Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Vignettes by Me, on Themes Picked Randomly: Day Six

Theme 180: First Eye Contact

The old glazier Ichor nursed a vodka tonic at the far end of the bar, furtively watching the door.

“Master Ichor! What a rare treat!” exclaimed a thin man who took Ichor by surprise, as he seemed to have materialized instantaneously in the seat beside Ichor. He clapped his hand on Ichor and gripped his arm. He was wearing the unmistakable flannel gray of a Party official.

“I—” Ichor began.

“No, please, no false modesty,” the thin man interrupted. His mannered formality veiled a slight accent. “Though we’ve never met, your hallowed reputation as a master of glassworks proceeds you. I am only too, too honored to speak with you. As it just so happens, I have something with me, or rather two things, I would love for you take a look at and get your expert appraisal of. I know you’ll appreciate them!” The thin man placed a small teak valet on the bar. He unhooked its latch and took out from its padded interior a glass eye, which he held up to Ichor’s face.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” the thin man remarked, turning the eye between his thumb and forefinger through a narrow shaft of daylight that ran across the bar, illuminating the eye’s pale blue iris. “Of course, you’d have to have seen it in its proper setting, its owner’s head, to fully appreciate it. Unfortunately, the owner was a young woman, barely nineteen, who was shot earlier this morning. It seems she was an agent against the Party. Can you believe it? So young, so fresh …”

“You see,” the thin man continued after a pause, “she had managed to get through undetected at the Security Checkpoint—which, as I’m sure you’re aware, is very thorough in its cavity searches. She would have gone unpunished on the other side, too, if I hadn’t personally tracked her down after noticing an odd statistical irregularity: a second person with a glass eye of the same make went through the Checkpoint, on the same day!”

The thin man placed the first eye beside Ichor’s drink and took out a second glass eye from the valet, which he again held up to Ichor’s face. This eye’s iris was deep green. “Equally exquisite, don’t you agree? This one was taken from a young man, also barely nineteen, also shot this morning, under very similar circumstances—though we’re fairly certain these two young people had never met. Sad, isn’t it, that this is the way a young man and woman’s eyes should first meet? Ha!” The thin man took up the eyes and clicked them together to make his point.  

“You say they were killed—for having glass eyes?” Ichor inquired haltingly.

“Oh no, of course not. What a monstrous thought! Though it did turn out that both of these unfortunate young people had suffered ‘accidents’ not a week prior, resulting in a loss of the left eye in both cases. But even such an extreme statistical anomaly would not be cause enough to bring accusations. Herein lies the ingenious point, which, again, I know you will appreciate as a master glassworker. For we never would have noticed that both eyes were from the same craftsman if not for a most incredible maker’s mark they both have.”

The thin man carefully turned one of the eyes to show Ichor its rear portion. “You see, there is a transparent space at the back here. It allows light to come in and then out through the iris on the other side—though the difference between the translucent and opaque parts are imperceptible from the front. Just beautiful! Now watch what it projects when the light comes through.” The thin man moved the blue eye into the sun and adjusted its angle until a bluish hook shape appeared on the surface of the bar. He did the same with the green eye, resulting in the appearance of an identical, except greenish, shape beside the first. “The maker’s mark: the Greek letter, iota!”

“You’re right, this is quite ingenious work. But the young people were killed for this?” Ichor asked.

“No, no. I’m not finished. Watch.” The thin man now slowly turned the eyes toward one another until their lines of sight met and crossed, causing the two maker’s marks to overlap exactly. And here a hidden turquoise image appeared inside the iota symbol. It was an intricate set of patterns that would have to be viewed under a microscope—perhaps they were floorplans or blueprints. A smile broadened across the thin man’s face as he looked from the patterns to Ichor. “Such cleverness, I almost wish I could have let those two go, let them meet for the first time on the other side. Almost. But again we have an instance of the new Party science of statistics outmatching the old arts. So it goes!”

The thin man placed the glass eyes back in the valet, stood up, and put the little valet into his coat pocket. “Now, may I ask you to accompany me to my office, Master Ichor, so that together we may identify the craftsman who made this wonderful, treasonous artifact, the one signified by the iota mark, whoever he may be? You understand the importance of doing so, don’t you?”

“Yes,” croaked Ichor, and he stood and left the bar with his captor.

Explanatory Postscript: When I say “picked randomly,” I mean picked from a Master List that I’ve compiled of 999 themes intended to serve as creative writing prompts (from the following sources: 501 Writing Prompts; 25 Creative Writing Prompts; Examples of Themes; List of Themes; 365 Creative Writing Prompts; 100 Themes Challenge Writing Prompts; List of Journal Ideas; and Top 10 Types of Story Themes). To pick a theme at random, I roll three ten-sided dice (the first for the hundreds place digit, the second for the tens, and the third for the singles) and find the theme under the number I have rolled. If I hit a theme I have already written on, I roll again. If I ever roll 000, I make up a theme. The Master List is a secret, so don’t ask for it.

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