There once was a city of ruins. With a sun so dark, it reflected no light. Near an ocean so deep that even the ancient fish that once swam there were swallowed by the waves long ago. The city smelled of garlic and pickled eggs, and its cobblestone paths were forever stained in streams of crimson tears, alas, blood cannot be washed out.
Long ago, there was a plague. In its early stages, it ate away at one’s fingertips, then the fingers, and the hands and the arms, until the only thing left of the person, was a pile of splintered bones. However, those with black irises were immune, and from this knowledge scientists concluded that eyes, as gateways to the soul, were the reservoir for the virus, and it was through their removal that the plague would finally be contained.
Many years later, when all the survivors were long gone, the procedure was still practiced on those without black irises in order to prevent a second epidemic. Upon birth, every infant was separated from its mother and taken to an Optilab, were its vision was surgically removed, along with any memory of a world without darkness. The eyes, once removed, were sterilized in a sealed jar and sent home as a reminder of the plaque. No one intervened, no one questioned the intentions of the Optilabs as they prospered without opposition. The all encompassing presence of darkness seemed to be timeless, until the stranger brought light.
The stranger was ancient as the cobblestone path on which he walked. He carried no cane through which to feel that which the others could not see. His appearance, otherwise, lacked distinction. His eyes, however, were blue. He smelled of peppermint and rum and these scents, once carried by the wind, passed through the gates of the town long before their owner arrived. The people were waiting.
The children were first to approach him, feeling for his body with their canes. He took their pale, fragile hands and lead them towards the houses. Then, it began to rain.
In the town, strangers were quite rare. Most would just pass through, but a few did stay. At first, they did not speak to anyone, only seeming fond of the children. He would take their hands and lead them to the ocean, where they would feel their way over pebbles and sand. When they asked him what the world was like, he whispered the earth into their ears, planting seeds of light.
Among the adults, however, there was fear. “ He is changing them,” they said. The Optilab scientists grew wary–the original purpose of the procedure had long been forgotten, replaced by a more immediate concern–social instability. By removing one’s vision, you can create for them a world of your own imagining, thus eliminating all judgments and misperceptions of the established order. Now, the absent eyes were coming alive. Seeing through empty sockets.
One night, the Stranger was taken to the underground cells – a place where even the sharpest of eyes had no purpose. The gates of the city were sealed and, for a time, life went back to normal. Like machines, the people labored aimlessly, resting only to turn their empty sockets to the sea, or the sky, or the walls. One evening, the Stranger returned with a cane… and then he spoke. “The sun is crimson. The sea, a sapphire,” he hummed, “like billions of tear drops”. The Optilab scientists said, “The sun is dead. The sea, perilous and dark.” The people listened. Some fed by the truth and others by lies.
Clara Rabbani is an 8th grader at Pembroke Hill. She enjoys reading, writing (mainly short stories), and practicing sign language. Her favorite book is The Book Thief and when she grows up she wants to be an environmentalist lawyer.