“Why Bri? Why? Why not see with eye so bright? Be like sister Shar, alright?”
She was talking in rhymes again, fingering dusty doilies and looking all around with her strange mech eyes. Brian himself was trying on old glasses from the 90s and early 2000’s, searching desperately through the wicker basket on the counter for a pair that
would help ease his nearsightedness.
“You know Shar. Leave me alone.” Brian answered.
The old Chinese man behind the counter sympathetically pulled out another basket.
“These ah very good. Made 2010. But more espensive.”
“Oh, that’s great, that’s fine.” Brian said eagerly and tried a pair from the newly proffered shoe box of spectacles.
“Oh, Wi-Bri,” the diminutive dark haired girl moaned afresh, “Shar die, Bri. So shame faced by brother dears mech eye fears. Old biddy buggy eyes for poor slob souls, no trade no currency, no lifes. Why Bri want to look like no life? Why not see Bri? See the world as it is Bri? Real, big vivid bright?” Her vacuous mech pupils widened as she swung her body closer to the counter and looked into the basket of glasses. Brian pointedly ignored her and slipped a pair of specs with hardy black plastic frames onto his face.
“You prefer trade or coins?” Brian asked the old Chinese man.
“You have silver piece?” the old man asked.
Brian nodded and Shar sighed.
“What in trade?”
“Bathhouse tokens or this watch.” Brian showed the man the antique watch on his wrist.
“I also have eggs.”
“Everyone have eggs.” The old man said with a dismissive gesture. “I like take bath. Hot bath?” old man asked.
“Yes.” Brian told him. “With soap and a towel.”
The old man grinned broadly,
“Oh, I take.” He said, holding out his hand.
Brian took the token out of his pocket. It was an old corona bottle cap with a stylized bear stamped into the aluminum.
“Oh. Very nice.” The old man nodded feeling the raised aluminum shape of the bear.
“It’s down by the dock.” Brian told him, “Look for the bear on the sign out front.”
Brian made his way to the bathhouse after depositing Shar in their family home. His father and stepmother were waiting for her there. They were both Mech eyes as well.
“Are you sure you won’t stay for dinner Brian?” the petite woman with black hair streaked with gray asked him.
He found it difficult to look at their faces for too long, their lifeless robotic eyes terrified him.
Brian shook his head and said,
“Thanks Mary Anne, but I should get going before it gets too late.”
His father put an arm around his shoulders and walked him to the door.
“Thank you for taking Shar out with you son. It’s good for her to get out now and then. Nice glasses by the way.”
“Thank you.” Brian said, “And you’re welcome. She did meet some nice people her own age. In a camera shop.”
“Mech eyes?” his father asked.
“Does it matter?” Brian asked, “But of course, they would be mech eyes to have the interest and the silver to spend on camera components. Only mech eyes care about pin hole cameras dad. No Lifes are busy trying to live.”
“You’re not a no life Brian.” His father said
“I know that. Do you? Or are you all shame faced because of bug eyed Wi-Bri?” He hauled himself out from under his father’s arm. “Goodnight Dad.” He said opening the door to let himself out..
“Wait Bri,” his father protested his departure, but didn’t answer the question. Brian paused at the threshold.
“We delivered a number of healthy kids this spring,” his father said at last, “why don’t you take a goat with you?”
Ursula smiled at him when he walked into the bathhouse with the goat trailing behind him on its tether.
“For you, my love.” He said and she began to laugh until tears came out of her eyes, her real lovely human eyes. She stood up and kissed his cheek and took the goat from him.
“Really Brian? Are you giving me this goat?”
“Yes.” He said, and “she’s ready for a milking.”
“Oh, fresh milk!” Ursula gasped with pleasure.
He followed her out the back door and up the steps that led to the roof garden and her hen house. Brian showed her how to milk the goat and then they put it in with the startled chickens.
Back down stairs they admitted an wrinkled old mech eye and drew a warm bath for him. The old fellow wore an ancient pair of goggles to protect his mechanical eyes from the steam and the possibility of rusting.
