Mary's earphones blared as her feet hit the leaf-covered sidewalk.
She wasn't one to actually go jogging, but her brother, John, had managed to convince her to at least try. Apparently, there was a fifty-mile long marathon happening next spring, and John had wanted to win the prize. The problem was, it was a team race. And he didn't know anyone else who could go with him.
So here she is, running down the sidewalk and trying to avoid getting the song John gave her stuck in her head. But knowing her own luck, she probably shouldn't even try as it's probably embedded itself into her brain by now.
A small puff of air blew past her lips as she turned the corner, leaving her neighborhood behind as she entered the business part of her town.
Wasn't much there, just less leaves to purposely stomp on and more people lingering around the stores.
A majority of the people were teens, but the ones that weren't either kept to themselves or had a cardboard sign propped up around themselves.
Mary kept her eyes up as she got closer to the scattered homeless group. Most of them already had people chatting with them, dropping quarters to dollar bills into their cups or hats.
Her shoulder's tightened as she continued down the road, there was a reason she kept telling herself to stop bringing her wallet with her, and that was because there was always at least one person here that-
"Spare some change, Miss?"... had no one near them.
She very briefly debated just ignoring his voice and blowing past him, but the white cane laying on the cold concrete beside him had her stopping. And the sunglasses on his face had her pulling out her earphones and wallet.
"Thank you, miss." The hooded man smiled as Mary placed a few coins into his gloved palms. As his bare fingers wrapped around the coins, Mary smiled back, trying to meet her own eyes with the eyes behind the man's sunglasses, his hair was pulled back into a beanie, and the previously mentioned hoodie covered said beanie. Definitely a weird outfit, but not too odd in the fall. Or on a homeless man.
With a quick smile and, "Your welcome!" She was jogging away from the man and plugging her earphones back into her ears.
It took her a block to realize the man had no way of knowing that she was a woman, and it took her less than a second to groan at the realization.
No wonder he had no one near him, his act was horrible if he met everyone with 'miss' or 'mister'. She was just the lucky one to fall for it.
A quiet huff escaped from her chest as she winced. Well, no use going back. The man obviously was not going to give her her money back. And besides, if he really is homeless and he's being forced to use that horrible disguise, he probably does need it.
Doesn't make her less happy about it, though.
With another huff, she returned to her jog. Fifty miles is a long way, and she needs to be able to easily do it. John's counting on her, and she isn't going to let him down.
Still, even though it was already late in the day, it took her until sundown to get back to her house.
The next evening, she was back on the same route again, listening to the same songs and trying to avoid running into anyone.
...She still somehow ran into the same homeless man again.
Different place, but he was still in the same getup. And when Mary glanced at the cup, same emptiness as before.
A slight hiss escaped from her. Everyone was ignoring him and, crap she's going to do it again, wasn't she?
Her hands glided to her pockets before she pulled out her wallet. He was homeless, still dirty looking, and he wasn't getting anywhere with it either.
Mary grit her teeth into a rough smile as she slowed her jog into a stop, the man lifted his head, pushed his hands forward, and said: "Spare some change, Miss?"
With a quick nod, she had pushed some silver quarters into his hands. A smile spread across his face as he dumped the coins into his cup. "Thank you, miss."
And with a quick "Your welcome." She was back on her jog. She really hoped this wasn't going to be a pattern.
...It became a pattern.
Every day, the man would be somewhere on her route, always further along than he was before, and he either looked like he was there for a while, or he looked like he had just settled. But none the less, she always gave him a few coins. And every time, he would give her a smile and a thank you in return.
After a couple weeks of that had passed, of him being randomly dotted along her route, it became a game to her. Trying to spot his dark brown zip-up hoodie in the rapidly cooling town.
Trying to see where he had set up shop that day, and trying to see if he had gotten any money before she jogged up to him.
But, He never had, and she never brought it up to him, until the third day of nearly falling over him right outside her house.
As he gave her his usual greeting, she passed him the coins and finally opened her mouth. "Hey, uh, this may be weird, but I was wondering why you never had gotten any money? You are busking, right?"
The man chuckled slightly, "No, no. It isn't rude. Not to me, at least. And, as much as I'm sure you aren't using that word right-" A small blush spread across Mary's face, "-I understand your confusion."
The man sighed slightly before he waved to his cane. "It's probably because I greet everyone with Miss or Sir. Not really believable for someone with a cane and sunglasses to know what gender you are."
Mary figured that was the reason, but if he knew that.. "...Then why do you greet people like that?"
