trade a smile for your eyes

June 27, 2019
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Average Rating: 3.67
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You remember the first time she walked into your parlour. That’s wrong. She didn't walk; she strode in like she owned the place. Given how new to the job you were, she could have said she actually did own the place, and you would have believed her. There was an edge to her, an alertness that made her seem like she was on a whole other plane of existence, like she was privy to a secret you could only dream of knowing. She walked up to the counter and made a facial expression. You would call it a smile, but it resembled the gleaming edge of a knife too much to make the comparison. It reeked of danger. You swallowed harshly.

“I need eyes,” she said, in a surprisingly deep voice. You gaped for a few seconds, looking directly into the thick lashed eyes on her face. They were terrifying, like staring into a black hole, so vast and so dark you could feel yourself slipping away.

“We don’t sell eyes here, ma’am,” you said, like the idiot you were. She rolled her eyes, breaking the spell.

“Obviously not. I meant, I need tattoos of these eyes,” she said, slapping a piece of paper on the counter between the both of you. They were beautiful eyes, and they were perfectly suited to the style you had been cultivating, thin curved lines and intense detail work. You couldn't resist the challenge, and you certainly couldn't resist her intense gaze.

She wanted the eyes on the inside of her wrists, and you rose to the occasion. Wrist tattoos usually hurt like hell, but she didn't flinch the entire time, just stared at the wall ahead of her, stoic and terrifying.

It was far from the last time. As you got better, more honed, she would come with increasingly difficult designs. They were all eyes, but they varied in size, shape, even color, and the designs became more and more intricate. She wanted them all over her body, up her spine, on the small of her back, on her shoulder blades, on the backs of her hands, under her collarbones. Every time she came, she would offer that knife of a smile and a design, and you would eventually learn to smile back, and watch that knife soften into something slightly more fond, and infinitely sadder. She began to talk during her sessions, telling stories of her past, of a trickster who charmed her into letting her guard down, only to end up betraying her, of her best friend who she sacrificed everything for. You opened up as well, talking about your fear of snakes, and how when you were a child, you could always tell what the weather would be, or if people you knew would have good days or bad. You told her about how you used to have small visions, only to see them happen seconds after you spoke. You laughed about them to her, putting them down as children’s fantasy, but she would only stare at you, something approximating affection in her inkwell eyes. Near the end of her visits, her smiles became sadder, more reluctant, and she would draw out her visits as long as she possibly could. She started to wait longer between each visit, like she was trying to stave something off. You did your best not to take it personally.

On her last visit to your parlour, she came in slowly, coming closer to dragging her heels than she ever had. You were already smiling at her.

“It’s your hundredth eye today.” You said, in a celebratory voice. Her shoulders slumped, but you forged ahead anyways. “This one’s on the house. My treat.”

The final eye was far simpler than anything she had ever asked for, just two curved lines like sideways parentheses, and a single dot in the middle. She wanted it in the middle of her forehead. You complied without question like you always did. She didn't talk that last time, just stared at you with despairing eyes. You didn't speak either, just focused on your work, making sure it was perfect. Something felt different this time.

When you had finished, she grabbed you by the hand and pulled you towards her. You were face to face, and she was talking.

“You have to understand, I didn't choose this, it’s just how it has to be.” She was talking rapidly, words tripping and stumbling out of her mouth, and you were so confused. Her voice slowed, and she took a shuddering breath. “You gave me all these beautiful eyes, and I thank you for that. I owe you everything, but I need one more thing from you.” She seemed to steel herself against something, and then she leaned forwards and kissed your forehead. “Your sight.” Everything went hazy and blurry, and the last thing you ever saw was the sight of every single eye that you had lovingly pressed into her skin blinking at once.

She didn’t take everything from you that day. She may have taken your sight, but she gave you clarity. Those visions you used to have came back with a vengeance. You stopped your tattoo work - nobody wants a blind person with needles near them. Instead, you branched into fortune telling, and you made a killing. Tiresias's Fortunes, on the intersection of Delphi and Olympus, is well known throughout the city, and you never want for work. As for your mystery patron, your masterpiece personified, she sometimes drops around. She finally told you her name, Argus, and whenever she drops by, you smile widely. People tell you your smile is terrifying. They say it looks like a knife.


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Potential for a thoroughly unsettling tale.
beco99 rated this work:

July 6, 2019, 3:58 p.m.

An interesting story. I really like the smile like a knife metaphor. It gives a sense of something untrustworthy. It's also a nice line to end on to bring the story full circle.

The build up was good and you got the sense there was a twist coming and that the visitor was not as she seemed. I thought that the twist was very abrupt, though, and didn't have much reaction from the narrator. It just moves on and then the narrator has a semi-happy ending as a clairvoyant? It all seems a bit sudden and easy. It might be interesting to see the narrator struggle a little with this massive change in his life. You created a good image though, of someone who appears to be doing their duty. The mysterious eye-lover was an intriguing character. I guess I'd like a bit more in the build up, perhaps some dialogue between them in the parlour to mix it up and develop their characters a little more.

I liked the description 'inkwell eyes', and I agree it makes them sound like black pits, and I'd say it creates a very unsettling image.

