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The girl who pushed open the shop door was too young for the cane she leaned on. I examined her from under the brim of my dark baker’s boy cap.
I sat in my tall swivel chair behind the counter, feet kicked up next to the register. Two knitting needles clicked in my lap, the motion so mechanical I never looked down. They manipulated the strand of yarn into a nearly-completed scarf. The little ball danced on the ground as I pulled from it.
“Morning,” I said.
The girl flashed me a smile. “Good morning.” She was polite, and didn’t stare or even give a second glance to my eye patch, partially hidden under the brim of my cap. Since I had turned, I had never felt bad about taking what I needed, but this girl seemed oddly bright, naïve even. What a waste. I couldn’t wait any longer, though.
My good eye never left her as she limped through the store. It wasn’t hard – the shop was more of a nook than anything, and the bright and airy front windows did nothing to make the shelves seem less crowded. They were looming and solid, full of open-front cubbies that displayed neatly stacked skeins of yarn. I had sorted them by weight and by color, careful to tuck all the loose ends away.
I glanced down for a moment to finish off the scarf, looping it around my neck once it was free from the needles. When I surveyed my shop again, I saw that the girl had knocked a skein to the ground. She perused a nearby cubby, unaware. Spots danced in front of my eye. For a moment I expected to feel the accelerated pounding of my heart, as well. But then I remembered.
“You dropped one,” I said, my voice stiff.
“What was that?”
I gestured toward the rogue skein. “You dropped one.”
“Oh,” the girl said, smiling, and replaced the yarn. She had to stoop down awkwardly, keeping her weight off her bad leg. Only once everything was back in order did I breathe deeply, feeling the passageways in my mind open back up like undammed rivers.
I adjusted my baker’s boy cap. “How long have you been knitting?” I asked, leaning my elbows on the counter.
“Ever since I got hurt,” she thumped her cane to emphasize her bad leg. “I couldn’t walk at all for a while, and I needed to keep busy.”
“Car accident,” she said simply. Her eyes met mine and I felt the emptiness under my eye patch.
“We have a knitting group here sometimes,” I offered, struggling to keep the pushiness out of my voice. It crept in anyway. “We could use some new members.”
“I’m all set, thanks though.”
“You don’t even have to come,” I said with a charming smile. “Just sign up and you get a free skein of yarn. All I need is your name and an email address.” I could see her resolve breaking. “Preferably one you use, but hey, I’m not picky.”
“Fine, but only because I need this,” she held up a skein of expensive alpaca yarn and smiled again.
“Sign up sheet’s in the back.” I slid out of my tall chair before she could change her mind.
I led her into the only other room in the shop – my windowless office that was no larger than a breadbox. The florescent light flickered slightly. The desk was small and shoved into the corner, covered in neat stacks of paper. The faint smell of cleaning product hung in the air, and not a single mote of dust could be found. I produced the signup sheet from one of the perfect stacks of paper.
“This is cozy,” the girl said as she filled out her name and email.
“It’s really a supply closet.” I closed the door and stood behind her. The cane leaned against my desk. I unwound the scarf from my neck and gripped an end in each hand.
“Sorry about this,” I said flatly, and looped the scarf around her neck, pulling it tight and cutting off her windpipe. She struggled, but her bad leg gave out and we both fell to the floor, crashing against the closed door on the way down. Her hands clawed at mine, but she grew weaker and was still after a few minutes. I loosened the scarf from her neck and wrapped it back around mine. That was easier than last time.
The girl slumped forward, her hair spilled into her now-puffy face. I pushed her onto her back and yanked my eye patch down around my neck, exposing my raw, empty eye socket.
Mechanically, I pulled the girl’s right eyelids wide open with one hand, and with the other I scooped my fingers under her eye, popping it out with a sickening squelch. I didn’t flinch. Once upon a time I might have, but not now. Tendons popped as I freed it completely from the dead girl’s distorted face. Careful not to drop it, I pressed the organ into my own waiting eye socket, squeezing my lids shut over the foreign object.
Warmth slowly radiated out from the new eye back into my face and head as my body adapted. I blinked rapidly, but my sight didn’t return immediately so I repositioned the eye patch once again.
I walked out the front door of the shop, not bothering to lock up. I wouldn’t be back here. Dismayed, I saw that the girl had left shallow scratch marks running up both of my forearms. Those would need to be replaced too, then. Just when I thought I was done for a while.
I adjusted the baker’s boy cap, pulling it lower over my eyes to block out the beams of sun that flickered between the low square buildings that populated the outskirts of the city. My legs were new enough that I walked normally, without the shuffling that usually plagued others like me. I was grateful to still look human. The warmth in my new eye grew more intense. I whistled as I walked down the sidewalk, eventually pulling off the eye patch and dropping it into the gutter, my eyesight restored.
Back at the shop, I knew the girl would be stirring now.
Credit To – Lucia Costello