“I had the cataracts”. The old man told Brian in a quavering voice as he helped him ease into a steaming tub. “I was quite blind before I let them take out my eyes. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited so long. I had to rely on my son too heavily during all that time, but I couldn’t stand the idea of it. In my time, there was a simple surgery for cataracts, a new lens was put on the eye, my mother had the procedure done by a real eye doctor in just an hour. But so much has been lost. I’m a relic is all. I see fine now, I see all that they said I would. I don’t know as I like seeing all those boogie woogies, but I can take care of myself again.” The old man’s wrinkled body relaxed in the water and he turned his strange silver and copper eyes on Brian, the shutters widening a bit, “I’m surprised that you have your own eyes son. I didn’t know anyone as young as you still did, other than those who are half mad or too sick to do for themselves.”
“Well,” Brian smiled, “There are plenty of people who think that I am mad, because I don’t want the new eyes. The truth is, they frighten me. I don’t want to see all they say that I’ll see.”
The old man nodded,
“I understand that.” He said. “What about your mother? She feels the same way?”
Brian blushed a little. The gentleman was referring to Ursula, his lover, but he made no effort to correct the old codger.
“She’s not like me. She just can’t do it because she bleeds easy, thin blood, some kind of disorder. She’d probably die under the knife. Lucky for her, the eyes she was born with work just fine. And lucky for me too, cause I think they’re lovely.”
“Wi-Bri, come drink with sister Shar and friends.” She invited.
Brian was stunned. Ordinarily Shar preferred if he waited for her at another table, somewhere discreet where she could disavow any familiarity. He never minded the arrangement. He wasn’t sure if he could stand a social encounter with so many Mech Eyes. Those from Shar’s generation were as incomprehensible in their speech as she was.
“Please Wi-Bri?” she pleaded
Soon, standing at the bar with them he regretted, oh so deeply, having agreed. Shar’s new boyfriend, Lexi, was leaning in close, metallic owl eyes swallowing Brian up.
“You must be a good fellow Wi-Bri, no more bringing shame to sharing flower Shar and outstanding family. Lexi’s family not allow marriage with no life in mix, much prestige lost. Now Wi-Bri, we must agree that love most beautiful, most precious, and cheri Shar, most beloved to love struck Lexi, follow Wi-Bri? You must agree, Wi-Bri, to mech eye implants and see the real like Shar and Lexi and let us all be love joined, not lost to silly fears. Wi-Bri must come now with Lexi and Shar and friends to Lexi fathers house for implantation, Lexi father great mech eye maker. With mech eye Wi-Bri and 5 goats, great match made. Lexi Shar forever joined and Wi-Bri see at last.” And here Lexi grinned wide and the others all murmured and nodded in enraptured approval as Lexi clapped Brian on the back.
“Now, let’s all go!” Lexi cried and they began to shuffle Brian out of the Bar, en masse.
“Wait, wait,” Brian objected, “You want me to get mech eye implants right now?”
“Yes, yes,” Lexi said jubilantly, “Right now, together we go all to Mecha, pilgrimage most sanctified, my father’s workshop, Mecha where you will come to see, really.”
“No,” Brian said, “I don’t want them, absolutely not.” But they continued to shuffle him along and suddenly he realized that he must make an antisocial break, one that would surely devastate Shar, if he intended to remain with his eyes intact.
He tried to come to a halt, to push them off of him and step away,
“No!” he bellowed. And they all paused. Then someone jabbed a needle into his arm and he could hear Shar say,
“Shar told Lexi, Wi-Bri a no go embarrassment, make scene, scream and scream.”
“Yes, Shar baby, right, right. No problem though, smart baby Shar, good to bring dream shot. Now Wi-Bri come along, very nice, very quiet.” Now Lexi’s giant copper eyes looked into Brian’s own stunned lid-veiled eyes.
“No worry brother Wi-Bri. When next we meet, Wi-Bri will see, then all will be right. And also, delight Wi-Bri, no cheap aluminum at Mecha, only very best, stainless, steel, silver, copper, very nice. And best of best brother Wi-Bri, you will really see. You will see. When Wi-Bri wakes, he will see.”
Then the world grew dim around the edges and the voices seemed far off and he felt himself drooping and at last, darkness and oblivion settled in.