I refuse to wear my glasses in public. When I show a little skin, they make me look like a slutty librarian and when I’m in sweatpants, they make me look like a homeless woman. I’d rather wear my contacts, so that’s what I do.
But two weeks ago, I went for my annual optometrist appointment. Instead of getting refills of my two-week contacts, the kind that dried out my eyes and made them itch, the doctor switched me to a new brand. More expensive, but supposedly the hottest new thing their office had to offer.
The first week, those new contacts felt like little drops of heaven. They kept my eyes moist and my vision clear. But then I went upstate with my boyfriend, Andy, to the cabin we rented every autumn. We passed a ten-acre-long graveyard as we drove and I saw a human-sized blur of darkness.
I assumed it was just a smudge on my glasses, so I reached my middle finger to my nose to push them back up, but when I hit skin, I realized I already had my contacts in. The new ones. The expensive, innovative ones.
By the time I moved my hand away, squinting out of confusion, the smudge had already disappeared, so I didn’t mention anything to Andy. Didn’t think there was a reason to.
But then, after we settled into the cabin and christened it from the front door to the kitchen, I noticed someone outside of our window. Wouldn’t be that weird, considering we were surrounded by cabins identical to ours. We weren’t in the isolated type found in horror movies, locked in by trees. We were in a community area, where neighbors would greet you as soon as you stepped out the door.
But this androgynous stranger was standing there like a scarecrow, eyes wide and lidless. I lifted a hand to wave, but they just cocked their head in response, like a puppy. And then they turned. So I turned, ready to forget them, ready to start our seven days of stress-free relaxation.
And it was stress-free, until I ran into a woman that behaved just as bizarrely. Andy was trying to untie our canoe from the top of his truck while I, being the lazy-ass girlfriend I am, walked around admiring the scenery until he was finished.
When I made eye contact with the random woman, I smiled. She smiled back, excited. More excited than anyone had ever been to see me. But when she opened her mouth, I couldn’t understand what she was saying. Couldn’t hear what she was saying.
But she was definitely speaking. I could tell by the way her mouth, and the tongue inside, moved. I felt like I had her on mute.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I can’t… I don’t understand.”
She looked crushed, the disappointment pulling her lips down. With an inaudible sigh, she walked away.
That time, I did tell Andy what happened, while we were out on the water. He shrugged his shoulders, but then spewed out a list of rational explanations. About infections and diseases and speech impediments.
He even mentioned hallucinations as a joke, and I slapped his arm, making the canoe sway. But ten minutes later, I wondered if he was right.
Because ten minutes later, I saw a man hovering on the water.
No, not hovering. Standing. Like the lake was a solid object, as stable as dirt or concrete.
Andy glanced in the direction where I was staring, but then went right back to rowing. Like he didn’t see anything. He didn’t see anything.
If we would’ve been snug at home, instead of living in our electronic-free cabin, I would’ve heard about the contact recall. If we would’ve had proper cell phone service, I would’ve gotten the optometrist’s warning calls. I would’ve ripped the contacts from my eyes.
I wouldn’t have made eye contact. I wouldn’t have let him know I could see him. Because, unlike the perplexed stranger outside my window and the overly excited women by our cabin, he wasn’t happy about being spotted.
“I think I can see a little too clearly,” I said to Andy, voice low and raspy. “I think I can see… spirits.”
Before he could accuse me of being batshit crazy, the canoe flipped over. The man was still standing on the water, but he was leaning down now, grabbing my shoulders with his calloused hands.
Before it all went black, I watched Andy latch onto the canoe, keeping his lungs from filling with water.
But I wasn’t as lucky. I was thrust underneath.