Tuesday 6 October 2015

Chronophobia (fear of colors) - #Octobophobia short story

Great cinema is black and white. This is, as far as I’m concerned, indisputable. The use of light and dark to signify everything. Shadows and subtleties that screaming colour can never live up to.

A double bill of Les Yeux Sans Visage and The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. Neither one a favourite of mine, but I couldn’t help but smile at the pairing. Schlock and sublime shock together. I only wish that it was the supposed lost cut of the latter – if it ever existed.

I sat in the projection booth and watch. So many cinemas now have digital, it felt like a privilege to work with well-maintained vintage film cameras. And as venues go, I loved working in this place. 

It’s culty and silly enough not to be fully arthouse, but there’s a genuine love of film seeping through every pore.

It’s after those films that I first noticed the colour.

I was sat in the pub with some colleagues and closed my eyes after looking at the menu and there were  lines and shapes dancing around behind my eyelids. Nothing unusual, of course. But they were a more vivid and sharp than they normally are.

I wear glasses, due to short sightedness, and I’m fully aware that I’m at risk of further sight loss as I get older. I get floaters in my vision fairly regularly, but I don’t worry too much about it.

What surprised me about the colour behind my eyelids was that it didn’t feel quite as natural. It…shone. It was like a burst of neon colour lit across the inside, and after it flared, it had gone.

It was, I thought, probably something outside. Someone had taken a photograph and the lens flash had taken me by surprise. I’d looked at something just as it went off, and it burned an after-effect into my vision.

The next morning, I woke up to it when my son came into the room, shouting that he was late for school. A vibrant, glowing river of colour behind my eyelids. It didn’t last long. Just enough to wake me up in a panic, utterly confused and disorientated.

It lasted a bit longer this time. It hung around for a couple of minutes, bright against my eyelids, burning them. When I opened my eyes, I could still see brief lines and shapes, like looking at the outline of a magic eye painting. But they faded quickly.

Driving carefully, I took him to school. I can’t remember the last time I drove with my foot hovering over the brake so gingerly.

That night, as I became more tired, helping him with his homework, the lights returned when I closed my eyes.  This time, it went on for long minutes, burning each time. Bright reds, yellows, scalding greens and blues. Shimmering crystal razor blades against my eyes each time. I tried to keep my eyes open, but each time I blinked, it was like having a shotgun go off in front of me.

By the time it stopped, I was in agony. My eyes felt scalded and sore. When I looked into the mirror, they were bloodshot.

My son looked at me, scared.

When it stopped, I did the obvious thing. I googled. I looked for symptoms, and after convincing myself it wasn’t meningitis, I decided it would be worth going to the doctor. This could be a stroke or similar.

I called the following morning. But by the time my appointment came round a few days later, I was in the hospital, sedated and in bed.

Unconsciousness was the only place that I could escape from the colours. Which were just getting brighter and more vivid each time. And it was going for longer and longer.

I would occasionally get a small bit of relief, and it would stop, and I’d be able to focus for a while on other things. But then it would return, even stronger than before.

They ran tests. They looked for eye damage, brain damage, tumours, blood diseases… nothing. Every eye test they could run, they ran. But they could see from the darkening colour of my eyes that something was happening.

The only time I had a prolonged period of relief was when my eyes were held open and moisturised with drops during some of the tests. While it was uncomfortable, it wasn’t the blinding lights that I saw when I closed my eyes.

And the colours were getting brighter and brighter still. Coalescing into the purest white.

Every time I closed my eyes, it was like staring at the sun. Even for a second, it hurt.

My son didn't understand, but I didn’t want him to hear my screams. He was staying with my ex for a while, and even she burst into tears when she visited and heard me.

I thought about his face. But each time I’d tried to look at him, a blink had led to fierce, stabbing pain. I thought of the movies, those pristine lines, and all I could see was the light from the projection booth. Harsh. Unforgiving.

This went on for weeks, until I could finally take no more.

In the middle of the night, while the hospital was at its quietest, I pushed my fingers into my eyes. 
Both at once. I tried not to think about the pain as I tore into them.

One of them ripped and tore, blood and liquid pouring down my face, as I held the remains in my hand. The other one came out whole, and I ripped at the fleshy connections to the back of my eye socket.

With no small effort, it ripped away, and for a moment, I knelt and laughed in relief. The pain was almost overwhelming, but not as much as that sense of freedom.

The blood and liquid dripped over my top and lap (which I could feel, each drop hotter than I’d expected). I laughed. In hope. In freedom. In pain.

And then I closed my eyes.

Whiteness blinded me once again. Intense, shining, glaring whiteness.

Like staring into the sun. Into death.

I could still see.

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