Old Blue Eye by Judy Darley

Violet tried her best to keep it closed, but the moment the boy on top of her picked up speed, she felt the lashes begin to quiver. As soon as it opened her vision altered, and everything she saw – the boy’s twisted, panting face, her ceiling with its full moon paper shade – became bathed in a milky blue light.

The first time it happened she was too occupied with it being her first time to take in what was happening before her deflowerer shuddered to a halt. She grasped his arms, confused, and felt her fingers wrap around hard nobbled struts of wood. In fact, all of him had gone hard and wooden, even the part of him she’d already mistakenly (excusable by her naïvety) labelled as hard wood, and which she now had to ease from within herself with the greatest care to avoid splinters.

Fortunately, although the boy’s dimensions remained the same, in wood-form he was far lighter – without flesh, or bone or even sap to weigh him down. She slid from beneath him and retreated to the corner of the room, staring at the sculpted figure for a long time. As the first dawn rays crept across his transformed gawp, her third eye blinked closed and her vision returned to normal.

The wood was dark and smooth, with large nodules where his joints had been. Rather than seeming carved, it resembled the branches of some tangled acacia tree. She walked around it, admiring the structure’s beauty, and then heaved it into her arms and hauled it from her room to the entrance to the cellar steps and let it thud its way down, hearing the wood splinter as he topped head over heel over arse.

Violet checked in the hallway mirror, lifting the heavy fringe she’d cultivated since childhood, but there was nothing to see other than the familiar faint bulge with its crescent of hair that she’d grown her hair to conceal. She nudged the bulge with her forefinger and felt a dull pain, but the thing didn’t stir.

She rebranded the whole misadventure as the semi-successful removal of her virginity, aware of a quiet hunger still fizzing in her loins. No matter, the eye-thing was likely to have been a one-off, she told herself, and when her friends invited her out dancing, she dressed with a second conquest in mind. Bare legs, a barely-there beaded dress, and little more suited to the steamy late summer nights.

Boys, it transpired, were easy prey. All it took was a few sultry looks through lowered lashes, an extra sway to her buttocks while shimmying, and a touch more laughter than came naturally. She selected one slightly shorter than average, with a narrow build, telling herself that this was just her type, and nothing to do with any practical post-coital considerations.

After that one metamorphosed to wood as well, she realised she needed to be more careful in her pick-ups. There were cameras in clubs, and it wouldn’t be long before someone made a connection between the boys disappearing and the girl they’d been seen tonguing.

Instead she made her choices in public, but made sure her come-ons were discreet enough that it was only outside, in the darkness, away from streetlights, that they followed her from the crowds.

She liked to pick the lonely boys, the ones who came to her most gladly, and who wouldn’t be too swiftly missed.

Violet wasn’t sure she was the first in her family to be quite so afflicted; all she knew was that she came from a long line of matriarchs, and that they all styled their lustrous hair to hang across the forehead.

She discovered that while she couldn’t prevent the third eye-opening, she could control its force. Different intensities brought different rhythms to their transformative judders, which Violet found deeply pleasing. She also discovered that if she ramped up her eye light at the last moment, she could melt the face before it reset as wood, rendering them less recognisably post-human, post-boy.

Winter was coming, and her thoughts were turning from near-nude dancing in clubs to cosy nights at home. The fizzing inside her had settled to a quiet, self-satisfied thrum. She dragged her latest lover over the precipice of the cellar steps and then wrapped herself in a snug blanket.

Feeling the chill of the new season settle over her, Violet crouched at the hearth, building a teepee of twigs that had once been fingers, and creating a blaze in the way that her grandmother had once shown her. She had more than enough wood to keep a fire burning in her grate until spring.

Judy Darley is a fiction writer, poet and journalist whose work appears in magazines, on websites, in anthologies and in her collection Remember Me To The Bees. She’s read her stories on BBC radio, in cafés, caves, an artist’s studio and a disused church. Her website is here and she tweets here.


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