During 2018, Not a Pipe Publishing has accepted Kamila Shamsie's challenge to only publish women for one year. Beyond the eight (eight!) novels we'll be publishing, we'd also like to promote even more women's voices, so we're publishing short fiction here. We’ve also compiled an anthology of some of the best of these shorts stories, and you can now purchase a copy of Strongly Worded Women: The Best of the Year of Publishing Women: An Anthology.
[Trigger warning: body horror] "Eyes" is a truly disturbing and terrifying story. Ransom, author of the Going Green trilogy, once again proves her ability to create entirely unique stories and worlds. This story features a world in which our eyes die out from disease and must be replaced. How would this be managed? Who gets the eyes? Is there a hierarchy? This story provides merely a horrifying glimpse into this world, one of desperation and darkness. -Sydney Culpepper, Anthology Editor
I eased the spoon down into the baby’s eye socket until the suction sound turned to a soft pop. Clipping the optical nerve, I started on the other eye. One down, one to go. I had to reposition the spoon when it didn’t slide in smoothly. Adjusting my grip on the handle, I pushed down harder this time, thinking that although it technically wasn’t a “spoon,” I could have eaten cereal with it.
“Put on some speed, Zif.” A foot tapped impatiently. Fen never could stand still.
“I’m on it. We should have broken in to do this last week.”
Fen snorted. “Three sets in seven months. Hope these last a little longer.”
Finally, another audible pop. A firm snip, then carefully, I dropped both eyes in the quick fix jar, and pulled a crimper out of my pocket.
“Hey, you can’t blame me for tossing that second set. Dealers who sell unmatched eyes should be put down.” I’d felt crazy. It was hard enough keeping check on one set of urges.
My life was tough, but it was mine. At least I hadn’t been born a stock baby. Shunted after harvesting. I glanced across the other babies available, hoping I’d made a good choice. I mean, it was impossible to tell. They all pretty much looked the same. I could deal with the urges, I was just hoping for a little more time. We all knew that stealing a new set from a private stock lab carried huge risks. Those designated as “permanently sighted” didn’t know how good they had it. They just put in a call and a new set was delivered to their door. They never had to harvest their own.
But I needed these eyes. I crimped the nerve endings with new adapters. A burnt, slightly metallic smell filled the air. That was a good sign.
“Any day.” The foot tapping started again.
I popped my bad eye out first. It hurt some, but I was used to it by now. And, once your sight started to go, the nerves didn’t work right anyway. The virus had infected it about a month ago, so it was pretty much already dead. I felt along the optic nerve to find the old inset point, cut just behind it, then crimped the new one in. I had sixty seconds to get the other one done. If both eyes weren’t connected by then, there’d be a possibility I’d see double for the span of this set. I’d known a guy who’d gone crazy, ripping his out before they even went bad because of double-vision headaches. What a waste.
I let the new eye dangle wet against my cheek. One more pop and crimp. This time completely by touch. That was the scary part of all this. I hated the blind times. They were suffocating.
Taking a deep breath, I gently pulled back my eye lids, one at a time, and softly pushed until the new eyes popped into place. Blinking, I waited for my sight to return.
“Well, how are they?” I heard Fen’s footsteps come toward me. “Pretty sweet. Cool green. Good choice on color.”
Suddenly a piercing wail filled the room. The baby! It was screaming now at the top of its lungs. It shouldn’t have done that. Stock babies didn’t make noise …unless …Fen and I looked at each other astonished.
“Oh my god, you hit the mother lode!” Fen yelled, over the top of the shrieking howl. “We’ve got to get out of here now! They’ll kill you to get those eyes!”
The baby came into focus. Black, gaping holes where its eyes had been. Its arms flew in random, jerking movements.
I just stood there. Everything seemed in slow motion. The realization of what was happening slowly washed over me. I looked up as Fen grabbed my arm.
“We have to go! Now!” Fen began to drag me across the room. Then a siren added its squealing, and I snapped into action.
I dove after Fen into a small air duct at the back of the room, scrambling for what seemed like forever until we rolled out into a waste pond behind the facility. Glancing back as we started to run for the trees, I saw officers with guns filing out of the building.
Fen’s breathing was jagged as we finally slowed to a jog, weaving through the thick brush. “Somebody’s going to be …in big trouble. Just think …they had an immune there and …didn’t even know it. They should have been …harvesting sooner.”
That’s when I felt it, so strong and burning. Overwhelming. There’s always urges with new eyes since they’re connected to the soul of the previous owner, of who they’ll become. Mother Teresa, Hitler, or some schmuck in between.
I looked at Fen. Rippling muscles. Smooth skin. My best friend. And I felt for the knife in my pocket.
The blade felt sweet sliding through Fen’s throat. No sound came from the open mouth. Wasted. Maybe I should’ve taken my new eyes out. Tossed them.
But they were immune. Not eyes that you’d give up.
Fen would’ve understood. A girl’s gotta make her own way in this world.
Life as a middle school teacher for twenty-six years has allowed Heather an intimate look into the minds of thousands of young adults, most of whom are desperate to find their place in a society constantly changing around them. Many have found escape, ideas for facing challenges, or simply hope for a future where they can make a difference, through reading. So every year, Heather has her classes read. And they imagine together what their futures might hold, telling stories about advances in technology that could change their world.
Heather grew up in a family that loved stories. Her mom told incredible, fanciful adventures where she, along with her brother and sister, lived in a pond with tadpoles, or traveled across the dusty hills as Native Americans, or howled at the moon with the coyotes. As her mom told these stories, Heather became the character. She felt the water moving through her gills as she swam with Wally Wadpole. She tasted the dust in her mouth while riding her horse, Many Moons, on the hunt to bring back food to her tribe. She heard the coyotes calling her to come play, long after the stories were over. Heather fell in love with a good story, one that immersed her in a world that felt so real she never wanted to leave. This is what she hopes to bring to her readers, to give them a world they want to return to over and over again.
Heather's first book, Going Green, a YA sci fi dystopia, was published by Not a Pipe Publishing in March or 2017. The second book in the Going Green trilogy, Greener, was released in September of 2018, and the final part of the trilogy, Back to Green, will be out in the end of 2019.
When not teaching or writing, Heather enjoys spending time with the man of her dreams, Marv, and their two absolutely amazing adult kids, Danielle and Marvin. Living in Grants Pass, Oregon, affords her the luxury of ample opportunities in the amazing outdoors, as well as helping out at their local businesses, a pizza pub and cigar shop.
Heather is an active member of Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the Willamette Writers Organization, as well as the National Association of Science Teachers. You can also find more information and reviews on her website, www.heathersransom.ink, and on Goodreads author page.