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A Blind Eye

M. H. Ayinde writes fantasy and science fiction, which mostly involves making pretty spreadsheets and compiling music playlists. She is a runner, a screen time enthusiast, and has been known to hustle at Vegas card tables. Her fiction has been published in FIYAH Literary Magazine. She lives in London with three generations of her family and their aging feline overlord. Find her on Twitter @mhayinde

You've done it. You've won!
You squeal in excitement.
"What, what is it?" Bayo says, sitting up in bed beside you.
"Look," you say, showing him the cracked screen of your phone. And then you read aloud. "Congratulations, Yemi Adegoke! You've won this month's worker lottery! Included in your prize: one thousand dollars cash, a place on our mentorship scheme, and a luxury apartment in the exclusive Goldenheights Community." You glance over at Bayo. "Just look at these pictures!"
You swipe through the images, drinking them in like cool water on a hot day. Glass skyscrapers and tree-lined boulevards. Manicured parks and spacious malls. Smiling people wearing expensive clothes and drinking expensive coffee....
You phone everyone you know, tell them the good news. This is their win as much as yours. Because you're going to take them with you to Goldenheights. That's what you all agreed. Whoever won, whoever made it, would take the others with them.
You move around your one-room shack in a daze, making your breakfast of powdered egg and oatmeal. Bayo always said people like you couldn't win; that the game was rigged. But after putting in all those extra shifts for extra entries, after working your ass off, you've struck gold.
As you walk to the factory that morning, you find yourself daydreaming about Goldenheights. You're not sure exactly where it is, even though it's been your goal, everyone's goal, since you were a kid. The suits who run the factories are always cagey about the specifics. All you know is that it's a long, long way from the poverty and grime of this city.
You step round the door-sleepers and the piles of rubbish, while behind you, Bayo hands out the food parcels he makes from cafeteria leftovers. Tomorrow, it'll be your turn. Hell, tomorrow, you'll come back and give everyone sleeping here a hundred dollars each. Who needs money when you have an apartment in Goldenheights?
You clock in, and head to your usual station, where your job is to load boxes with goods from the shelves above: gadgets, designer clothing.... That sort of thing. A big screen tracks your speed, but today, you're a picture of efficiency. Today, you're on cloud nine.
Soon enough, your boss, Ms. Gates, come clicking down the aisle on her expensive high heels. She's making right for you. You stand a little straighter, try not to look too smug; because everyone's watching you, and you know they all wish they were in your place.
"Yemi?" she says.
"That's me," you say, wiping your hands on your overalls.
"Congratulations. Please come with me. Time to collect your prize."
She leads you past their watchful eyes, up the steps, and into her office. Then through a door you've never been through before and into the corridor beyond. It's a different world here. There's carpet, and windows, and potted plants. You suddenly feel awkward, and dirty, but you follow her anyway, trying to make yourself smaller, to not seem out of place.
She leads you into a room with white walls and a single white chair. Your first thought is of a dental surgery. Not that you've ever had the money to visit a dentist before. But you've seen pictures.
"Congratulations. You're the first winner from my floor," Ms. Gates says. "The surgeon will be along in a moment."
"Surgeon?" you say, but then two men come in, wheeling between them a tray of shining silver implements.
"What's this for?" you say.
"Goldenheights," Ms. Gates replies. "You do want the apartment, I take it?"
"Oh yes. Yes, definitely."
"Good. Then let's get on with the adjustments to your eyes."
"My eyes?"
"You'll need an upgrade, if you're to live in Goldenheights."
The surgeons are already setting up around you, putting on masks and gloves.
"I know it's daunting," Ms. Gates says, touching your hand. "But trust me, you'll love them. I've had mine since I was three. Everyone I know has them."
"OK," you say. You don't like the look of all those instruments. But nothing ventured....
They put a mask over your mouth and nose, then pump you full of something that makes the room spin. It's a good job, too, because when they set to work, you don't want to know what they're doing. The noises are bad enough. The whir of the tools, the terrible squelch when things go black.
And then, a while later--
"Yemi?" It's Ms. Gates again. "Yemi, you can open your eyes. It's done."
You blink. There's surprisingly little pain. Just a dull ache behind your temples.
"Come on," Ms. Gates says.
She takes you back down the corridor, back through her office. But when you reach the factory floor....
Things are different. You know what's going on around you, know there are people there hard at work. But they seem to slide away from you when you look at them. It's like your eye sees them, then tosses them aside. You follow Ms. Gates, past people you've known for years.
"Yemi?" Bayo shouts. And though you see, you hear, you don't respond. He's there, just... faded somehow, muted, and once Ms. Gates steers you past, you wonder what it was that caught your attention in the first place.
"It's nothing personal. She moving to Goldenheights," Ms. Gates says, and you wonder who she's speaking to.
Then you're out in the street, and what a street it is. The wide, clean pavement. The park opposite. The skyscrapers, glinting in the sun. You're there. Goldenheights.
Sure, in the corner of your eye, you think you see a beggar. A junkie, shooting up. A dumpster where some kid has made a bed. But these things slip away as your new eyes tell you you don't need to see them. That they aren't relevant to you anymore. That they aren't part of your world.
"Welcome to Goldenheights," Ms. Gates says.
And you smile. Because the view is flawless.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, May 28th, 2021

Author Comments

I've been toying with various versions of the idea of sight and consciousness editing for a long time. This is one of those stories where the ending came to me as I was writing. In so many places I know, the super rich live cheek by jowl with those who have nothing, and their lives never touch. It's almost as though they occupy two separate but overlapping universes.

- M. H. Ayinde
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