1964 short story
by J. G. Ballard
, from his collection 'The Twilight Beach
'. Also available in the multiple author science-fiction
collection; Space Odyssey
"Excellent, excellent," he commented, holding his torch in one hand as he retaped Maitland's eyelids to his cheeks. "Another week and you'll be out of this for good. At least you know what it's like for the blind."
"One can envy them," Maitland said.
"They see with an inner eye, you know. In a sense everything is more real."
"That's a point of view." Dr Phillips replaced the bandages. He drew the curtains. "What have you seen with your's?"
A typical Ballardian discourse, setting up a scenario which is easily imaginable
, yet descends into madness. The protagonist
, Richard Maitland is temporarily blinded; "a trivial eye injury had become infected, eventually requiring surgery and a month's bandaged darkness
". Like anybody else in his situation, he is angry and impatient at not being able to see - small noises like seagull
s eating irritate him immensely, he has visions of thousands of dead, mutilate
d fish while birds with bright red beaks rip into them. He and his wife, Judith, are staying at his mother's house while she is away on a cruise
, correctly guessing that the wealth of memories deposited there will partly make up for his inability to see.
Maitland begins having visions of a landscape, reminiscent of Leonardo Da Vinci
's 'Virgin of the Rocks
- the blue cliffs from the painting give way to a small estuary
where a dark, high-gable
d house has installed itself in his vision
. He repetedly visits the house and is able to discern more details each time, including a green-veiled
figure who watches his progress through his vision. However, each time he is jolted from his mental wanderings before he has a chance to fully realise his dream. Eventually, he comes to discover the secret of the veil
ed figure and he realises what he is seeing with his mind. Unfortunately, all too soon the bandage
s come off and he is prevented from realising his vision, which he has come to prefer over reality. He is stuck in the real world, seeing things through his eyes.Spoiler Warning - Please read this story if you have the option
Maitland, after about a day of wearing sunglasses
against the light exits the house and walks down to the riverbank where he claws his eyes out. The house
he sees in his visions is his mother's house, and the green-veiled figure is his mother. A modern-day Oedipus
, for the opposite, unrepenting reasons.