I wonder if when she kisses him on the head and tells him “Your sight.” I wonder if a different word is better, as he still has sight as 'foresight'. So maybe 'vision', or even 'eyes' could be better.

'Wrist tattoos usually hurt like hell, but she didn't flinch the entire time, just stared at the wall ahead of her, stoic and terrifying.' - Here you have two many commas. The first part is fine - 2 main clauses and a co-ordinating conjunction. But the second comma should be a full stop, and it should be followed by a subject. - '...entire time. She just stared...'

'a whole other plane' - I think 'another' is simpler and sounds better here.

'putting them down as children’s fantasy,' - I think this should be 'putting them down to children's fantasies/a child's fantasy'. I'd go for the latter here as the narrator is talking about himself.

'You were face to face, and she was talking.' - The past continuous tense 'she was talking' indicates that she started talking before they were face to face. If that's what you meant, then great, but I do think it works better if you say - '...face to face, and she said.'

You have the potential here for a thoroughly unsettling tale, maybe keep the mystery and develop their characters a little more rather than just hurrying through to the end.

Pacing Character Motivation Sentence Structure

Comment Rating: 5.0

What does the narrator want?
naricorn rated this work:

June 27, 2019, 11:39 a.m.

Hi! I like circular stories, and I appreciate how you don't shy away from short and sweet sentences to vary the structure. Also, I'm realizing I just assumed the narrator was a "he," so if it's important that the reader know the narrator's gender, keep that in mind. Some notes I took as I read:

You could just say "Given how new to the job you were, you would have believed it."

The "made a facial expression" part is awkward. Even though her smile seems dangerous, it's still a smile as long as her lips curve upward, right? You can then mention that it looks sharp, not soft. Also, "reeks of danger" is one of those phrases that I feel like is a cliche, but others may disagree.

The eyes vs. tattoos of those eyes part is nice. Seems like a conversation that could actually happen.

Describing a person as "honed" doesn't seem right. It's more "hone your skills."

I love "inkwell eyes." But are her eyes dark? If not, they should be. I only recall you describing her thick, dark lashes, which, while captivating, probably aren't typically compared to black holes.

The montage of them getting to know each other establishes their relationship quickly, but if you actually want people to be invested in it, I think a scene might be more effective.

I think you glossed over his losing his sight. I mean, that's a HUGE event. Does he not have more of a reaction to that? How did it happen? Is he not traumatized? Maybe I would understand this better if I had a better grasp of his personality. As it is, I don't entirely know what makes him tick. What does he want, ultimately?

Overall, I'd say the two parts for expansion are definitely their relationship and the ending/aftermath to make the storyline more believable. Intriguing story, though.

Plot Character Motivation Concision

Comment Rating: 4.0

A smile like a knife
van rated this work:

July 7, 2019, 8:10 p.m.

I really liked this piece. It was short and sweet and well told. Also, I am one of the few weirdos (feels like there's a few of us, anyway) who not only is fine with, but truly enjoys second person POV, so this was wonderful.
Hope you don't mind a few comments that could really strengthen the story:
For one, "made a facial expression" could be stronger. People make facial expressions all the time. Describe it in more detail-- did she quirk her lips? Did her eyes gleam, maybe?
And for "like she was trying to stave something off", I think the suspense and tension would be heightened even more if you took this part out; it's a little too explain-y, and it would be more intriguing to keep the reader guessing exactly why she waited longer between each visit. The subsequent pieces of information make this clear anyway.

I think this piece was well paced, flowed really well, except for the ending-- I wished for at least a little bit more adjustment on the narrator's part. Losing your eyes is a big deal, even if the protagonist is okay with it! I understand this story is mythological, so more telling and less showing is expected (and characters' psychologies aren't really examined), but at least one sentence would make it feel less abrupt. I don't think you necessarily need to explain motivations for a fable-type piece like this, but some transition would make it flow better. The character goes from being a run-of-the-mill mortal to a mysterious, terrifying soothsayer in the blink of an eye (I promise, the pun wasn't intended. Should I keep this in anyway? I'll keep this in anyway).

I loved their first exchange. When she said "I need eyes," and then you described her eyes as black holes, I imagined her eyes as completely empty sockets, which was really cool. I liked that double-meaning a lot, and it introduced a mysterious and supernatural atmosphere.
And while the ending felt abrupt in some ways, I enjoyed it overall. "People tell you your smile is terrifying. They say it looks like a knife." Wow!

Pacing Point of View Show Don't Tell Concision

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Delightfully creepy
whatdoyouneed rated this work:

Nov. 16, 2019, 9:42 p.m.

I really liked this. I love how you blended the modern-day setting with the mythology (I actually had to look up who Argus was).
The second person can be a bit of a polarizing choice but I feel like it worked here.
The beginning of the story was very strong, and you give this modern-day Argus such a presence from the way you describe her. And I also like how you brought the story full-circle at the end.
As a sort of updated myth, it works very well. You could have gone more deeply into your characters, but I don't get the sense that this was supposed to be a character-driven piece, just a cool, modern take on some ancient stories.

Point of View

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