Blind Panic


(600 words)

Eyes open but unseeing, I blinked furiously. Blackness. What was the time? Had I overslept? I touched an eyeball. It felt sensitive, normal, as it did when putting contact lenses in. Then panic rose up from the pit of my stomach. “Louise, Louise, I can’t see!” I almost screamed. Silence. I shouted again to my wife, sleeping in the next room due to a bad back. Where was she? I got out of bed and felt my way along the wall to the door. It felt like a mile. Outside the bedroom, I crashed into an occasional table I’d forgotten about in my panic, hearing a vase of flowers smash onto the wooden tiles. Fuck!
I found her bedroom doorknob and turned it. Inside, I could smell soap and the odour of makeup. I couldn’t see anything, just a graphite-like blackness. I stepped gingerly across the room and felt my leg knock into an empty bed. The realisation hit me like a brick. She’d had to drive to a nearby town for a 9 a.m. dental appointment. I fell onto the bed, and lay there, tears of self-pity running down my cheeks.
Presently I felt the panic begin to subside a little. OK, I need to phone the doctor. I fumbled for the phone on the bedside table. I felt the keypad. Why were there so many blasted keys?! I couldn’t remember which one got a line. Frantically I started pressing them, almost at random. Nothing! Wait a minute. Calm down! I felt around for the charger cradle and replaced the phone in it, hearing a beep as the phone reset. Good!
I took it again, remembering that the button I wanted was somewhere near the top. I pressed the top one on the left. Nothing. I put it back in the charger and heard the beep. Then the second one down. Ditto. I repeated the process, pressing the third one down, then Oh Joy! I heard the dialling tone. I’d have to phone 999, I couldn’t access the phonebook memory without sight. I pressed what I thought was the 9 three times.
“You have dialled an incorrect number, please try again.”
Shit! A number of attempts later, I threw the phone across the room. Fucking Hell!
Several minutes later, having calmed down once more, I crawled across the floor, retrieved the phone, and replaced it in the charger. Suddenly, it rang!
“Important! This is a recorded announcement. Please listen carefully. If any member of your household has an impairment of sight, this may be a consequence of a defect in yesterday’s holographic enhancement update for Microsoft Windows. Do not panic! It is hoped that this is only temporary. Emergency services will be calling with medical assistance for all those affected. Stay right where you are. … Important! This is a recorded …”
‘Impairment!’, ‘It is hoped’! Jesus Christ! Stay right where I am, what the bloody hell did they expect me to do, crawl down the street!I recalled the previous evening. Louise and I had sat at my computer to watch the World Cup. Although Louise was equally impressed by the fantastic visual, which looked as if the players were running around on the table, she’d gone to bed early. Had she suffered a late reaction, perhaps had an accident after leaving the house? I wondered if I’d ever see her again, then laughed bitterly at the irony. England had reached the quarterfinals for the first time in God knows how long. With the whole country watching, we’d beaten France on penalties, to general amazement. Then the penny dropped. I realised that the promised ‘medical assistance’ might just be some time.

Featured in the book, To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories

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