Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Expose (08/22/13)
TITLE: The Hidden
By Mike Newman
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Above are eight rooms, seven with thresholds that only the housekeeper crosses. The exception that William sits in is as dark and lush as the lips of a forbidden lover. His leather club chair turned to a stone fireplace that crackles and pops as it slow burns Rocky Mountain birch logs readied last fall. Firelight sends shadows dancing across vivid landscapes hung frameless along the walls. Windows closed and drapes drawn to stay the scent of pine and distant wildfire, he presses his bare feet into the cool hide of a bear-skin rug. Watching all of this, because William cannot, is the mounted head of a buffalo. An endless stare through eyes of glass.
Best disease ate his sight, giving him the same glass eyes that now peer down on him. When it found him as a child it chewed away his central vision first, leaving him in an outlined world that refused to reveal the already-eaten middle meat. During the few years before it took more (his affliction was a greedy thing, not satisfied with its initial portion, but returning for another meal) he was always darting his head around, positioning what he wanted to see so that his sideways vision would catch it. At the time, being limited to the peripheral had so frustrated him that he often wished it had taken all of his sight in one big bite. Now, his desire granted, he scorns the fool that he was.
His affluence has surrounded him with all of life's finest, but the appetite of the thing behind his eyes has robbed him of exposure to it.
The door opens and he hears his wife, who he has never seen, come to his side.
"Aren't you hot?" Margaret asks, kneeling beside him and laying a hand on his knee. "Your legs are burning up."
"But its June."
"Yes it is."
When depressed, which is more often than not the last few years, he is curt and borderline rude with her. He knows this hurts her, and the guilt that it brings only serves to sink him deeper into his funk. She is about to play out her part in what has become a Sunday evening ritual; a routine that agitates him at the thought of its coming.
"Why don't you come with me to the evening service? Daryl will be speaking and you've always thought of him as a decent man." Margaret withdraws her hand as she asks, and he recognizes this too as part of the weekly act. He knows that she is bracing herself for his rejection, that it is easier for her to take if she is not touching him.
"I have zero interest in what is being said down there, by Daryl or anyone else."
She looks away, into the deep glow of the fire, with a wistful smile and tired eyes ... or so he imagines. In his mind's eye he sees every line and angle of her face, knows each expression that plays out on her lips. He can see her break slowly into a laugh or close her eyes and ready herself for a cry. Knowing that what he sees and what she is really like are two very different things stokes the furnace of his depression.
"You really don't see the beauty that is all around you, do you?" she asks.
William only stares with his dead eyes.
"This stuff around us, that I get to look at, that you have spent barrels of money acquiring, is exactly that ... stuff. The real deal, the stuff of eternal consequence, is what I have been trying for years to expose you to, and you don't need your eyes to see it."
He hears her move behind the chair, feels her hands on his shoulders. "William, God has taken your eyes, but won't you come with me ... and see?"
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