From the journal of Dr. Mitchell Smythe.
Our experiments have yielded better results than we had ever imagined! I am more than confident we are ready to go ahead with human trials. In 80% of test chimpanzees, full sight was completely restored.
By using our new stem cell technique, we can join the nervous cells in one chimpanzee’s eye sockets with those on the eyes of a donor chimp and restore sight to a blind individual.
We have received final approval! The laboratory was overjoyed when I shared the news. We are making preparations for human trials and just awaiting the fortuitous circumstances when we have a donor match with one of our blind participants.
Still no matches.
Finally! We have procured a pair of eyes which are a perfect match for one of our participants. Christopher Stewart, 23, from Cambridge, England, was an organ donor who committed suicide three weeks ago. His eyes are a perfect size and shape match for Peter Trelaine, 37, a man who lost his eyes in a car accident a young age. Mr Stewart overdosed on painkillers in the bath and died without causing any lasting damage to his eyes or visual nerves. Its almost like he knew.
I met with Mr Trelaine and explained the procedure, that it was untested and impossible to know whether it was possible. He was amiable and smiled throughout the interview, joking that “Worst case scenario, I might still be blind.”
Mr Trelaine is under anaesthesia and we are preparing to perform the surgery. My arms are shaking. I am nervous, but also excited at the possibilities!
The operation has been completed. Mr Trelaine is still out cold, but Mr Stewarts’ eyes appear to have successfully bonded. I eagerly await the results/
Success! Mr Trelaine saw his wife’s face for the first time today. They both wept, and I felt a tear in the corner of my own eye as well. I have asked him to stay with us for a while, so we can assess the results of the operation and see whether the effects are long-lasting.
I am still reeling from the events of the day. After years of study and trials, to finally have a successful human candidate . . . a cure for the blind! I am overjoyed. Already, my mind is racing ahead to the next challenge; to construct an artifical eye, so donors will no longer be required and this cure will be available to everyone.
But I must force myself to remain in the present. There are many weeks of testing ahead with Mr Trelaine before I can be sure of total success. I must temper my enthusiasm with scientific logic.
My first day of tests with Mr Trelaine since the operation.
Mr Trelaine is a thin man, with dark brown hair greying in the corners. He smiled at me as we sat down. His smile is amusing, childlike. I think to myself that he probably doesn’t even know what a smile is.
We began with some simple tests, identifying colours and shapes. He learned incredibly quickly, and I was very happy with the results. I am confident the procedure has been a success, but there is still much to learn and Mr Trelaine is all too happy to help.
Today we attempted something I’ve wanted to try since we began, and which Mr Trelaine enjoyed immensely. Drawing. He has an incredible aptitude for it, and has been copying shapes with surprising skill.
He has also made a request to meet the family of Mr Stewart. I was initially reluctant to put forward his request, but he talked me around and after phoning the family, they agreed to a meeting next month.
Mr. Trelaine has been learning to read at a remarkable rate, no doubt thanks to the fact he has been a highly capable reader of Braille for much of his life. I look forward to teaching him to write, so our correspondence can continue for a long time in the future.
Mr Trelaine’s drawing is remarkable. He has completed some excellent still life drawings, and has made a surprising request. He would like to draw me.
Mr Trelaine sat in front of me and looked at me intently. He had asked that I remain completely still and I felt compelled to agree after all the help he had been with my studies. He was unlike anyone I had ever watched. He stared at me throughout the duration of the sketch, never looking down at what he was drawing.
He drew in an unusual order; first, a strand of my hair. Then a line or two of my chin, then some shading of my cheek. He drew what at first I thought were teardrops on my cheeks. Then he got to my eye.
My eye was a dark, black void with white shapes pouring out.
“What are they?” I asked.
“The maggots. I know, its hard to get them right because they’re always moving and wriggling.”
I felt my hand touch my face instinctively. “There are no maggots on my face.”
