The Man Who Had Bright Blue Eyes

August 27, 2010
By , Keswick, United Kingdom
Mr Frederick Windsor laid down his pen in despair; a despair that was worsened when the pen rolled off his mahogany desk and skittered across the floor. Windsor buried his head in his hands. What to do? Through the window panes he could see the warm sunny brightness of the beautiful London day, with everyone going about their work, the sun reflected off ornately decorated church spires in the horizon.
Windsor sighed. Somehow the fact that the weather was so beautiful when he felt so miserable made him feel worse. His current mood did not agree with the London weather at all: no, he was in the middle of making one of the most difficult decisions of his life.
Mr Frederick Windsor was Primary Government Advisor to King Henry VIII, and he was such a nice man that he didn’t deserve it to have such a tricky and controversial job. Right now he had to make a choice: whether to lie through gritted teeth and support the King’s plan to marry the young Anne Boleyn, or to speak his mind as a devout Catholic and rot in the Tower of London for evermore. What to do?
With a strange certainty, Windsor suddenly felt that he wasn’t alone. Turning around he caught sight of a very pleasant-looking young man. He was wearing a beautiful emerald cloak that Windsor guessed meant he was one of the King’s trusted subjects. With sandy-coloured hair, intense blue eyes and an amiable smile, the young man stirred up a sudden and inexplicable feeling of trust in Windsor.
“Who are you? I didn’t hear you knock!” He hadn’t meant to be harsh, but his weary mood just would not permit a more welcoming response.
“I’m a friend,” said the young man softly. He had a voice that sounded like a chorus of angels. “And I am well aware of your dilemma, Mr Windsor. I am here to converse with you about a method to reduce the danger of your quandary.”
He seated himself in a nearby chair and continued speaking: “You are a very dedicated Christian, Mr Windsor. And the King wants you to back up his scheme to marry Miss Anne Boleyn but you do not support his remarriage as it would go against your beliefs…yet you fear the King and don’t want to incur his vengeful wrath…am I right?”
In awe, Frederick Windsor nodded; he had never heard his troubles summed up so thoroughly and with such accuracy. The man’s eyes twinkled as he regarded Windsor. “Well, then, I shall see what I can manage,” he said and suddenly he was gone.
The next day, Windsor heard the news that he was relieved of his duty to make that huge choice yet he never knew exactly what it was the young man did for him. All he did find out was that the young man was dragged away to the Tower of London and that his head was placed on the execution block that should have been Windsor’s own.

“Can you pass the matches, Brian? This candle seems to be refusing to light,” complained Mrs Hayles as she and her husband sat down to a candlelit dinner. “The baby’s asleep, is she?”
“Yes, yes,” replied Mr Hayles, waving his hands dismissively. “I will say Grace, then you may pour and I will carve the goose.” Clearing his throat, he went on: “By the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ…”
He was interrupted by his wife’s sharp exclamation of “Oh, what’s that?!” Sternly, he peered over the rims of his spectacles, saying crossly, “Really, Judy!”
“No, I mean it, Brian! Listen…” Both straining their ears, they managed to catch a faint crackling sound; if they had had time to strain their noses as well they might have caught a whiff of smoke. Mr Hayles threw open the front door, commenting, “At least that’ll let the air in at any rate,” and poked his head around the door. “It’s that blasted bakery again! Thomas – what’s his name – Farringdon, is it?”
Stepping outside, Mr Hayles’ eyes widened as he beheld the true extremity of the disaster that had befallen Pudding Lane. Within seconds of seeing the alarm on his face, Mrs Hayles joined him and her expression of alarm joined his. She screamed.
The house of Thomas Farringdon the baker – which was next door to the Hayles household – looked like a fiery ghost, with smoke billowing up into the evening sky and flames blazing out through windows. Panes of glass fell and smashed, doors crackled into oblivion and the leaping tongues of fire were dancing everywhere, licking even at the Hayles’ own thatched roof. “Brian!” yelled Mrs Hayles, pointing at their house which was now ablaze. “Eliza’s still in there!”
The colour drained from her husband’s face and he dashed back inside their flaming home, calling his baby daughter’s name again and again. For quite a long time Mrs Judith Hayles waited outside, but he did not return. “Help!” she began crying at last. “Oh please, SOMEBODY HELP ME!”
A young man appeared instantly at her side, a young man with sandy-coloured hair and startlingly intense blue eyes, wearing the long black garb her husband often wore on formal occasions. Mrs Hayles didn’t know why, but she felt like the young man was someone she could trust.
She gestured wildly to the burning house. “My daughter…my husband…” she managed to choke, the smoke stinging her eyes, and immediately the new arrival was leaping into the flames to save her loved ones. He returned moments later, carrying her unconscious husband out of the house. Laying him on the ground, he ran back into the flaming house to search for Eliza. The little girl’s parents waited anxiously outside, always peering up at the second floor but at the same time recoiling from the fiery heat.
Suddenly, as if in slow motion, their child drifted down to them. Catching her in time and marvelling that she had been rescued, they looked up at the second-floor window from whence she had been cast down. But however long they stayed at the site of that blazing inferno, the sandy-haired blue-eyed young man did not return.

