Jacob's Eyelashes


On Jacob’s eyelashes, there’s a whole world he doesn’t know about. This is the first time she’s looked at an eyelash under the microscope. She’s been hunched over the lens for almost an hour now, and her shoulders are starting to ache.

“Look at this,” she says to her assistant, who shrugs as he collects his coat from the back of the door.

“Eyelashes are eyelashes,” he says. “I don’t get what the big deal is. I’ll see you in the morning.”

She waves at him without looking up. There’s a language here she doesn’t know. You can see the cells talking to each other, the way they blur at the edges. There are power structures in here, whole histories in a single eyelash.

She stands up and stretches. She drops the eyelash carefully into a contact lens case with a pair of tweezers, turns off the light, and picks up her coat. She’ll try to get one from every patient, maybe; take photos of them. Why not? She’ll be the first optician to create a whole universe out of eyelashes. They won’t even think of her as an optician anymore: she’ll be an artist.

There’s a frantic knock on the waiting room door. She answers it with her coat over her arm and her handbag already on her shoulder. It’s Jacob.

“Mr Price! We’re closing now, I’m afraid.”

“It’s not that,” he says. “This is going to sound weird, but honestly, it’s important. I’ve lost an eyelash. They’re not like other eyelashes. I need it back.”

She hesitates. It would be easy to laugh. It would be easy to say she has no idea about any eyelashes, but he’s welcome to check the floor. But when she looks into his eyes, she sees something incomplete. She knows there’s something missing. She walks silently back to her room and collects the contact lens case.

“I knew you’d understand,” he says as he takes it. “Not many people would.”

She holds his gaze for a moment, and she wonders.

“Thank you,” he says, and turns away, leaving her standing alone in the dark.

This story was first published in What The Dickens? 2014