Seeing is Believing
By Chris Garson
Sophie never took the stairs. Elevators were her turf, the perfect place for someone like her. In those steel cages from which there was no escape, her withering gift flourished. She always stood in the center, facing front. Someone in the back always noticed first, followed by a sudden gasp alerting others.
Sixteen years old, she’d endured stares and teasing her entire life. When Sophie was very young, her mother told her she was beautiful, that she, and her eyes, were special. Still, she thought them a curse. She cried herself to sleep at night and let her hair grow long, to hide them. Sophie didn’t want to be special. More than anything, she wanted to be normal. No one understood her burden.
Meeting Dex changed everything. Before him, she’d been a scared, little girl. A freak.
Dex was special too. Not like Sophie, but in his own way. A membrane, like the webbing on a duck’s foot, sealed his lips, but he could talk if you knew how to listen. That first day, he waved to her from an alley. Sophie should have been afraid of him, a stranger beckoning from the shadows. Older by at least five years, he had the look of someone used to living alone, on the streets. On the run, she would learn.
But, Sophie saw that she could trust him and marveled at hearing his voice. Truly, they were two of a kind. She and Dex became an odd couple. Friend, teacher, mentor, he understood the weight of her curse. From him, she came to view it as a gift. He taught her to be proud of it, to use it, and to be brave. She spent every free moment with him, until the men in black found him and took him away.
She wore her hair short now, for Dex, no longer afraid of letting people see them. So many people had tats and body mods that she was starting to blend in. When people made fun of her, she didn’t run. That’s why she liked elevators. She couldn’t run away. Neither could her tormentors. There’s no running in an elevator. When someone stared at her, she stared back and no one could out stare Sophie.
She entered the elevator with a punk in torn jeans sporting a blue Mohawk, as if that made him tough or something, and his scrawny friend with teeth blackened like chimneys covered in soot. She took her customary spot and they went to the back of the car after pushing the button for the thirty-fourth floor. Sophie had an appointment for the fifty-third. This was going to be a long ride. Too long.
She saw the one who thought he was tough notice her and tense up. He was going to cause trouble. She could see it in his eyes and by the way his hands fidgeted in his pockets.
Sounding like a thousand other schoolyard bullies, he poked his scrawny friend and taunted Sophie. “Look at the freak.”
She hated that word more than any other. It brought back too many painful memories.
The punk snickered. “Freak. Freak. Freak.”
“I hear you,” Without turning, Sophie leveled the stare that withered and saw the punk’s truth. A thug, a petty criminal raised in the stench of booze and violence. His friend’s too, a frightened sheep lost in a maze of meth shacks. All four eyes blinked, the two in front and the two in back. “I can see you too. I can see you wherever you go. I see you here and I can see you in your dreams. If you don’t leave me alone, I’ll haunt them every night for the rest of your life.”
A wet stain ran down the punk’s leg, spoiling those torn jeans. His friend whimpered.
The doctors had no explanation, no answers for her at all. She was the girl with eyes in the back of her head. She saw more than anyone did. She saw more than anyone suspected. Sophie could see everything, especially that which she wasn’t meant to see. She could see through walls, and across oceans, and she could see within. Her gaze could pierce the flesh and reveal the soul. She saw people for who they really were, like she had with Dex.
The door opened at the thirty-fourth floor. The punk and his friend bolted from the elevator like they’d seen a ghost. A sliver of a smile curled across her lips. Once, she would have run.
Not everyone thought as those two did, she reminded herself. More and more people were starting to believe in people like her and Dex.
An overweight, sweaty man stuffed into a suit and a pale, pierced woman wearing black hose and leather stepped to the rear of the elevator after wayward glances at the fleeing young men. The doors closed.