“Hark, the herald angels sing – glory to the newborn king!” Ignoring the finely-dressed carol singers, Mr Ledgelaw paid five shillings for his plum pudding and received the wrapped dessert gratefully. All around him was a typical Victorian Christmas – just how he liked it: snow drifting down, carol singers, a cheery marketplace, gentlemen tipping their black hats as they exchanged the greeting of “God bless us, every one.”
But Mr Ledgelaw couldn’t enjoy this Christmas, and neither could most of the others. He knew they wouldn’t show it but he could see the raw fear behind their cheery Christmas faces. The same raw fear that he knew was eating up his own mind.
Going over to a pretty young woman of twenty-five he knew from church, he bade her Merry Christmas and asked, “What are you doing over the festive period, Miss Bennett?” Answering as she tied on her shawl, Miss Bennett said, “I was thinking of staying away for a while.” Then she leaned in closer and whispered, “…because of the Beast.”
“Ah,” he murmured just as quietly, “the Beast. Of course. Have you ever seen it? I’ve never witnessed the atrocious monstrosity myself so I suppose I should count myself lucky! They say it’s a growling dog, yet others say it’s a giant, and still others say it’s a diabolical, lecherous dwarf! I don’t know what it really looks like.”
Dryly, Miss Bennett returned, “Sounds like something out of an Edgar Allan Poe story!” and Mr Ledgelaw chuckled.
“What does?” came a beautiful, almost angelic voice from behind them. The two Victorians both turned to see a sandy-haired young man with keen blue eyes and impeccable attire, consisting of a brown frock coat, a luxurious grey coat and a shining red waistcoat with gold thread buttons.
“The Beast, of course. Where have you been living?” retorted Mr Ledgelaw, angry at the man’s lack of local knowledge. “It steals children away at night, leaving trails of blood through the snow. It ravages marketplaces and burns houses to the ground.”
Shrugging, the young man commented, “It sounds like I might be of service,” and he pulled out a sword and a long trail of rope. “If killing the Beast means your people will no longer be terrorised, then I’ll do it!” With that, he leaped onto a nearby horse and rode off into the distance
The next day the people of Ealing found their great Beast. It was lying dead in a snowy backstreet, a huge hound with razor-sharp teeth and blood-shot eyes. But the heroic young man who had saved them all was never seen again in the neighbourhood and when the Beast was found its muzzle was stained with red.

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, went the Tube and Adrian Smith leaned back in his seat, breathing deeply. Where was he going to find a job now? His boss at the Home Office had fired only this morning – this morning, it felt like years ago – and he was soon to be in a bad state.
Groaning, Adrian sat in silence for a while, a silence broken only by the sound of the Tube, the occasional ‘Mind the Gap’ announcement and the chattering of other passengers.
Suddenly Adrian was aware that someone had just sat in the seat next to him. He found it was a nice-looking young man with dazzling blue eyes, eyes that were the brightest thing on the Tube, and straggling sandy hair; he was wearing jeans and a denim jacket.
Denim on denim, thought Adrian with distaste. Very 80s; still, he does it better than my mum did, I’ll give him that. Despite the new arrival’s appalling dress sense, Adrian felt like this man was someone that he could trust.
And then the man turned and looked directly at Adrian. Feeling the full force of his eerily bright gaze, Adrian shrank back slightly and avoided the man’s eyes, looking at the floor, at the ‘WESTMINSTER’ sign through the glass doors, anywhere.
The man’s voice was soft and soothing, and he spoke directly to Adrian. “Adrian,” he said quietly and calmly, “you need to get out of this Tube right now.” It was strange, but Adrian didn’t even think to question the man. He didn’t ask why or how the man knew his name.
He just trusted the man so much that he leaped from his sight and with all the strength he had gained from the gym every Thursday, yanked the doors open with a loud shudder. The wind rustled and the darkness of the tunnel outside seemed to spill in. Adrian glimpsed a light approaching – the Tube was drawing near a station. If he wanted to get out it was to be now or never…
While Adrian had done that, the strange young man had not been idle. Now he was standing in the middle of the Tube, feet firmly planted with his arms raised, shouting “Everyone out!” in a very authoritative voice for one so young.
Just as the Tube pulled in at Westminster, Adrian saw on the other passengers’ faces that they felt the same way he did: that this was not someone to be questioned. They all instantly obeyed, running, trampling, squabbling as they poured out of the open doors and onto the platform.
Adrian fought his way through the crowd and managed to get out. He helped with the young and the old, ushering them out, and as he was leaving he risked a glimpse back. He saw the young man helping an old lady in her eighties off the step and onto the platform. Adrian watched in paralysed terror as the doors began to close.
The young man threw the old lady forward and the doors clamped shut. Adrian gave a cry, but it was not the old lady groaning on the floor of the platform he was worried about; it was the young man trapped smiling alone in the carriage of the Tube which was now pulling away.
Adrian helped the old lady to her feet, and out of the platform. Several seconds later everyone throughout Westminster Station heard the huge explosion of the Tube, of some bomb that a terrorist had placed on it. But in his own head he did not hear an explosion, but the silent scream of the unknown man who had saved them all.

