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Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Telltale Eye. By John von Daler

                       Once upon a time, in #Denmark in the beginning of the twenty-first century, ambitious young men took on new and strange habits. One politician had had remarkable success with a very simple two-pronged strategy: 1) he never spoke his own words or thoughts, but only those of a committee of Machiavellian schemers, written down, memorized and repeated ad infinitum and - 2) he never, ever blinked, even if you were to throw a stone at his face.

                These assumed characteristics came to symbolize great fierceness and great power. They became the habit of most political males. These men stood for hours trying to face themselves down by mouthing short, succinct, and aggressive statements while staring viciously into their mirrors. You had to be schooled in the paths of passions to be able to read their true emotions. In the politics of Denmark they gained influence and position. The country learned to expect this heroic manner from its #politicians. Soon you could not win a position in parliament if you could not control the involuntary blinking of your eyes. It was that simple, almost like a child's game of knights and warriors.
                One of these young men had recently been granted a new and powerful position. But he had not as yet assumed the stance that was expected of him. His #eyes still blinked once every few minutes and his sentences sometimes revealed his innermost thoughts. He found himself often clinging to the very edges of a debate to find his footing; only with great mental and physical effort did he manage to foil his many opponents.
                Now he was no fool. He knew that he would have to learn the postures of his time. So he spent many an hour locked in the bathroom of his home staring at himself and clapping his hands ferociously while he mouthed inanities into the mirror. His wife would sometimes wonder what was keeping him locked up so long, but when she beat her fists on the locked door he would tell her to go away, he was all right, just taking his time.
                Soon he had perfected his stance. He could have stared down an enraged polar bear. His writers gave him short, wonderously empty sentences to say to his electorate. Before long he would be eligible to become the head of some department of the government. Perhaps some day he might even become the Prime Minister.
                This success story amazed and dazzled his contemporaries. When he passed them at Christiansborg, the Danish Parliament, they would involuntarily take a half step back in appreciation of the ferocity of his manner.
                "He sure does know how to keep a straight face, no matter what he says," they whispered. "Look at his eyes! Unflinching!"
                At home though, things were different. His wife, Pernille, who had spent so many hours wringing her hands outside the bathroom door, now saw her husband transformed into a knight in armor. When he appeared on television, she could hardly recognize him. Even she, who knew him so well, could not figure out his real feelings. At home, though, he was still the same person she had married - with the exception of when they slept.
                From the very start of their marriage Pernille had taken to watching him while he was asleep. Such innocence! Such vulnerability! She would lie on her side for hours and watch him dream.
                These days, though, a slight change had taken place. When she would awaken from her sleep and think, I'll just have a little peek, she would be astounded to see that he lay fast asleep with his eyes open, staring directly at the ceiling. If she passed a hand in front of his face he made no movement, showed no awareness of her.
                As she watched him night after night she could see that his lips moved. If she placed her ear close to his mouth, she could hear short, concise sentences coming out in a soft whisper, "I keep all my promises!" or "Trust me with your future!" or "A steady hand on the tiller!" But his eyes never moved.
                Soon her waking up to watch him turned into a problem for her; she found it impossible to sleep with those open eyes staring into space beside her. She started to find it annoying, even frightening. Whenever she turned toward him in their bed, the eyes would be there, staring into the dark. The light of the moon through the window would be reflected in his pupils and her sleeping husband would take on the appearance of a monster with a horrid gaze.
                Pernille began to lie awake every night, fighting her own terror of her husband. In the morning when he got up, she would roll over and sleep far into the day after he had left.
                Her fear reached such a magnitude that she began to sleep with a sharpened knife by her side.
                One night as she lay trembling, her head turned toward the open-eyed sleeper, a violent storm passed over Copenhagen. Distant thunder rolled swiftly across Zealand and over the capital. Soon the inner city became a cauldron of flashing, lashing, thrashing lightening followed by immense explosions of thunder.
                During one of the largest and closest of these flaming spears of light, Pernille saw the blast itself not only mirrored in her husband's eyes, but more as if it had originated in them. The sight chilled her soul. As thunder exploded outside the window she raised her knife in one, great outburst of agonized terror and, defending her self against the monster, thrust it into his chest.
                When the police finally carried the agonized woman out of her bedroom, they had to tear from her left hand a bloodied paper on which the deranged wife had written not once, but time and time again:
                The eyes, the eyes, the terrible eyes! The eyes, the eyes, the terrible eyes The eyes, the eyes...
                No one ever guessed the reason behind this strange last salute. No one ever thought to connect the heinous crime with ordinary Danish politics. No one tried to warn the other politician husbands and their innocent wives. Even now they stand in front of their mirrors practicing, practicing, practicing to open wide those evil, those dreadful, those terrible eyes!

If you were not scared witless by this story, you might enjoy my book, "Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude" (WiDo Publishing).


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