists. Since as long as he could remember, he has carried one of his eyes in his left hand and had his other eye dangling just below his chin.
Upon entering his room, he rested his custom snack tray on the bed and lay down next to it. From the headboard a small metal contraption jutted outwards horizontally, on the end of which was affixed two small cups that suspended his eyes in mucous, so he could lie there, with both hands free. He lifted his left eye into one of the cups, unsheathed his right eye from the cloth that covered it and placed it in the other cup. He lay in bed, motionless, feet hanging off the edge, and protruding from his eye sockets, two pink slimy optical nerves reached for the ceiling. He raised his arm to his mouth and took a chunk out of his banana loaf. His room was tidy, all the objects an array of colours, a rainbow was a mere joke in comparison. His wallpaper was an abstract of geometric fractals that would cause an instant migraine for the average human. Helix’s room seemed like a kaleidoscopic hurricane of the standard amenities, an interior decorators’ worst nightmare, but to the naked eye, was a beacon of brilliance in serving his needs. The geometric wallpaper aided his depth perception. When he was younger, he had constantly run into the wall, a few times requiring stitched.
Helix waited impatiently for supper. He could hear his uncle and grandparents arrive. They never bothered him to come down because the constant up and downs were a nuisance. He lay, motionless, savouring each bite of his mother’s homemade banana loaf. He loved the way his teeth sunk through the loaf, and how each chocolate chip was a delightful surprise in the otherwise soft texture. He cleared his palette after each bite with a swig of fresh squeezed orange juice.
“Helix! Dinner is ready, come join your family”, his mother called.
Helix slipped on his mucosal glove, pulled his eyes out of their retainers, and with his right eye sheathed and dangling and his left eye raised before him, he headed downstairs. He was greeted by his grandparents with awkward hugs and his uncle gave his free hand the usual fist bump. They all sat down and enjoyed a meal of his father’s delicious grilled salmon. Helix loved his it, it was grilled to perfection, and tender to the touch making it a one hand activity, a requirement for Helix if he wanted to see what was in front of him.
“How was school today dear”, Linda asked.
Helix hesitated a moment. “It was good, you know, the usual. Except there was one magnificent moment in history class today with Mr. Leblanc. You know how I’ve always mentioned how his lessons are so dull, and that his monotone voice could put anybody to sleep?”
“Yes, dear you’ve told us many times how uninteresting Mr. LeBlanc is, what happened today?”, she responded.
Helix scanned the table with his eye, analyzing the looks of his family, and they all appeared to be listening quite intently. He shovelled a bite of salmon into his mouth and chewed quickly before he responded. “Well you see, I was inspecting the scalps of my peers, wanting to gouge my eyes out because the lesson was so damn boring”, interrupted by a brief chuckle from his uncle he continued, “and then… The clock struck 3 o’clock sharp and the bell rung for the end of the day. It’s so beautiful hearing that high pitched squeal and watching everyone detach from one trance state only to immediately enter another. Like zombies of sorts. I sat and thought. I thought about how 24 hours from then, I would hear it again and enjoy it just the same as I did the day before that and before that. It really is quite a magnificent thing. Almost as good as this salmon dad.” he exclaimed, lifting another tender bite to his mouth, avoiding his dangling eye.
“Helix I told you not to make that joke.”
“What joke Mama, everything I told is the truth.”, Helix responded.
His mother shook her head in disgust and resumed the standard family conversation. The table banter never veered in any interesting direction. His uncle and father argued about politics, his grandparents flaunted their $12 win at bingo earlier that day, while Helix shovelled down his delicious salmon.
When everyone was finished eating, and his grandmother had finally finished a quarter of her salmon filet and insisted on “taking the rest home”, it was time for dessert. Helix expected the typical red velvet cake his mother always made.
“Helix, put your eyes down for a minute”, His mother asked.
He knew instantly that something was different. Thoughts began tumbling through his brain. Could it be a car, no. Could it be a family vacation, unlikely. Am I to be getting a younger sibling, not a chance. Surprises weren’t a regular occurrence in his life, but the fact she asked him to put his eyes down suggested it wasn’t a t-shirt and audiobook. He could hear as his Mother entered the room again and everyone started singing happy birthday.
“Helix lift your eye honey!”
Helix looked up to see a 3D replica of his face sitting in the middle of the table. The pasty soft appearance indicated to him that it was a cake. It took him a few seconds to gain composure in the face of this atrocity before he realized that the replica’s eyes were neatly lodged in the skull of the cake. Protruding from the scalp of the cake was a plethora of lit candles. Was this an inanimate cake or Pinhead manifest in his own image to harvest his soul? Helix directed his eye to his mother who stared right back.
“Helix…. We’ve finally found a surgeon willing to perform a procedure on your eyes. You, your father and I are going tomorrow. Happy birthday sweetie.”
Speechless, Helix looked back at the cake. His family stared at him. From within the two hollow cavities in his skull, tears pooled, and eventually spilled out over his face and onto the table cloth. With no eyes present to evenly distribute over a decade of manifest emotion, his sockets became the reservoir atop a flowing river. Helix stood and left the room without a word. He went upstairs, propped his eyes in their retainers and passed out.
The next morning Helix was woken by his mother. “Helix, wake up sweetie how are you feeling?” She said as she perched herself at the end of his bed.
As Helix rose, groggy from a night of heavy sleep he reached for his glove. He lifted one of his eyes out of its retainers and focused on his mother. “Good morning Mama I feel fine.”
“If you aren’t ready for the operation, we don’t have to do it today Helix. We can wait as long as you want. Even if you don’t want it at all then you don’t have to. I just had no idea you felt so strongly about it. It’s true you have always seemed so happy with what you have, you have always been able to appreciate everything, big or small, in a way most people can’t, but your father and I never considered you might be perfectly fine with it.”, his mother professed.
“No, Mama of course I want to go through with the operation. Don’t be silly, anyone in my position would be overwhelmed with emotion. I just can’t wait. I need to have it now.”, Helix responded.
His mother prepared him a big breakfast, which he took his careful time enjoying, allowing his mother to help feed him for what he assumed would probably be the last time.
At the hospital Helix underwent a series of tests and was eventually brought to the operating room.
The last thing Helix remembered was lying down on the operating table. A troop of certified professionals stared down. One just above him held his two eyes in the air just above his skull. His consciousness drifted away as he felt two pokes just below his eye sockets. His cheekbone flooded with a wave of euphoria, the light beat down on his face and eyes and the chatter of doctors performing a first-ever surgery faded away.
Helix rose slowly, fumbling with his hands to find his eyes. His vision was still a blur. A wave of pain rushed his eye sockets. He moaned. The nurse rushed over instantly assuring him that everything was ok and to relax so that she could remove some clamps. He lay back down and she fumbled around in Helix’s vision, releasing the pain with a click. Helix’s vision came to. He looked down at his hands, then over at his parents, then back at his hands. He wasn’t used to these muscles. He turned his head with each glance. Helix realized his eyes were in his skull. With a huge grin, he lay back on the operating table, staring straight up at the surgical lamp, and closed his eyes.
“Helix honey how does it feel?” his mother called out.
“Please be quiet, I’m enjoying this” Helix responded.
Having never explored the expanse behind his eyelids, he sat there, eyes closed, alone in his own mind at last.