This story is by Erica Christie and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
I checked my apartment door was locked before officially heading to the university. After giving the knob a twist for good measure, I headed east down the bustling streets of my neighborhood. My thoughts turned with the doorknob, confronting the day ahead. Teaching Spanish is not my favorite, and I relished in the time I have on campus beforehand. It can be exhausting correcting the same mistakes year after year. And I enjoyed my time alone, sipping tea in my office and thinking.
The streets were crowded, making it hard to enjoy my peaceful stroll. I focused on the dragging sound of my cane across the sidewalk in front of me. I swung it in long arks, guiding my way safely across unseen territory. Bikers shouted as they zipped past, sending my hair whirling in wispy tentacles. Cars honked profanities and road raged insults as people hurried to get to their unknown destinations. Girls played hooky, laughing loudly with their friends and living care free of consequences. My strides demolished the distance to the university, and my mind continued to race with the day’s unfinished tasks.
As I neared my destination, I began to feel uneasy. It suddenly felt like I was being watched, by someone. I slowed my step, then sped up again, trying to test if I was actually being followed. Sweat ran down my back, dampening my white top with musty yellow patches. An erie feeling grew around me, and the hair stood tall on the back of my neck. My heart quickened, speed increased, and cane swung wildly as I panicked. My anxiety levels climbed and motivated me to move. I heard footsteps behind me. They matched my pace, rounding identical corners, and flawlessly keeping up with me. Someone was definitely following me, and despite my efforts I could not lose them. People around me continued on, laughing with friends, talking on the phone, or smoking in solitude. But nobody noticed the panicking blind Spanish professor, freaking out and running from who knows what.
“Please, stop running!” exclaimed a deep voice. I was haphazardly swinging my cane, hoping I wouldn’t trip and come face-to-face with whatever was yelling. My skin crawled as whatever it was moved closer. It’s gate was huge, devouring the Earth in large gaping paces.
“Please, Jo, I won’t hurt you!”
The use of Jo made me hesitate. My name is Joleen, and only two good friends call me Jo. I slowed significantly, but still kept some distance between me and the presence.
“Who are you?” I snapped, grasping my cane tighter in case I needed a weapon, “and how did you know my name?”
“I’ve been waiting to change your world.” called out the voice, in a firm yet soothing manner. “Please Jo, I want to be a friend.
“Change my world?” I questioned, putting a few healthy steps between me and the voice. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I’d like to show you.” it said, reaching for my hand.
Gradually, light began to fill my awareness. Neons met navies, smearing into brilliant yellows. Shapes blurred from blobs, and stretched into a picture. I could see! I held my cane out in front of me in awe. It was white with a black handle, red at the bottom, and a grey ball at the tip. Who knew! The grass was green and lush, the sky blue caressing stormy silver clouds. I was looking at everything at once, and couldn’t soak it in fast enough.
But slowly I turned my head to see who granted me this gift. I was astounded. A cyclops held my hand in his gigantic cracked fingers. He towered over me, with shoulders miles wide and arms as large as tree trunks. His hair was dead-of-night black, and it draped across his chest like a carpet. His eye was bigger than the moon, and a dazzling emerald green.
I looked around bewildered. But No one else saw the cyclops holding my hand. People stared at me as they went about their day, apprehension and discomfort towards a blind person plain on their faces. They hurried past, averting their gazes and avoiding eye contact with me. People grow unsettled by the sight of my cane, and now I can see it for myself.
“Jo,” Cyclops began, interrupting me from people watching. “This gift is not given to you lightly. Teaching is noble, and you need to see the impact you have on your students. You help them see their self-worth, their potential and value. For that, the universe is grateful, and gifts you with sight.”
“The universe?” I asked, raising my gaze to meet the cyclops.
“Do good, be good, and be patient. Only then shall you be rewarded.”
The cyclops let go of my hand, and my world went black again. I heard it’s footsteps retreating, but couldn’t move. I was in shock. This was a lot to process, but I didn’t want him to walk away. “Wait!” I shouted, trying to follow the fading footsteps. “Come back!”
The voice took by surprise. It belonged to my student, Lip. “Can I walk you to class?”
I paused for a second, reeling from the events of the past five minutes. After shaking my head to clear it I said, “sure, I’d like that.”
“What are we learning today?” he asked, falling in step beside me. I had forgotten where I was going. My mind snapped back to the present as I remembered I was walking to Spanish class.
“Present progressive.” I said.
“Wicked.” he said, pushing the stop-light button so we could cross over to campus. “I dig your classes Ms. Foster. I know I don’t say much, but I learn a lot from you.”
My heart fluttered as I heard his words play over me. “I dig your classes Ms. Foster.” I smiled widely and blushed only a little. “Thanks Lip.” I said, suddenly empowered by the ability to change students’ lives.