Fahrenheit 52

Evil Eyeball

The eyes were everywhere. Blue, lidless, creepy.

Ben Dawson wiped his forehead with the bottom of his t-shirt. He trailed his parents down a narrow marble sidewalk brimming with tourists. In spite of the unforgiving heat and crowd, his parents had stopped at every trinket shop along the way to the restaurant, oogling the eye-themed jewelry of the island. Truly, every single one.

"Isn't this cute, honey?"

Ben's mom Rhea picked up a gold bracelet from the open window display. Like nearly everything else in the store, it had a single painted circular eye charm.

Ben remembered where he'd seen these eyes before - the top of the pyramid on the back of a dollar bill, which was honestly a super-weird thing to put on currency, but also pretty cool, he decided. But, what did it mean - the eye?

"Yeah, Mom. That's nice."

"Good, I think I'm going to get it. Ash - do you have any Euros left?"

Ben's father didn't hear - he was already in the store.

"Earth to Ash," called Rhea.

Ash answered without looking. "Yeah, that looks great, babe." He spun around as Rhea glared at him. "Now what do my peeps think of this one?" He held up a pendant of an oval eye cast in silver.

"Don't say peeps, Dad," said Ben.

"I think this would look great next to my St. Christopher." He fished out his necklace from the neck of his button-down short-sleeve shirt. "What do you think, Rhea?"

Rhea nodded. "Love it. Did you hear me before? Do you have any cash left or should I see if they take card?"

"We take card, lady."

The shopkeeper stood up from her desk at the back of the store and walked over.

"Those are excellent choices. Lovely. May I?" She held out her hand towards Ash and Rhea and took their pieces. "Where's yours, boy?"

Ben scrunched his toes in his Tevas. "I don't want one. Thanks."

The shopkeeper made a noise that almost sounded like a purr. Or a growl. "You are brave to face the evil eye without protection."

"The evil eye?" asked Rhea.

"The eye defends you against the evil eye of others. Jealousy, envy, ill-will, curses. With these charms, you are protected."

"Well, then I definitely need one," said Ash. "Gotta keep everyone off my back at the tennis club when I crush them."

Rhea rolled her eyes.

"Where's yours then?" Ben asked the shopkeeper.

She stared at Ben with great intensity, then opened the palm of her left hand and held it up. In its center was a tattoo of the blue lidless eye. Then she closed her hand and broke Ben's gaze.

"Woah," said Ben. "Mom - can I get one? That's so cool."

Rhea shushed. "No, honey. We're getting late for dinner anyway. May I please pay with card?"

Ben thought about the tattoo during dinner, ignoring the sunset over the harbor, as his parents obsessively took selfies. Something felt familar about the tattoo... a dream he'd once had, maybe.

The night day the Dawsons woke early for their boat trip around the island. They met the two-person crew at the nearby port and boarded the private catamaran. This tour was the excursion Ben and his parents had been most looking-forward to on their Mediterranean vacation.

Ben found out that both Captain Yiannis and first-mate Maria lived on the boat, which he wasn't quite sure about. There were four bedrooms in the cabin. Ben peeped into one of them when he went down to "hit the head" as his father liked to say to everyone's annoyance. Ben found a window built into the cabin stairs where he could see the water rush by. He waited a few minutes to see if a sea turtle or a squid would show its face in the porthole.

"You'll never see anything interesting through that window, my boy," hollered Captain Yiannis at him, all the way from his captain's seat on the deck.

How did he see that I was looking through this window? wondered Ben as he climbed back up from the cabin.

"Believe me, I've spent hours at that window," said Captain Yiannis, without looking at Ben. "The good stuff's all up here."

As they dropped anchor into cove, Maria pointed out ancient catacombs carved into the limestone caves on the shoreline.

"This was a fishing village during the Bronze Age," she said. "Many of the caves have since collapsed, but you can still swim through a few of them here, if you are up for it."

Ben knew he had to at least try to swim into one of them, even if just for a second.

"Yes, Ben," his mom said, without him need to ask. "You can swim over there. But don't go into any tunnels, okay? How about that one?" Rhea pointed at a nearby opening. "That's not a tunnel, right, Maria? Just an open cave?"

