Francis’ voice wafts through the smells of anaesthetics towards my ward-bed. My brother has come to take me from the operation. There’s a twinge sometimes in the thousand and twenty places where they implanted the magnets, but most of the pain has gone. Once I get out of this room — the doctors say — then the neodymium inside me will come to life.
The door creaks open with a draft. My brother’s footsteps patter towards me. He smells of mothballs.
“Merry Christmas, Reg,” he says. “Still sore?”
“I’m ready to get out of here. Can you imagine how hospitals smell to the blind?”
Francis chuckles. “Come on you. Get dressed and we’ll sign the papers. Here, I brought your clothes.”
They thump down at the foot of my bed. I walk to them, lift my tweed jacket to my nose. I run my fingers over the breast pocket. They tingle as they touch the steel pen. I press this to my forehead. The magnets tickle me there.
“Are they working?” my brother asks.
I nod. It’s not the first time I’ve tried them. The doctors ran tests with metal rods, asking if I felt numbness here, pain there.
I go to the bathroom, get dressed. At the desks, Francis signs the papers. He asks if I can feel the receptionist’s jewellery. I’m not close enough for that. I can though feel the radio-scanners and respirators and cardio-monitors reaching out at me from the wards.
We walk towards Francis’ car. A chill washes over me. Snow crunches under my feet. We get in the car. My body thrills when Francis starts the engine.
“Ma’s going to be ecstatic,” he says.
I smile. It will be great to hear Ma too. Francis lets me feel the new scarification of a spider on his left forearm. I often wonder what he must look like with all those tattoos.
We’re soon at Ma’s apartment block. I hold Francis’ arm as we climb the stairs outside. He lets me hold the doorknob, but it’s brass so I only feel its chill.
Up top, Ma greets me with a kiss and Francis rushes me to the lounge. He sounds excited. “For the first time you’ll be able to see Christmas.”
He flicks a switch and something ignites in front of me. My body spasms, like when Francis started the engine. Then it comes to life. The magnets inside me tingle in waves and rhythms and motions of myriad frequencies and colours.
“Can you see the lights?” Francis asks.
A door opens behind. Aromas of turkey, cranberries, Christmas pudding and brandy sauce waft through.
“Oh, you boys,” Ma says. “Why can’t you just be happy with the bodies you have?”
She’ll never understand. She’ll never know blindness and what it’s like to gain a new sense, what it’s like to be able to ‘see’ Christmas.
Francis holds my shoulder. “Here,” he says. “I got your present. Maybe you can work out what it is.”
Chris Behrsin is a working Speculative Fiction writer, born and native to Britain but currently living in a small lakeside town in Poland. He is a previous first-place competition winner of the UK Spinetinglers magazine competition. For his day job, he teaches English as a foreign language and occasionally takes on technical authoring or other IT based work. He is also a graduate of both James Gunn’s (8 weeks) and Cat Rambo’s (6 weeks) on-line courses.