The sky was a milky gray. At least, it was for Sophia. Her vision had been deteriorating over the years. It had been gradual, thus why it took her so long to notice. But once she had realized what was happening, she was terrified.
“It’s still very new,” a doctor was speaking with Sophia. Apparently, a procedure had recently been approved. One that could potentially return her eyesight to its former normalcy. The doctor continued, “So know that there are a few risks involved.”
“Risks?” Sophia asked.
“Yes,” the doctor replied. “There is a chance – a small chance – that the procedure may not take. And there’s an even smaller chance that it may actually cause damage instead of fixing the problem.” Sophia looked concerned. She said, “Put it to me as a percent. What are we talking about here?” The doctor replied, “There’s a 65% chance everything will go as planned.” Sophia persisted, “But what about the rest?”
“Right… There’s a 25% chance the procedure won’t take at all…” The doctor hesitated, “And there’s a 10% chance you come out of it with total loss of sight.”
Six days till darkness
Sophia had a few weeks to decide what she wanted to do. However, there was an opening in the schedule and the surgeon she met with wanted to get her in as soon as possible. Before her “situation worsened any further.” That didn’t make Sophia feel any better.
Fear-stricken, she booked her appointment that afternoon. Surgery would take place a Monday from now.
She had six days. Six days to see whatever she could. Six days before she may never be able to see again.
As she lay in bed that night, she wrestled with her decision. Did I make the right choice? What choice did I even have? I was going to lose my sight eventually anyway. At least now I might get it back, right? Right?
Silence was the reply. Nothing but cold, empty silence of the countryside. Yet in that silence was something more. A ringing. She drifted off wondering about the noise in her ears.
The help of a friend
Sophia woke to the sun rising. Well, she assumed it was the sun rising. It was more a bright, clay color than anything else. She could make out a few familiar shapes outside her window. The oak tree, the car, the river off in the distance. They didn’t hold their color very well. And had she not already known what they were, she would have no way of telling. But still, their presence comforted her.
She had three days until the procedure.
A friend had been staying with her that past week. She was there to help make Sophia as calm and relaxed as possible. It hadn’t been working, but the gesture was nice. Sophia had mentioned to Codie the ringing in her ears. About the lullaby it seemed to offer her each night as she fell asleep.
Codie was curious, but not terribly surprised. She had heard the ringing too. Though she found it more annoying than anything else. Still, it was soothing to her friend so she wanted to be supportive.
Codie did a little investigating into the mysterious sound. At first, she thought they were both suffering from Tinnitus – that constant ringing in the ears that accompanies long-time concert-goers and musicians. But after some contemplation on the matter, she thought (or rather, hoped) she had a better explanation.
“I hear it too,” Codie said to Sophia, “And I’ve looked into it.” Sophia smirked and motioned to her to continue. Codie said, “I think that, at night, it’s really quiet. Like super quiet. And because it’s so quiet, our ears don’t know what to do. They’re searching for something to hear. But there’s nothing…”
Sophia leaned forward slightly in her chair.
Codie continued, “So my theory is that… well… how do I explain it? Ok, let me start over. Our ears want sound. They crave sound, right? But there is none. They want it, but they can’t have it. And so, looking for whatever sound they can find, they turn inward. That ringing is our ears listening to… themselves.” Sophia burst out laughing. Codie, relieved to see her friend smiling again, started to laugh as well.
Sophia lay in bed, looking, listening. She recognized the light of the moon outside, but she had trouble seeing the objects around her. Her dresser, her desk, her image in the mirror. They were all blurs of gray and slate.
The procedure was tomorrow. Mere hours away. And she was scared. Scared that she would lose what little sight she still had. She began to panic, to worry whether — what was that?
There… that sound…
She heard a ringing. The same ringing she had laughed at days earlier. Now, in the silence of her room, in the silence of the world she lived, there was nothing but her and the soft ringing in her ears. A wave of calm washed over her. She thought, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know if I will see again. But at least I have this.
Sight may elude her, but deep down she knew she would be alright. She would figure it out, whatever may come.
Eyes shut with hope
“Sophia… Sophia… Can you hear me?” Sophia lay in bed once more, but this time she was in the hospital. Her gown rustled as she slowly nodded her head. And then, everything was dark. Sleep overtook her.
Both her doctor and surgeon told her this would happen; an initial period of grogginess was all but guaranteed post-procedure. And that’s exactly what she experienced. It was for the best, she figured, coming and going in her daze. After all, the more she slept, the less she could worry.
She was in the hospital for three days while she recovered. All the while, her eyes were bandaged, healing from the trauma of the surgery. Neither she nor the medical team would know the results until the gauze was removed. Codie was there the whole time. Telling her jokes, reading magazines to her, making her feel safe.
“Can you be here, with me, when they take off the wraps?” Sophia asked Codie. Codie nodded, then realized Sophia couldn’t see her and, laughing at her folly, said, “Of course.”
The time had come. Her doctor walked in with the attending surgeon. Both talked quietly, almost nervously. Sophia wondered, Do they know something I don’t?
They spent the next half-hour recounting the procedure. What they did, why they did it, what they expected the results to be. It was all well and good, but Sophia could barely tolerate it. If she didn’t get the gauze off her face in the next ten seconds, she would lose it. She lifted her hand with impatience and told them just that.
There was silence for a moment. Then, one of them approached her. Sophia could feel the bandages being removed from her face. Slowly, gradually, methodically. Each unwinding of the gauze seemed to take an hour.
But then, finally, it was done. “Ok, Sophia,” her doctor said, “What do you see?”
Sophia blinked her eyes. The room was silent. Her ears were ringing.