The man smiled. "Because I'm not rude. And, well, I don't like to lie."
Mary blinked if he didn't like to lie-?
Her head was jerked out of her thoughts as the man lifted his hands to pull off his sunglasses, revealing his mostly cloudy grey eyes to the woman in front of him. Blue dotted the eyes, but the grey easily overtook it.
His smile turned crooked. "Not entirely blind, but close. Old eyes aren't that nice to me."
"...Old anything usually isn't nice to their owners."
A bark of laughter immediately burst from the man. "I can't say you're wrong with that statement." He paused as his crooked grin faded slightly. "The only problem is that I'm still young. Might need to get new eyes before the month is over."
If only that was possible for him, Mary tried to keep her smile from being filled with pity. "If I could, I'd lend you my own eyes."
The smile returned to the man. "...I might take you up on that offer someday. My eyes may suck, but I can still see your kind green eyes. Reminds me of emeralds, actually."
Again, Mary blinked, was he.. flirting with her? ...No, probably just a compliment.
"But where are my manners, we've been doing this song and dance for weeks now, and I still don't know your name." With a quick movement, he had redonned his sunglasses, and his hand was in front of him. "Names Morgan, you?"
It didn't take long for Mary to take the man's, Morgan's hand. "..Mary. I'm Mary. It's nice to formally meet you, sir."
Another bark of laughter escaped from him. "Hey, I think that's my job, Miss."
Mary's smile returned as she pulled her hand from his, "Well, if you're going to borrow my eyes, I think I get to borrow your job."
"Touché Miss Mary, touché. I guess that's what I get for teasing someone who's been giving me money on her daily jog."
"Yup!" Her lips popped as she started to rock on her heels. As much fun as it was finally getting to know Morgan's name and finding out that he was actually losing his eyesight, she still had to go on her jog. After all, John's still hoping she'll help him win the marathon.
Even if it means running through the cold late fall to help, she'll- Her smile drifted off her face. It was getting very close to winter, it was a miracle it hadn't snowed yet. "...The weather channel said it's going to snow in a few days, will you be alright?"
Morgan just smiled as he waved her off. "It'll be fine. Don't worry, Miss, there's plenty of places nearby that can help keep me warm."
With a bob of her head, she turned, before pausing. "...Hey, if any of those places get full, I live down the road. Just look for the yellow house. If I'm home, I'll let you in."
Morgan's smile widened. "Thank you, Miss Mary. but I don't think I would need to take you up on the offer."
"Still, just keep it in mind, okay? You seem like a nice man, and hypothermia is no joke."
"Miss Mary, it's fine. The most the cold does to me is make me sleepy and slow my movements, it's fine." Morgan sighed. His smile was quickly fading.
Mary's eyes narrowed, that.. didn't sound good. But she couldn't get up and drag him indoors. She just properly met the man. "Still."
Morgan sighed before leaning back slightly. "...If I tell you that if it does get too cold, I'll come to you, will that get you back on your jog?"
"Then I'll do so. Now shoo, you're scaring my potential customers away."
A small burst of laughter escaped from her mouth, "Alright, Alright, Sir Morgan, I'll get going. Just remember-"
"If I get too cold, and all the places are full, your yellow house is open to me." He quickly interrupted her before he shook his head. "Really, Miss Mary, you are too kind. Not everyone opens their home to a stranger."
Mary took a step away from him, "I think after a few weeks of us chatting, we aren't strangers."
Morgan shrugged. "Believe what you want to believe."..And Mary does have to concede to that, though they've been interacting for a little under a month, all their conversations were at most three sentences long.
But still, she would feel horrible if something bad happened to the man. He seemed nice, even if it was odd that he always seemed to be on her route.
After a quick goodbye, Mary returned to her jog, and like before, Morgan stayed behind.
And a new song and dance appeared. Though Morgan didn't seem to move from his newfound spot outside her house, Mary always somehow tripped over him. And after an apology and a trade of coins, she resumed her daily jogs.
The days got colder and colder, slowly inching towards the icy cold of winter as the days and weeks have gone by. But luckily, at most it just flurries, no actual snow had stuck to the ground.
Still, it got to the point that Mary would check outside each night, making sure Morgan hadn't passed away due to the cold. As much as she wanted to, Morgan was a grown man, and she couldn't just drag him into her house to make sure he didn't die of hypothermia.
