Five Hundred Eyes

Five Hundred Blackeyes

She lies, immobile, on the table. No trace of emotion crosses her perfect face, nothing disturbs the serene calm; she will face death without fear, for she has no fear, no concern, no mind.

It is darkness, and Erica sits alone. The page in front of her is blank, and to look at her, you would think the same of her mind. But no, her mind is full, too full for her to correlate the thoughts that swarm and multiply and agitate for release. But the page remains empty, for the words won't come.

She must save her creation, her character remember, not theirs. She must save her from the fate they want for her. And so much more is tied up with this, so much more than the fate of one woman, her Blackeyes.

"Why do they call you 'Blackeyes'?"

A smile plays across her face. "Have you see me run?"

The warrior looks confused.

"I"m sorry. A bad joke."

No it wasn't. It was humour. That's what they wanted, wasn't it? Wit, not slapstick. And that's what they'd got. Why couldn't they be satisfied? Erica tears up the page in frustration and bangs her fist on the desk. The old man could handle this so much better, but she won't let him. This is her story, and she has something to prove.

But Erica cannot write.

*  *  *  *

Erica sits at the back of the hall as the old man receives the awards, her awards, and basks in the praise, her praise. The clapping seals see only the old man's reputation, not his work, and they are applausing for past glories, not new triumphs. It was her idea, her concept; he merely took them and fleshed them out with fancy words and elaborate phrasing. The emperor's new clothes, to be sure, swears Erica. Such devious twists I devised, so why doe she get their slavish adulation? And if all this is mine, why can't I write? Why won't the words come?

Her head shaven, she meets her fate with equanimity. The discarded husk of her invader lies opposite, as drained as her own pretty little head. Feeling returns to her body, step by step. She can feel her toes, her fingertips, her body. But it is not hers, but Blackeyes'. Slowly she opens her eyes and sees the surgeon standing over her, smiling, and she knows that Blackeyes is no more. Is she dead? The occupier of her mind has little time to contemplate the exact moment of demise, for the door suddenly bursts open and the warrior -

Jonathan watches secretly as Erica starts to form the fragments of an idea in her head. She thinks that she has found a way, a way to save her ideals from the corruption of the old man. She will kill Blackeyes, yes! Let them distort that if they can. And then her head sags as she feels the pen of the old man twist her story. She sees a rose-tinted haze blur her vision, and that most sickly, sentimental of forms, the heart, envelops her creation.

"She did not die, Doctor. She lives as a warrior queen with Yrcanos ..."

No! Erica will not allow this perversion. Blackeyes' death was a masterstroke. It must not be undone by the old man. But who is controlling him? You worry about such things, Erica? You would do better to concern yourself with higher matters: who controls you?

Someone is trying to take over her story, she suspects, but does not know. Jonathan, she thinks, is just another of her characters; she does not realise that he is just as real as her, or perhaps more so. For, my dear Erica, he is writing your script, and, like that you created for Blackeyes, the ending is not what you might wish. Beware, my Erica, beware.

She knows what she must do. Not with a stilletto, she must be subtle, she must be safe; but the old man must die. What was good for Salieri ...

The author reconsiders. Libel is not cheap, and a retraction is easier. A coward, yes, but better that than a penniless, humiliated hero. The old man will die, yes, but off-screen. Did Erica do it? I will not say. I play safe.

*  *  *  *

Who is Jonathan? Did you think it was Powell? Shame on you! Wait your turn. No, of course Jonathan has to be the bearded one, the hawaiian shirts. Of course. What did you expect? After all, I have a reputation to uphold; the anti-auntie satire comes later.

And what of my Blackeyes, what of her? The old man is gone, but still they conspire against you. What of Blackeyes? This.

Yrcanos, though happy enough to be with her, often complained that life in California was endlessly perplexing; to which Peri would reply yes, it was, but he coped better than most barbarians who lived on the west coast.

Oh come on! Not even the old man would write that. But then, what would he write? Come on, Erica, think yourself into his mind, think his thoughts and then bend them to your own devices; take his ability, if not his ambitions, and use it for your own ends.

She reaches a decision. With the old man gone, she can decide how the story will end. Or rather ...

It won't end. She will leave it open. Brilliant! Then I will be needed. They'll depend on me to finish it off; they will be reliant upon me. Invincible. Oh clever Erica.

*  *  *  *

But Jonathan is manipulating. There must be an ending, and the ending must be safe. He wants Blackeyes for himself, keep her alive. But more: he want's Erica's programme for himself, keep it alive. That is Erica's true creation, her legacy. Unwittingly perhaps, but she has won. In her failure, her inability to retain her story, she has laid a trap for Jonathan, and he won't see it until it is too late; indeed, he may not see it at all. Are you watching, Jonathan?

*  *  *  *

So, is Erica real? (Did you ever see her?) Is she of the same plane of substance as Jonathan? Is he interacting with her (do they communicate?) or merely manipulating her in his story, his grand design?

*  *  *  *

But Jonathan, you too are a creation; you too are being manipulated. In your desire to save your beloved, steering her away from violence and unhappy endings, you have lost her. Slushy sentimentality, incoherence, unreality, fake facade: peel away the outer veneer and it all falls apart.

And the men in the dark suits don't like this; you are their creation, and they don't like this.

You try to change your beloved to save her, but you change too much; or you don't change enough; and so the change is made for you, and you have lost her.

So sad, poor Jonathan.

*  *  *  *

And now Blackeyes is mine. Not the girl; she is so much more than that. My Blackeyes is Jonathan's love; and she is safe - the men in dark suits said so.

I believe them.

Don't you?

*  *  *  *

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