Mel looked down miserably at her feet, as the rest of London went by.
It wasn’t fair! she shrieked inside her head. She glanced around, her gaze sweeping over the dark, dismal streets, the wreckage and the devastation. London had been a great place once, but not any more. Not after most other humans had boarded ships and headed off to see the stars, taking all the wealth and technology, leaving behind a London of despair. A world of despair.
Wreckage, muck, debris, crime, poverty, scavenging…Mel hated this new London. The fact that she could remember the old London at the peak of its glory days made it worse...How she hated it! Hated, hated, hated it!
But far worse than she hated London, Mel hated the black bin-liner sack slung over her back. Everyone bore one nowadays. No one was free from a sack.
Sacks contained all your sins: every cross word, every unkind thought, every stolen candy bar, every unreturned library book. Little sins and big sins, ugly sins and hidden sins.
It wasn’t just the physical burden of having a sack permanently on your back, though, with new weight being added to it each time you committed a sin; it was far more than that. It was the mental burden, the ominous feeling of darkness perpetually looming above you. And it was more terrible than anything Mel had ever known.
“Do you mind if I sit here a moment?” Mel jumped slightly at the question, finding next to her a young man aged about thirty-two or thirty-three. His hair was an earthy brown colour, his face smooth and honest and his eyes a dazzling smile – one of the first things that made Mel smile in this ruined, degenerate world.
“Sure,” she shrugged, turning away from him. Then, slowly, she turned back to him with a curious expression on her face. “If you don’t mind me asking…where’s your sack?”
The man’s keen blue eyes shone as he answered, “I don’t have a sack. I’ve never had a sack.” Keeping his steady, calm gaze on Mel, he reached out a hand and, to her amazement, plucked the sack off her back. Standing up and swinging it over his own shoulder, he said, “So why don’t you let me take yours for a while?” and he began walking away.
Mel was more confused than she had been in her life. “Wait! Where will I find my sack again?” Not that I want it back, she thought. But the poor man can’t take your sack forever, can he?
“You will find it in the skip by the sea,” came the reply.
The next day Mel dutifully trekked through the dismal streets of London, bending her weary footsteps toward the coastline. Here was more wreckage and ruination: towering pillars of sand and wasteland left behind when the flood barriers smashed. Here was a huge yellow skip lying next to the pillars of sand. Here the tang of salty water was already on Mel’s tongue. Here there were millions of other Londoners clamouring as they looked on in awe at the skip, Londoners of every ethnicity and age, none of them with their sacks.
As her gaze moved to the skip, Mel understood why they looked on in awe. Standing firmly in the skip, being weighed down by the weight of all the other sacks, was the young man. Sacks adorned his head like a crown of thorns; his arms splayed wide as they opened for all were drooping with the weight of still more sacks. Mel thought she could spot her sack by his right foot.
All continued watching the man, by that silent lonely skip on the sea, and eventually the terrible weight of the sacks sent him crashing down to the floor of the skip, where he lay lifeless, suffocating as he was crushed ruthlessly by the sins of those others, yet not of himself.

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YS95 said...
Sept. 7, 2010 at 11:14 am
Wow, I'd like to say that this is a great story. And I love the interpretation of the "man without a sack" story at the end. Awesome.
TMars replied...
Sept. 7, 2010 at 11:16 am
Thanks for your feedback.
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