Ahh…there it goes again.
I keep seeing a shadow flitting just past my field of vision in the outer corner of my right eye.
The thing of it is, when I turn to my right to see it, it’s gone…but not gone. Still hiding out at the edge of my field of vision as if it knew I was going to turn and so moved as I did.
Apparently, I’m going to have to put up with this for another ten days because that’s when I’m going to have surgery on the eye to correct what is known as a macular pucker.
Every time I say that word, “pucker,” somewhere in the corner of my mind, I hear Doris Sadowski from grammar school saying, “Pucker up, buttercup.” I have no idea why my brain has chosen to keep that particular phrase and her particular voice popping into the forefront of my mind, but I have stopped questioning why my mind works the way it does. I just accept it.
I write for a living, and I make fairly good money at it. Not as much as Dean Koontz or Stephen King, but enough to keep me in a six-room apartment overlooking the East River in Manhattan. You know where those new buildings were built, almost opposite Ground Zero? Well, no matter. The place is new; you practically need a passport to get in, it’s so secure. That was something that never concerned me, but now security is a high priority.
I used to live in an apartment on Pineapple Street in Brooklyn. I loved the neighborhood, my neighbors knew me on sight and everyone was just funky enough for my taste.
But then, I came home one night last winter and walked in on this massive person sporting a military buzz cut and dark aviator sunglasses who was comfortably ensconced in my favorite chair. He said he had been waiting for me to arrive home so that I could open the safe he somehow knew I had. The three-hundred-pound safe was bolted to the floor in my office. Well, really a spare bedroom, but it was my office for all intents and purposes. Anyway, I knew the folly of arguing the point and so proceeded to open the safe for him. What he was not aware of was that I’d just come home from the bank. I had opened a safe-deposit a couple of weeks ago and placed most of my jewelry, what few bearer bonds I owned, my latest manuscript and copies of everything I’d ever written into the box.
Today, I’d also deposited most of my cash on hand.
This person was, to say the least, pissed when he discovered how little cash the safe held.
While I was pleading my case to him, he demonstrated his displeasure by hauling off and bouncing his Mag light off the back of my head.
I was out for almost eight hours. When I awoke, I was on the floor in the office inhaling carpet cleaner. The opened safe had been cleaned out of the nine hundred or so dollars I’d left as “mad money” and my front door was gently knocking on the wall behind it due to the slight draft in the hall. I decided then and there that Brooklyn was no longer for me and moved by the end of that month to where I am now…a nice secure building where all the doormen know me on sight and where I could probably leave my door unlocked, hell – even opened, and still feel confident of my safety.
Except for this shadow thing.
Dr. Rhoades from the Manhattan Retinal Care Group swears it’s the pucker, and I’m sure she’s right. I guess after my “incident” I’m inclined to be paranoid.
Oh, yeah, I never introduced myself.
My name is Marshall Malone. You might have read one of my books. I write mostly edgy psychological suspense novels. Right now, I’m writing a series based on this one particular detective…Drake Scanlon. He’s my age – forty-three. He is tough, cynical and smart. Of course, he’s just enough of a heartthrob to have had his share of women, but now he’s involved with a Doctor from New York Hospital and he’s pretty sure she’s “the one.” Actually, Patrice (that’s her) is pretty certain she’s pregnant and is not sure of how receptive he’ll be to the idea of being a father. I’m not sure either, but I will find out as the story unfolds.
I’m one of these writers who sort of “hears” his characters.
Once the spark of a story forms in my mind and as I start to write it down, I begin to hear the way the characters speak, see the way they look and each one is an individual. It’s really kind of cool. Like I know each one personally. Like…friends.
Never had a lot of those growing up. Went to a Catholic grammar school in Brooklyn. I was always one of the shortest kids in the class. And to add insult to injury, I was one of the smartest and a daydreamer to boot. If that isn’t a killer combo for a kid, let me know what is. I was an only child and not real good at socializing with my peers. I could hold a conversation with an adult, but with kids, I was a mess. So kids, being the kind, gentle creatures they are, began calling me “Marshall Alone.”
In some ways, it was fine by me. I didn’t get invited to many birthday parties but hey, the way I looked at it, I was saving my parents money and they didn’t have a lot to begin with.
Just for fun, I began making up stories. Dragons, witches, angels, devils, cowboys, monsters, aliens…they were all fair game. I had a whole set of friends from whom to choose. Who needed reality when fantasy was so easily accessible to me? Of course, I had the bright idea to start writing it all down and naturally, this didn’t make me any more popular with my peers. My English teachers were impressed, but the kids – not so much.
High school was my “coming of age” and I did really well. Won a few writing contests, went out for varsity football, (by junior year I was six feet tall) and now, kids were seeking me out. I even had a girlfriend! Funny the way your life can do a one-eighty!
As I said, I’ve done more than OK as a writer. This macular pucker thing is bringing me down though. Can’t wait for the surgery (well, most of me can’t wait, the rest of me is scared stiff. Guess it’s a good thing I can touch type!)
Ahh, damn…there goes that phantom again. Just wish he’d stay still long enough for me to see him…
OK, so I had the surgery and it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. Aside from having to lie in a face down position for two solid weeks…I got through. We all do what we have to…
After the two-week period, I was able to sit up, which meant I was able to sit with my laptop and write again. The problem was, I couldn’t write. Lots of ideas, but none of them were amounting to very much.
And my phantom was getting more aggressive.
Instead of just glancing him as he slid to the right of my field of vision, he was now becoming…unmoving, as it were. Sort of “hanging out” just to my right.
I know my left eye has no pucker…at least as of my last check-up which was about ten days ago. It must just be some sort of phenomena brought on by the stress of the surgery and the further stress of my writer’s block. I do not like this creature loitering in my field of vision. He’s like a massive shadow prowling about. I can sort of see through him but everything beyond is darker.
I think Dr. Rhoades is ready to send me to a psychiatrist because, according to the extensive testing she has performed on my left eye, and the follow-up testing on my right, both eyes are in perfect condition. There is no physiological reason why I should be having floaters – she’s certain that they are the “phantom” of which I speak. Therefore, she feels, that the problem must be psychological – perhaps a remnant of my encounter with that thug in Brooklyn. I disagree.
I know what I am seeing…I think.
This singularity which has skulked persistently in the outer corner of my eye has become emboldened by my lack of action. My lack of action is brought about by sheer terror. This phantom, this…creature is not a figment of my imagination, of this I am certain. It is real…as real as this keyboard I am using to tell you my tale.
I truly wish there was a happier ending. But the ending is very close. You see, he has advanced from the outer corner to the very center of my vision.
He is approaching me – step by step – and I cannot stop him.