The blackness I am so used to seeing begins to blur. Small spots of grey appear. I hold my breath, sliding down onto the cold floor. I blink furiously, my brain reeling to find an answer to what is happening. The darkness that has embedded deep into my vision, curled itself around me for years begins to fade. I can feel its cold fingers release its grip on me as white spots begin to materialize. The cold drip of water from the tap above me sends icy shivers down my spine. The white gets brighter and brighter and brighter. It hurts. The light devours the darkness and my eyes screech in pain. I resist the urge to claw my eyes out and feel the darkness wrap its shadows around me once more. The white slowly fades and spots of red take its place. My head is a mess, thoughts swirling about frantically trying to understand what is happening. I don’t know if I should cry, laugh or yell. I manage a choked scream as I realise I am staring at a toilet. I can see it. It’s dirty brown with a seat and a silver button above it.
Thirteen years ago, everyone went blind. People have learnt to live with it, some better than others. I know many people died. Like Mum. The memory is forever lodged in my mind. A memory I can never escape. We were sitting by the train tracks, watching trains pass by like we always did. When the train screeched by us, we’d scream at the top of our lungs and Mum would grab my hand and squeeze it. We were watching a train approach us when we both went blind. I didn’t understand what was going on. Mum told me it was going to be alright. She scrambled to get up. I heard the clatter of her keys on the floor and a thud as her body hit the ground. Then the train came. Its wheels grinded the tracks in an awful howl. Its shriek almost deafened me as it rushed by. Mum’s scream came next. Her head-splitting screech reached its sharp talons into my ears and wrenched at my eardrums. I howled along with her, covering my ears frantically. Her scream seemed to last forever. It reached deep into me and squeezed my heart so hard I felt as if I was going to cave in. It made my head spin and plummet until I thought it was going to fall on my shoulders. I felt as if the train had hit me straight in the chest and I was going to crumble into a million little pieces. Everything went silent. The train rumbled on, unaware of the damage it had done.
I’m still staring at the toilet. I attempt to look away and my head spins. I wrap my arms around my legs, pulling them closer to my chest as if it will protect me from the sudden colour invading my vision. Part of me wants to run out of the bathroom and scream that I can see. Another part of me wants to hide away forever and close my eyes so I can be enveloped in darkness once more. So I stay still. I don’t know how long I will stay here, eyes clenched shut and shivering slightly. Finally, I struggle to get up and open my eyes once again. The sudden colours shock me and I feel my legs going weak. I manage to steady myself on the steely silver sink. As I turn my head, I realise something on the walls. A brilliant bright red is etched into them. Everywhere I turn there are these red scribbles. They remind me of blood. Some of what I assume to be paint drips down to the ground, leaving splotches of stark red on the grimy bathroom floor. I stare at the scribbles for a moment until something clicks in my head. These are words. I focus on each small set of words, trying to discern them, distinguish their meanings.
“Don’t tell them you can see.”
I don’t know what to think. I don’t make a sound. For the first time, I spot a small window. Beside it is a bloody handprint.
Suddenly, the bathroom door flings open and the sound of somebody stepping in the room echoes around me. I spin around and my eyes land on a figure. She looks like a woman but something about her doesn’t seem right. Her head does not seem to fit her neck. Her hair is long and grey, hanging down to her hips. Her fingers are too long and bent at the wrong angle. Her legs are so frail I wonder how she is even standing. A long grey drape covers her feeble body. My heart almost stops beating as my eyes settle on her face. Blood seeps out of her closed eyes. Her mouth is held open slightly and a single long bleached fang hangs out. I have not seen another human being for thirteen years but I know this is not what humans look like.
My stomach churns.
In a swift moment she reaches out and grabs my wrist. Her grip is strangely strong for her frail looking hands. She presses her nails deeper into my skin. Fear wraps its inky black tentacles around my neck, tightening its hold on my throat, making me choke. It engulfs me whole, forbidding me to move, and floods my thoughts with death. Fear whispers deadly words in my mind and claws at all happy memories I have left, leaving them stained with red. It sinks its agonizingly sharp claws into my chest then slowly pulls them out to impale me once again. Fear hugs me close, threatening never to let go. The woman opens her eyes. A blood-curdling scream reverberates around the room. I clasp my hands to my ears to protect myself from the ear-splitting howl. I feel like my skull is about to split into two. It takes me a moment to realise I am the one screaming. The world around me is crumbling. My vision is going blurry once more and the fear of losing my sight again overtakes the fear of the monster before me. I frantically cover my face with my hands as if it will stop the blackness from seeping back into my eyes. The last splotches of light leave my sight. The creature’s voice is surprisingly sweet but her words are daggers.
“Can you still see me?”