Optic Nerve

In the spirit of Halloween just around the corner, I thought I’d share an old scary story I wrote.

There’s no guarantee it’ll be any good, or that it’ll even be scary. You’ll just have to read it and find out what you think.

Here it is, Optic Nerve, a scary short story…

I’d like to say it was dark and stormy night but it wasn’t. It was gorgeous. And I’d like to have said it was a day like no other. Again, not true. No. This day could not have been more ordinary. Well, except for that one thing. Spending my summers at the Backwater Campground I couldn’t help but walk around on the one weekend during the whole summer where everyone came out to sell their stuff. The usual flea market trinkets. From hubcaps and old tools to handmade ceramics and what was passed off for collectible plastic cups ‘from around the world’. At least that’s what the patron gone peddler cried as I passed. Stuff. Rocks and dirt crunched under my shoes. I remember because I’ve always loved that sound. Not sure why. But it was the last time I’d enjoy it.
My gaze panned from popup tent to picnic table to blanket in the dirt. All covered with over priced and under valued junk. It was then, that one tent in particular caught my attention. It was at the end of the row of course. I suppose it was fitting to lead me out of view of the rest of the world. It had jars. Only jars. But lots of jars. Filled with yellow goo and what must have been beads or cubes or some other small objects in them. Two half dollar-sized objects in each jar. Mason jars filled to the brim, and lined in what must have been four or five rows high all along the back of the tent. The crunching under my feet stopped and I found myself staring at an old man. Thinking back I don’t remember his face. Nondescript I suppose. Normal old guy face. All I remember were his hands. Old, yellow, pasty, pockmarked with boils and other signs of aging.
Before I knew it I was sitting beside him, chatting about nothing in particular. Mostly letting the old man do the talking. I just remember watching his hands. I don’t know why I was so fixated on them. Maybe it was the oddly shaped spoon he fiddled with. Tarnished from age and scrapes on the edges of the scooping part like it had been rubbed constantly with sandpaper, he fingered the spoon for what seemed like hours. I hardly noticed his next customer coming in under the tent, paying his $5 and kneeling before him and the lowest shelf of yellow smoky goo and jiggley objects. It wasn’t so much what happened next that bothers me, although it does. What bothers me now is that it didn’t bother me then.
The customer laid his head in the old man’s lap and stared up at the old man as a child would to his mother as is seeking comfort from a bad day at school. One of his age-pocked hands petted the customer’s hair, pulling it away from its eyes. It was then that I noticed the customer’s eyes. Huge. I’m not talking big puppy dog eyes, I’m talking stick your hand in a light socket, fat ugly fish staring at you in a 50 gallon tank with water-logged nothingness behind them big. Then it happened.
The other old hand came around and stuck the spoon in the customer’s oversized optic socket. Quickly but with care not to damage the sphere within. The socket itself took the brunt of the damage. Scrape. Scratch. Squish. Crunch. The old man continued talking to me as if nothing strange was going on. Me? I was listening in the same way. But my spheres, uh, eyes were fixed on the customer’s and what the old man was doing. Out came the eye into the old man’s free hand. Surprisingly no blood. It didn’t surprise me at the time. I mean, if this situation didn’t surprise me, why would the lack of blood? The man began on the second socket. Just as quickly, just as careful not to damage the customer’s eye. Out popped the second marble into the waiting man’s hand.
As the old man reached around for an empty jar, I took notice of the customer. Giant black holes to rival any Jack-o-Lantern who’s lost his spark to the wind starring at me. Saw through me. It was then I was brought back to reality. I stared at the black holes until I heard the top of a jar twist off. Plop. Plop. I shivered but tried not to show my discomfort. I tried not to but looked up at the old man.
“You’re next,” he said with the same sweet old man tone. His eyes had become as big as the customer’s. Or what were the customer’s eyes. Now they belong to the old man’s collection on the shelf. I don’t remember his face and still don’t but I’m quite certain his baby-blue’s were not that big last I saw.
“No thanks,” I mumbled, “I really should be going,” I said, or at least something like that. Pardon me if I don’t remember the details about this part. I was a little put off.
“I didn’t ask,” his tone had changed and become more forceful, “You’re next. Get over here, kid.” It was about then I decided to hightail it. I don’t even recall getting off the lawn chair. All that remains is the sound of dirt path and shoes. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
I craned my neck around to see the distance I had put between us. Not much. He ran fast for an old man. Especially for one dragging behind him the corpse of a dead man. Eyeless or not, it must have been heavy but he dragged and flailed it around like an old sweater as he hollered for me to stop. Not a chance old man. Not realizing the hill I had come to, I stubbed my foot and went head first into a rock. It hurt. I do remember this blood. Take that old man. So much for pristine peepers from me! Then a hand grabbed me from behind. Perfect or otherwise, he was apparently gung-ho for my headlights. His massive blinders stared me down, a grin that smelled of formaldehyde, mothballs, and some long forgotten meal drooled on my collar. One hand holding me by the cuff, the other came into view with his spoon in toe. Held up like an old Hitchcock movie. This was it. I was about to lose my viewing faculties. The last thing I was to see was the edge of that spoon. Down it came. And just as quickly I screamed, jumped and found myself sweating in the darkness of my room. Empty. Quiet. Looking out the window I could see moonlight. Still I brushed my face feeling for my optic buddies. Sigh. Still there. My other hand reached up to move my hair out of my face. I sat there just breathing for a minute. Eyes. Check. No blood. Check. No old man. Che… “You’re only making this hard for the both of us, kid!”

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