Before I fall asleep at night, one hand cupped my left eye to remind myself of what was still there despite its death, I catch a glimpse of a sliver of light. It is a quick flash, light reflecting off the metal blade of a knife. Barely more than a second, and barely even there for my right eye and brain to fully comprehend. But I have been seeing it enough times now, almost every night before I close my eyes one last time to let sleep overtake me. Enough times that I could figure out what it resembled, which was that. A sliver of light bouncing off the metal blade of a knife.

This little hallucination – I have no doubt it was just a figment of my imagination, encouraged by my stressful waking hours and even more stressful inability to stay asleep for long at night – acted as a prelude to my nightmares. The occasional nights that I don’t see the glimpse of blade before I fall asleep are when I could fall asleep knowing I will not be reliving anything anymore in my dreams. But more often than not, that wasn’t the case. The nightmares persist.

The nightmare was always the same, it started off with me standing backstage, just minutes before I was called onstage to do a reading and speak on my new novel coming out later that summer. My agent was next to me, talking about security and having them surround the stage while I’m doing my talk onstage the whole time, then to escort me offstage and straight to the car waiting at the back of the building. I shook my head the whole time. I told her I wanted no security, that I was fine being up there on my own, that it has been a few decades since that news article was released that essentially placed a bounty on my head for being a novelist with radical ideas.

My agent reminded me of that one night in 2005 when somebody attempted to assassinate me during a writer’s conference I attended. She went into detail which I did not appreciate, mentioning the gun that the person managed to slip through with into the hall despite security checks in the entrance, the pure luck that one of attendees in the hall caught a glimpse of the metal revolver in the person’s hand and quickly notified one of the security members, and my exile from the public world since that incident.

I told her again that that was years ago, that everything is fine now. I am ready to face the outside world once again. The news article has slipped through the fingers of time, and my own name forgotten by many amidst all the newer, younger, more brilliant novelists today. My own novel that sparked all of this, my very creation that made me one of the most hated men in the literary world, despite saving me through a very difficult chapter of my life, collapsed the floor right under me straight into a pit of vipers.

But that was a risk I had to live with. My art cannot save me completely, I could be as in love with it as my life fully depended on it, but it can still turn its back on me and force me to stare down its barrel of a loaded gun. I had to live with its consequences, and I did.

After going back and forth a few more times with my agent, she finally gave in and decided to trust me. She gave a little hug, patted me on my back and wished me luck before sending me up onstage once my name was announced, the hall reverberating once more with an almost ancient name that it never expected to be heard once again from the speakers, accompanied by the applause.

I made my way up and across the stage, the spotlights overpowering my view of the audience for a brief second, my gait a little slow because of my age. I settled down into the plush seat across the speaker, greeting her, always smiling, always showing my appreciation, as a writer does when they are invited to speak anywhere.

As the speaker across from me was doing some introduction to who I was, my past works, and the new upcoming novel releasing, my mind went straight to my daughter. I was supposed to text her before I went up onstage, as I have promised to. But with the backstage bustle, my agent and her demand on security, all the protocols I had to go over, I have unfortunately forgotten to do so. I kept thinking of how worried she must be, waiting for my text knowing about what happened in 2005 and what my name stood for in the past – possibly even until now. I silently promised to text her right after I got offstage.

For now, I smile and once it was my turn to speak, I tell everyone in the audience how happy I am to be back onstage and to be reading from my new work, how grateful I am for everyone’s attendance that lovely evening.

The reading took about fifteen minutes. I focused on a chapter from my new book following a character who, similar to me in many ways, was facing severe repercussions as a painter who depicted the angels and devils in a romantic way, much to the chagrin of the society around him. The character was called to a hearing, a hearing that resembled a trial which confuses him. It was very much inspired by Kafka’s The Trial and of course, my life and what happened.

The moment I set down the printed chapter I just read from onto the table in front of me, a person came barrelling up towards the stage from the audience. I could not see much of this person, only that he was a man, tall, and covered head-to-toe in black except for a bright red bandana covering half of his face, from nose to chin. He wielded something in his right hand, something metal and long, dangerous. The first thing I thought was, how was that even allowed in the hall?

I stood up from my seat, but my legs were still planted right where they were the whole time. I stared at the body that was running fast towards me, it was almost like I had accepted this very fate, that in the years since 2005, since the bounty was placed on my head, this fate has been chasing me. Now here it is, here it runs towards me at almost lightspeed in the form of a man. My fate in the body of this man who is probably too young to even be alive when that novel of mine was published. This man was probably put on this Earth, was born, just to know hatred for me and to wield a blade in his hands and direct it right into me, to cut my life from me. The man was there just to deliver me my fate that I was supposed to receive in 2005. So I succumbed.

