“Oh my God! I… I can’t believe this… You… You have freckles covering your face!! Aahan…And blond highlights??” My enthusiasm was hard to discern due to my overwhelming emotions. I struggled to draw half a smile on my face and continued to palpate my wife’s traits: “I always pictured you with plain brown hair. My wife… you are gorgeous!!! You are, Martha… You’re very beautiful. I’m… I’m a very lucky man.” The words felt heavier coming out of my mouth as I hugged my wife and my doctor. I was still adapting to my new vision after the eyepatches were off. Although it was still blurry, I could identify better details.
The doctor declared that my cornea was healing correctly and that my vision was going to improve progressively throughout the year: “Congratulations Tylor! Enjoy sinning through your new eyes” he burst out laughing at his joke that neither my wife nor I found funny.
“Tylor you can see!!” she hugged me tighter and cried. “Thank you Doctor Salem! Thank you a million times for your miracle work.” Her eyes all wet, she sniffed the air to hold her runny nose and asked: “But Tylor, who is Martha?? My name is Helen and you’ve been mistaking it ever since you woke up from your anesthetic sleep two days ago.”
Lying on the doctor’s recliner chair two weeks earlier, my heart couldn’t keep up the pace of my excitement when he told me that a donated cornea was available and that I was ready to undergo surgery.
As a teenager, I found it hard to read seven feet away road signs or to discern the letters “a” and “o”. The symptoms were similar to those of myopia, which were alleviated with diverging lenses that made my eyes appear smaller. They used to call me “Ty with the mini eye” back in high school. The nickname didn’t bother me as much as the constant sensation of my eyes soaking in water did. My vision deteriorated progressively and my eyeballs took a more conical shape bulging out of their original place. The unilateral headaches multiplied as the ghostly images duplicated in my brain. My poor eyesight was finally linked to a degenerative disease of the eye called Keratoconus [Conical Cornea] that weakens the autofocus properties – similar to a Nikon camera – of the transparent outer layer of the eye.
On the day of the surgery, the preoperative anxiety started to kick in. I knew that doctor Jack Salem was the best ophthalmologist in the country, with perfect reviews on Healthgrade.com and a 90% success rate of corneal transplant. Yet, visualizing the circular incision in my cornea gripped all my facial nerves, clenching my upper and lower teeth against each other.
The surgery did not take too long. At least that’s what I thought. I remember kissing my wife before heading to the OR and then… Darkness. It seemed as if I was sucked out of time and space into nothingness: The place where the unborn and the dead reside.
“Martha… Don’t let them take you away from me!”
Those were the last words I muttered before regaining my consciousness. Who was Martha? I had no idea. Although, I remembered later on seeing her face in my anesthetic-induced dream. She looked real, felt real. Her close-up portrait still flashes in my mind from time to time: A black turban covered her hair and contrasted her dark eyeliner. Her eyebrows felt heavy, carving deep vertical streaks between them, that hid her most profound secrets. She covered her nose and mouth with her left hand protecting herself from a possible threat. She was begging for help.
But how was I supposed to help someone who breathes in my mind?
Dr. Salem lost his humor after several failed attempts. He prescribed me antibiotic drops but did not require immunosuppressants for graft rejection since there are no blood vessels in the cornea. But then again it wasn’t my immune system that was discarding the donor’s tissue but quite the opposite.
My body and spirit were craving Martha. Her eyes were blaming me for cheating on her… with my wife. A void filled my stomach every night lying next to Helen. Her touch was senseless; her voice was soundless.
“YOU’RE NOT MY WIFE!” I screamed at Helen one day when she was checking if I took my antibiotics. Her facial expressions dropped instantly in grief. I had regained my eyesight, but it seemed like she had totally lost her husband.
What was I talking about? Of course she was my wife.
I went the next morning to visit Dr. Salem for my regular check-up. I took a cab to the hospital since I needed to express to him the feelings I was experiencing without Helen being around. Waiting for my appointment, I was formulating the words in my mind to sound the least crazy. I noticed a woman passing in the background of my wondering, dragging behind her a luring rose scented cloud. I inhaled a mesmerizing puff of aroma that transported me to a twirling déjà vu.