“Of course there are. There always are.”
“You’ve never mentioned this before.”
“I thought it would be impolite. Nobody else mentions them.”
I let him finish his disgusting drawing in silence. The world seem darker around me, and my mood dropped noticeably. This was the first sign of complications in the entire time since the operation. Hallucinations, and apparently throughout our entire time together. Perhaps the brain ahd not accepted the graft as readily as I had at first assumed.
In the days since the illustration of myself, I have watched Mr. Trelaine draw a few other people. Members of staff here at the lab and of his own family. Most came out completely ordinary, apart from the fact that they were incredibly accurate pictures for a man who had, until recently, been blind.
However, when he came to draw his wife, she had three glaring and unusual features. The first were her eyes; jet-black, featureless orbs, like pebbles. Next was her tongue, a long, thin, forked thing that snaked from her moth. But when the picture was finished, the most glaring thing was the most ordinary. He had drawn a perfect likeness of a human face. It was not his wife’s face.
When she saw it, I saw a look of horror in her face which went unnoticed by Trelaine. She glanced at me, but neither of us said a word.
Today we met with the family of Mr Stewart. His mother and father were quite unlike what I had expected. Middle-aged and of obviously high income, both were well-spoken and polite. Stewart senior was full of questions about the procedure and our results, and seemed to be pleased that his son’s death had helped Mr Trelaine so much. If he grieved his son’s passing, he did well to hide it.
His wife was quite the opposite; she had few questions, and much to tell me about her son. She insisted, multiple times, that he was a good boy and did not do drugs. As she told me more about his life, she became more tearful, explaining how he had begun to see things and that nobody they had taken him to had been able to help. She broke down and began to cry. I was glad her husband was there to comfort her, as I quite selfishly found myself feeling angry at the fact that none of her son’s mental issues had been in the medical records I had read.
Finally, their daughter joined us. As soon as she entered the room, I recognised her. Her eyes were quite normal, reddened slightly where she had obviously been crying, and I did not see her tongue. But she was clearly the girl from the picture Mr Trelaine had drawn of his wife.
Today, I took three sheets of paper into the room to see Mr Trelaine. One contained passages of text and the other two were blank, where I hoped he would copy the passage out for me. I handed him the first passage and he read it out to me, one of the solliloquies from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
After he finished, he asked “What’s on that one?”
I held up the sheet he was pointing at, to show him it was blank, but he snatched it from my hand and looked at it quietly. He began to talk, the same as before, as though he were reading something from the page.
“The flesh is a cage and the man begs to be set free. The man is a coward. They all are. The only cure for cowardice is to cut it away, to throw it to the fires and watch the man burn piece by piece. The fire sets him free and in freedom he can see the dark one, and know his bidding, and be thankful to do it freely. The man longs for the dark one and must be allowed to reach him.”
I gathered up the papers and left. I sat alone in my office for a long time and thought.
Mr Trelaine knocked on my office door this morning and silently handed me a letter he had written. He gave me a brief, lingering look then turned around and left.
I watched him for a moment, then looked at the letter.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for restoring my sight to me. Unfortunately, I can no longer remain here with you at the university. You have shown me nothing but kindness, but the man who watches me in my room is more than I can take. Every night, I see him in the corner of the room. Standing, staring. His eyes shine red like the light on your camera and his stare is relentless.”
I read the letter twice before my senses came back to me and I ran after him. I stepped outside just in time to see him climbing into a car and leaving. His wife emerged from the building behind me.
Mr Trelaine did not return to his home. The police had no leads on the car.
Still no word from Mr Trelaine, and I still have not been able to find any record of Mr Stewart’s psychiatric treatment.
Mr Trelaine’s body was found today. The police ruled it a suicide, and also tied him to seventeen gruesome murders in the same building. He had thrown himself from the roof of a block of flats. But not before pulling out his eyes.
Credit To – Luke JJ Summerhayes
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