The Eyes of Lester Strange
Lester Strange was not very strange at all. In fact, he was quite the normal man. He stood five foot ten inches tall, drove an old blue Saturn, ate lunch every day at the Subway two blocks away from his office and always wore a tie. The ties were always yellow and the eyes were always blue.
One bright June morning of no real significance Lester took a carton of eggs out of his refrigerator. He took the carton to his stove, opened it and looked down to decide which egg he wanted. There was a single blue eye staring up at him. Lester shut the carton, rubbed his eyes and opened the carton again. Nothing had changed. The eye stared. The world turned. He backed away from the carton, towards the phone on the wall.
He stopped before dialing the second 1. The eye was gone. The dimple in the carton where it had sat was empty. Lester hung up the phone. A closer inspection of the carton revealed no evidence of any mysterious eyeball.
Lester skipped breakfast that morning and instead went into work early. He still didn’t feel like eating by lunchtime. At a quarter past four he went into the restroom. He chose a stall, went into it, locked the door and lifted the lid of the toilet. A single eyeball floated there.
Lester got used to the eyes after a while. They were, after all, figments of his imagination. They were not real. He would open his liquor cabinet and one would be there. Completely harmless. He would lower his visor in his car and one would fall into his lap. A quick blink and it was gone. Life continued for Lester Strange.
One August afternoon, Lester was sitting on his back porch. He went to take a sip of his lemonade and just before it hit his lips, he saw a single eye floating in the drink. Lester blinked. The eye did not go away. He blinked again. Still, the eye floated, resilient, unwavering, real. Lester reached out a finger to touch it. It sunk beneath the surface of the lemonade.
He sat down the glass and went back into his house. He could not make the eye disappear. But it couldn’t be real. How could a real eye find it’s way into his lemonade?
Lester staggered into his bathroom. He threw up into the sink and when he looked back up into the mirror, his mother was staring back at him. Lester reached out a single hand and touched the hard surface. His mother did not move. It was not a reflection.
The old woman’s tired face cracked into a toothy smile. She mouthed a single word. His name. “Lester,” she said soundlessly. Tears welled up in her eyes. Her lips kept moving. He couldn’t read them.
“Mother?” he called. She did not stop talking. She couldn’t hear him either. Lester began to scratch at the glass. “Mother!”
It wasn’t working. He couldn’t claw through the barrier. He would have to break it down. He punched the glass once, twice, thrice. Nothing.
Lester staggered out into his living room. He needed a book. A heavy tome. A hardback copy of Proust’s Sodom and Gomorrah. That would do. He went back into the bathroom and heaved the novel into the mirror where his mother’s lips were still moving, seeming to shout now.
The book shattered the glass, breaking her visage up into a thousand fragmented pieces. The sound seemed like a whispered question.
The glass sprinkled down onto the floor. Lester could still see his mother reflected in the pieces, broken up into a thousand shards. He fell to the ground, grabbing for the pieces, needing to put them back together.
As he grabbed each piece, it turned into an eye in his hand.
Lester Strange awoke the next morning; face down on his bathroom floor. His body was covered in cuts. He called into work sick. It took him over an hour to disinfect his wounds and bandage them. When he had stopped bleeding, Lester went to find his mother.
On his way to the nursing home, he stopped to let a crossing guard lead four eyeballs across the street. They were replaced by children when he blinked. That was a comfort.
The parking lot of the nursing home was almost empty. Lester parked close to the door and quickly walked in. He went through the common area and walked down the long, white hallway leading to his mother’s room.
An old man was lying in his mother’s bed. That wasn’t right. Lester went back down the hallway to the reception desk. He did not recognize either of the young women sitting there.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“Yes,” Lester began. “I’m looking for my mother. I went down to her room, but someone else was there.”
“What’s your name, sir?”
The girl entered the name into her computer. He eyes widened. Her friend looked over her shoulder. Her eyes widened as well. They both looked up at him.
“Mr. Strange, are you feeling okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I just need to see my mother.”
“Sir, I’m afraid your mother is dead. Mr. Strange, she passed in October of ‘99.”
Lester stared at her for a moment. “No,” he said. “No she is not!” He slammed his palms down on the desk. “Can you tell the future? It’s only August of 1999 right now!” He turned and stormed out the door.
The receptionist called after him. “Mr. Strange, wait! It isn’t-“ The slam of the door cut her off.
Mother was not dead. She wasn’t. It was August of 1999 and Maria Strange was not dead. Maybe she would die in the coming October, but that wasn’t for another month at least. Lester laid down on his bed, staring into the ceiling. After a long time, he slept.
Lester awoke sometime just after sunset. In the dark he felt something hard and cold pressing heavily against his body. He snuggled his face down deep into the hair.
Why was there hair?
He turned over and pulled the cord on his bedside lamp. Light filled the room. He tuned back over. The grinning, bony, dead face of his mother stared back at him. Lester ran for the bathroom and again threw up in the sink, the bile spewing over broken bits of glass where a shattered, yet living Maria Strange still tried to speak to him.
Lester stood upright, staring into his medicine cabinet for a time before wandering into his kitchen. In the kitchen he looked out a window into his back yard. The sun had sunk below the horizon, but it still cast enough light over the land for him to make out the shovel and mount of dirt in his garden. The faintest of memories stirred deep inside of him.
He backed away from the window. He needed to throw up again and would not make it to the bathroom. He lunged for the garbage can and hurled into it.
When he was done throwing up, he looked down into the garbage and noticed something. An eyeball. Broken in halves. He blinked. It did not disappear.
Lester stood shakily, compelled to look into his refrigerator, but dreading what he would find there. He slowly walked to it. His mind hardly registered the calendar stuck onto the freezer with a magnet reading August 2004. He opened the refrigerator and took out a carton of eggs.
Lester Strange opened the carton. Eleven blue eyes stared up at him. He blinked, hoping beyond all hope.