The door opened then closed. Several quiet footsteps indicated it was her attendant.
“Yes, Maire, what is it?”
“Excuse me, Miss. You have a visitor.”
“He refused to give me a name. Merely insisted I informed you of his presence.”
“Send him away. I am not here to be gawked at by anyone who decides to drop by.”
A thought occurred to her, and she stopped Maire before she could leave. “What did he look like?”
“His appearance. Describe it to me.”
“Older. His hair was unkempt and his face unshaven. A shabby overcoat. And I do not think he has had a bath in some time.”
“Very well. Bring him here, then leave us.”
“Miss, I must…”
“Just bring him, Maire. No arguments.”
It did not require sight to know that her attendant was glaring with disapproval, but Maire knew better than to voice it.
“As you say.”
Several minutes passed before the door opened again. The footsteps were slower and heavier this time.
“Why did you not give Maire your name? I almost refused your visit.”
“I prefer my comings and goings to be quieter than that. As you know.”
“It is good seeing you again. How are you?”
“Was that a joke? Do not make me regret letting you in, engineer.”
“What? Oh, no. No joke. It is good to see you. I meant no offense. Indeed, it is your lack of sight that brings me today.”
“Is it? And why is that?”
“I may have a solution for you.”
“Do not toy with me. You work with machines. How could you solve my blindness?”
“Humor me. If it does not work, the only thing you have lost is a few minutes of your day.”
She thought for a moment, considering his reputation. “What does it involve? Describe it to me.”
“You only need to wear a special set of goggles I have constructed. They are connected to a box, which captures images and sends those images to the goggles. The goggles, in turn, stimulate the eyes, or the area around them. This should let you see the images.”
“And this works?”
“Yes. At least it should. It worked when I tested it, but I am not blind.”
“So you come to me to be your test subject.”
“I wanted to offer it to you, first.”
After another moment of consideration, she agreed. “Let us see how your contraption works, then.”
A sense of joy permeated the room as the engineer placed a pair of googles on her. She felt him adjust them and then listened to him throw switches, presumably on the box he mentioned.
“Are you ready?”
“This may be disorienting for a moment.”
The first thing she noticed was tingling around the goggles. Then light seeped into her mind. She had nearly forgotten what it looked like. Slowly colors turned into shapes, and she could see her room. Her attention was drawn to her own body and the goggles strapped to her head.
“Yes, disorienting. You are seeing from the vantage point of the box. It is not… ideal.”
“No, it is not. Still it works. You have given me quite a gift.”
“I am glad you think so.”
The engineer faced her – her body – and it was difficult to see his face from the perspective of the box.
“Is something wrong?”
“You cannot keep it.”
“I can afford to pay you for your efforts.” The thought of losing her sight, after reacquiring it, was difficult to bear.
“It is not a matter of payment. You know better than that.”
“There are… imperfections in the device.”
“Such as?” Normally, it was impossible to stop him from talking for hours about his inventions. She was growing uneasy.
“For one, I need to make it all smaller. If I can get the mechanisms to take up less space, I can make it portable, fit on your head. That should minimize the perspective discrepancy.”
“But that is not the problem.”
“No.” He paused again. “My tests indicate that, over time, the machine will stop working for a given user. What remains of the sensitive powers of the eyes seem to burn out with too much exposure. In other words, this fix is temporary. And it would make your blindness immune to any other possible treatments. I am sorry.”
She laughed at that. “Sorry? My dear engineer, no other treatments have ever presented themselves. You rob me of nothing. And you have provided me at least one last opportunity to see the world around me.”
“I suppose that is true.”
“My best guess is six months.”
“Can I spread the time out by not using it continuously?”
“Perhaps. I believe so, but I cannot be certain.”
She chewed the inside of her cheek. When she saw how that made her face look, she immediately stopped and vowed never to do it again.
“Look at me.”
“I am looking at you.”
“No, engineer, look at the box, let me see your face.”
He bent down to the table where the box sat.
“Fix this device. Remove its imperfections. You have created something wonderful. Do better.”
“I will try…”
“No! You will. I demand it of you.”
A smile slowly spread across his face, and she knew he would satisfy her.
“Now, do you not have things to see to?”
He nodded, his face already half vacant for being lost in thought. “Indeed. If you will excuse me.”
She watched him hurry out. With great reluctance, she removed the goggles. The returning darkness seemed deeper, more ominous. Under her breath, she whispered, “Hurry.”