Above the quaint and quiet apartment building located in the middle of an unnamed city floats a giant eye. It is hideous, large, swollen, and bloodshot, capillaries twirling and twisting like snakes throughout the entire eyeball. The optic nerve which connected it to whatever entity it belonged to before now gently sways underneath, disconnected.
This eye belongs to a young and promising woman named Maria. She recently moved apartments after she finished her studies. She is seen as an upstanding member in her community: excelling while in university and now in the firm she works for, volunteering at the local animal shelter every week, taking care of herself and her family. A quiet and stable life.
“How do you manage to keep everything so nice and tidy?”
A flash of an awkward smile and an “I don’t know, I just like routines and order.”
The statement is technically true; routine and order do give her a sense of accomplishment and safety. But they also keep her thoughts occupied and away from the eyeball which follows her every single step. No matter where she goes, she can always feel its searing gaze like a hot poker at the back of her head. No matter if she’s at work, at home, with friends or family. It’s always there, forever unblinking, filled with judgement and malice.
She isn’t sure when the eye came to be, but she started noticing it when she was about nine or ten years old. It was after being left alone in a room with an older cousin during her aunt’s birthday party. Even to this day, she’s still unsure about what happened in the room, but when she quickly left and ran outside into the garden for some fresh air – there it was. The garden was in full bloom that late spring evening. A gentle breeze made the bushes dance and shiver, their rustling mixed with the muffled laughter and revelry coming from inside the house. The flowers left a scent that reeked of nostalgia and sickening sweetness, but all Maria could see was the disembodied eye. It floated above the ivy-covered wall, outlined by the soft moonlight, looking down at Maria with what seemed to be satisfaction displayed across its glassy surface. Even then the way it looked at her made her feel disgusting.
“Hey? Where did you float off to?” asks Dan as he snaps his fingers in front of her face.
They’ve been seeing each other for about seven months. Right now they’re sitting in Dan’s low lit living room, nestled in each other, quietly chatting and sipping some wine. The couch feels oddly uncomfortable tonight. He’s gently caressing the top of her leg and looking at her expectantly.
“I just zoned out,” she mutters softly and takes a sip from the wine glass. “It’s been a long week.”
“Anything specific you’re worried about? You look like something’s bothering you,” he says as he gently nudges her closer to him and gives her leg a squeeze.
“Can I be honest with you?” She looks up at him while her head rests on his shoulder.
“Yes, of course! You know you can tell me everything,” he says as he places an affirming kiss on her forehead.
“Promise me you won’t laugh or call me crazy.” She gives him a serious look, and he pauses before answering.
“I promise. You don’t have to worry about that when you’re with me.” He gives her another affirming squeeze. Maria can feel her muscles relax a little bit.
“Well, I’ve talked about this with Lana and she understands where I’m coming from, but my therapist thinks I might be hallucinating or going insane or something. It’s worrying me cause whatever I’m seeing feels so … real. But I have no evidence of its existence besides my own goddamn eyesight. It’s driving me insane. It’s something that’s very much real and touchable, but then it feels like it shifts into another dimension and then it’s gone. It appears when only I can see it, as if it’s playing some very sick game.” She feels the tears welling up and a lump slowly lodging in her throat.
Dan quietly shifts on the couch and his face changes from a soft, worried gaze to a completely stone-cold serious expression. His shoulder feels like a tiny poker in Maria’s neck.
“What is it that you’re seeing, exactly?”
“It’s a giant eye. I know it sounds stupid, but I’ve seen it since I was a kid. It usually floats somewhere visible to me. Either outside my window while I’m doing something on my computer, or I can see it in my periphery, poking and looking through the legs of the dining room chairs, or from the corner of my room. And it feels like it’s always watching me; it’s a very weird sensation. It reacts differently depending on my mental state. That’s why I’ve been trying to be as good as I can. If I keep a positive mindset for long enough it starts bleeding and twitching and convulsing. But if I’m in a mental slump, it starts growing and pulsing.”
“When I was a teenager it got so bad that I saw it start to mutate. It looked as if it had this tumour growing from the left side. Ugly thing, it looked like it was oozing puss and then teeth started forming from the skin. And then it slowly grew a mouth? I started going to therapy after and worked out some issues I had back then. It took a while, but eventually that tumour and the teeth and everything started bleeding and they eventually rotted off. I can’t shake the image out of my head. And the worst part is that when I saw the mouth, I had this sinking feeling that it was eventually going to eat me. As if with every transformation, it just kept getting bigger and bigger. It felt like it was eventually going to consume me whole.”
There is nothing but silence from Dan. Maria feels a searing hot sensation on her neck which slowly moves towards her throat. The tears have completely stained her cheeks now. She can spot movement in her periphery, coming from the window right above the couch they’re sitting on.
