Day 17, and this story was a bit of a difficult birth. Still, I hope you enjoy it, and maybe this will have cured me of my fascination with eyes as a motif.
He always wore sunglasses, even inside. Not as an 80s/Cory Hart kind of statement, but part of his defences. As an introvert, he hated being different or noticeable or the centre of anyone’s attention. Murphy hated the looks his weird eyes got from others. Even from people he knew for years; they never quite got used to his extreme heterochromic mutation. So he covered them up, to protect himself.
Murphy never understood why he was burdened with such unusual eyes. He had tried using tinted contacts to cover the colours: complete failure. He didn’t have the finesse needed to insert the delicate curved film. Ended up jamming the contact into to his eye, scratched the eyeball with his own fingernail, and managed to trap the thing inside the eye socket. The emergency trip to the mall opticians’ office created such a humiliating stir – people wandering by were being hauled into the shop to see ‘this guy’s funky eyes’ – that he even contemplated moving to a different city to avoid his newfound (and short-lived) fame. For two weeks, he endured the calls of ‘Hey, it’s Funky-Eye-Guy!’ keeping his shoulders pulled up and his cap pulled down.
But even he couldn’t resist staring at them. He’d go into the bathroom to brush his teeth and shave, and end up late for work. Sometimes a single glance in the mirror could turn into a fifteen minute stare-fest, almost a trance. Murphy would shake himself back to consciousness, bleating in dismay and cursing his damned weird eyes. Again.
He wasn’t handsome – the eyes would have only enhanced that. He wasn’t ugly – his eyes would have made him attractive. Murphy was utterly plain.
Brown hair, slightly thinning at the crown. Middling height. Average body, with no distinguishing marks of any kind. Except his eyes.
Each iris was split into a swirled half of blue and green, both flecked with stars of the other colour. On anyone else, they would have been beautiful, enigmatic, mysterious. But on Murphy, they were a cosmic joke.
It was bad enough he had the mutation, but did it have to be a mutated mutation? One of the more poetic-minded girls he had dated had described him as having all the stars in his eyes. (She was also the one who broke up with him for having his head in the clouds. Murphy decided that it would be in bad taste to point out the poetic irony and the clichéd turn of phrase she tended to use. She may not have been able to write, but she had a damn-fine pitching arm with pinpoint accuracy, and those high heels that night… Nah. Weird as they were, Murphy preferred keeping his sight to sporting a stiletto or an eye patch.)
The only person he trusted was his mother. She never stared; said she got to stare as much as she liked when he was a baby, so there was no need now. When she called him and told him to get to the animal shelter where she volunteered, he didn’t hesitate. She was waiting for him, a mixture of joy and apprehension in her smile. ‘I know you weren’t looking for a pet,’ she said, leading him to the kennels, ‘but when this little girl arrived today, I knew that you two would hit it off.’
‘Mom,’ said Murphy, ‘you know I don’t have the space for a dog.’ His heart churned in his chest, the warning signs of it breaking because he knew he would have to say no.
‘Oh, forget that, you’ll find a way,’ she said. ‘Especially after you meet Athena.’ She stopped and gestured to the pen in front of her. Murphy joined her, and reluctantly looked into the kennel.
Stars met stars, and neither man nor dog could look away. Murphy crouched by the door, entranced by the blue and green swirls in the collie’s eyes. Athena tilted her head, appearing to Murphy to be as fascinated with him as he was with her. She shuffled closer to the door, leaning against the cage, her starry eyes pleading for a scratch behind the ears.
Which Murphy was all too happy to provide. The feeling of trust and acceptance – and that he wasn’t being judged – was enough to make him decide.
‘You’re right, Mom. She’s my dog now.’
Murphy wasn’t so self-conscious anymore, not with Athena around. People tended to look at her, not him, and he was happy with that. Only the more perceptive would notice that man and dog shared the same eyes, but none commented on it.
Besides, Murphy could hear Athena’s scathing insults as she judged every person they encountered. Though he thought it was odd that a dog did not love everyone unconditionally, Murphy never questioned why – or how – Athena was able to talk to him.