about the author

Matthew Twigg lives in Oxford (UK) where he works as an editor for an academic publisher. In his spare time he enjoys reading, football, countryside, food, and reading again. He works mostly on short fiction, but is also in the process of writing his first novel.

Bookmark and Share


font size


Matthew Twigg

Ayaan says she’s used to seeing the world in fragments. It’s how she spent her life as a young woman, peering out into the world, the world looking back like she didn’t belong. “Like an alien explorer through a periscope,” she said to me once.

She says it’s really no different to the rest of us. We can only hear sounds within a certain range of pitch, too high or too low and nothing registers. The same with sight, if it weren’t for that tiny chink in the electromagnetic spectrum, all would be darkness to us. None of us really sees the stuff that matters. Not with our eyes, anyway.

Still, there are fragments and there are fragments. And if you pour sulphuric acid into that fragment, whatever little you could see before...

We met at university, I was doing my medical training, Ayaan was in her final year of Byzantine Studies. It was one of the few courses her family would let her do. I fell in love with her eyes. They were all I had, and they were all I needed.

“I’m sorry, Andy, but I think she’s going to lose her vision. Certainly in her right eye, probably both,” says Dr Maloney.

We were at medical school together, Dr Maloney and me. He came to the wedding. All my family were there. None of Ayaan’s. I told her we didn’t have to do it that way, that there must be some way her family would give us their blessing. She just said to me, Sometimes love has to win. A lot of people think like that, she’s the only person I know that lives like it.

Sulphuric acid: one part sulphur, two parts hydrogen, four parts oxygen. Together, one of the most corrosive substances on the planet. If you want to dilute it, you’ve got to add the acid to water, not the other way around, otherwise the reaction is massively exothermic. It burns.

“I’m afraid that when her eyes began to water, the damage to the cornea was quite severe,” says Dr Maloney. “The tears allowed the acid to spread to the back of the eye, to the optic nerve.”

It’s the strangest thing. When first we met, all I could see were her eyes. The darkest brown. Now I can see her long, slender arms, her delicate fingers and her chewed nails, her bony little ankles and knees, even the bottom of her soft, smooth thighs. Everything but her eyes, covered over with cotton pads and gauze and tape.

“I’ll see you again, baba. Inshallah,” she says. Usually at this point she’d say something like, “old habits,” shoot me a grin. But not this time. She’s so much stronger than I am.

I think back to our wedding day. She looked incandescent. The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. If I close my eyes I can see her, twirling in her dress like she’s weightless. And I wonder, can she see me too?

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...