CorrecTed Vision

by Kristen Bealer

It was a lovely Saturday afternoon. The light generated by the sun was unbroken by clouds or other obstructions, the temperature and humidity levels were well within a comfortable range, and several birds were uttering musical vocalizations intended for either territorial or mating purposes. Ted was walking home from the video arcade when he noticed a medium-sized bulldog approaching him.

"Hello," Ted greeted the dog. He was engaging in the common ritual of speaking to animals as a friendly gesture, knowing that the dog most likely didn't understand him and wouldn't respond. Then again, Ted reflected, I would have said the same thing about toilets not so long ago, and now Talking Toilet is one of my closest confidantes!

He watched the dog closely for a short time, but the dog didn't speak. Instead, it wagged its tail and looked expectantly at Ted.

"Er...can I help you with something?" Ted asked. He looked around and noticed a stick lying nearby. "Ah! I see," he said, picking it up. "I've heard dogs are often fond of chasing sticks. Would you like me to throw this?"

The dog barked and wagged its tail harder. Taking that for an affirmative response, Ted sent the stick flying across the street. The dog happily ran after it and, after picking it up in its mouth, began to return to Ted.

At that moment a red SUV came haltingly down the road. It was on a direct course toward the dog. Before Ted could act, the car screeched to a sudden stop, narrowly missing the dog. From inside the car Ted heard a vaguely-familiar voice call out, "I'm a dog killer!"

The dog, unaware of its near-death experience, barked happily and continued on its way across the street. Ted accepted the stick back from the dog and watched as the SUV drove off again at a very slow pace. Looking back at the dog, he tossed the stick again, this time in a safer direction.

"Who knew there were serial puppy killers in Lawndale?" Ted asked himself, bemused, before continuing on his way home.

The next few days passed uneventfully, but at school on Wednesday Ted was shocked to see no less than three people--one of them a teacher--fail to recognize his friend Daria. Until that day, he'd believed the phenomenon of being invisible or unfamiliar was restricted only to himself, but now he wondered if the condition might be spreading.

Poor Daria, he thought sadly as another student assumed Daria was new to Lawndale High. As if it wasn't bad enough that today she seems to have misplaced her glasses. He thought for a moment. Is it possible that the two are connected somehow? Then he shook his head. That's silly. You'd have to be very unobservant not to recognize someone just because they aren't wearing glasses!

Still, for the sake of scientific investigation he tried removing his own glasses. Perhaps this will have the opposite effect for me, and now everyone will recognize me at last! He approached a groups of students who were in several of his classes and waited to see if any of them noticed him. Nothing. Sighing, he put the glasses back on. I guess it only works for Daria. Well, Daria and Superman.

Ted kept thinking about the situation for the rest of the day, and by the time his last class ended he decided he needed to find Daria and offer his sympathy. He knew well enough how painful it could be to feel invisible amongst one's peers, so he felt it was his duty to give her his full support during this difficult time.

It only took him a short time to find Daria after school. She was being led by her friend Jane, who had stopped to tie her boot. He approached Daria and gave her a friendly smile. She stared right through him without a trace of recognition. He considered saying something to help her remember him, but decided that it wasn't worth the trouble. She clearly doesn't remember me, he thought sadly. He turned around and left as Jane straightened back up and led Daria away.

The next day he thought he might try to find Daria again, just in case the previous day had been a fluke. It turned out he didn't need to look very hard for her; not long after he arrived at school he came almost face-to-face with her. He noted that she was still without her glasses, and wondered if she was still having trouble with people not recognizing her. He opened his mouth to ask, but she walked right past him, blinking and squinting as she went.

Well, that answers that, Ted told himself glumly. She didn't even recognize me up close.

He got another chance to speak with her on his way to a class a couple hours later. She was heading toward him in the hallway, and he was about to ask if she wanted to compare notes on their shared condition when she slammed into him and nearly knocked him over. Daria mumbled an apology and continued on her way. Wow, I must be particularly hard to remember today, Ted realized in surprise. She didn't even know me after literally running into me!

