The sun was going down and closing a day that had been hot from morning to late afternoon but was now comfortably warm. I went through to the back garden and found him alone on his chair by the table staring at nothing. And nothing was the literal term because he was blind, even though I knew he would claim he wasn’t.
‘Hello, Dorsett. My name’s Lenton. I’m a friend of Mason’s. Do you mind if I join you?’
‘Grab a chair.’
His head was facing towards the trees but they were in the foreground of something much further away which I suspected he felt more profoundly.
‘Couldn’t he come himself, then?’ he asked.
‘No. I think he might have felt a little uncomfortable.’
‘For blinding me?’
‘I suppose so. Are you totally blind?’ I asked him.
‘Yes. Before, I used to notice the shades of darkness behind my eyes change depending on which direction I was facing. It would be light black behind my eyelids because of the sunlight, and when I faced away it would turn dark black. Those variations have gone now. But I know where the sun is because my skin feels its warmth.’
‘I have to ask you.’ I said. ‘Was it worth it?’
‘Yes, it was.’
He said it as a religious man captured by faith.
‘And I have to ask you,’ he said. ‘Are you grateful you haven’t been through what I’ve been through?’
From my position beside him, his eyes were moving but were almost like pearls with no shine or reflection, milk-white and small surplus weights in his head.
‘Yes.’ I answered. ‘Does that bother you?’
‘Not at all. Because at the risk of sounding childish, I know something you don’t.’
He turned to face me and I shuddered from his appearance. His eyes, though lifeless, seemed to sense my breathing, expressions, motions, even my heartbeats. He knew me like someone capable of telepathy.
‘I couldn’t explain what you wouldn’t be able to understand anyway.’ he said. ‘A double lock.’
‘There must be some way you can convey it.’ I said. ‘You said something about all things being round.’
He took a deep breath and then shook his head slowly.
‘The outline of the sun was the last thing I would ever see in my life,’ he said, ’but it was more than that. A circle gave a deeper meaning, infinity from an isolated image. It might have been a wheel. A rotation. Coming back to a place you started from. Never-ending, yet a finite form. I tried to prepare myself for it. But it wasn’t anything sudden. It was more like water rising to drown me. Only I didn’t suffocate. It felt like the pores in my skin could breathe. These are words the both of us can understand but they don’t come close. And it came only once. Like a photograph that imprints and will never be lost. I can still see it now, but like a dream you try to get back to, there’s nothing to grab at. You still know you dreamt it even though you can’t describe it.
What I saw in the sun at the instant I knew my eyes were gone, that was the moment. I’d paid the price for it and I got what I was looking for. And Mason was right. Sight is a small sacrifice for it. I don’t need eyes anymore.’
I moved my face close to his.
‘Are you the insect on that ball, Dorsett? Can you see yourself from another place? Can you see what it is that keeps us ignorant? Would I see a different photograph if I went through what you did? Or would it be the same one? Would we have the same understanding?’
‘You’ve a short memory.’ he said. ‘It can’t be shared.’
It sounded like resistance but I wasn’t sure.
‘In fact, we shouldn’t even be here.’ he added.
‘Any of us. We’re awkward, self-obsessed organisms doing just enough to exist by asking lots of questions. The best we can ever do is to get to the point where the questions begin to matter. We’ve come a long way, but only on our own selfish platform. We’re looking at the wrong things.’
‘Forget the language you need to detail it.’ I told him. ’You’ve been sitting out here all day and even though your eyes are dead, your mind isn’t. What’s happening in it? What do you see?’
‘I don’t see anything.’
‘Ok. What do you feel?’
‘I feel totally content.’
’For God’s sake Dorsett, give me something.’
He didn’t react to my raised voice and spoke calmly.
‘Do you remember looking at clouds when you were a child, lying flat on the grass with the big white shapes in the sky tricking you into seeing what wasn’t really there?’
‘Well, you’ll be pleased to know; now they make sense.’
A laugh came from him mischievously, but it wasn’t a laugh to be shared; it was one for himself. No one should do that so soon after losing their sight, but it seemed proof of his conviction in his discovery. I looked back at the window of the flat.
‘Is Sam inside?’
‘Can I see her?’
‘Go ahead. She’ll be glad of the company.’
‘But she’s never met me.’
‘Then introduce yourself.’
‘And tell her what, exactly?’
‘Tell her the truth.’
‘That you’re the maker of the man who made me.’
‘Are you serious? She’d throw me out.’
‘You’re right,’ he smiled, ‘she probably would. Tell her we went to the same school together.’
I walked up to the flat and knocked on the back door. She opened it and cast a perfunctory smile in greeting. She wore that tired expression that could only come from a long recent ordeal, but her prettiness remained obvious, waiting to be resurrected.