All I heard were screams, the sound of the metal blade plunging into my frail body, and the blood dripping onto the hardwood stage floor. And what awoke me right up from the nightmare despite the number of times I have had to live through this same exact dream over and over again, was the final plunge of the blade into my left eye.

It was difficult to call this a nightmare, because it is not. A nightmare should be the projection of your wildest, your scariest imagination. It is your mind playing tricks on you while you sleep. It shows you your deepest fears, forces you to face it, stretches you to the limit while you sleep.

It is not a nightmare when it is something you experienced yourself. My mind is not playing tricks on me, it is not testing me. It is crying for help as well.

It has been a year and a half, my fate has caught up to me once again, but I am still alive and slowly recovering physically. Maybe my fate was not death, but this purgatory-like life I have to live until the end of my time. The constant repetition of my semi-successful assassination in my sleep, the loss of my left eye, and most tragically, my despise for writing.

It felt as if my soul – my one true soul, the one whose very essence revolves around art, writing, and knowledge, has died off with my left eye.

When the time came for me approve the final version of my new novel, still lying on the hospital bed, my left eye still held together by layers of gauze that the nurse replaced daily to my horrifying wails of pain, my agent brought me a copy of the galley proof and I threw it on the floor, the papers scattering.

I told her I wanted nothing to do with the novel anymore, that my job was over. I had written the novel, completed it, proofread it when I needed to, made adjustments and went for the talk that left me there in the hospital with stab scars down my chest, my stomach, my back, and my left eye cut off from its nerve. I was done. My life was done, and I wanted nothing else but to be with my family and to live out my days, whatever is left of it.

When I thought back to the man, the man clad in black and his red bandana, the metal knife glinting in his hand hungry for my blood, the knife that he most probably took right from his mother’s kitchen drawer that afternoon and kept with him, holding it this way and that, adjusting his grip to find the best one he could control and plunge the knife into a living, breathing body with ease, I wanted so badly to conjure up hatred for him. That made the most sense in my situation, to hate on and to get revenge on the very person that took pretty much my whole life away from me. But why didn’t I feel that way? 

Was it because I knew he was way too young to even understand why he was wielding that knife and barrelling towards a man thrice his age who was doing nothing but trying his best to read out a chapter from his new novel, a novel that he knew would not do as well as the books he once published decades ago and would be teared apart by critics worldwide and left to rot in the backrooms of libraries? Or was I aware of the cycle of violence that was being perpetuated if I decide to hate on this man, taunting him in jail, doing everything in my power to discourage him from living out his days in his dark, secluded cell? To know that he has been arrested, thorough investigations are being done, his life now turned into just numbers – days awaiting trial, days awaiting his sentence, counting the days and doing time – is good enough for me. What more could I want from him? What more could this frail body of mine, having been shred to near pieces, could contain in terms of desire to return the violence?

I have not much space for anything else anymore in my body. No space for art, for writing, for my immense love for them. I have reverted back to being a toddler. I had to learn how to walk again, almost like I have never walked before. I had to learn how to hold things, how to eat, how to use the bathroom again.

When I was able to start doing things on my own again, I tried pouring myself a glass of orange juice for breakfast, my daughter watching me from the dining table not far away, making sure everything was OK. Because I had only one eye to see now, my aim was terrible and instead of pouring the juice into the glass in front of me, I poured it straight onto the countertop. It took everything that I had not to cry – silly, a grown man crying in front of his own daughter – and to let my daughter pour my own juice from me and guide me back to the table.

And still, it was even more terrible that I could not return back to writing. I didn’t have it in me. I have lost it, lost that ability to turn to writing when I needed it the most. I have lost my left eye, so I figured writing could make me see whole again. I still had my imagination and my knowledge, didn’t I? Instead of directing the hatred to the man who tried to kill me, I directed it to writing, to my books.

When I was still recovering, a week after the incident, my agent sat down next to the bed and told me about turning this experience into a memoir. She told me it was a great chance to take back my power, the power that was stolen by the man that wanted me dead. I told her that sounds like a good idea, but I wanted to focus on recovering and spending time with my family first, fearing that I could not make it to another week.

I wanted nothing to do with any memoir-writing now, my past novels I have forgotten, and the new novel was completely detached from its writer, me. It is out there on its own, no publicity, no more readings, no interviews with the author, no public appearances.

It has a life of its own, and I couldn’t care less for how it is doing, along with all my other works, along with the man who tried to assassinate me.

I am putting myself in exile again, this time as a new person. A new person with only his right eye left, raised scars across his old body, and a soul that is no more. I had so much less now, and I wanted nothing more. This is enough, this is enough, this is enough.

Written By: Natasha

Edited By: Merissa

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