At lunchtime, he saw her sitting with her friend and decided to try approaching her one last time. Perhaps I could offer her my sympathy, he thought. Before he could reach them, though, she stood up and ran from the table. She seems very upset, Ted noted. I suppose I don't blame her. Invisibility can take some getting used to. He started to follow, seeing Jane go after her as well. He lost track of them in the hallway, but as he passed the girl's restroom he heard Jane say, "Talking Toilet?"

Ah, Ted thought with relief. Daria's in excellent hands, then. Talking Toilet will sort everything out.

Although he was confident in Talking Toilet's problem-solving abilities, Ted was trying to decide if he should try to talk to Daria again after school--just in case. Before he could even start looking for her he saw Kevin coming near. Unusually, the boy was wearing glasses. Even more unusual was that the glasses appeared to contain only one lens.

"Hello, Kevin!" Ted greeted him. Kevin grinned and nodded back, which relieved Ted. He recognizes me, anyway.

"What do you think of my new glasses?" Kevin asked.

The glasses! Ted almost gasped in surprise. Once again, a student's glasses--or lack of them--was influencing their ability to remember or even see Ted. He scrutinized them closely, leaning in until his nose was almost touching Kevin's.

"Uh...dude?" Kevin asked, taking a nervous step backwards.

"Oh! I apologize. I was just trying to determine whether your glasses confer any kind of special abilities."

"What, you mean like superpowers? Aw, that would be so cool!" Then Kevin's grin grew even bigger. "Now that you mention it, these things do make me smarter. It's kind of a lame superpower, though. I'd rather be able to, like, shoot laser beams or make stuff explode when I punch it!"

Ted had already stopped listening. "Smarter, you say?" He peered at the glasses again with increased interest. "So you now perceive things--and people--that you ordinarily wouldn't, right?"

"...Okay?" Kevin replied with a confused frown.

"Fascinating!" Ted exclaimed. "So the presence of eyeglasses where none previously were worn heighten the wearer's perceptions, while the absence of eyeglasses where glasses would normally be worn decrease the wearer's perceptions! It's all so obvious!"

Kevin blinked at him in confusion, then slowly removed his glasses. He looked at them nervously, then looked at Ted's. "Man, I think you've been wearing those for too long."

"Hmmm." Ted continued talking aloud to himself as Kevin continued on his way to football practice. "Is it possible that prolonged exposure to corrective lenses might be the cause of my unexplained condition?" He removed his glasses. "I dismissed that hypothesis yesterday, but perhaps I was too quick to do so. I suppose the only way to find out for sure is through a more rigorous test!"

Tucking the glasses safely into his shirt pocket, Ted began walking down the hallway toward the school exit. He passed several of his fellow students along the way, but none of them showed any more sign of recognizing him than before. Ted sighed and decided to continue the experiment anyway.

He wandered the school grounds for almost half an hour, waiting to hear someone call out to him, but no such greeting came. He did find, however, that he was having a great deal of difficulty recognizing other people while his glasses were off. It's an interesting side effect, but the experiment remains inconclusive. Pulling the glasses out of his pocket and putting them back on, Ted began to head home. He decided that, whether or not they kept people from noticing him, he was better off wearing them--he was starting to get a headache.

Hmmm, he thought with sudden inspiration. Perhaps if I distribute glasses to all of the other students at Lawndale High--

"Mom, I have something to tell you."

The voice interrupted Ted's thoughts and he looked up to see that Daria was standing a short distance away. She and Jane were speaking to someone in a familiar red SUV. Suddenly, the memory of the previous Saturday returned to him--the near-accident, the wildly-careening vehicle, and the voice confessing to murdering dogs...the voice that he now recognized as Daria's.

It couldn't be! Ted tried to convince himself that he was mistaken. His friend Daria would never do something so terrible, would she? Then he saw Daria looking at a group of dogs through narrowed eyes and realized that it must be true. And all this time I thought she seemed like such a nice person.

As Ted sadly walked away, he decided that from now on it would probably be best if he kept his distance from Daria. She's focusing her violent deeds on dogs for now, he reasoned, but she might be slowly working her way up to humans.

For the first time in his life, Ted felt grateful for his tendency to be overlooked by others. It's much safer that way.