One Good Eye: A Short Story

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“What seems to be the problem, Isaac?” asked Dr. Happ.

Isaac grabbed the left side of his forehead in anguish. “I’ve been having these terrible headaches, doctor.”

“How unfortunate,” Dr. Happ said. “Please step forward, and I will examine you.”

Isaac stepped forward, and two seconds later, Dr. Happ responded, “You have macular degeneration in your left eye.”

“My left eye?” Isaac sounded worried. “Are you sure it’s not something else that’s causing the headaches?”

“Your blood pressure and heart rate are normal,” said Dr. Happ. “Immune and digestive systems are running efficiently. No nerve problems. Hormone levels are mostly balanced, except for a slightly sub-optimally high level of cortisol, which I have dismissed as a symptom of increased anxiety from the uncertainty of the cause of the migraines, which has now been diagnosed… So, yes. You have macular degeneration in your left eye.”

“I see,” said Isaac.

“Actually, you do not see.”

“Huh?” Isaac’s mind was adrift, barely paying attention to his doctor.

“An optometry joke,” said Dr. Happ. “You will soon lose vision in the eye.”

“Lose vision?” Isaac rubbed his left eyeball.

“Yes, come lie down on the table, and I will replace the eye for you.”

Isaac remained standing. “Replace it?”

Dr. Happ stepped to a counter full of medical equipment and prepared the necessary surgical instruments. “The procedure will not take more than a few minutes, after which, you will see as good as new, and the headaches will vanish.”

Isaac still hesitated to lie down. “Are there any alternative treatments?”

“Alternatives?” Dr. Happ turned to face Isaac. “I assure you that replacing the eyeball is your most prudent option.”

“I understand,” said Isaac, “but I… I like the way this eye looks and feels.”

“I can craft you an exact replica.”

“I know, but my left eye is…well, it’s…”

“Natural?”

Isaac nodded.

“Yes, I noticed,” said Dr. Happ. “I was wondering why you had not had it replaced yet.”

“I…” Isaac struggled to find words to explain himself to the doctor.

“Synthetic eyes perform much better. Do you not notice the drastic difference with your right eye?”

“Yes, my right eye is extraordinary, but…”

“But what?” Dr. Happ could not comprehend what Isaac was hesitating over.

“I’d prefer to keep my left eye.”

“It will go blind.”

Isaac considered the implications. “I’ll still be able to see out of my right eye, though. Correct?”

“Correct, Isaac, but your left eye is causing your migraines.” Dr. Happ stepped back to the counter. “I assure you, the procedure is quite quick and simple.” Dr. Happ turned to approach Isaac. “Here, look…” Dr. Happ displayed an eyeball, the exact shape, size, and color of the eyeball currently in Isaac’s left socket. “No one will be able to tell the difference, Isaac. Not even you.”

“Yes, I know…” Isaac studied the new synthetic eyeball in his hand. Its white sclera with a web of red blood vessels…its hazel brown iris, a layered fusion of green and brown…and its pitch-black pupil. The design was flawless.

“Then what is your concern?” asked Dr. Happ.

“It’s just…” Isaac handed the replica eyeball back to his doctor. “I would rather keep my left eye.”

“But why?”

“You’re a robot, Dr. Happ. A Home Automated Personal Physician. You are designed to look human and are programmed to behave human, but you are one-hundred percent synthetic.”

“That is correct, but I fail to see the relevancy.”

Isaac looked at himself in a full-body mirror. “I got my first right eye when I was 65. New arms and legs when I was 72. I replaced my heart and internal organs when I was 86. Uploaded my consciousness to an artificial brain when I was 104. In the decades since, I’ve replaced my synthetic right eye a half dozen times. Lost count of the kidneys and livers. I’ve replaced my skull, jaw, teeth, and tongue. Installed three new faces. Gotten a whole new body—twice. Countless different skin colors, hairstyles, heights, and weights… But through it all, I’ve always kept the original left eye I was born with.”

“Yes, Isaac, I am aware that your left eye is your only natural, non-synthetic, body part…but it is flawed.”

Isaac remained focused on the mirror. He looked perfectly human, though considerably younger than his age would suggest.

“Perhaps, Dr. Happ…” Isaac turned to face his android doctor, who looked just as human as he. “But if I replace my left eye, what would differentiate me from you?”

Dr. Happ stared at his patient—his owner. “I do not have an answer for that, Isaac.”

“I can suffer through the headaches for a little longer,” Isaac said, “and I can manage seeing just fine through my right eye.”

Dr. Happ stood beside the table prepared for surgery. “What do you mean to say, Isaac?”

Isaac handed the synthetic eyeball back to Dr. Happ. “I’m going to keep my left eye. For…sentimental reasons.”

“I do not understand,” said Dr. Happ.

“You wouldn’t.” Isaac winked his one good eye then left.

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