‘Hello. I’m a friend of Dorsett’s. I thought I’d better introduce myself.’
‘I wondered who you were when I saw you in the garden. Come in.’
‘Thanks. I thought I’d visit and see how he’s getting on. He seems to be managing well.’
She leaned back against the side cupboard.
‘Yes.’ she said.
‘He claims he’s more content, now.’ I told her. ‘Do you believe him?’
She jolted, slightly offended.
‘Why shouldn’t I?’
‘Well, it’s just that it’s a strange thing for anyone to do.’
‘You mean to stare at the sun until you go blind?’
‘He was ill before this. I tell everyone who asks that he had a breakdown. It’s easier.’
‘Why did you go back to him?’ I tried to temper the query with more words. ‘What I mean is, he told me that you broke up. I’m just wondering what made you come back.’
‘I felt a little responsible. Does that answer your question?’
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.’
She gave me a brief glance as she joined me at the table.
‘How long have you known him?’
‘We went to school together.’
She relaxed, her hostility mellowing.
‘I have two choices.’ she said. ‘I can either indulge him with this new insight of his or dismiss him as insane.’
‘That’s quite an option.’
‘Is there any other way to handle it?’
‘To believe in what he’s done without question might seem false.’ I answered. ‘Believing it without paying the same price, however, would make you something like a disciple. Although, one without the same conviction.’
‘We’re going through an old, worn-out theme.’ she said. ‘One I’m tired of listening to. Something must be sacrificed, and usually painfully, to find these so-called truths. But I’ve never heard of one religion that doesn’t demand something as payment. And the bigger the prize, the more painful the sacrifice. Nothing but a sick menu for a worthless service.’
I couldn’t help but imagine years of disruption ahead for them both if her obstinacy remained.
‘Don’t worry. You’ll change.’
‘About religion? Don’t bank on it.’
‘But this isn’t about religion.’
‘If it’s faith, and Dorsett’s mentioned that word before, then it’s religion.’
‘You’re making the wrong association.’ I told her. ‘It’s more to do with belief.’
‘How would you know? You don’t have to live with him. Dorsett, I still have feelings for. But his obsession with this new God of his is something I want nothing to do with.’
‘It isn’t a God, Sam.’
She didn’t seem to be listening, casting a hateful stare in the direction of the back garden.
‘It’s near enough to a God. Something to worship.’
‘No. It’s a knowledge which goes beyond that. He’s not been touched by any God. He’s seen something we’ll never understand. God is just another counterfeit inclusion into a much bigger picture. Stop breaking yourself over mistaken perceptions otherwise, both of you will be hurt. You don’t have to share his revelation, just believe that he has it.’
I knew I’d connected when I saw her turn from the window and look at me.
‘Why are you telling me this? Who are you?’
‘Dorsett was right all along.’ I told her. ‘Mason did interfere in his poems. And Steve, Carol’s boyfriend, is the same person. I created those people. And they created you and Dorsett.’
Her resistance came too fast.
‘You believed him when he said he created Garbutt.’ I told her. ‘Why can’t you believe someone created him?’
She looked about her frantically.
‘I’m phoning the police.’
‘Think about it.’ I told her. ‘When I walked into the garden Dorsett knew who I was even though we’d never met before. You also accepted me as the person I claimed I was, an old school friend of his. What reason would you have not to believe that? Go ahead, touch yourself. Feel your flesh. Pinch it. Because it is a kind of dream, one that Mason made. Only no one is flying in it. There are no characters doing supernatural acts. It’s a life that runs on the rules and instructions of history told to all men and women ever created. Consciousness arrives at a certain age and you fall into the rail tracks that lead you along the preordained route that is past and present. Nothing is real yet anything is possible. Someone or something made me and I don’t know who or what it is. Mason made you and you will respond in the way you should, given the circumstances presented to you by the way this story goes. Dorsett does not exist until you search and find him. You do not exist with him unless he searches and finds you. Dorsett knows all this now and believes it. You suspected it but refused to acknowledge it.’
As I was talking, she was still searching rabidly for her mobile phone and eventually pulled it from the bottom of a bag hanging from behind the kitchen door. She began pressing numbers.
‘That won’t work.’ I said to her.
She put it to her ear, and on hearing nothing, threw it on the floor and made a move to the door. I grabbed her arm and twisted her towards me. She stumbled back against the table and I held her by her shoulders hard against it. For the first time, she looked frightened. I slowly moved both my hands to her throat and held it without force or anger.
