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Issue number four




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Three eyes that never close by Kevin James Miller

Networks of blue, green, and red veins pulsate against acres of moldy, gray flesh.

These veins cover a creature.

The creature is a giant, fleshy sphere. Its nature, origins and purpose are all mysteries.

Consultants on the subject of popular psychology have said that, formerly, before the appearance of the creature, spheres and circles were considered (by the general public, in America and overseas) a comforting shape. Since the appearance of the creature, this is no longer true. Indeed, there is now quite a fashion for triangular wrist watches and merry-go-rounds that turn tight corners with each revolution. (Merry-go-round fans who would be traumatized by the square-shaped merry-go-rounds are too fascinated by the daily news of the giant fleshy sphere to care.)

Without a mouth, without ears, but seeming to react to the loudest and the faintest sound in the unique nature of its textural pulsations, the creature simply appeared to the world a few months ago, on a sunny day with drizzling rain, rolling in past the Statute of Liberty, dwarfing it in size, rolling in underneath the crying birds, a manifestation that caused immediate collective excitement, in a land where immediate collective excitement about anything was usually a trick of perception played by the powers that be.

Tingles of mystery played on the vertebra of the nation, and then the world. The thing became a kind of glue, holding together the attention of the planet.

This gray, pulsating behemoth began a trek, moving east to west.

Newspaper editorial writers all over the world strained to find some metaphorical significance in the creature being larger than the Statue of Liberty. The American media used the opportunity to express disappointment with the current White House administration. (After a few days, they expressed disappointment with the last three administrations, and the next two as well.) The Europeans decided the bubbling insanity of the rough-and-tumble Americans finally took earthly form. The Asian press saw the appearance of the creature as an indication that the American commitment to values of family, church and ecology was hypocritical.

Of course, it was also larger than the Eiffel Tower and the opera house in Sydney and Big Ben. Whether or not juxtaposition, and spatial proximity, equals metaphorical potential remains an open question, for any person who cares to take it up.

And it, and every other sort of question about the creature, was taken up. For example, the elderly French philosopher who had been working on his autobiography tore up the manuscript (well, OK, pressed "delete" on his computer) and announced at a press conference (well, through his agent) that, because of the appearance of the creature, he would have to begin his final book all over again. "If necessary, in the next life." He later insisted he couldn't remember if he were being an atheist that day or not. "It is a sweet time for confusions." (He said it just like that: "confusions," plural.)

A television actress sounded off on the creature at an awards banquet. (Exactly what awards banquet was a subject everyone was kind of hazy about on the next day.) She said to her date, loudly enough for anyone to hear, that the appearance of the creature signaled the end of feminism.

And anyone with a mouth, computer, pen or piece of chalk declared that the new presence of the creature in the world meant the end for new age religions, basketball, drag racing, rap music, shopping mall development, good table manners and space exploration.

In contrast, the creature, according to various parties, heralded the return of the epic poem, the rise of international post-puritan social morality, a rising faith in elective plastic surgery, the merging of salsa and ballroom dancing and one more return for the traditional novel. Everyone smelled victory in the air, or defeat.

The police, the National Guard, the army -- nothing stopped the creature's path as it continued its slow but unstoppable trek from east to west.

On-line communities, of course, quickly put up hundreds of Web pages about the giant, fleshy sphere, and there were dozens just about the military response to it.

That scene, the military fighting a towering, lumbering behemoth, everybody remembered from pop culture, and they remembered it mostly from movies and comic books, probably from the 1950's and 1960's.

However, people quickly noticed that the creature didn't want to play along, though there was nothing quite there one could call a face, or any sort of personality, bestial, civilized or otherwise. But what is "personality"? Over time, a percentage of the American population admitted, grudgingly, in frequent polls that "didn't want to play along" was personification, like calling a chilly winter "Jack Frost." (The news media announced it found personification a deplorable habit, then rolled over, got up, had a cup of coffee, and couldn't remember if, as a personification of an abstract institution, it should shave each morning or not.) Over time, much of the public admitted that anthropomorphic thinking influenced their attitudes and discussions of the giant, rolling fleshy sphere, like an animated film calling the cold virus "Carl Cold" or a whimsical columnist calling bad economic times "Mr. Inflation," or a bad poet writing about the moon singing.

A young woman, dedicated to a life of science, jogged alongside the rolling sphere, snipped off a piece of it, and meant to examine it right then and there, with the microscope she brought with her -- right on the sidewalk, on the now-empty city street, now that the excitement of the giant sphere, and the military personnel and equipment that accompanied it had passed. But the sliver of the creature quickly turned to ash and a sudden wind blew that away. The creature, by reflex or choice, healed so quickly at the place where the young woman had taken a sample, that in a few minutes no scar was left.

(This caused some excitement in the cosmetic industry for a while, and in Hollywood, but this was squashed by rumors that if one put any of the creature on one's face, or ingested it, one would turn into the giant, rolling fleshy sphere's twin.)