Maria nodded. Captain Yiannas lit a hand-rolled cigarette and took a long drag.

"Your dad and I are going to take some photos on deck. Then we'll snorkel. Come back quick and join us, okay?"

Ben threw a yellow noodle into the water and dove off the back of the boat. He was a decent swimmer and the sea was so salty that it was easier to float, but having a noodle was just better.

The air chilled as Ben swam under the open mouth of the limestone cave, noodle wedged under his armpits. There was a small shoreline of sand at the back of the cave, about thirty feet in. He'd still be able to see the boat. Ben did the backstroke for a bit, staring at the cave roof. He imagined he was drifting into a giant worm or whale, and hoped that it kept its mouth open.

Ben liked collecting rocks from each of their annual family vacations and this cave beach seemed like the perfect place for a rock. He surveyed the area. A round stone caught his eye. He thought it might even be a snail shell. Ben bent down to grab it, and the stone dug itself into the sand.

What the...

Ben dropped to his knees and dug around the stone, trying not to lose sight of it as it sunk deeper. He made a bowl-shaped depression in the sand around the stone. Then it stopped sinking.

Ben grabbed it. It felt perfectly round, like a cue ball, and felt warm in his hand, like it had been near a fireplace. It was unlike any stone he'd known. Ben opened his palm and then stone spun around in his hand and then opened up.

Ben screamed.

It was an eyeball. A living, moving, tennis-ball sized eyeball. Its bright blue iris reflected the shimmering light from the sea. The eye blinked its limestone lids and Ben chucked it into the water.

What happened next Ben didn't understand. He experienced a flash of wind and then had a vision of being underwater, even though he was standing on shore in the cave. He felt dizzy and sat down. The water sensation remained.

"The eyeball..." he whispered.

Ben realized he was seeing what the eye was seeing.


He got up and trudged through the shallows to find where he'd thrown the eyeball. He soon saw his feet stomping through the water through the vision of the eyball. The underwater sensation immediately stopped once he touched the eyeball. Perhaps he'd imagined it?

Ben heard laughter through the mouth of the cave. His parents were finally in the water, snorkeling.

The eyeball blinked again at Ben.

"What are you?" asked Ben.

Ben decided to try an experiment. As soon as he placed the eyeball onto the sand, Ben watched himself stumble through the eyeball. The human mind is not used to seeing more than one perspective at a time -- but with every step Ben gained control. He made it all the way to the far side of the shore, some 200 feet away. He could still see perfectly through the eye.

Was this the evil eye the shopkeeper warned him about? He raced back to the eyeball and picked it up. He feared dropping it during the swim back to his parents, so he gripped it tightly in his palm, yet still somehow dropped it.

Ben panicked because he couldn't find the eyeball in the shallows. Did it dig itself down into the sand again? Ben thrashed in the water, causing enough of a commotion for his dad swim over to the cave entrance.

"Ben, come snorkel. Maria's throwing bits of cake into the water and the fish are going nuts. C'mon!"

Ben held up his hands to run his fingers through his hair and then saw that his left palm seemed different - a blue tattoo of an eye, the same as the shopkeeper's hand. Then he realized that he wasn't seeing through the eye anymore. Did it absorb into my palm? he wondered.

Ash was right - the fish loved carrot cake. Ben snorkeled with his parents for a while, and climbed up onto the ship. Captain Yiannis helped him up the ladder, then grabbed Ben's left palm. The captain winked and held up his own palm. He had the same tattoo.

The captain closed his first, and opened his fingers one at a time. An eyeball stone rested in his palm, just like Ben's.

"Is that... how you saw me downstairs in the cabin?" asked Ben.

The eyeball in Captain Yiannis's hand winked at Ben.

"Try it," growled Captain Yiannis.

Ben closed his left hand into a fist, then opened his fingers one at a time. Ben's eyeball was back and his tattoo was gone. Ben reversed the move, and the eyeball become a tattoo again.

"Lunch is ready, Ben!" called Maria. "Ash! Rhea!"

Ben wanted to -- needed to -- ask Captain Yiannis more questions, but the captain had already returned to the helm where he was rolling another cigarette.

Ben nodded to himself. He didn't need Captain Yiannis. He had everything he'd ever need in the palm of his hand.