“Ahmed… Hang on!” She sobbed, kneeling on the ground while holding my hand firmly. “The doctors are on their way to help you!! NO!!… YOU CAN’T!!… huhh… You can’t leave me here… alone with the kids in this refugee camp…” she begged in distress. “They’re going to kill us!!”.
While I lay on the ground with my hand touching the slimy burning sensation in my stomach, Martha brought her head closer to my chest. I was hanging on to reality by sniffing her rose fragranced turban but I was slowly disconnecting from my vision and regaining sense of the hospital waiting room.
“Martha” I called, but I was alone in the room.
Still confused, I entered Dr. Salem’s office for my check-up. I only responded to his questions with brief answers, without adding any small talk to the discussion. Once he was done running his tests, he affirmed that everything was normal. As I was standing from my chair, I looked at him and said: “Dr. Salem, everything is not normal. I might physically have a normal progression of my eyesight, but I am changed.”
“Tylor, what do you mean?? I don’t understand what you’re saying.” He answered with a puzzled gaze.
“Dr. Salem, I know you might think that I lost it but… Ever since I had the corneal transplant, I’ve been having these visions and dreams that felt so real… Is it possible that these phenomena are somehow related to my donor’s past life?” I shyly asked.
“Well, Tylor. Some organ receivers complained about similar experiences in the past. Though, there is still no scientific evidence for their occurrence. So who knows? I’m sure they will soon vanish and you will be back to your normal self.” He said reassuring me.
“But doctor, I’ve been dreaming about this woman called Martha and it’s ruining my marriage with Helen. In fact, just before I entered your office, I was teleported to a refugee camp. I was badly injured after being shot or knifed by some terrorists I guess, and Martha was scared. I think she called me… Ahmed.
Doctor Salem, is my donor’s name Ahmed?” I vividly questioned this time, feeling more hyped up.
“I’m sorry Tylor but I don’t have access to the donors’ names. Their identities are kept anonymous. Now go home and rest” He apologized and escorted me out the door.
That night, I also slept on the living room couch. I had one leg dangling to the ground in order to fit the rest of my body on the mattress. My thin blanket couldn’t fight the chilly weather and soon enough my eyes started to itch and sting. I could feel the pointy needle penetrating my glassy cornea, producing blood-dripping friction. Ahmed was sewing his way through the stitches from my cornea all the way to my brain. That’s when the nightmares began. My eyes were shifting from one side to the other grasping the flashbacks from Ahmed’s past life.
“Hello, I am doctor Jack Salem.” Boosh… Ratatata “You Join us… or boom boom… family…children…you… Bye Bye! Under’estand? “
sssshhbloom… “My team and I are here to run some medical tests on you to make sure that you and your kids are safe and healthy.” Ratatata… “God is ISIS…”
” Please sign these papers for us. They’re nothing important. Some medical formalities for further research”
“Mashallah! Good wife you have… Bayoutiful” ssshhhblamm… Karrrtataa… “Don’t touch my wife!” Ratatata…
“Ahmed… Hang on!… The doctors are on their way to help you!!” eee-woOO-EEE-WOoo-eee-wooo…
“He’s not gonna make it to the hospital. Inject him with a high dose of morphine. His organs are still functional.”
“THEY’RE GOING TO KILL US!! KILL us…kill us”
Ahmed had invaded my mind, building new connections with my brain cells. I was a receptor to his spiritual field, capturing all his ideas. I felt him through the pulsating sensations going from my brain to my limbs. Ahmed was hungry for revenge and his intense murder instincts were driving my body.
Martha was right: They’re going to kill us… Not ISIS though… but these doctors that made us sign papers we didn’t know how to read. Never did a wounded refugee come back to the camp! But I’m gonna be the exception… I’m coming for you Dr. Salem and soon I’ll be back to my wife and kids.
Ahmed had already taken a toll on me and I had two options: either cooperate with him or fight him back – although I had no idea how to do that –.
