I don’t need them.
I don’t even want them.
Don’t tell me they changed your life. I don’t care.
Don’t say I used to think just like you, but now I can’t imagine why. You aren’t like me.
Keep your eyes. I’m doing just fine.
The city is gorgeous tonight. The sunset blazes against the city skyline, setting fire to the trees, the clouds, the mirrored windows—it’s magic. This is all I ever need to see. I’m late to my destination, but I pause in the street just to admire the view.
I’m not saying my own eyes are perfect—I have 20/20 vision, but only when corrected with contacts. And sure, they annoy me sometimes—dust behind the lenses, protein deposits—but it’s not that a big deal.
I’d probably get the laser surgery if they still offered that kind of thing. But replacing them entirely with those artificial things? No thanks. You can have them.
A guy walks by, glances at me, and does a double take. His pupils expand and contract several times as he scans me in earnest. He taps his chest and points at mine with a concerned look.
I wave him off. “Yeah, I know.”
“A whole branch of veins just to the right of…”
“I know!” I shouldn’t shout; he’s just trying to help. But he’s the fifth person today to tell me I’ve got serious plaque buildup in those veins. Ten people told me yesterday, and another ten the day before that. Sometimes I think there must be an automated program that requires them to give me a warning.
I hurry along, glancing up and down the storefronts, trying to spot the restaurant. There’s a good chance it doesn’t even have an external sign anymore; it’s become stylish to have no physical identification since most eyes can read the location from virtual maps.
Damn. Not one door or awning on the block has a sign. I’m going to have to swallow pride and ask someone with eyes. I wave to a woman passing on the sidewalk and ask her to identify the restaurant for me. She points to an unmarked green door across the street and gives me a smile. “Got a little turned around, did you? You’re very brave to venture out in the city like this…”
“I’m not blind.”
She pats me on the shoulder. “Of course not. By the way…” She taps her chest below the heart. “I feel obliged to tell you….”
“I know.” I run across the street and push through the green door. The restaurant is crowded; I move fast, trying to get past the people crowded in the foyer before any of them can warn me about my health.
I find Karen already seated at a table near the back. She rises to greet me with a smile, but it disappears the instant she realizes I still have my natural eyes. Technically, you’re supposed to tell someone if you don’t have artificial eyes before you meet—the dating app even has a little message about it when you register—but I decided not to this time.
Too many people lose interest when you’re honest.
“Hi, Karen. Sorry I’m late.”
“You don’t have eyes.”
“Sure I do. Brown ones, unless they’ve changed color on me.” She doesn’t laugh. I better salvage this. “Didn’t I tell you? I’m sure I mentioned it.”
She looks inward, calling up and scanning the content of our messages to each other. “Nope.”
“I’m sorry, must have slipped my mind. It’s not a big deal. Shall we?” I take my chair.
She doesn’t look like she agrees that it’s “not a big deal.” But she sits, which means I’ve still got a shot.
A server arrives, waxy eyes glinting in the dark light. He smiles down at us. “Can I get you started with something to drink? Maybe an appetizer?”
I clear my throat. “Just a menu, please.”
He looks embarrassed. “You mean… a paper menu? I, uh… don’t think we have those anymore. I could check in the back, I guess…” He glances at Karen, desperate for a little help. She nods to him. “It’s fine. I’ll help him order.”
She reads the menu for me as it scrolls across the inside of her eyes. Or maybe it scrolls directly through her brain—I don’t really know how the tech works. Never cared much.
Either way, it’s embarrassing as hell.
I pick something from her spoken list and we both order. When he’s gone, Karen’s pupils twitch with a deeper scan of me. She offers a sympathetic smile and puts one hand on mine. “Don’t be embarrassed, really. It’s an odd situation for both of us.”
“I’m not embarrassed,” I lie.
“Your cingulate cortex is going wild, and the capillary dilation in your cheeks… well, it’s either embarrassment, or you’re about to have a heart attack. Speaking of, do you know about…?” She points at my chest.
“Yes, thank you.”
