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I Will Know You by Your Eyes
I don't know how many times I told you over the years, but your eyes were the first thing that I noticed about you. They were so incredibly striking. The deepest blue that I have ever seen, unblemished by marks of foreign color. They glittered with intelligence. I fell in love that moment.
It would have been, it was, such a great find. The Nobel committee would have beaten down our door to award me. It would have been fame and fortune. Not bad for a scientist. I would have been able to write my ticket. Our ticket.
You know what I miss the most? Your laughter. It was soft as a summer wind. You could brighten up a room with merely a giggle. You even laughed at all my bad old jokes. You always said that I made you laugh. You don't laugh anymore. I guess you can't
When they showed that tiny meteor to me, I knew that we were looking at something incredible. Frozen in an ice core for perhaps 200,000 years, still sealed in it's coffin of ice, it was wonderful. Even through the wavy window of crystallized water, I could see the blue algae.
Blue. That dress that you wore to my sisters wedding. I guess that I'll never know how you managed it. It matched your eyes so perfectly. I don't think that anyone ever even looked at the bride once you came in on my arm. I still could feel my heart flutter, like young lovers. I guess we still were, then.
I thought that we were just looking at a new kind of algae. It didn't look all that different from other types I'd seen over the years. It was just so strange that it seemed to be growing on that ancient rock from space. Why would it have done that? I figured that the heat from the meteor must have melted the ice enough for the algae to grow before it was refrozen again.
I watch you in our garden last night, but it isn't like it used to be. I could have watched you for hours then, dutifully weeding your vegetables. You had a knack for flowers like no one else I have ever known. You always seemed to have flowers growing and blooming.
I shouldn't have used my lab. It would have been so much safer to go to the university. I just didn't know. I just hadn't had the presence of mind. It looked so simple, at first. By the time I realized what I really had, it couldn't be moved. Who could have predicted that something like this could survive the tremendous heat of reentry?
You know what else attracted me to you? The intelligence that glittered behind those eyes. I have yet to meet anyone else who understands what I do, or did, better than you. You should have gone back to school, but you didn't want too. You kept saying that you had everything you wanted. Why did you need letters after your name? I wanted you to be my assistant. You refused. How I wish you hadn't.
It was incredible! To view that slide under a microscope was the most incredible experience of my life. It was completely different than anything else that I have ever seen. It was life, of that, there could be no doubt. But where were all the cellular structures? The mitochondria? The Endoplasmic Reticulum? It didn't make sense. I could see a clear nucleus. Was is a nucleus? I'm not so sure.
I look at you now and try to fathom what I have done. What have I done to you. I recognized you immediately. Your eyes are still as striking as the day that we met. They still glimmer with that intelligence that I fell in love with. The mannerisms, the feeling of love, they are all there. There is so little else left.
The leak wasn't my fault, but I have to take responsibility. I didn't know, couldn't know, that the seal to the outside was broken. I had been so careful. I isolated myself in the lab, alone. I didn't want contamination. Not of the samples, not of myself. The samples were in the isolation chamber, all alone. I was protected and prepared to spend up to two weeks in constant study. You understood that. You even encouraged it. You know how I am when I get started, I forget that the rest of the world exists. I didn't even answer the phone when it rang, or the muffled knocking I heard at the isolation door.
I wonder now if that was you calling? I imagine it was. I try to imagine the panic that you must have felt. You always had composure, but there is a limit to everything. Did you realize that this was all my fault, or did you think, perhaps, that I was simply too far gone to respond? I hope to be able to ask you that.
It took me a week and a half for me to realize that something was very wrong. The power went out. In itself, that's not all that strange. Things like this happen. My emergency power generator kicked in, and I continued my work. It wasn't until I checked the computer later that I realized that the city power had been out for nearly a full day. That was decidedly strange.
Why did you stay in the house? All the others, it seemed, fled the cities when it happened. You stayed. Were you waiting for me? Despite that I never came to the door of the lab, I never answered the phone, did you hold out hope that I was still okay? That I would be able to cure you?
I left the building only to discover a city that was completely deserted. I heard no human sounds, and I got scared. Nearby the lab, I found an abandoned newsvan. The crew was gone, but the portable generator still ran. The tape was on a continuous loop, perhaps the last act of a member of the news crew. I watched society alter before my eyes. It took only a week. It must have gotten into the airports. I always said that the next world plague would be spread in an airport.
I tried to drive home, but couldn't. The streets were blocked with abandoned cars. The sidewalks littered with broken glass and merchandise. The aftereffects of a society in collapse. I never saw anyone, but I knew what they had become. I could see as much from the news tape. I also knew that this was all my fault.
Somehow, I knew that you were waiting for me. I only worried about what I would find. Would you be angry? Would you be upset? Would you still care? It never occurred to me you didn't know it was me. Perhaps you did know, but still cared. I found you waiting in the living room. You ran into my arms, not out of attack, but out of love. I wanted to hold you so tightly. I couldn't. I simply didn't want to harm your wings.
I saw one just before I came back to the house. For a fleeting moment, I thought it could be you. About three feet tall, covered in scales and feathers. It was running on hind legs, trailing a long tail behind it. The arms were now barely functional wings. I saw it trying to hop into the sky. I wonder now if that was some adventurous sole trying to take to the heavens above.
I know that you knew me, but it seemed that everyone else had forgotten. What do you remember? Do you still remember the trip to Lake Chachuma, our first camping trip? Our vacation to London two years ago? Our wedding night spent in that Alaskan cabin? I looked into your eyes and couldn't be sure. I think that you do. I could see that tear. You tried to wipe mine away with your wing.
I know what happened. It was why I was going to be a shoe-in for the Nobel. It wasn't an Earth algae at all. It simply didn't conform. It was from space. I had the proof. I also didn't realize for four days that the seal in the lab was broken. Was it designed, perhaps an interstellar seeding organism? Change the local fauna into what you want? Was it natural? Was it a message that simply didn't work the way intended? I guess that I'll never know.
We held each other for such a long time. I wiped the tear off your scaled muzzle. I kissed you gently on the head. I couldn't believe what I had done. At that moment I didn't care at all about the world, about the billions I had condemned to animal-hood. I couldn't forgive myself for what I had done to you. I wanted to kill myself. You wouldn't let me.
Should I return to the lab and work on an antidote? No. Not a chance. I don't even why this happened, really. I know that it had to be my organism. It is the only thing that fits. I was sealed in a self contained lab. The rest of the world wasn't.
I lay next to you on the floor for hours, trying to decide what to do. It had been a couple of days. You wouldn't let me die, and I realized that I couldn't leave you alone. Not now. You seemed to be waiting. I ran my hand across your feathered back for hours before I saw it. I first thought that it was one of yours, broken loose and hanging from my arm. Then I realized it was attached. I gently held you tighter, not wishing to awaken you. I would be joining you again soon enough.
But you already knew that.
I Will Know You by Your Eyes copyright 1996 by Brian Eirik Coe.
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