My right eye has been bothering me recently. I think I’m seeing flashes of light at the edges of my peripheral vision and it’s making me nervous, after two years ago an ophthalmologist warned me to watch for the flashes as they could be an early signal of impending doom, also called retinal detachment. No, this is not fiction, sorry.
I’ve been severely short-sighted for most of my life and I thought lenses and heavy glasses were the end of it. Until that fateful appointment, when the doctor asked me if I was seeing flashes. I said I wasn’t and she explained that when — not if, when I start seeing them — I should go see her because they may be the abovementioned early signal. But it’s fixable, she said, and it doesn’t hurt, so don’t worry. As if pain would be my first concern.
At first I got scared but then forgot about it. Until a few months ago when I thought I’d seen a flash. Then a few weeks later I thought I saw a flash again, in the lower right corner of my right eye’s field of vision. I got really scared so I made an appointment. By the time this post publishes the appointment will have come and gone, so I’ll have an update but this post is not about eye health. It’s about bargaining.
Losing my sight has been one of my greatest fears ever since I was diagnosed with myopia. I’m sure it’s one of the greatest fears for most people but most people, luckily, have not had to experience the rapid deterioration of their eyesight unable to do anything to stop it. My dioptres galloped during the first five years after my diagnosis and only stopped in my late teens.
Just the mention of the word retinal, regardless of the noun that follows, is enough to give me palpitations and cold sweat. Retinal combined with detachment makes my blood go cold, in addition to the palpitations and the sweat. Which is exactly what happened two weeks ago when I again thought I saw light where there shouldn’t have been light. It wasn’t a flash, nowhere as bright as a flash, but it was there.
The last year was tough for pretty much everyone with the exception of Jeff Bezos. It was tough for me, too, especially towards the end. So it is perhaps understandable why I got angry as well as scared. The last two months of 2020 were bad enough, I told myself, I deserve a break. Or, I thought then, if I’m losing an eye (because there’s risk in every surgical procedure, right?) I might as well finally make my publishing breakthrough because it would only be fair. Because, you know, the universe is known for its fairness.
It only took me a minute to turn this idiotic thought on its head and make it even more idiotic: if bargains could be made with the universe, would I be willing to part with the sight in one of my eyes in exchange for having my books become bestsellers?
It is with deep sadness and even deeper embarrassment that I have to say it took me another minute before the ridiculousness of the idea sank in. It is from such ideas that stories about soul trade come, only to shine a somewhat reluctant light on the darkness that dwells in us. This darkness is deeper in some than in others, which is a depressing thought, but there’s nothing to be done about it. Except, I guess, medication when the darkness gets really deep and you start drowning in it.
On a lighter note, my non-dark self said that of course bestsellers are not worth an eye — or a limb, or the loss of a close one, or anything other than time and effort, and carpal tunnel syndrome — however pleasant the thought of having thousands upon thousands of people love your work might be. Isn’t it wonderful that the only place we can actually make such horrible bargains with the universe is fiction?
On an even lighter note, I did a quick recap and I realised that in the four years I have been submitting work I’ve had six short stories published in anthologies — all paying work — so at least six people outside my friend circle have liked my work. I even had a reader of one of these anthologies write to me personally to share a video of his review of all the stories, in which he was really flattering about mine.
We’re a gluttonous species. We always want more of what we like and when we don’t get it the darkness calls to us and lures us in where we start wallowing and feeling like we’ve never accomplished anything just because we haven’t sold a book to HarperCollins, for example. The good thing is most of us, I hope, can retain rational thought even in the face of darkness and flip it the bird when it gets too arrogant. Here’s how the bird-flipping works: just remember the words “Take what you want and pay for it.” For me, there is no scarier one-sentence horror story than this.
P.S. I just realised the title of this post looks like the title of a potentially decent horror story so I’m calling dibs.
P.P.S. The feature image on this post is a portrait my daughter drew of me. I find it has captured the darkness very well without even trying.
So I had this idea of doing a call-to-action thing at the end of each post with links to my books. And I forgot all about it, too busy wondering why people weren’t flocking to online stores to buy (or download for free) my books. Here goes:
For vampires, witches, and dragons click here.
For a supernatural mystery that begins mid-flight click here. (This one’s free on Kobo. It’s also free here in the form of weekly posts but it doesn’t really look like a book, does it?)