Her Father’s Eyes
by Simon Kewin
Caitlin had her father’s eyes. She kept them in a jar on the mantelpiece. Most people preferred a clock up there, or maybe a nice vase. Something to wedge bills behind. Caitlin liked the eyes better.
You’re not really going out like that are you? You’re dressed like a whore! What will people think?
The voice was angry and heavy with disappointment. It was a particular skill of her father’s.
He wasn’t actually talking, of course. After all, only his eyes remained. His eyes, a portion of his cerebral cortex, and the two optic nerves connecting them. No, the voice was in Caitlin’s head. The voice was a part of her that he had stamped into her mind over the course of her childhood.
For many years she’d believed his words. She had to trust something when she grew up. She needed a yardstick to measure the world against. Her father had given her a poor one, but for years, she’d assumed he was right. She was worthless. Everything he did to her was her fault. When she went out she was simultaneously too ugly for others to look at and so provocatively dressed that she was inviting trouble.
She studied herself in the mirror, touching up her mascara and threading her best silver jewelry through her ears and eyebrows.
Hussy! Painted Jezebel!
It had taken her a long time to untangle the knots in her mind. The eyes were a part of the process. As an adult, she’d tried many things to make sense of her life: therapy, religion, hedonism, poetry. In the end, necromancy had saved her.
Her father had told her she’d fallen in with the wrong crowd. Fortunately, the wrong crowd turned out to be just what she needed. By the time her father died, still ranting and seething at everyone, she knew enough of the forbidden arts to act. To operate.
Like a painting, the eyes followed her around the room as she got herself ready to go out. Unlike a painting, it was no illusion. Caitlin had been very careful with the eyes. Each one sat in a plastic hemisphere with the optic muscles attached. They could turn, they could focus, and they could watch. The fragment of his brain could record and understand. What it couldn’t do was speak or act.
She knew he was in there. Every full moon, she had to renew the rites. As she reworked the incantations, she always caught a glimpse of him: a ball of seething rage, bound to the fragments of his body. Once, she had been small and weak. Now it was the other way around.
Finally ready, she crossed the room to stand in front of the mantelpiece.
“I’ll probably bring someone back,” she said to him, “if anyone takes my fancy. A guy, a girl, whatever.” She liked to imagine he’d learned how to lip read. He was certainly clever enough.
Once, she’d taken great delight in doing every single thing he’d disapproved off when he was alive. A list of things to do after he died, like a bucket list in reverse. She was over that now. Now she did what made her happy, not what made him unhappy. That was a victory in itself. Still, if she could achieve both, it was a win-win.
She gave him a twirl. Her dress didn’t leave a lot to the imagination. It made her feel good.
Whore! Slut! Look what you made me do!
The voice in her head would always be there, but she’d learned not to listen. It was the buzzing of an annoying fly, or a familiar pain in her joints that she had stopped noticing.
She stepped forward to stare directly into the eyes that had scowled away so much of her childhood. Sometimes she still caught that look in them, the cold fury resurfacing. It seemed to be there now. Perhaps she was just imagining it. Or remembering it. It couldn’t hurt her anymore.
She smiled and blew him a kiss. “Don’t wait up now, will you?” She switched off the lights and closed the door, venturing into the evening city that was ready and waiting for her.
From the mantelpiece, two eyes scanned the darkness, unblinking, unsleeping, and unable to do anything but watch and remember.
Copyright © 2014 Simon Kewin