Evan Quinlan

Glass Eyes

In Fiction, Short Stories on June 8, 2012 at 10:58 am

I found this story fragment, which I believe I began for NaNoWriMo perhaps as long as five years ago, in my Google Drive.  It wanders aimlessly from topic to topic, but sometimes it offers something promising to which the imagination, or at least the intellect, can hang on.  I don’t know what the protagonist is about, though… he seems pretty disillusioned for some reason.  I was never very good with character motivation, so he probably isn’t a character at all; rather, this is more a collection of my own musings and experiences shoved into an anonymous person who has a different job than I do.

Hope you enjoy!


Once, I envied shadows. I envied them so much I wished to be one.

I sat as far as I could from sunlit windows because I hated to be seen by those outside. When one positions oneself in front of a pane of glass, one becomes an item on display. People stare; people point; people talk about you as if you couldn’t hear them directly through the glass… as if the glass separated them from you not just in distance, but in time; as if you represented some alternate future that could be theirs. You are not real, you are an object on display; an object to be observed and discussed and—if found pleasing—bought. It may sound ridiculous, but next time you look through a window at a stranger, ask yourself: would you look and talk like this—so blatantly comparing yourself with them—were the glass not there? Would you even consider eating what they’re eating or drinking what they’re drinking? Or would you pass them by without a second glance, or even a conscience recognition of their existence on this earth?

Now imagine that you are on a dark street, and you are looking through a glass window at a twilit room, and no matter where you look all the doors to this room are locked and sealed.

This is how I see the world now.

As a young man, I did not wish to model myself for society, so I sat as far away from the glass as I could. I did not care if sitting closer would bring more patrons to the restaurant, or the coffee shop, or the bookstore, or wherever I was.

Rather, I wished to be unobserved; to remain unmeasured by anyone.

Eventually I stopped going to real restaurants and coffee shops and decided to live totally in my subconscious.

My job doesn’t pay well; I work only a few times a month. When I’m at work, I do nothing except talk to other people, who do nothing but talk to me. Often times, we both talk simultaneously. Sometimes we’ll have the same conversation dozens of times and pretend like it’s the first time we’ve said any of the things we’re saying. We’re always smiling, always having a good time, but in the end—to tell you the truth—we’ve never really said anything. When I say this, I mean it: we’ve never really said anything. Our lips are moving, but no sound is coming out.

This is because I work as an extra for major motion pictures.

The motion picture industry as we know it is dying. Every week, more and more screenplays that would have been green-lit ten years ago are banished to a studio executive’s file cabinet instead. Someone poured their dreams onto paper and sold them, only to have them die slow, unsatisfying deaths in a manila folder. Some dreams never come true. Some flourish and grow into shared dreams, massively-multiplayer visions posted on YouTube by kids with no money and no movie studios but all the creativity of a thousand L.A. taxi drivers with screenplays burning holes in their back pockets.  And the dreams of the masses come true, and the masses share in those dreams and vote on those dreams and expand on those dreams. Imagine if your dreams were the same way. Imagine if your brain was a wiki that anyone could change. What you wanted to happen was only one small vote in an endless sea of vetoes.

This is much closer to the truth than it sounds. When was the last time you controlled a dream you had?

What makes me special, what makes me different from other people, is that I can control my dreams. Lucid dreaming, it’s called. Who needs money when you can dream up a mansion, a pool, a sports car, a life of luxury? Not that I ever dreamed of these things. Imagine gaining control over your dreams and not being able to come up with anything more creative than fancy cars. The thing we keep forgetting as humans is, the world outside is only half the game. I would argue it’s less than half. The other half of us doesn’t care what’s real and what’s not; it knows that sight and sound and touch and taste and smell are just interpretations; conscious dreams that are important only because they keep the unconscious alive.

Go ahead and try to stop your stomach from growling when you’re hungry. Try to make your heart stop beating. You can’t. This is because you are not in control of your own body. You—the thing you call “you”—is not your brain: it is a piece of your brain, a tool that observes the outside world and protects the subconscious from dying. The subconscious is the real master of your body. Every second you are alive it beats your heart, it expands and contracts your lungs, and it digests your food. It is the ultimate being, with no limitations on its existence. Physics? Material boundaries? These are limitations only to the conscious self. On the inside, you can be wild and free and nobody can stop you, ever, from doing anything you want—from seeing and hearing and tasting and smelling and touching anything—and using senses you can’t even imagine now.

I do not dream of sports cars.

Change is the currency of life. When you pass the boundary between conscious and unconscious, you change places with yourself. Think of sinking beneath the waves of a tumultuous ocean, then instead of finding water beneath, you sink into a pocket of air that has no temperature and no sound—the only movement is the swirling motion of the dark waters outside. Your feet touch the ground, and the pocket swells to the size of a large room. Now one end of the room begins to open into a funnel; a funnel of air and water, pulling you in, ripping apart the fabric of reason, leading first forward and then downward, downward, into a spiraling deep. As you pass into the mouth of the swirling tunnel, you have a choice: ride downward into the terrifying unknown or fight the pull and scramble to climb back into the disappearing air pocket and the surface of the water. The latter choice leads to sweet obliviousness, the dimly lit realm of dreams unremembered and unresolved. But the former choice, while the most frightening, puts you in control.

At least, this is how it happens for me.

The first time you consciously change the world to lack gravity, or to exist without other human beings, terror grips you.  The change washes over you, blurring your vision and filling the pockets of reason in your mind with rushing adrenaline. You’ll give anything to make it stop. But if you resist and maintain consistency, if you continue forward with the world you have created, you eventually grow attached to it. You find that you’d give anything never to leave; never to be human again; never to be a slave to cold physics, restricted by earthly binds.

I digress. Yet this explains why I detested my life outside of my dreams.

To sit in misery is bad enough. To have others watch your misery and weigh it against their own is intolerable. This is why I sit in the shadows, to sulk in private, to dream of my dreams alone. Coffee is poison. It keeps me awake. Yet it’s the only drug that will let me stay awake, so I drink it. I drink it by the pot. I let it fill me with artificial life, forcing my conscious brain into frenzied labor: the higher the buzz, the harder the fall; when I return from an endless day of work, of sitting, and my high has worn off, I crash to the bed, or the floor, or the sofa, and into sleep.


And here are two of what seem to be abortive attempts at the first line of the story, found at the end of my document:

There was a time before all this—though “before” is a relative term that means nothing in the face of the horrific truth—when I envied shadows, though now I am consumed by it, I envy its…

Once, before this darkness fell upon me—before I was banished forever from the twilight that is this earth and condemned to peer at the world from afar, as if it were a play and I…

It seems I had a flair for melodrama.

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