What I’ve Seen With Your Eyes

(1150 words)

Bed and board taken care of for the night, it was getting on towards six o’clock, so I thought I’d buy myself a beer and go out and sit in a deck chair by the swimming pool to take a little evening sun. I went to the bar and got the beer, carried it outside, and descended through the lawns towards the pool.
It was a fine garden with beds of azaleas and tall coconut palms, and the wind was blowing strongly through the tops of the palm trees, making the leaves hiss and crackle as though they were on fire. I could see clusters of big brown nuts hanging down underneath the leaves.
“Hey, Johnny, Johnny Goodfellow!”
I looked around at a face from the past. A face that, despite the passing of ten years, had that same shine, that same look of animation and excitement, as if staring into the beautiful, bewildering morass of life itself. “Zanna!”
We hugged, and I kissed her smooth cheek, covered in an almost imperceptible down. “Zanna, it’s lovely to see you. Come and have a drink with me.”
She sighed. “I can’t stay too long, Johnny, I have to be away very early in the morning, but I’d love to.”
I called a waiter over, Zanna ordered a drink I’d never heard of, and we seated ourselves by the pool.
“You’re looking good,” I said, my eyes sweeping up her slender tanned legs, a short floral skirt, emphasising her shapely thighs, and a matching light blouse over an emerald-green tee-shirt.
She smiled with pearl-white teeth. “You’re not looking so bad yourself, Johnny.”
I gave a wry smile. “Not bad for an old man, maybe.”
She laughed. “So, what have you been doing this past decade?”
“Well, what’s your attention span?”
“Oh, long enough!”
Just then, the waiter appeared with a high glass full of pieces of banana, pineapple, cherries, and a couple of other fruit I didn’t recognise. All topped with the obligatory little umbrella.
“Just what is that?” I exclaimed.
“It’s a Pineapple Jackhammer, one hundred proof. She took a long suck through a couple of straws with her eyes closed. “Whew!” She opened her eyes, and, for a moment, they twinkled with the fire of diamonds. Then the fire went out. “Look, Johnny, you wanna see something? Kinda like a trick?”
I felt curious. “OK.”
She pulled something out of her bag. I saw it was an Italian magazine, sealed in a transparent mailing envelope. On the front was an angular building, all glass and reflections.
“What do I have to do?”
“Just find a picture you like, maybe a nice old viaduct, or maybe a harbour, whatever appeals.”
“Then what?” I asked.
“Just look at it for a couple of minutes, imagine being there. Don’t try too hard. OK?”
“Why?”
Zanna smiled. “You’ll see.”
“OK, sure.”
She took her bag and walked off.
I tore the envelope open and took out the magazine and began to turn the pages. The sun was warm on my hands and face, and I sipped some glorious ice-cold lager. There weren’t many at the pool; an elderly German family on sun loungers and a tall thin man with a bald head, scribbling notes in a little black book. He reminded me of a famous writer, though I couldn’t remember the name. I saw Zanna seat herself some distance from them. She took out a paper pad.
I drank some more lager and turned my attention to the magazine. Every page seemed to contain some glossy architectural wonder, but my attention was caught by two tower blocks. There were ledges everywhere, covered with trees so that the effect was of a vertical wood. Amazing.
I didn’t know what Zanna was planning, but I imagined myself in one of the top apartments, coming out onto a ledge and reaching out to feel the leaves of a tree. Then, looking down at the green plaza way, way below. I assumed there were high railings around the ledges, but I couldn’t make them out. So I imagined some. I didn’t want to fall off!
Then Zanna was back, smiling, waving a drawing pad. She sat down and showed me the sketch she’d done. Two high blocks of flats with many short lines drawn at right angles, and on those lines, squiggles like bushes.
“Something like that, I feel,” she said, “like a lot of green on a building. Plants, big ones.”
I showed her the image. “You know those towers then?”
“Nope, never heard of them, nor seen them. Bosco Verticale it says.”
“Then, how the hell ….”
She took a long sip of her cocktail. “You ever wondered what my dad did?”
I’d known Roger for years, but he’d never been forthcoming about his work. Just a routine job for a nameless government department was how he’d told it. An explanation that had struck me as somewhat facile. Then he’d died a few years ago, abroad somewhere.
“No. What did he do?”
“You ever hear of Project Stargate?”
“No.”
“It was an operation run by the CIA. They recruited psychics to ‘see’ stuff with their minds. Stuff that could be thousands of miles away. People too. And even to get into the minds of those people, know what they were thinking, planning even. Like foreign generals.”
“As if!”
“No, really. It’s called Remote Viewing. My dad was awarded with honours for his service. Look, Johnny, in the year before he died, my dad started training me to do it. He learnt from my granddad. It’s just practice, that’s all. Just now, I imagined coming out of my body, walking behind you and looking through your eyes. You were looking down from a very high place. But also, I got what you were feeling. I felt like I was touching something soft too, like leaves maybe.”
“Phew. That’s amazing.”
She smiled. “Not amazing, just a natural skill that most people have forgotten how to use. Anyway, you never told me what you’ve been up to since I last saw you.”
“Well …,” I hesitated, then gave a wry smile. “Well, it’s all hush-hush, but actually I work for MI5, the British spy operation.”
“Wow.”
“And I do believe you’re the kind of girl we could use – if you’d be interested?”
Zanna picked out a cherry, held it between her pursed lips and winked. She chewed it and swallowed. “I’m your girl.” She raised her glass.
I tapped her glass with mine. “Welcome on board.” I winked back. “The name’s Goodfellow, Johnny Goodfellow. Hey, how about another drink to celebrate?”
She laughed. “Swann. Zanna Swann. Yeah, why the hell not?”

Taken from the book, Flash Friction: To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. III: 72 Little Stories



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