VISION OF THE WORLD • by Michael Mallory

Janelle rushed home as fast as her legs would take her, which was a new experience for her. Rushing up three flights of stairs winded her to the point of hyperventilation, but she did not care.

She had the treasure. That was all that mattered.

Fumbling her keys out of her jeans pocket, Janelle unlocked the door to her apartment and ran inside, slamming it behind her. She slid down onto the floor as she studied her prize. To the uninitiated it would have looked like a pair of normal eyeglasses, perhaps larger than most, and with thicker lenses. But she knew the lenses were really portals into a different, more beautiful, more poetic world.

Until now, this vision of the world had been seen only by her Master. Not that Brad Mayberry knew he was Janelle’s Master, or knew that she existed, except maybe on a spiritual level. Someone with his divine vision and superhuman ability to communicate it through writing had to understand that he had dedicated followers. Janelle, who had never used a computer and never would, who spent her meager trust money on little else but food and books, who had no friends other than those made of ink and paper, had followed many leaders in the past. But they were false gods, may they rot! Brad Mayberry was the real thing. The rest of the world thought he was merely an author. She knew him as the one who spoke to her directly, who revealed his amazing, truthful vision of the world. She had become an addict to his vision, to the point where she wanted it for herself.

At first it had frustrated and depressed her that she could not share her Master’s vision of the world. Then one day it had come to her.

She had seen many pictures of Brad Mayberry taken throughout his life, and every one of them showed him wearing large, thick glasses… lenses through which he viewed the world. Without them, he could not see.

Those glasses were responsible for his vision.

At first she tried to find similar glasses, looking in the same thrift shops where she bought her clothes. But even if she had found a pair, they would have been nothing but replicas. Her days of following false ones were over; what Janelle needed were the real things.

It had to be an act of God that had delivered Brad Mayberry to her. When she read he was going to be giving a talk at the library here in town, Janelle felt something she had never experienced before, a sensation that nearly overtook her, like a force filling her up. He was coming here, coming to her! She would be ready.

When she first saw her Master at the auditorium that feeling came over her again, only stronger this time. It had not been difficult at all to approach him, though once she had gotten his attention, she found herself speechless. It hardly mattered. She was not there to make conversation. Reaching up, she grabbed his glasses, tore them from his head and sprinted away through the crowd. Someone tried to follow her, but she actually managed to outrun them. She did not stop running until she had reached her home.

Having gotten her breathing under control, Janelle examined the glasses more carefully. They looked so normal, so functional. Then again, so did a cross. She started to put them on, but stopped herself, feeling her heart racing. Was she really ready to experience Brad Mayberry’s vision of the world? Was she really worthy? After a minute, she decided it was now or never. She shut her eyes and slipped the stems of the glasses over her ears, then stood up. Opening her eyes, she saw —

Nothing. At least nothing clear. Everything was blurred and distorted, not beautiful. This wasn’t right. What kind of vision was this? She tried to walk into the living room, but her sight was so impaired that she ran straight into a bookcase and yelped in pain. Lurching away from the bookcase, she stumbled into a table and cried out again. Then Janelle lost her balance and went down, hitting the floor face first.

She rolled over on her back, sobbing. The glasses had hurt her. They were false! False!

She pulled them off and threw them across the room, then rubbed her sore nose, which took the brunt of her fall along with her breasts, though only her nose was in danger of swelling up. For a long time, Janelle didn’t know what to do, what to think. She had been so certain those glasses would provide the vision she so longed to possess. What had gone wrong?

At once, the truth came to her, and she laughed. “How stupid can you be, Janelle Robinson!” she admonished herself. Getting up, grateful she was not more seriously injured than a sore nose and boobs, she laughed even louder.

She had to be crazy; she really did. How could she have thought a simple pair of glasses meant anything? That was so stupid. She was so stupid to have ever believed it. Vision of the world in a pair of glasses, indeed! Stupid! Stupid! It wasn’t in the glasses at all.

It was Brad Mayberry’s eyes she had to have.

Michael Mallory is the author of some 100 short stories, mostly mystery, which have been published everywhere from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine to Discovery, the magazine of Hong Kong Airlines. His books include the collection The Exploits of the Second Mrs. Watson and the novel Murder in the Bath.

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