Sci-fi writing prompt #2- People have their eyes removed at the age of fifteen and replaced with recording devices that allow the government to see everything they see.
I opened my brand new eyes and looked around in wonder. Everything was so clear and concise. I could even zoom in on details. “I’m so jealous!” Stephy says petulantly stamping her foot in frustration.
“You have to be at least fifteen to have the surgery, sis. You know that. That’s when the sun’s radiation has damaged the eyes and the sockets are finally fully formed. That’s what they say in Miss Miller’s class anyway. “
“Isn’t it just amazing? You can do so much more with these eyes than your natural ones. You can memorize images you can take a copy of what you see for later. But, there is one thing you must do to keep them in working order. You must download them every night on this special platform. You can’t miss a single night or you might experience a glitch. It is very important. So important, your mom has to sign this special government form saying she will ensure that you do so.”
The eye doctor holds out a fancy pen and a long document to my mom with a nod and a smile gesturing to his desk. She sits down takes the pen from his hand and scans the document. Her eyes are also artificial but an older kind, the kind that first came out couldn’t do as much as this model.
She signed carefully printing her name so it could be read. Only a handful of people could read cursive so it was decided that printing had to be used on government forms exclusively when typing wasn’t possible. Once the document was signed the man put it in a machine which sent it to the government offices instantly.
“There, now we are all done. I can’t wait to do the surgery on little Stephy in a few years. Now, remember, every year I have to examine them to make sure they are in working order and that everything is processing normally. And, you must download it every night. Okay?” He smiles and opens the door for us and we file out of the office, the sunlight is bright and I feel my robo-eyes adjust to the lighting instantly.
It feels a little weird. Everything is so different but the same. I can clearly see in the distance. Sometimes my eyes seem to be drawn to particular sights. Like it has a mind of its own. It is a little unnerving because I can intentionally focus on something, but I just get the feeling that the eyes are saving something else.
“Mom, you have these eyes, do you ever get the feeling that they are looking for something on their own?”
“What? That’s nonsense dear. They can only look at and focus on what you are seeing.”
“I know that, but you can see a lot without really thinking about it, you know. What if they are saving details for their own agenda?”
“They are simply eyes, Cathy. They don’t have an agenda.” She sighs and pulls me along shaking her head in irritation. My mom was a committee member of the local government. They had to report weekly on anything unusual in the neighborhood. You know, in case of terrorism. Terrorists were all around trying to destroy the country from the inside out and you just had to be aware of what was going on. So, they would get together and go over reports.
My mom was very pro government. It was the duty of every citizen in her view to assist the government in any way they were able. She had the download device in her purse. It was a thin long black rectangle with a couple small jacks that plug into the eyes and download the data of the day. I am guessing it sends the information much like that machine sent that document. Straight to the Government Office of Internal Thought Processes.
There were government offices for all sorts of things and committees at every level so people could feel involved and a part of the process. It was important to feel like you belonged to something. And since religion was banned, the government tried to make people feel as loved and safe and included as before without all the unnecessary unscientific stuff that religion had.
My teacher said religion made people stupid. Sometimes I would occasionally see my mom get a bible out at night and read a passage or two before she hurriedly locked it in her safe. She seemed embarrassed, or ashamed of it. But I know it gives her something I do not have. Some kind of feeling, because afterwards she seemed calmer or less anxious.
I often have trouble sleeping despite the soothing sound machine and the temperature being set to the ideal sleeping conditions in my room. Sometimes I would surprise my mom at night because I simply felt lonely. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t alone in the house. That despite all the gadgets and machines, I needed to see something human.
I would check on Stephy too. She would be snoring away clutching her teddy bear Graham Cracker the Great, toys put away, circular rug askew in the otherwise neat environment. She had no trouble sleeping. I envied her. She looked peaceful, happy. I wasn’t sure there wasn’t something wrong with me. I didn’t feel like that. I am not sure I ever did.
It was at these times that I would catch my mom and dad doing unpatriotic things, or less than patriotic things, Miss Miller would say. I know they need to be corrected but something about them not being perfect made me feel better. So I let it go. Even though we are supposed to report things to the school about suspect behavior at home. The fact that my dad often leaves in the night and I don’t know where he goes. Stuff like that that I know the government people would want to know.
I say nothing because I secretly like the fact that they aren’t robots. I like being human. I like them being human. Sometimes I doubt I am human. Sometimes I don’t feel human. I feel like I am pretending and watching the humans, trying to learn how to be human and failing. I feel so disconnected and just wish I could find the right plug. Maybe if I change somehow I would feel more a part of things. Maybe I should join my class committee and become a part of the government machine. Maybe that is what I was missing.
When we got home the first thing my mom does is put my download platform next to hers and Dad’s, three little black platforms in a row waiting to charge and download our eye’s data. “There, now isn’t that nice? We have just enough space for Stephy’s when she is older. There was one empty spot on the counter, waiting for my sister. Stephy ran to check on Graham who was sitting on her bed propped up just like she left him.
“Where is Dad?”
“You know Cathy, he is working. He has a very important job. He isn’t allowed to talk about it. But it can take him away for a long time, but if it wasn’t vitally important, he would be right here with us. You know he loves you, right?”
Her expression was one of concern, but the artificial eyes couldn’t show it. When my sister was being comforting, you could see it. Something in the eyes showed it. In these eyes, you felt nothing. Maybe this is why I feel disconnected. How can you connect to something so cold, and empty?