“That’s … I’m sorry you’ve been dealing with this for so long. But it’ll get better. Have you talked with your psychiatrist about getting proper medication?” He slowly sits up and takes the tissue box, an orange, and a knife. He hands Maria a tissue and then starts to peel the orange. The pedicel of the orange makes it look eerily like an eye. Maria swears she sees it move across the orange peel so it’s looking at her.
“That’s the issue though. I don’t think I need medication. I’ve talked to Lana about it and she told me she’s been seeing the same thing since she was a teenager. Similar-looking disembodied eye, just floating there and watching. Hers appeared at a different time, but it shifts depending on her mood too. You can’t tell me that two different people can have this same sort of hallucination. They’re real; we just don’t know what the hell we’re looking at. She hasn’t gone to therapy. I have and I’ve been given all sorts of medication. It doesn’t help in any way. I’m sorry if this sounds insane to you, but whatever this thing is, it’s real, and I don’t know how to get rid of it.”
She feels another stab at her neck, sees the familiar figure looming over the window. The lump in her throat is now a jagged rock scraping against the insides of her oesophagus. It’s getting hard to swallow. Or think.
“Maybe you can find a new psychiatrist. Maybe the current one messed up the type of medication or gave you the wrong dosage. I’m sure you can figure it out,” he says as he takes her hand and gently squeezes it. Another sharp stab. She looks in his eyes and underneath all the worrying, there’s just pity staring back at her.
“You think I’m insane,” she utters, barely able to speak. There’s a numb, tired sensation moving throughout her entire body. Just looking at Dan is making her nauseous.
“I don’t think you’re insane, sweetie. You just need better help than the one you’ve received,” he says as he hands her an orange slice. She takes it and the sticky juice immediately covers her fingers. A small bite. It tastes extremely sour.
She looks up at him. They’ve somehow ended up on opposite sides of the couch. All that Maria can see in his eyes is poorly concealed pity. Her stomach is starting to roil. The room feels very warm and stuffy.
“Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier?” The question is laid down heavy, filled with disappointment. Its accusing tone is a knife stab in her side.
“Because every single person who knows about this has looked at me like I’m insane and then left!” Her voice slowly starts to rise, anger and pain mixing into a small but steady fire. “Lana is the only one who’s taken me seriously. I was scared of telling you because I was afraid you would look at me like you’re looking at me right now.” The last words she can barely spit out. She feels the rock in her throat tearing mercilessly from the inside.
He quietly puts the rest of the orange slices in her hand. There’s a long and awkward pause as he returns the knife on the coffee table and sits back on the other side of the couch. Maria feels a heavy, thunderous pounding in her head as she looks at him in confusion. The sweat is pouring down her back.
“I understand that you’re going through a lot, but I don’t know how to help you, Maria.” He inches a bit closer and softly presses a hand on her arm. “Maybe it’s best if I give you some room to breathe and figure things out on your own.” A prolonged pause, trying to find the right words to make it better. “I’ll be waiting for you, if you want me to, of course. I think that you’re a beautiful woman, and I can’t wait to see you bloom into your full potential.” Another pitying smile.
The stabbing pain is coursing throughout her entire body. She can see a familiar shape floating outside the window on her right. Looking at her the same way it looked at her that night in the garden.
Maria lets out a deep sigh and chuckles, finally wiping away the tears from her face. She smiles softly at him.
“Thank you, Dan.” She places her hand over his. “But as touching as that is, you won’t have the pleasure of seeing that version of me.”
He doesn’t see the knife going towards his neck. The cry for help is muffled by the inhumane screech coming from the bulbous eye. It twists and turns erratically around its own axis, blood and puss starting to leak from all of its pores. Another stab, another otherworldly screech. Maria looks up into the sky and smiles as she sees it slowly falling apart, large chunks falling off and disintegrating before they hit the ground below.
Then there’s nothing.
The blood feels like soft, velvet gloves on Maria’s hands. Her shoulders relax and her jaw unclenches. No more hot pokers on her neck. Just the sweet sensation of the cold sweat covering her entire body like someone who just came out of a long state of delirium. Maybe the eye doesn’t completely disappear. But in this moment there’s total peace and quiet.
Nadica Trajkova was born in North Macedonia in 2001. She lived there for most of her life until she moved to Slovenia to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Ljubljana. During high school she started publishing her short stories in local literary magazines, as well as some online ones. So far, her work consists mainly of short stories, flash fiction, as well as some movie reviews. She is currently residing in Ljubljana, finishing her bachelor’s degree, as well as working as an editor at ENgLIST – her department’s journal.