Lucian's Gift

[I met John Serge at a reading over the weekend. He read his short story called "Lucian's Gift," and it reminded me of short stories I've read and loved by Richard Matheson, Fredric Brown, and Roald Dahl. I asked John if I could run his story on Boing Boing and he kindly consented. Enjoy! — Mark]

Lucian was born blind. In his six short years, he's seen neither the splendor nor the squalor of the world around him. Rather than lament her son's inherent darkness, his mother, Anca, a stout hearted Romanian woman, decided early on to treat little Lucian like a gifted child. His gift, as she puts it, is that his view of the world is free from the limitations of literal sight; he connects with and experiences things, people, places, events, in a more holistic, even spiritual manner. His perceptions have a clarity that just isn't possible when looking only through the eyes. As for Lucian, he's still too young to fully embrace his mother's point of view. All he knows is what he feels, not the least of which is her love.

Anca and Lucian live alone in a tiny two-bedroom walk-up, the boy's father having graced Anca's life only long enough to help conceive their sightless son. Afraid to release him into the cruel, dispassionate realm of other children, Anca opted instead to keep him at home, adopting all at once the roles of mother, father, teacher, and friend.

So when the austere gentleman from Social Services paid them a visit, Anca was understandably on edge. Her hand trembled as she poured him a glass of water. While the man extolled the virtues of public education and the various socio-psychological benefits of exposing the boy to the outside world, Anca simply smiled, her eyes fixed on his in a manner suggesting more than just casual interest. When he got around to the inevitable expression of sympathy for the child's plight, how hard it must be for both of them, et cetera, Anca rested her hand on the man's knee, a gesture not only of appreciation, but something more. The man's blood rushed to the surface of his skin, warm with promise. For his part, Lucian sat with perfect posture on the edge of the threadbare sofa, his dormant eyes glazed over into a permanent vacant stare.

"Excuse us for a moment, Lucian," instructed Anca. "There's something I'd like to show the gentleman."

"Yes, Mama," replied Lucian.

Anca lead the man down the hall and into her bedroom. In the ensuing silence, Lucian's mouth became dry, his throat parched. He stood and felt his way to the wobbly oval table where the man's glass of water rested. He took the glass and lifted it, leaving behind a ring of water clinging to the wooden surface below. The boy placed the glass to his lips, but as the cool, clean water flowed into his mouth, he found himself convulsing, expelling it all in a sudden blast.

Anca rushed back to the living room and took the glass from her son.

"What was that, Mama?" demanded Lucian. "It wasn't water."

"No dear," she calmly agreed. "Just a moment."

Anca went back into the bedroom. The boy stood nervously, expectantly, his
perennial peace wildly disrupted. Finally, Anca returned once again.

"Here you are dear," she cooed, "a nice, warm glass of water."

The woman extended her hand, and in it, a glass filled to the brim with human blood. Lucian took the glass and cautiously sipped. A sense of calm relief washed over him and he drank more. While Anca watched her son with a sense of pride, she took a handkerchief and wiped away a small dab of blood from her own lips, imprinting the dove-white linen with a crimson stain.