She woke up pissed off, with a pounding headache and the smell of disaster lingering in the air. It was her least favorite thing, waking up; it was just one kind of darkness leading to another, obscure shapes hiding in the shadows. She kept her eyes closed as long as possible, trying to fall back to sleep, but it was useless. She sat up, reached for her white cane and opened her eyes. The light was so bright, she recoiled from the assault of it.
She could barely breathe. What was happening? She hadn’t seen anything in years. Her first thought was that she must be dead; she had a way of veering toward the darker conclusions, and didn’t people say that you see a white light when you die? She held up her hand to block the glare, just in case it had actually been real, and opened her eyes again. She could see the details of her hand, light coursing between her fingers. Curiously, she touched her palm, fascinated by how smooth it looked. She didn’t feel dead.
She tried to sit up, but her head was heavy and her limbs felt dormant. Perhaps she was still asleep, and this was all just a dream. She remembered taking a sleeping pill that felt a little different from the other pills in the bottle, but it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. She started to panic, mind racing, and jumped to her feet, searching in vain for the pill bottle. She felt her heart slamming against the wall of her chest and knew she was definitely awake. What the hell was going on?
She made her way cautiously around the bed and forced herself to pull her eyes away from the floor. The walls were saturated with what she imagined was sunlight, giving an otherworldly glow to the room, golden hues jumping out at her from every surface. She could feel herself starting to relax. Her joints were loosening and her body felt better than it had in years. Her step was light and her breath easy. It was like she was 30 years old again, instead of her actual 50. She stood for a moment, taking in the new sensations of color and movement, then turned to explore.
The door to her bedroom seemed to glow brighter than anything else in the room, as if it were beckoning her. She had to see what was on the other side. She reached the door in three graceful strides, but she couldn’t open it; there was no knob. She pushed against it with her hands, but it didn’t budge. She knocked on it lightly, and a glass bowl appeared in front of her, floating in the air; inside the bowl was an emerald green key. She picked it up; it was weightless and pleasantly cool to the touch. She placed it delicately in the palm of her hand and it transformed into a leaf. She had never seen anything so green. The leaf began to sparkle and hum, as if it were made of something magic, newly forged and waiting for her touch. She was transfixed, her eyes following an intricately woven map of veins gliding across the surface of the leaf as it melded with the flesh of her hand.
A tapping sound, like raindrops against a window, pulled her from her reverie. She had always loved the rain. She looked up at the door, certain it must be raining on the other side. The door had changed; the wood had become glass with a bright green leaf etched into the center. She pressed her palm into the grooves and the glass became rain. With eyes wide open, she stepped through the curtain of crystalline drops.
What had been a dry and withering landscape was now lush and bathed in color. She took it all in with her eyes; hillsides covered in trees with leaves that kissed the sky, and flowers that stood 5 feet tall, bursting with deep violet and red petals. There were streams with water so clear, she could see the shimmering scales of fish that frolicked in the soft current. She felt what she thought could only be joy and sprang into motion, running through the grass, her bare feet brushed by the velvety blades. Nothing was familiar, not even her own heart. It was if she’d been asleep her whole life.
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Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Hollywood. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2002 and much of her work focuses on her relationship to the world as a partially sighted woman. In addition to poetry and short-fiction, she writes a blog called “Stories from the Edge of Blindness”.