There are things you shouldn’t see.

I used to flit from image to image, collecting mental
snapshots like an optical lepidopterist, pinning their frozen
forms into my neural folds. I thought to see was to know. I
thought seeing could only be good. A little hue never hurt
anyone, right?

Wrong. Your eyes are vectors for infection. They’re
open wounds and pathogens are pumping into the world at
unparalleled pace. Pathogens with alluring, alien names.
Thulian and phthalo. Carmine and aureolin. These viral
wavelengths demand entrance through the dilated holes in
your eye, those collapsed stars that demand ever-more pixels
in ever-weirder permutations.

And your pupils are learning what they like best.
Charcoal on off-white won’t suffice. They demand gloss,
shine, direct injection of every nanometer from 400 to 700
as often as possible. More light, more waves. Go ahead,
gorge yourself.

Ask yourself: Did I want to see that, just now? Did
I choose to see that? If I could go back and see it again,
would I? Would I want others to see it? Would I want my
mother to see it? My children?

The master enchanter is always invisible, for the key
feature of hypnosis is that the subject can’t see beyond the
confines of their trance. But occasionally I feel a moment of
lucidity. The power fails, and I see the enchanter flicker out
of existence, slip into the black glass along with whatever
stream has just been terminated. I wonder how long I’ve
been watching. I wonder why it’s so hard to turn the power
off myself.

The answer is that I’m already infected. I am exactly
like the people on the screens. My lungs play the laugh track
between jokes I don’t find funny. I chuckle to stave off the
silence. The screen fills with bodies and I perform my duty,
sucking in every inch. I stow their forms for later. Hot pink
and bulging. Glistening with oil. Rotating graphics and
bouncing scores. “This week”. I memorise their sound bites.

Blink three times fast. I mean it, do it now. At the
end of this paragraph, you’ll look away from these words.
You’ll look around whatever room you’re in, and you’ll
choose something to look at. Really choose, perhaps the first
time today, perhaps the first time this year. Look at what you
chose for 10 seconds, and see it. Listen with your eyes. Go
ahead, right now. I’ll be waiting…

…You’re back? Good. What did you choose? Why did you
choose it? Would you show it to your mother?

The pounding hammer shapes the sword. Does
your blade feel sharp?

Words by Adam Bignell

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