“My floaters followed the motion of her hand, lurching gelatinously whenever my eyes moved.” That’s the excerpt Truth Serum Press used to promote my story for their fiction anthology.
This story is one of my earliest. It is among the first read to my writing group in early 2015. A dozen times rejected, it underwent a major rewrite somewhere along the way. Reading it now I still see many flaws, but reprint it here, warts and all.
by DL Shirey
I noticed floaters whenever the room was lit; particles danced in the periphery, my vision framed by ghostly specks.
Long before I knew them better, an ophthalmologist explained. She palmed a plastic replica the size of a grapefruit, popped apart each nested section of the eyeball and placed them on a stainless steel tray. As a fleet of half-orbs rocked upon flat metal, the doctor held one up.
“Between the lens and retina is a viscous layer,” she said, turning the opaque bowl before me.
My floaters followed the motion of her hand, lurching gelatinously whenever my eyes moved.
“As we age, small clots form, becoming thicker. When they congeal, light causes shadows to fall across the retina. That’s all they are. Shadows. Nothing to worry about.”
That was before I understood floaters, the way they clustered, their purposeful formations. Individually they are elongated, amoeba-like, sometimes segmented like worms. But it’s their ability to pair, or group, and retain specific shapes that captured my attention.
Early in my studies, floaters loitered at the edge of my visual field, occasionally sending troops across the center as if relaying messages to the other side. The more I looked for them, the more there were, like ants at a picnic.
My many months of diagramming movement and sketching shapes were recorded in a journal, a thousand pages of scrupulous notes and detailed drawings. Their patterns were eventually revealed to be hieroglyphs and, as if the floaters knew how much wiser I had become, increased in volume and choreography. Now, my every waking moment was filled with scrawling in my journal.
To keep up with all these tantalizing clues, I reduced the size of illustrations and kept my tiny annotations brief. I began using a magnifying glass to ensure that my citations, small as they were, were always accurate.
The variations were staggeringly complex, until one day the floaters themselves came to my aid. It was as if they realized so many shapes had been deployed and wanted to help me focus on those at the very center of my vision. My companions darkened the frame and illuminated the masterpiece, and I was finally able to decipher a message. The Rosetta Stone moment.
My joy brought tears as the first full translation crawled across my eyes. The floaters were talking to me!
In my excitement to record the moment, my hands groped for the pen and magnifying glass. I found and grabbed them, but could not locate my journal. The floaters seemed just as anxious to communicate as they crowded my periphery, blacking out the room.
As I stared straight ahead only a pinprick of brightness was left to me, but still enough to see: We’re here. Don’t worry, the floaters declared, the book is to your left.