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City Lights
by Alysa Salzberg

They’d lived in the city for such a long time, dazzling lights shining through the night, cars and trains and buses speeding here and there, clothing even the wind with their noise.

And one day: “What if we tried the country?” Marcus pleaded, a cowboy at heart.  He started taking her round to farms where horses whinnied farm songs.

Charmed, Cissy agreed, and they packed up and left their apartment.

It was beautiful for a time, rolls in the hay and out picking flowers and learning to ride horseback through the tall grasses.

But when night fell, Cissy didn’t know where she was.  Years of city life, the well-lit nights with street lights and illuminated windows and electric signs around her like bright stars, had made it so that she could no longer look into pure, unlit darkness without feeling dizzy and lost.  Here, when the sun set, the whole world went with it.

“Don’t worry darlin’”, said Marcus, using his new drawl, “you’ll ride it out.”

Every night in their dark bedroom she reached for Marcus, but she could never find him.

It got to be unbearable.  So she went to a local wise woman, and paid a hefty sum for a new pair of eyes, the eyes of a country girl used to total darkness.  She put them in and carefully placed her old ones in a freshwater fish tank she kept at her bedside.

Then, she patiently waited for nightfall.

Twilight crouched in the clouds and pounced and overtook the sinking sun, and there was nothing left but blackness and weakly twinkling stars.  The new eyes couldn’t help her:  the incredible pressure of her fear had popped them out of her head.

She fumbled in the fish tank for her real eyes – they would be useless until daylight, but at least she would have something in those two empty holes in her face.

Her right arm vainly grappled for unfindable Marcus.  Her fingers felt nothing but endless sheets.

The next day, Cissy retrieved the pair of eyeballs she’d bought from under the bed, and brought them back to the wise woman.  The wise woman put them in a jar full of the same bluish-green stuff beauticians use to sterilize combs.

“Don’t worry, sugar,” she patted Cissy’s arm with a soft little hand.  “You’ll ride this one out.”

Cissy nodded and walked out of the shop and into the fading sunlight.  When she reached their country home, she wended her way to the stables.

On horseback she reached the rushing city by midnight. She dismounted and patted the horse on its rump, and it ran off back the way it came, its hooves clacking on the pavement.  In the light from the street lamps and windows and electric signs, she could see every strand of hair in its departing, windblown tail.

Alysa Salzberg lives in Paris with a cross-eyed cat and an eccentric, sword-collecting Frenchman.  She loves reading, chocolate, and travel.  She hopes her writing will take people to another place, and that maybe they'll let her join them there. Contact Alysa.