Staring into the deepness that the disembodied eye held, I don’t notice the other person in the restaurant until I hear the door to one of the bathrooms creak open. I pull myself over to the server side of the counter and duck behind it on instinct, flattening myself into a prone position at the curved end of the counter closest to the bathroom. From the floor I peek around the corner of the counter to watch whoever is coming from the bathrooms.
In the small alcove that houses the bathrooms, I don’t see who it is at first. I only hear their footsteps, heavy boots with hard soles clomping in a slow, steady rhythm on the floor. A mild squelching sound follows them, as if they are wet. Every few seconds a small motor revs from the same location as the footsteps, and there is the sound of something heavy and plastic being dragged.
The countertop prevents me from seeing whoever it is above the waist when they come out of the restroom alcove. Whoever it is wears a pair of heavy snow boots soaked in blood and leaves red boot tracks on the white and black linoleum squares. A black plastic apron hangs in front of its red-flecked cargo pants, and the apron is stained with as much blood as it is grease. They come forward with the pace of someone trying to text and walk at the same time. After the boots and legs leave my line of sight, a thick collection of electric cords and cables follows, a collection of TV, Ethernet, phone, and other cables, all held in a single mass by zip ties. The small motor keeps going every five seconds, and now I can hear it snarling like it’s jammed.
The person is still walking, and going off the hunch that their back is turned to me, I slowly follow the cables around the corner, leaning my head around the counter edge only enough so that I can see whoever it is. He stops walking by the time I manage to get a look at him.
He holds a bloody electric carving knife, and is busy trying to pick assorted bits of skin and muscle and hair out of it, the floor around his feet containing some of the results of his efforts. He keeps revving the knife to see if he’s gotten the blade clear of the little red bits that are gumming up the motor.
He accomplishes this task by the time I look toward his face. I see something that I don’t really understand at first, my brain can’t accept it, but it’s still there, the fact that the mass of wires goes into the man’s eye sockets. Phone cables, cable wires, Ethernet, he’s all wired in. Other wires don’t go into his head, but hang limp on the zip ties, weighted down by clusters of eyeballs whose optic nerves look like they’ve been melted onto the exposed wires. Even more electronic wires splay out like electric whiskers with nothing attached to them.
The man puts the carving knife into his belt and takes two things from the pockets of his apron: a small welding torch and a fresh human eye. He holds the torch before one of his dangling eyeballs and ignites it, adjusting the size of the flame. After that he grabs hold of one of the empty wires and dangles the fresh eye by the thin red-and-white nerve as he aligns them both together. He puts the flame to where the organic and electronic wires meet, cooking them together with the precision of a welder, not caring that the heat blisters the skin of the thumb and index finger holding them together.
He finishes. He takes up the freshly welded eye and looks around with it, guiding it with his hand. He turns around to my direction and I try to hide back behind the counter, but it’s too late, his newest eye has seen me. He takes the carving knife from his belt, starting the motor and walking towards me.