The Observer Effect

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"The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages." Virginia Woolf

Eve inhabited the shadows. She prowled in the shade and perched behind buffers. Sleeping was a luxury she indulged only when pressed by necessity. Her berth always moved and afforded her maximum protection.

She had become extremely adept at shifting between trains, buses, and subways. These conveyances left her surrounded by, yet totally separate from, others. Her body had become so used to movement, stillness brought on a feeling of seasickness, a sense of bobbing rhythmically along some undefined line. The inert earth seemed to move beneath her, and walking provoked a precarious, tentative gait.

Over a lifetime, she had perfected the art of invisibility. With her hair covered and her face concealed by hoods and scarves, Eve dressed in monastically monochrome outfits composed of drably colored layers. Her appearance evoked a transitory bag of dirty rags, assuming one noticed her at all.

This was how she survived, veiled and shrouded, maintaining a carefully crafted invisibility and feigning transparency. Her objective was to be something which appeared as nothing. It had been a long time since anyone had really observed her. Years.

She could still remember how it felt to be seen. As a youth, she had sought out the metamorphosis. Sometimes when she dreamed, she still felt the sequence of a changeling’s conversion.

The all-over feeling of being very gently brushed by feathers, the tickle as the feathery feeling grew into a buzzier, more electric vibration, which itself grew until she was shaking uncontrollably all over. Having read about orgasms and seizures, she imagined they must feel something like her transformation. She had come to call it "the flux."

In her mind, she struggled with "the flux" and wondered how she might explain it to someone else–assuming another person would ever ask about it. Eye contact was the biggest problem. Never make eye contact. She had learned the hard way. Looking into someone else’s eyes, having them look into hers–it was the worst. It magnified everything. Everything they thought. Everything they felt. Every experience they’d had: bright or shameful; minor or terrific. Even worse were the projections: the notions people had upon seeing her. She could feel these abstractions searing her, marking her, and they were not even of her. She became something not of her own making. The projections of others, the "non-fluxers," made her feel friable, as though her edges were disintegrating into . . . whatever they thought.

Eve could not, would not, live as another’s projection; and so she hid in plain sight. Each day was much like its predecessor. Time in terms of hours and minutes began to matter less. She marked time by moon cycles and seasons; dark and light; how many people she might encounter; layers necessary to stay alive.

It was a day in midwinter. The sun was shining; it gave a sharp, dry edge to the cold. The streets and sidewalks were covered in a porridge of slush, and Eve moved from doorway to alley, and always on the dark side of the street.

On this day, a sound came to her; it came as a rising and falling, a change in volume; the words were indistinct. Even from a distance they carried the impact of passion. Eve was captivated and afraid, pulled and enjoined. She was called, drawn by the thrumming of this distant voice filled with ardor. She glided invisibly nearer to the source of these sounds. They were as a singing spell, a chanting pulling her along the gutter.

He spoke into a bullhorn quoting scripture, poetry, lyrics, alliterative words with no other association. The rise and fall of his voice created a wave which tunneled into her head. Eve psychically rode this aural wave as she inescapably faltered toward him.

"Surrender," he repeated. "Surrender, succor, sustenance," he intoned.

He was dressed in a Dickensian display of disarray. She admired his lack of color, his make-do mode of attire. He wore layers which gave way to more layers which gave way to more layers–each one more drab and colorless than the next. Her attraction to their shared fashion sense was immediate. It was like coming upon a lost tribesman after a long, hopeless trek.

Eve moved as close as she dared–as close as she’d been to another being in–how long? She couldn’t remember. From the recess in the darkened doorway, Eve watched as others passed him by–those who failed to notice him altogether and others who ignored him. Eve watched and waited–for what she was not sure. The sibilance of his voice drew her from the shade.

He began to sing, to croon, to intone a wordless song of longing and desire. His eyes were closed as his head moved rhythmically. Eve could feel his movement in her shoulders and knees. Unbidden, she swayed in response.

He held a note. The vibrato of his voice resonated again along Eve’s spine. She closed her eyes, and her head fell back in sacrifice to the sound. Eve inhaled deeply, raised her head, and observed this man of kith, this being of solace.

At that very moment his voice stopped, the tone reverberating into the crisp air and trailing away. He looked into her eyes. Eve looked into his eyes. They took each other’s measure and were complete. They surrendered to "the flux." They began to pulse as one substance, one element, one color; and their shared vibration moved eternity.

About the Author: 
Rebecca McCarty Kuenstler is a native Texan who bears no resemblance to media portrayals of Texans. Currently residing in San Antonio, she is also an award winning writer of short fiction and likes to cook, eat, write, and talk about food.

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