"I can see… I can see…"
It was all the old man had been saying since he was brought in to the emergency room.
"Where was he found again?" said Doctor Marks, plastic face shield securely in place.
Nurse Penny pulled her eyes away from the twin rivers of blood long enough to comment. "In an alley behind St. Joseph's church. A nun heard him howling and called 911."
"Bet she thought it was stigmata." The doctor shined his penlight in the old man's eyes and flicked it to the side. "There doesn't seem to be any damage to the eyes themselves. The source of the bleeding appears to be anterior."
"But, Doctor, if his brain were hemorrhaging, wouldn't it be exiting his ears, nose or mouth. Why just the eyes?"
"Some hemorrhaging can be more localized. It's rare with the brain, however." The doctor continued to hover over the old man, shining his penlight. "Strange…"
As Doctor Marks moved in for a closer inspection, the old man's body convulsed. Veined hands with gnarled fingers reached up for the light. "I can see… I can see…" the old man cried, his voice hoarse, his neck strained. The old man then collapsed, his breathing and the flow of his blood slowing to a stop.
"Should we call it? Doctor?"
Doctor Marks had turned away to avoid the old man's death-throe spasm. He turned back to Nurse Penny and the now deceased patient. "I'm sorry, nurse. Yes…time of death --" Doctor Marks squinted at the clock on the wall. His vision momentarily blurred. "Four fourteen p.m."
He removed the face shield, snapped off his gloves and untied his gown, and tossed them into the trash. "Nurse, I'll be in the private lounge if anyone needs me."
For Doctor Marks, it felt like a headache was coming on. The hallway light hurt his eyes. The lounge was dark and empty. He went straight to the couch and stretched out.
Funny how, even though it was dark, he could see a strange illumination. The outline of the room glowed like a polarized picture. What was dark was light, and what was light--like the thin line underneath the room's entrance--was dark. Even with his eyes shut, he saw light, tiny streamers, as if he were looking into a microscope at the blood vessels in his eyelids. He got to his feet and walked to the bathroom, unsure of what was happening.
He flicked on the light and an explosion of stars filled his vision. The image in the mirror was hideous, nothing but veins and corpuscles and filarial wisps of moving fluid. In his eyes were twin upside-down crosses, death signs, burned into his retinas.
He wanted to scream but instead his mind replayed the incident with the emergency room patient--only from the old man's point of view. He saw himself hovering over him, the penlight shining like a beacon into his eyes. Then came the sudden convulsion, and a single drop of blood rose upward, arcing in slow motion in an unnatural trajectory, above the face shield, landing in his eye.
A sudden hunger gnawed at the doctor's gut and he doubled over in pain.
He shut off the light off and stumbled out of the lounge into the hallway. He needed to get back to the emergency room. Along the way he was assaulted by all manner of hideous replicas of human transformation: goblin, devil and demon faces; some asked if he was all right.
But nothing was all right, nothing would ever be right again, unless…
He burst into the emergency room, avoiding the stares of ghastly maintenance men and grotesque nurses, and lurched over to where the old man had died. A plastic basin sat on the floor, the old man's blood still in it. He picked up the basin. In the blood he saw creatures swirling, amoeba-like, the substance of life. Before anyone could stop him he tipped the basin to his lips and gulped the thick liquid. The room spun and he collapsed.
Some time later Doctor Marks awoke. Nurse Penny leaned over him. "Doctor, how are you feeling?"
He stared at her. She was the most beautiful creature on the planet. He took a deep breath. The air was sweet.
"I can see," he said. "I can see."
Kurt Newton lives as a recluse in the woods of northeast Connecticut. He has been spotted on his plot of land harvesting grubs from rotted logs, setting tripwires for small animals and drinking from fresh water streams. He uses wood pulp and dried viscera to make the paper on which he writes his stories. He drives a black Ford Focus.