“Of course,” I say automatically. Part of me wondered how Dad could drive away at night if his eyes were charging in the case. True, cars drove themselves, but he wouldn’t be able to record any events, how could he know what was happening? Who he was doing business with? What kind of business would he be doing that the Government wouldn’t be able to download? Or is he not downloading his eyes? I wondered about what the eye doctor said about a glitch. What would that be like?
Night came and I took my eyes out like the Doctor had showed me to, and placed them carefully on the connections on the platform. My parents hadn’t downloaded yet, but they went to bed later they explained, and I went to my room with its perfect temperature and the soothing noises and the window with the artificial picture of trees on it.
We were on the 37th story of the building but the window was made to look like I had a garden waiting outside, a beautiful dream-like paradise I could visit. But none of it was real. I could no longer see it without my eyes and I still had trouble sleeping. I heard dad leave in his car. Not many ventured out at night. Except for special exceptions there was a curfew. Terrorists and people up to no good were up past curfew. I hoped my dad was an exception but it was hard to say. Terrorists were supposed to blend in with us, and be trained to fool us.
I got up carefully, feeling around my bed and the wall making my way to the door, blind. I managed to get to the platforms where the eyes were. I knew mine was the closest to me, being the most left of the three. I casually felt the other platforms and the eyes weren’t there. They weren’t being downloaded. My own parents were lying to the government and breaking their contract! I was horrified. How could they do this? I grabbed mine carefully putting them in.
My eyes adjusted to the low light, and suddenly I saw flicker and static and saw an Eastern Yellow Swallowtail butterfly superimposed on my vision, for just a second. A logo for the Government Science Department of Robotics flashed and a stream of words scrolled up and then they went dark again. My eyes crashed. Maybe they weren’t done downloading? I had no idea what time it was.
They came back online in a flash; the butterfly made one more appearance and then it was gone. I went quietly to my parents’ room and peeked through the keyhole. I saw my mom kneeling down below her bed, her bible in hand in her nightgown, alone. Her back was to me, I could only assume the bible was in her hand, but I knew it was likely. I crept back to the hall way and decided to go back to my room with my eyes in. I didn’t like not being able to see. It was scary and I hated feeling isolated. I got under the covers and held my blankets around me like a cocoon to try and feel safe. Not sure it worked but day happened eventually.
I got up and drank my breakfast meal and started getting ready for school. My parents were all ready up looking at their screens reading and watching the news while Stephy drank her breakfast pretending to share it with Graham.
“Good morning everyone.” I say cheerily and tired.
“I see you got your eyes back in. Didn’t have any trouble did you?” Mom asked hardly looking up from her coffee and screen.
“None at all.” I say with a smile. I could pretend too. I could pretend everything was normal. The door bell rang with a calming chime. I got up, “I’ll get it.” I go to answer the door and three men in Government police uniforms consisting of bullet proof vests, black masks and assault rifles storm in.
“Freeze. This household is in lock down for further investigation for unorthodox behavior and failing to download eye data. It has been brought to our attention that you break curfew and are continuing to do religious observance. The Government Health Agency has expressly forbid religious observance and the offending book will be confiscated and destroyed. Also, the car is being taken to our offices and is being downloaded to see where it has been going and to whom. You have the right to remain silent, anything you might say will and can be used against you in a court of law.”
None of us moved, knowing that the police were given free rein to shoot on provocation. Stephy started to cry, and Mom went to comfort her, but one of the men gave her a shake of the head, his visor and mask making it so his expression couldn’t be read. My mom sat back down slowly.
I could see her desire to comfort Stephy in her face, but her eyes were devoid of feeling, recording the information coldly, disconnectedly. There was no soul in our eyes. Stephy was the only one whose eyes had that weird quality. That could show what was going on inside her. Something the robo-eyes could not and would never be able to do. One of the men grabbed the teddy bear from her, Stephy screamed and clawed toward the bear, tears flowing from her eyes, yelling “no, don’t take Graham, he is my only friend!”
The man elbowed Stephy and she fell down hard, looking up confused, my parents frozen, unable to move. The man looked in the back of the teddy pulled out a machine. Graham had been a sort of eyes for Stephy too apparently. “Confiscating this for evidence.” The man says unconcerned. “Leave a guard at every exit, make sure they stay in lock down, no one here goes anywhere until the investigation is complete.”
My mom looks at me with her machine eyes. I would say accusingly, except the eyes didn’t show it, they showed no humanity whatsoever, but the rest of her expression was hurt, or what I must guess was hurt. I am not very good at reading people’s faces or expressions. It is always the best guess for me, and I am wrong as often as I am right.
“The eyes see what they see, and they report what they see. I can’t help that you were betraying the Government. You are at fault for being unscientific and secretive.”
“Oh Cathy, you have no idea what you’ve done.”
“I’ve done my duty. We must all do our duty. Isn’t that what you said so many times before?”
“I wish I could cry right now.” My mom puts her hands on her face but no tears will come from the artificial eyes, no release from the pain, she holds Stephy and rocks her, and examines the bruise on her face. My dad stays in his chair, in total shock, not moving, not saying a thing. Stephy grabs what’s left of Graham, the machine part gone out of his back, his black glossy eyes hidden camera machines. How many more were there in the house?
Her tears got his artificial brown fur wet and messy, she clung to him more than Mom, who tried to be empathetic, but it is hard to project that without the windows to the soul. All of our windows were fake throughout the house. They were all windows to no one leading to nowhere.