The thing breathed. There was no question about that. A wealthy pop music producer taped the fleshy sphere's breathing and made a hit song out of it, using one of the dozen groups he had under contract.

Sound experts claimed to have discovered about a dozen different sonic "layers" to the behemoth's breathing, each one a different tone. A farmer in Wisconsin bought a bootleg recording of the creature's breathing and played it on his farm. He claimed, in the news media, that this action trebled the production of eggs by his chickens, but killed the grazing grass for the cattle.

When, finally, the creature reached the very coast of California it paused, turned, and started back the other way. A helicopter with a TV crew in it, doing live coverage for The Sphere's Progress: Crisis in California!, a basic cable TV special, received orders from back in the main studio to try to excite the creature into violent action. A sound technician dropped her coffee thermos on the behemoth. The thermos landed on the creature, and then disappeared beneath the surface of its gray, moldy skin.

People who had canceled business and vacation plans and covert romantic flings to see the creature's ultimate destination were disappointed to see the thing simply make it to the coast line, and just turn around and go back the other way.

However, "ultimate destination" had always been another convenient fiction. Nobody could communicate with the rolling, giant fleshy sphere, discern its origins or nature, and saying the western coastline was "its ultimate destination" was a way for people to generate some drama and narrative into the phenomenon of the giant, rolling fleshy ball.

As the creature now began to roll west to east, people in every city tried to get a response out of it by shouting messages in English, Russian, German, Japanese and every other living and dead language. Painters tried different combinations of colors, and one artist, committed to the principles of expressionism, created a giant canvas, using the principles of pointillism, for the occasion.

In Montana, an experimental theater group staged a play, without dialogue, for the creature's benefit. The stage was an old railroad flatbed the experimental theater group had pulled out into the middle of a field. All the actors dressed as spheres of different colors, and their only verbal communication involved singing different tones. The theater director told the news media that the theme of the play was "Humanity's timeless effort to communicate." The performance had no apparent effect on the creature, or its progress.

A science journal put out an issue debating whether or not the sphere had come from another planet, or another universe, or the past, or the future. Underneath the scholarly prose one could sense a frustration with the fact that, if any of this was true, then other planets, other universes, the past and the future were, darn it, not behaving the way one expected and needed them to behave.

Wherever the thing comes from can we, perhaps, assume that it certainly (or maybe not) has the ability to continue to methodically, seemingly dispassionately crush everything in its path on the way to Asia, Europe or any place else in the world? It did, after all, first appear rolling over the water, coming off of New York harbor, so crossing the water certainly can't be a problem for it. Perhaps crossing an ocean, however, is a problem for it. Would such a journey wear the fleshy sphere out? Did it, therefore, simply materialize one day, a few miles into international waters?

A university convened a panel of scientific experts. A learned naturalist concluded that it was impossible for the fleshy giant sphere to be a product of the natural sciences. He, the naturalist, then spent the duration of the panel fascinated with whatever the physicist had to say. The physicist, however, kept insisting his discipline could hold no solutions to the mysteries of the giant fleshy sphere. This was, after all, obviously not a creature of pure energy. One had only to look at the thing, even on television, or in one of the many photographs in the magazines, or even on a T-shirt to sense a definite corporeality about it. A popular sleight of hand stage magician and professional skeptic and debunker accused the physicist, then, of creeping mysticism. A popular stand-up comedian, who was often invited to affairs such as these because the comedian just happened to be an educated man, then interjected that it was unfair to accuse the physicists of creeping mysticism, but rather, given the nature of the mysterious creature, "rolling mysticism" might be more appropriate.

And now, almost five years later, the giant fleshy sphere stays in America, crossing back and forth, moving from east to west, repetitiously.

Whatever it is looking for, can it only find it here, in America? Oops. "Whatever it is looking for." Is that another attempt to project a personality, an intelligence, where none exists?

Any answer seems inadequate. The creature seems so much like a thing of reflex and instinct, but does that statement assume we know everything that is to be known about the nature of intelligence and personality?

I mentioned that it has no mouth or ears.

It does, however, have eyes, three very large ones that never close.

Some witnesses claim to have seen those eyes well up with what can only be tears. Other witnesses call these accounts of tears a sentimental fantasy.

What is still another topic of debate is whether or not the general look in those three large eyes is one of wakefulness; there may or may not be any understanding, but the creature certainly, if it has an understanding, is always watching, not just looking.

Over fifty of Kevin James Miller's stories, reviews and poems have appeared in over twenty online publications. He will soon have stories in Cold Storage and Suspect Thoughts. He's currently a college teacher and he's also been, among other things, an usher, factory worker, film projectionist, and door-to-door salesman. His short-short, "The Cell Phone," appeared in Issue #2 of The Cafe Irreal.

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