My mother’s hand has always guided me through this world of darkness. If I had eyes, I could see her be happy, see her smile, but I’m not allowed to. Each morning when she helped me put on the rough shirt over my shoulders, she would say:
“Theokritos, I’m sorry I took your eyes away from you, but this was the only way to keep you safe from your father and the people that might come to hurt us.”
She would place both of her palms on my chest and push the rough cloth against my skin, making it itch. Then she would give me a kiss on the forehead, the creatures in her hair would tap me on the cheeks as well, and so my day would begin. I would go out and stand in front of our home, which mother said was called a temple, and sit on the steps in front. The thing mother called the sun made my skin feel warm, but only in the morning, later it started to hurt, and I didn’t like it. Each day I sat on that step and waited for mother to finish tending to the animals we used for food and clothing. Then I took her soft hand in mine, and we walked. To the shore, to the fields where the other people living on the island worked, to the patch of land where mother would catch small creatures which had needles on their backs and small snouts on their heads. She called them hedgehogs and taught me how to hold them, so they don’t get scared, and I don’t get hurt. She always found something fun for us to do, and when I got older, she let me go exploring on my own.
With this new freedom, I always began my day the same - sitting on those steps. I sat there and enjoyed the warmth until my skin almost hurt, and the grass around began to smell too much for me. Then I would get up and wander around slowly, touching everything, remembering where it stood, how cold or warm it got during the different times of day. Slowly filling the world of darkness with shapes, smells, and textures.
After I turned ten years old, my mother stopped helping with my clothes but still kept on apologizing for my eyes. In the years to come, I began to wonder why no one lives in the temple except for us, so I asked.
“It’s too dangerous for others, Theo,” she said, and I heard the creatures on her head begin to move with more energy. “I have powers that would kill a normal person, so it’s better for us to be here, safe and undisturbed.”
I nodded and pretended to go for one of my walks, but stayed hidden behind one of the outside columns. A few minutes later, my mother came out, and by the sounds of her footsteps, I understood she was angry. Her gait took her to the side of the temple, up the stairs to the roof where I was never allowed because there is a sheer wall going down to the sea there. Staying at the bottom of the stairs, I heard my mother shout something, using some words I couldn’t understand and others I just couldn’t hear because of the louder than usual sea noises. What I did hear clearly were the words - your son, you care, vile creature, rapist. Mother usually got angry like that when talking to father. And father was someone she seldom talked about. What I do know is that he is the ruler of all the seas in the world and one of the Gods. I’ve tried to ask questions about him over the years, but mother never answers, and worse yet, sometimes gets really angry with me too. The sounds of the sea got really angry as well, and I heard my mother quickly start to come down the stairs. I made it back to my usual spot and sat down to wait for her.
“Theo,” she said, trying to cover up a quiver in her voice, which probably only I could hear, “come with me inside. I need to talk to you about something.”
With that said, she went inside, and so did I a few moments later. I sat down in a chair, and my mother came close to me, knelt, and began to speak. She told me why we lived in the temple, why my father slept with her against her will, how she didn’t know she was pregnant until she lived on the island for a few months. And then she explained that she took my eyes to keep me safe so that I wouldn’t be a threat to anyone and so I could live. She grabbed both of my hands, placed them on my lap, and put her forehead against the back of them as she cried. By the way she held them, I could feel how sad and responsible she felt, so I turned my hands over and cradled her cheeks with my palms.
“It’s okay, mother, I don’t hate you or anything,” I said and smiled. “As long as we’re together, we’ll be okay.”
“Yes,” she agreed, although a bit half-heartedly, “but someday I won’t be there for you, and I want you to promise me you’ll do your best to live a full life.” She gripped my hands tighter.
“Of course I will, mother,” I nodded and felt one of the creatures on her head brush against my arm, “but you shouldn’t worry about something like that now.”
“Yes,” she said, the word so full of sadness, it almost made me cry.
A moment later, something stung my arm, and my body began to feel heavy. As I fell into my mother’s arms, I felt the creature move back up my arm. The presence of my mother disappeared as the dream world took my mind.
Waking up, I felt my head pound like something was trying to escape from inside. My arms and legs felt heavy, and there was a strange smell in the temple. Someone else was here. Someone whose smell I didn’t recognize. The new person was running and knocking over things, and my mother was here as well. The way she stepped made me very scared. The person sounded like they were running around in a circle around mother, always stopping behind columns. A loud crash made me come fully awake, and I made it out of the stone nook my mother had hidden me in. Light fell on my skin and hands grabbed me by the neck.
“Is this your food, monster?” a man’s voice said.
“Let him go!” mother screamed, then a moment later spoke normally. “Please. He is my son, we only live on the animals, we have done no harm to anyone.”
The man pulled me up, his hands gripping so tight, it hurt. He smelled of sweat and the sea.
“Don’t come any closer!” he screamed and dragged me over to a nearby column, his back to mother.
We stood like that for a few breaths, then something cold and round brushed my left hand. The man holding me moved his head to the side, and the round object he held made light hit my face. His voice sounded strange as if he was holding the round object in front of us while he spoke to mother.
“Does he have the same power as you then? Should I use him to kill you?” the man said, still facing the round object and not mother.
“No, please!” mother begged. “I took his eyes when he was a babe in order to ensure that brutes like you wouldn’t harm him.”
“Is this true?” the man pulled me closer and asked in my ear. “Are you blind?”
Fright made my mouth clamp down, and so I couldn't speak a word. The man removed the sharp thing from my throat and used it to stir the air in front of my face.
“Huh,” the man grunted. “If this story you’re spinning is true, then come closer. Slowly! So we can be done with this.”
“Okay,” mother said with resignation in her voice. “Just promise you won’t harm him.”
“I promise,” the man said, his tone made it sound like he was offended for some reason. “I’m only here for one thing.”
“I know,” mother said and took a few steps towards us. “Goodbye, Theokritos. Remember your promise.”
As soon as she’d said that, the man released me and stepped out from behind the column. I heard a whistling sound, like a branch swinging very fast in the air. Something fell to the ground and rolled, then my mother collapsed. I slid forward on the cold floor and grabbed her by the shoulders. Warm liquid ran down my arms, and as I tried to comfort her, I realized her head was missing. The man picked up my mother's head off the ground and started to walk away. As I cradled her body, it began to shiver, and move then it split into two pieces. One began to vibrate, then a rush of air hit my face. Four hard sounds like hooves on stone slammed my ears, then the new thing born from mother’s corpse flapped wings like a bird. The winged hoofs ran out of the temple, and the man went after them. Confused, I pawed the ground until my fingers reached the other piece left of mother. It, too, began to change beneath my fingers. The way it moved terrified me, so I stood up and went to the entrance of the temple. Just as I made it there, something too big to be human began to fill the room. The way it moved things around was not normal. Walking out to the animal barn, I heard the temple crash down as something’s shadow eclipsed the sun. The giant shade took one step forward and reached the sea. Light warmed my skin as the sound of the thing too heavy to be real became distant.
The walk to the nearby village wasn’t long, and I had time to realize what had happened. My mother always worried about this day, about the people that might come to kill her and me, because I was her son. I now understood why she took my eyes, and I’m glad she did because this way I won’t waste time crying. I won’t ever forget the gift she gave me, even if I did lose something in return. I will do as I promised and live the best life I can, so thank you, mother, and I hope now you’ve found the peace you never had in life.