I sympathized with him; his feelings ran in my blood. He was a victim offered the chance to defend himself and I felt somehow responsible. I rented him my body to free myself from the guilt of either killing Dr. Salem or remaining silent in the face of injustice for what I have witnessed.
It was already 6:00am, Dr. Salem was definitely in his office at this time. I don’t know how I managed to drive to the hospital since my vision wasn’t totally recovered. It seemed like Ahmed’s instincts were stronger than my physical disabilities. He became so enraged that time dilated playing the scene in rose-tinted slow-motion. The high levels of adrenaline in my body blocked the surrounding noises. The only sounds I was perceiving were produced by my hyperventilation and my accelerated heart-beats. I quickly turned the doorknob of Dr. Salem’s office and found myself inside.
“Oh… Hey there Tylor. You scared me… What’s going on?” said Dr. Salem while catching his breath.
“Hi doctor. We meet again.” I walked closer and grabbed the surgical scissors from the metal table under the TV. “I believe this is your weapon of preference? You hide behind your white coat and your vast knowledge… when in fact, you are worse than these so-called terrorists! At least their violence is expected.”
“Tylor… Tylor please, drop the scissors… Please, let us sit and talk about how you feel.” He pleaded in fear.
“Hahh…” I giggled. “Tylor has nothing to do with that. I’m Ahmed: that stupid, poor, mine of golden organs. The rotten piece of meat holding precious spare parts for your wealthy patients.” I walked closer towards him and grabbed his left arm. “I am going to make you feel the exact same pain you inflicted on me while ripping my organs apart. First, my liver…”
I choked him with my left arm against the wall and placed the scissors against his liver. He tip-toed to escape getting hurt, tilted his neck backwards and looked down towards the scissors. I pressed the pointy weapon deeper into his dermis and through the fat, tearing all of the layers in between. He whimpered as the blood dripped on the scissors, my hand and all over the ground. As I rapidly took-out the pointy metal, Dr. Salem fell to the ground moaning in pain, bathing in a puddle of blood. “Then… My kidneys!” I yelled as I stabbed him in a single shot! “Finally… my heart that you took away from Martha…” I pierced him straight in his blood-pump, smashing one or two ribs.
My feet couldn’t fight gravity anymore as I abruptly dropped on my knees. Dr. Salem had lost a lot of blood, his twitching stopped… He was dead.
What have I done? What have YOU done Ahmed?
I didn’t do anything Tylor…. It was all you! Do you really believe that I have the power to do all that? I’m just a voice in your head. You did it… for Martha. Remember? Now you have to go back to her… she misses you… you miss her too. Don’t you? The police are on their way; do you think they will believe your story? You have to act fast!
What was happening to me? God help me… God… Please forgive me, I have sinned.
Wait a minute.
I have sinned… through my new eyes.
I got up from the ground and ran towards the metal table. I picked clean surgical scissors, looked at them in my hand for a while, not sure if my idea would work. But I decided it was worth the try.
“Goodbye Ahmed!” within a heartbeat, I turned the scissors towards my eyes and stabbed them directly in the cornea… and then, Darkness.
Two weeks later:
Lying on the hospital bed, I heard someone’s footsteps approaching.
“Hello Tylor” I directly recognized Helen’s voice. “How are you feeling?” she continued asking.
I wasn’t sure what to say: Apologize? Explain myself?
We talked for hours… She told me that the police had caught several doctors involved in organ trafficking after the incident, including Dr. Salem. She held my hand and assured me that she will hire me the best lawyer in town to make sure I don’t end up in jail for murdering the doctor. This time, I had lost my eyesight forever, but at least I regained my wife, my sanity… myself.
The next morning, I was good to go back home. Going out of the hospital’s door, I passed next to Dr. Salem’s office. Helen told me that a woman sitting on the recliner chair had recently had a corneal transplant. I remembered that day when I was sitting on that same exact chair removing the eyepatches. A scent of roses suddenly filled the air. I stopped for a while, and then I heard her say: