He thought he would dread the first appearance of the sun. But he couldn’t help but stare at the bright shaft of light as it beamed like a fire flame straight down to the floor of his bedsit. The red carpet showed a more vivid cherry colour under its effect, and he felt the warmth of it as he cupped it in his hand.
It was midday and he looked out of the window to see no clouds anywhere near the star, certainly none near enough to dim its effect even temporarily. There were some darker, heavier ones out in the distance, a reminder perhaps that the time was right and would not last long. He tried not to think that what he would see in the next few moments would be the last things he would ever see. To do so would fix them to memory for the rest of his life. He decided to close his eyes until he got outside and edged himself along the room by the wall, touching his way to the back door and out into the garden.
The heat of the sun felt good on his face and each pause in the flow of the breeze warmed him further. He stood still and lifted his face to the sky and noticed the dark behind his eyelids lighten. Then he opened his eyes wide and stared directly at the earth’s star.
He’d prepared himself to resist. Throughout the night, within moments of broken sleep, he imagined the ordeal to come and forced belief. The first few minutes would be the hardest to bear and if he gave way further attempts would fail. Once the initial pain was subdued it would become a matter of perseverance.
He didn’t know when the comprehension would come. Maybe after his blindness was assured, or perhaps the next day when he’d see something behind them, a portent not requiring vision.
Sharply at first, the pain grew. Gradually heightening, the brightness incinerating all surrounding visions and shapes to nothing. All he could think of was distance. Something far away burrowing ultraviolet light through the eyes to his brain, the consequence for his arrogance to think colossal evolutionary creations could be challenged.
He felt the pain pierce until it rumbled rushes of blood in his ears and caused him to twist his shoulders and neck in an attempt to ease it. His teeth gritted, he heard a snap in his mouth as one fractured and flowed blood in his mouth. Tears streamed down his face and he tasted salt, licked his lips. Instinct was pushing him, but he continued to stare until the sky was white-yellow like furnaced steel, throwing daggers past his corneas to blister the flesh, exploding the light-sensitive cells of his retinas.
Something between eyes and brain, a tissue string, a muscle sinew, tore and detached, and a different pain followed like acid that caused him to whine aloud. Halfway there but still committed, he lifted the binoculars to his eyes and fixed them straight, gripped them hard until his hands shook, determined to see it to the end. All the way, all the way onward, like a man tight in a small tunnel with no room to twist or retreat.
Sam hadn’t seen Dorsett for over a month. Her new lover was slowly occupying her thoughts, at first from behind the remaining affection she still had for Dorsett, but gradually pulling her away and forward to something new. Because of that, she felt more comfortable that it was concern rather than love that urged her to visit him with the excuse of returning a book that belonged to him, one he’d probably already finished. She needed to bury their past officially by readjusting their relationship, a move that would benefit them both. She was worried that he might still be resentful for her unfaithfulness and she didn’t like the indecision: friendship or separation completely, one or the other.
Opening a side gate that led to the rear of the house, she rang the back doorbell to the ground floor bedsit, but there was no answer. She looked behind her and saw steps descending between two overgrown bushes and walked down into an unkempt garden, bloated with foliage. Dorsett was sitting on a chair not far away, staring into the sky. When she called his name, his body gripped the chair momentarily, disturbing whatever thoughts he’d been occupied with. She approached slowly behind him and took the book from her bag.
’Hello Dorsett. How are you?
He wouldn’t answer at first, still staring upwards. Sam looked up to the trees, perhaps to see a bird or squirrel taking his attention but saw nothing. The sun was getting lower but was still strong enough to glow the horizon red, turning the long clouds pink like floss across the sky. Its shine gave a golden reflection off the metal table that caused her to squint and cover her eyes with her hand.
‘I’ve got one of your books.’ She said. ‘I thought I’d better bring it around.’
‘He was right.’ she heard him say. ‘I found it.’
‘Found what?’ she asked, looking under the table for any object that might give a clue. He stretched out his hand to her and she held it. Then Sam noticed the binoculars lying on the grass.
‘What have you been looking at, Dor. Birds?’
‘The stars.’ he said.
‘You mean last night? You’ve been sitting here all day?’
He spoke to her like a child.
‘No, silly. Our star. The Sun.’
She laughed, but when he didn’t, she froze. She looked up to see the sun sedate and yellow gold, its full strength given elsewhere on the other side of the world. Without her even wishing it, it looked like a guiltless but merciless threat.
She bent down to look into his face. His eyes were like glutinous pools of blood-red water. They moved without focus and looked like corpses tugged by strings to imitate life, but she knew they were dead because even though they were facing her, they didn’t see her. They only turned to the direction of her voice. Then she noticed fluid seep from them and realised, stupidly, that he was crying.
‘Everything is round.’ he told her, squeezing her hand. ’It’s so simple, Sam, so easy to understand. Everything that matters is round.’
She bent down and held him to her and his head was arched over her shoulder awkwardly like a child’s. He was smiling and crying but Sam was only crying. They remained in a fixed embrace, two halves of a seal frantic for protection.