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  • Jeffrey Hall

Strange Short #4: The Flickers

Duncan was blind without his glasses, or at least that's how he felt. 20/10000 is what he told his friends his vision was when they asked why he held his phone so close to his eyes in the morning before he eventually got around to putting on his lenses. They would laugh at him and asked if he could even see, and he would laugh back and say something like, "What do I need to see for? So I can look at your ugly mugs?"

That usually ended the banter, and the questions, which was good. He didn't like questions. It always felt like he was being prodded, forced to expose his secrets. Nor did he like his glasses. They made him see what the world expected him to see, not as the world was meant to be seen.

Naked. Raw. Peeled back of its prude detail and groomed clarity.

A morning woman, not some plastic replica created for a night out, concealed beneath pounds of mascara, powder, and primer.

He preferred it that way. He only kept the glasses on so he could interact with others and handle the fine details of keeping himself alive. Eating. Working. Driving to and from. But at night, when he shed his responsibilities like a snake would its own skin, he took his lenses off and shutdown all the lights save for the weak ones that glowed on his appliances.

And that's when he felt he could truly see the world as he was meant to see it.

A faint and blurred version of it. It existed in the smudged, undefined outlines of light, where everything ran together like a painting caught out in the rain. It was there, in that version, he would see the movement.

The flickers.

At the edges of light. At the fringe of where the darkness receded, but not completely. There was movement. Shapes floating in and out of reality. Limbs scratching at the doorway of their world, attempting to find a way in through the cracks that existed between the transitions of sight and blindness. Things that were as attracted to the faint illuminations in his house as the moths that would sneak into the cracks in his door.

At first, when he was a child, he thought it was only his imagination, but as he grew older and he realized his imagination wasn't that strong he started to wonder if something was wrong with his sight. But countless yearly trips to the ophthalmologist later and with no reportable diagnosis besides nearsightedness, he became certain that it wasn't just in his head.

So he tried to see them. Anytime they would emerge, anytime he saw the slightest bit of movement at the edges of light, he would refocus and squint. But anytime he tried to look they would be gone, retreating back beneath the blurry cracks between worlds like squirrels sniffed out by a dog.

Only after a night of drinking, when his thoughts were bulging with angry memories and missed opportunities, did he stare at the lights without his glasses and stubbornly refuse to play the flickers' game anymore.

He didn't move. He didn't blink. He just sat there, slack-jawed. Tired from the pursuit of the flickers as much as he was his own life.

And as he gazed at the light on his DVD player and his eyes swam lazily amongst the pool of vodka he was drowning himself in, the flickers finally showed themselves.

Bit by bit, inch by inch, claw by claw, they crept out of hiding, revealing themselves in his peripherals. A place he could just see so long as he didn't move his eyes. Long-tailed creatures with eyes dotting their backs like spots on a leopard. Ones with muscular arms and legs, no doubt used to climb up from the deepest, darkest regions of whatever reality they called home. Others still with horns and tails that seemed to curl forever off into the darkness, keeping them tethered to the night should Duncan try to search for them and they suddenly need to escape.

It was a menagerie of otherworldliness come to dance upon the lights and perform for him. He watched in awe at their movements and shapes, amazed at how such creatures could exist beneath the details of the world he was supposed to know, between the cracks that were only defined by semi-blindness. It was exhilarating to know such a place existed. So he stayed up all night watching the show. Privileged. Honored. Unable to look away until the light of day eked through the windows and the flickers returned beneath the blurriness of his world. He didn't put on his glasses for sometime after that.

Since then he hasn't been able to look away.

Now his friends ask him, "Why are you so tired?" or "Why do you smell like a bar?"

He doesn't answer. He doesn't like questions. He doesn't like people trying to know the truth. He prefers to watch the flickers as a one man audience. He prefers the world as he wants to see it.

So he's found ways to trim the need for the details in his life. He doesn't drive anymore. He's stopped working and found other means of income. His meals are all delivered and premade. He doesn't talk to many people anymore. He feels a step closer to himself.

Who needs to dress up a life with structure in a world of where everything runs together? Better to live naked and raw.

Better to live without lenses then with them.

#StrangeShorts #FlashFiction

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