Cyclops (a short story of a spectacle quest)

The Cyclops picked up a magazine from the pile on the coffee table and opened it.  The edges of the pages were creased with the imprints of hundreds of other people’s fingers.

He turned page after page, absorbing the details slowly, carefully.  Famous faces, dieting, having children, love nests, divorces, mug shots.

He recalled once, being taken to visit a cousin, who lived a day’s ride from Mt Etna, he’d listened to his relatives talking about their diets, having children, love nests, divorces. Wives being turned into spiders, Gods turning into swans and bulls.

No. People never changed even if clothing and hairstyles did.

Evidently the world was full of tragedies for some, delights for others.

The full colour glossy photographs of groomed women and men and children stared at him. He stared back into their two eyes, blue, brown, green, grey.

People never really changed.

He dropped the magazine back onto the table,  stretched out his legs, looking around the room.

He was surrounded by soulless, glinting eyes, not watching him, twinkling.

Eyes that were mathematically arranged on tall clear plastic towers.  It could spook someone who was not expecting it, if he had drunk of the nectar, he might think he was being watched by creatures from the underworld. He was glad he was in full possession of his senses.

It had been a long time since tasting that nectar.

Imagine if The Oracle were here, she’d go a bit strange dealing with all these soulless eyes, carefully arranged. Stranger than normal, anyway…

All around, mirrors shone softly in the fluorescent light, the distant hum of music, people, and the very human sound of greed, could be heard outside the door. He was partitioned off against it – in with the monstrous glinting eyes.

The soft irregular tapping of fingers on a keyboard was rather soothing. A phone rang out, shrill, he flinched. It was answered by the receptionist, the clicking ceasing temporarily, replaced by her voice, murmuring softly.  Her voice stopped, the phone clicked shut, and the tapping resumed.

He sighed and looked at his watch.

A door opened, a suited man wafted out and wandered over to the reception desk, paper in hand, waving to get the attendant’s help.

She it and led the man away to one of the towers, span it, plucked a pair of eyes from it.  They began to talk, they seemed to have an interesting thing to talk about. He strained to listen but could not make out what they were saying.

Boring. He  wanted to look around him, or do something else but it was too disconcerting, all that flashing glass.

He hoped it was his turn next.

He turned his eye to the other person waiting, a business looking woman.  Cream suit.  Soft hands.  His gaze dropped to his own strong hands, scarred and burnt from forging.

“Mr Cyclops, please.”

A voice called from the room behind the opened door.

He stood up and entered the room, ducking his head under the doorframe, blinking in the dimmer light in the consulting room..

“I’m Helen, I’ll be fixing you up today”.

Helen was an efficient looking woman in blue, she told him where to sit.

“And what can I do for you today, Mr Cyclops”.

She peered at him briefly, then settled in her complicated chair and straightened some pieces of paper that were on her desk. She picked up her pen and frowned at the paper. He saw his name and address were typed on it.

Definitely not the Helen he knew of old. This one was efficient, nice enough, but you’d not launch a single ship for her face.

Well.

Mabye a small one.

A dingy. He smiled. Most women were worth at least launching a dingy for.

“I think I might need glasses,” he said.  “I’ve been getting headaches a lot lately”.

“Oh, right, we’ll have a look into that, then!” Helen said, gesturing him to take an seat in front of the eye device.

He sat.

“Now,” she continued, “When do you get these headaches?  Reading?  Looking at a computer screen?”

He thought of the flying sparks, his hand holding the red hot sword on the forge, as he swung with all his strength the hammer, over his head to smash in front of him.  Pounding the blade thinner and thinner.  The burning of the lava as it flowed around the cooled sword, held in its depths, forging the steel. Glowing and radiating, his eyebrows curling and snapping and smoking, the skin on his nose and cheeks curdling and scorched.

“No,” he said.  “I don’t’ work with computers.  I don’t read…I can’t read for long, it hurts my eyes.”

“Well, then, are you having trouble seeing when you drive?”

He thought of his brother, a stake in his eye, screaming in agony, as those fleece-clad heroes ran for their lives through the caves, screaming and whooping with joy.

If he’d had a car at that point, he would have been able to take his injured brother to the healer in a matter of days, not the weeks of travel it had taken, dragging the litter behind him, thirsty, hungry, knowing his work was piling up while he was gone..  Complaining of course. Always complaining, his brother.

(“How was I meant to know who ‘no one’ was, it’s not FAIR”).

He shook his head.