‘I could end your life in less than a minute,’ I told her, ‘but it doesn’t have to be me. Mason or Steve could do it. Even Dorsett. Whatever you do now, wherever you go, is up to Mason. Whatever Mason does is up to me. I’m not squeezing your neck. Why? Because I don’t want to harm you. I just want you to know that I have your life in my hands. This way is murderous, one I’d never consider, but in your case, the pen is definitely mightier than the sword. A pot of gold for Garbutt from Dorsett, or an early grave for you. Someone else decides.’
I lowered my hands and sat back down. She remained standing at the table, hesitant. She rubbed her neck, not from any pain received, but from the memory. I spoke quietly.
’Tonight, before you go to sleep, you’ll reflect on what I’ve said and probably think me half-mad. You’re so logically motivated you’ll eventually discard me as a nutcase and readjust your life to normality and recover. But what this experience will do is leave a small grain of doubt inside you, the possibility that there might be some truth in what I’ve said. I’ll settle for that.
‘I’ve never seen any evidence for any God.’ She said bitterly. ‘Dead or living. Where’s yours?’
‘You atheists find it hard to believe in anything out of the ordinary.’ I told her. ‘You want evidence? OK. You will either break a finger before the week is over or lose a leg. Would you prefer that as evidence?’
‘Lose a leg? I’m a lecturer in college. How could that happen?’
‘If I told you, you would try to prevent it.’
‘But if you claim to be my creator then how could I stop you?’
‘You couldn’t. But I’d hate to see your pitiful attempts in trying to avoid it. Accidents happen because people can’t see them coming.’
‘But it wouldn’t be an accident, would it? You would know it was going to happen.’
‘But you wouldn’t.’
‘I would. Because you’ve just told me.’
‘But if you’re not convinced of who I am, then why would you try to avoid it?’
She sat back down at the table.
‘I’ll play your game, then. Give Dorsett his sight back.’
‘I can’t do that.’
‘It’s not credible. His sight was lost permanently. Besides, to give it back would lose him what he’s gained from its loss.’
‘He’d live with it. What blind man would ever be disappointed after regaining his sight?’
‘One who can see much more without it. And it would also return you to your previous situation where you wouldn’t feel the need to return to him. Are your motives to allow him to see again compassionate or selfish?’
The mention of the separation returned unwanted memories for her.
‘I never thought pity would return what I used to feel for him, but it has.’
‘He’d be disappointed to hear that.’
‘If I love him then I love him. Why I do is unimportant.’
‘Well, you have a belief in that, if nothing else.’
‘Yes I do. It’s a faith I can trust.’
‘Love is the biggest gamble there is. Your separation from Dorsett proved that.’
‘Love might be a gamble,’ she said. ‘But religion’s just a thief of common sense.’
‘Love’s also an enclosure you’re happy to be in. But it’s still a prison.’
She threw a sickly grin.
‘You sound like a God alright, teaching your lessons through ransom. Garbutt got a briefcase of money from Dorsett for his troubles. Where’s your gratitude?’
I realised it was an option I hadn’t considered.
‘You don’t need the money.’
‘That isn’t the point and you know it.’
‘I could have had you staring into the sun to find what Dorsett has found.’ I told her.
‘That wouldn’t have happened.’ she said defiantly.
‘And why’s that?’
‘Because I wouldn’t do it, therefore I can’t do it. If Mason is my creator, then he’s already engrained me in a certain way of thinking. To have me do it would not be convincing.’
I had to nod agreement.
‘So you’ve finally accepted who he is.’ I said. ‘Who I am.’
She moved closer.
’I said if.’
‘I recall you weren’t too happy about Dorsett being an agnostic.’ I told her. ‘Yet that’s the second time you’ve expressed doubt.’
She nodded back to the window.
‘I want to know what he sees.’ she said. ‘Not so that I can believe in anything. But because I’m curious.’
I stood at the window and saw him sitting isolated and peaceful, his dead eyes facing a line of high swaying trees. They seemed to be dancing for him.
‘Garbutt was right.’ I said. ‘Curiosity is our impetus. We’re pointless without it. He wouldn’t tell me anything. He said language couldn’t express it.’
An idea came to me.
‘Maybe I’m not asking the right questions.’ I told her.
‘What do you mean?’
‘I’ve been asking him questions he says he can’t answer. Come with me.’
We left the kitchen and walked down to the garden. I placed a chair directly opposite him, sat down, and bent close.
‘Dorsett. Tell me something. Is everything pre-ordained?’
Dorsett looked surprised. ‘How can it not be?’
‘That sounds like an opinion.’ I answered him. ‘We need the truth.’
He reached out for Sam’s hand and pulled her gently towards him.
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘as ordered as a blueprint. Even a man with eyes can see that.’