Author: Christopher Bresnahan

David clings to his notifier, its screen illuminating the unshaven shape of his face with implosive, blue light. He can flit to any camera screen in the world, and out of the millions of options he chose the Vishnick Ophthalmology Center.

8:32 am, and Dr. Laura Vishnick begins with a 25 milligram dose of sedative for the patient as well as eyeball analgesic.

The camera is adjusted to capture a top-down view of the patient’s eye, which stares at the light above it like some lantern-obsessed fly. David draws closer to the notifier so that his nose is pressed against the glass. For two weeks he has studied Robert Langston’s case of cortical cataracts from the confines of his apartment, and now the surgery has finally begun.

And Dr. Vishnick has made the initial incision: 6mm long, 0.3mm deep, with an AAO certified scalpel. Now for capsulorhexis, as she inserts forceps into the anterior capsule of the lens.

A grin reveals David’s plaque-plagued canines as he watches the spider fang instruments cut into Langston’s eyeball.

“Turn your volume down.”

David ignores the voice in the apartment: his girlfriend. Her elongated, yellow fingernails swipe at the notifier, attempting to adjust the volume herself. He hisses and pushes her away. She crawls to the opposite corner of the apartment and crouches over her own notifier, a carpet of unkempt hair hiding her face.

He returns to the screen. The doctor breaks the cataract into fragments, shattering the clouded veil over the eye. David’s trembling hands convulse the screen. He emits strange, erratic laughter with each savage swipe of the scalpel.

The doctor rotates the forceps to break the cataract free from the lens.

David wriggles into a dance, hunched over on the balls of his feet. A stifled, primal dance, moving his body as if he’s pulling a key out of a jammed lock. He is frustrated, excited, euphoric, and queasy, but he doesn’t think about it. He doesn’t even notice; emotions pass through him like light through a window.

Dr. Vishnick irrigates the eye to reduce any swelling or lingering pain, and the procedure is finished.

A dilated pupil is all that remains, unblinking. It stares, absorbing the light shining above it, experiencing a reality no longer contorted by superficial distractions. Enlightenment. Then, the reality that has consumed David’s mind for two weeks vanishes to black: the transmission ends.

He exhales, then recoils from the stale stench of his breath. He slips his notifier into his pocket and stretches his hands, which feel odd without that familiar square of metal between them. He combs his hair with his fingers. He walks over to his girlfriend, Rachel, to apologize, but she slithers out of his embrace, entranced by a transmission.

He opens the sole window of their apartment and is flooded with the fertile scent of spring. The wind orders the hairs along his arm to stand, and the birds outside beckon him. He decides to go for a walk, to feel the rays of the sun seep into his skin once again.

The notifier rings as he ties his shoelaces: breaking news. He opens it instinctually and sees the International Auto Racing transmission. Helicopter footage of the race track, a red car mangled on the side of the road, a toxic plume of smoke billowing out of it. There hasn’t been an accident this terrible in at least ten years, he realizes. It’s fresh; the ambulances haven’t even arrived yet. He hunches over the machine and turns up the volume.