“Then at least tell me why the decree was issued,” I said. “Why has this man’s entire life’s work been impounded in this way?”
I remember Pratesi pausing at this point. He appeared to be choosing his words with care. “The life, and by implication the work of Antonio Berzzini are considered, ah — macchiato. Tainted.”
“For what reason?”
Again he paused. “As Berzzini was approaching his fortieth year, he was afflicted by a sickness, a sickness of a most disturbing nature.”
“I know he was blinded,” I said, “by cataracts, or some other illness.”
“No,” he replied. “He was blinded, but what I describe came later. It affected his painting in ways which I find difficult to describe. Let me just say that there are works in existence that have never been seen outside this city, and that never will.”
“Works that he produced after he became blind?”
“That is correct.”
This story was written in response to a writing challenge on an intranet based writing group at the company where I used to work. The title we were given was “Double Vision”, and as ideas go this one came together pretty easily once I started trying to think what to write. (The fact that it is possible to have good ideas simply by sitting down and asking myself “Right, what shall I think of?” is pretty reassuring as a writer — the idea of waiting for flashes of inspiration has always seemed far too haphazard to me.)
In essence “Second Sight” is the story of a painter of religious artwork, his sight rapidly failing, who makes a deal with forces he shouldn’t deal with when the God he used to revere ignores his pleas. Inevitably he is decieved, and when his vision returns the things he ends up seeing are things no sane man should have to see — visions of what exists just beyond our own reality, trying to get in, looking for weak minds and willing victims to help them. His descent into madness, and his incarceration by the Vatican, soon follow.
“Second Sight” was published by The Book of Dark Wisdom in December 2005, and although the “Horrors Beyond” anthology actually made it to print earlier, “Second Sight” still counts as my first fiction sale.