“I don’t drive. But I walk…I walk everywhere. Sometimes I find it hard to focus on the road signs,” he said.

Helen wrote this down.
“Now, what is it you do most of the day”, she asked.

“Well, forging.  Swords, that sort of thing.”

“Swords…Righto. Do you wear protective eyewear?”

“Ummmm…I sometimes bind damp cloth around my head,” he said hesitantly.  “Nothing more than that, normally.”

Helen made a tutting noise.  “Well, you should definitely be wearing safety goggles, what’s your OH and S rep thinking?” she asked. “You will probably be eligible for workcover, you’ll have to fill in some forms and we’ll put them in for you.”

Without waiting for an answering comment, she said,  “Ok, now lean forward, rest your chin on this brace…good. I’m going to check your vision.”

He did as he was told.

He would never have put his head into any sort of brace in the old days.

Remember what Delilah did to Samson! Never rest your head when there is a woman around, Samson had been adamant about it, that time down at the pub. He’d been very convincing. Still, in those days, women didn’t wear white coats and talk about refraction, either.

This one wasn’t brandishing scissors, knives, stakes.

And he had no power she could take so easily.

Not like the other Helen.

The Optometrist was shining a light into his eye telling him:

“Look at my right ear…now my left ear….deary me, this is somewhat irregular. Normally people have TWO eyes, so I can’t get you to cover one and read the little sign with the other, now, can I…good, now, what was is the little E facing…good, mmmm, right, yes, next line please….”

She took out a little tray of tiny glass circles and rapidly put some together. Holding it up in front of his eyes, she told him to look at the sign again.
What startling clarity! He could see everything now. It was overwhelming. She peered into his eye with a tiny light.

She put down her little light and wrote something on the card in front of her. She looked up at him.

“Well, you do need glasses,” she said.

“Glasses! Oh dear. I suppose I’m not surprised,” he said, sadly.   He accepted the card she handed him with his requirements on it, got up, and opened the door.

“Janine will help you choose a pair that suits you,” smiled the Optometrist, “and we’ll see you again when you come to pick them up! We can discuss contact lenses then if you are interested. Goodbye, now!”

Nodding his head, he ambled out into the reception area.
She gave a little wave, and called to the cream woman, and they vanished into the ether behind the door.

He sighed and went to look at racks of glasses.

Things were easier in the old days. He’d have retired to the slopes of his volcano, other cyclops always there to bring him water,  to bring him sheep, or virgins to eat when he was hungry. Then when he got sick of it all, he could have gone and attacked a village, gone out fighting, honorably.

Taken some good sturdy village boys down on the way.

The good times never seemed to last.

Ah well. These days, there was health care, pension plans. There were old people’s homes. He heard the Minotaur had finally gotten into one, specialised for retired Dutch people. The Minotaur was complaining, he didn’t like herring and he heard that it was served three times a week. They assumed he was foreign as he had a thick accent. Try talking English with the head of a bull, you’d sound foreign too, he said. However.

Some people, they were never happy.

He didn’t like to complain.

What was the point?

Who could he complain to, anyway?

The receptionist. whose name tag probably read ‘Janine’, was taking him to a small rack of glasses he had not noticed before.

These glasses were dustier than the rest. They didn’t have little name brands stamped on them.

“We don’t get many one eyed giants needing glasses,” she was saying cheerfully, twirling the rack.

This was the rack for the special needs cases, clearly..

Glasses for three sets of eyes, multifaceted ones for giant flies, or bees perhaps, glasses for animals. A small selection of single-lensed frames span into view.

“In fact, “ she said, ”We’ve only sold one of these before. So you’re in luck, there are plenty to choose from! Here….try these, they might suit you….No. You need something stronger…yes, those look LOVELY, what do you think?”

A mirror was flashed in front of his face, he touched the dark brown plastic of the frames.

“They look ok”

“Come over here and I’ll just get your payment details”

He noticed her odd inflections. Chirpy. Soft curls, fluffy look. In the old days, she’d have been sacrificed long ago, or gone to the bed of some lecherous god.

Perhaps both.

In no particular order.

It didn’t really matter.  Those days were gone now.

He drew his wallet from his pocket, put his card through, typed in his PIN with his fire thickened finger, and accepted the assurances that he would be contacted as soon as his glasses were ready to be picked up.

Putting his receipt and Heath Care Card back in his wallet, he shambled out into the shopping centre, in search of a coffee.

Cyclops (a short story of a spectacle quest)

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