Tuesday, March 19, 2024

The Cyclopes' Eye


YA Dystopian, Soft Sci-Fi

Date to be Published: 04-09-2024

Publisher: NineStar Press

First they came for his sister’s eye. Now they’re coming for his. And what’s even worse is he deserves it.

Henry has never had anything good happen to him, period. Full stop. That’s why, after school, he’s going to put on his big-boy pants and confess his love to his best friend—because the universe owes him one, dammit, and he needs a win.

But maybe doing it on Drill Day wasn't the best idea—the one day a month that healthcare conglomerate Axiom infiltrates schools across America to select a new candidate to give up one of their eyes, for... research? And if this Drill Day is anything like the last, Henry will never get a chance at a good life. Especially if his past keeps threatening to eat him alive, and especially if his old ways of keeping the darkness at bay refuse to work anymore.



I hate attention. I hate causing a scene. I hate being noticed. And I’m very, very aware that, right now, that is exactly what’s happening. I’m also noticing how sweaty I am. My face is either ghost white or bile green. Or beet red. All three?

A part of me knows they can’t be looking at me any worse than they usually do, though. Poor Henry with his one-eyed sister. Poor Henry with his drunk of a dad. Poor Henry with his convict of a mother.

I think about reaching down to my thigh to catapult me out of this moment, the tangle of cuts and scars I could squeeze and knead like dough so the jolt of hurt would replace this ache of embarrassment. But I can’t. Not here.

We take the third speed bump slower than the last two, but I still feel touch-and-go. At this point, the best option is to just get out of here as fast as I can. Since I’m already standing when we pull into the parking spot, I don’t wait for all the people in front of me to get off first. I march right on up to the front like I own this bus. And you know what? For right now, I do, fuckers.

“You in a hurry or something?” asks the driver. He removes his shades to reveal two very intact and very brown eyes. His fist is wrapped around the lever to open the door, but he’s not opening it.

I wasn’t expecting this, and with each second, my blood feels thicker and thicker, like sludge. I mumble something about a test I have to study for.

“One day you’ll realize life’s about more than school,” he says, believing, I’m sure, that he’s being very profound at six-thirty.

I just nod and smile, hoping my face doesn’t betray my anguish.

He smirks and finally pulls the lever, and the door squeaks and sighs as it opens. I jump down the stairs, and I must go a little too fast because there’s no way I can hold it in anymore. I’ve got to puke, and I’ve got to puke now.

I race around to the front of the bus, shielded on all sides by other buses that I really hope are empty, and let it go.

It’s so painful coming up, like someone is stabbing me. My eyes flutter open and closed as it comes pouring out, and it’s like I’m watching myself in stop motion. It forms puddles around my feet. Some of it gets on my shoes.

It’s hot and gross, and some of it sprays up into my nose, which might make me puke more. I try to be quiet so nobody will hear me, but the bus engine is so loud that it probably doesn’t matter. Or maybe that’s delirious thinking. Maybe the driver is watching from his window right now. But if anybody does come over to see, they don’t wait around long enough to say anything.

A minute later, when I’m sure it’s all out of me, I feel light, free. Empty. I think this might be the best I’ve ever felt in my life. Maybe I can read this poem today. Maybe Sam will respond the way I want. I should puke more often.

Everything in me goes still and quiet. It’s almost like I’m floating through fog as I wind my way through the maze of buses all parked in a cluster. I’m so light, it feels like a dream. Like I’m not real. Is this what it’s like to get high?

As soon as I round the last bus, I come down.

If getting sick was a dream, reality is not worth waking up for. The nightmare of my life is as bleak as it’s ever been.

Ah, yes, here we are. Drill Day.

Across the parking lot, a few hundred feet away, is the entire student body—two thousand of my peers. They’ve been rounded up like cattle in front of school, their incessant chatter like primal, god-fearing cries for help before being led to slaughter. And just like real cattle, they know there’s no escape.

But at least the cows get to die before their mutilation



About the Author

Jeffrey Haskey-Valerius works in healthcare by day and writes weird fiction and poetry by night. His shorter work has been featured in numerous literary journals and has been nominated for prizes, including Best of the Net. He currently lives in the Midwest with his unbelievably handsome and perfect dog, and also a human whom he loves. The Cyclopes’ Eye is his debut novel.


Contact Links



Twitter: @jeffreyhvwrites

Instagram: @jeffreyhvwrites

TikTok: @jeffreyhvwrites

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