“I’d get those veins scrubbed no later than next week.”
“So tell me… why no eyes?”
“It just doesn’t feel right.”
“Ok, but… you don’t mean never, right? You just mean not right now. Like you might consider getting eyes next year, or the year after?”
I shrug. “Doubt it. It’s more of a lifestyle thing.”
She looks as if this dinner will now be a lot longer than she hoped. “I’ve heard of people thinking this, but I’ve never met one of you.”
“They keep us in zoos. I escaped.”
That gets a laugh from her, and I use the minor victory to steer the conversation away from all eye-related subjects. It only gets me in trouble. Her eyes are equipped with lie detection, and she calls me out on my numerous fabrications about career, social life, even how much I exercise.
The mood sours each time.
By the end of the meal, I know better than to ask for a second date. We pay and walk from the restaurant. I prepare for an awkward goodbye, but there is a bit of luck. A crowd has gathered just outside on the sidewalk, all staring up at the sky and pointing.
We join them; I look up, but can’t see a thing. I nudge the person next to me. “What are we looking at?”
“Two satellites fighting it out. One is trying for a dock-infect, and the other is beating the hell out of it. How can you not see…?” He looks over at me. “Oh. Never mind.”
I glance back to see if Karen is enjoying the 300-mile distant show, but she has disappeared. Used the distraction to avoid the “thanks but no thanks” talk.
Well, there’s no sugar-coating this.
I walk straight to the nearest eye vendor. It’s not the most reputable-looking establishment, but that just means I’m likely to find something at my price point.
Yeah, I know what I said. And no, I don’t need new eyes. I don’t even want them.
But dating is kind of essential. And honestly, it might be worth it just to shut the rest of you up.
I ask the sales rep behind the counter and for numbers on a base model pair of eyes and implantation. Before giving me info, he takes my information and does some quick research into my finances. Lots of frowning and wincing ensues.
He looks up at me. “Shouldn’t you be in the market for a heart instead of eyes?” He points at my chest. “You need a new one, and you don’t have the means to get both.”
I feel a surge of annoyance, and my chest tightens painfully. “Just tell me about the eyes, please.”
“Ok. Yes, you could get the most absolutely bottom-basement no-frills model. But geez man, I wouldn’t recommend it. They’re always the first to get hacked, and we don’t offer repair plans with those models. I’m supposed to sell anything we offer, but damn, I’ve got a conscience.”
“No other options?”
“You could get this year’s model, but to get it discounted down to your level, you have to agree to embedded advertising. It’s pretty intrusive stuff.”
“You know anyone that’s done it?”
“Happy with the decision?”
He shrugs. “Dunno. None of them ever came back in.” Yikes. That sounds ominous. But just to be thorough…
“Show me what it costs.”
He turns the screen around. When I get a look at the numbers, the tightness in my chest returns, double intensity this time. Even a crap pair of eyes would cost everything I have, and I’m not ready to part with everything I have.
Donut money comes before eye money.
“Thanks for your help.” I walk out of the shop and find the nearest park bench, plopping down next to a discarded orange blanket for an epic bout of self-pity.
Something shifts next to me; what I took for a blanket is actually a gigantic orange cat curled around a full shopping bag. The damn thing must be four feet long. Its face is vaguely human, with less hair, a high brow, and full lips. One of the new chimera mixes.
I smile down at it. “Stuck holding the bag?”
It nods and points at a nearby storefront. “Mommy and Daddy shopping.”
Geez, these things creep me out. But any company is welcome right now. “Well, it’s nice to meet you. We natural-eyed types have to stick together.”
It shakes its head and waves a paw across its own eyes. The pupils expand and contract rhythmically.
Seriously? The animals, too?
The cat points at my chest.
“Man have bad heart.”
*I decided to go for a goofy little short story this time. I never know whether or not to announce “this is a story” before I begin–maybe you could help me out with this. Is it disorienting to wander through those first few bits, expecting a standard blog post and having to adjust to fiction mode? Or is it fairly obvious from the start? Let me know!