That thought didn't help her, though. Morgan was a grown man, but as winter slowly approached, it was harder and harder to convince herself not to go outside and drag him in or drag him in during her increasingly sparse jogs.
But, one morning she couldn't stop herself. After watching a newscast reporting that a blizzard was on its way, what a way to start winter, she bundled up a bunch of blankets and pillows, dumped them onto her couch, and marched outside to the man at the end of her lawn.
Morgan seemed to jolt in place before he turned towards her. "...Afternoon Miss Mary! You're out early on your jog!"
Mary swallowed the lump that was growing in her throat. "Morgan, it's ten am. Not.. the afternoon."
The man froze before his hands fell to his sides. "...Oh. Uh."
..How long has he been out here? Mary had hoped while she was at work, he would leave to go do his own things, but.. his spot hasn't even been moved since the first time he set up shop.
Mary had to bite back the frown that was quickly furrowing itself into her expression, but she couldn't bite back the quick words that fled from her.
"Do you want some hot cocoa?"
Morgan's head tilted up towards her as Mary's own hands dug into her pockets. "I.. don't have any work today, and I have a few packets of hot cocoa inside."
The man's expression softened. She knew the answer he was going to give her. "Miss-"
But she wasn't going to give him a chance. "Please."
Morgan's shoulders slumped before he softly nodded. "...Alright. Just... let me get my stuff. I can't leave this out here."
The knot that had been wounding in Mary's chest for the past few weeks slackened, and for once, she was able to breathe without worrying for the man in front of herself. "That's fine. If you need any help-"
"It's fine Miss Mary, I've been doing this for years." Mary had to bite back the retort, the question of 'if you have been doing this for years, why are you still out here?' After all, The nights had gotten into the negatives lately.
Morgan just slowly grabbed his stuff, his cane, sign, blanket, and, a blue duffel bag Mary was sure he didn't have the last time she came out for her jog.
..She probably just missed it.
Within no time, he had everything bundled up in his arms. "..I hope you don't mind Miss Mary, but," He paused to swallow, "the cold isn't that good for my eyes. Could you maybe guide me up to the door?"
Mary didn't even hesitate as she offered him her arm. "Of course, Morgan. Here, my arm is to your left."
His one free arm reached out and easily connected with her own. And in the next moment, she was guiding him up to her front lawn and into her home.
With a quietish click, Mary closed her front door and guided him into her kitchen. "Here, the counter is a few feet to your left. You can put your stuff on it as I start the water."
Morgan just nodded as he moved to the counter, only bobbing his head back in forth as he placed his gear on the counter.
Mary stayed quiet as she pulled out two white mugs, trying to ignore how fogged up Morgan's sunglasses had gotten in the short amount of time he was in a warm home. And trying to ignore as he quietly guided himself around the counter to the stools.
...She should've done this a long time ago.
The two stayed quiet as she filled the mugs up and threw them into the microwave, and after a few minutes had passed, she pulled them out and placed them onto the counter, both of them directly in front of Morgan.
The quietly clinked against the granite, and Morgan reached for them. His fingerless gloved hands moving them slightly towards his gear. Mary didn't say anything about it. She just turned towards her cabinets and pulled out the box full of hot cocoa mix.
Behind her, she heard Morgan unzip his bag, probably just putting his blanket away. So she ignored it and cleared her throat. "...Marshmallows or no?"
It took a minute for Morgan to respond. "Hm? Oh! Uh, Marshmallows, please. I haven't had them in a long while."
Mary bobbed her head as she reached up again to her cabinets. "Alright. ...Damn, where did I put them?"
Even with the slight confusion to find the marshmallows, It took her no time at all to fish them out of her cabinet and for her to turn back to Morgan. But when she did, she paused. The man had a small white packet in his hands, and he was dumping it into the white mug closest to himself.
Mary coughed slightly, and his head immediately popped up with a slight dusting on his cheeks. "I.. know this probably looks rude, but... I read somewhere that chocolate can taste better if you add some salt."
Oh. "Oh, you could've asked Morgan," She quietly started as she placed the packets and marshmallows onto the counter. "I could've saved you from wasting your own seasonings."
Morgan's head ducked. "... You're giving me something I haven't had for a long time, Miss Mary. I couldn't ask you for anything else."
Mary smiled as she pulled the mugs closer to herself, Morgan quickly released his own mug once she touched his hand. "Nonsense. You're a guest, Morgan. I'm perfectly fine sharing some salt with you."
Morgan didn't look up, he just looked away from the woman as she ripped open the packets and dumped them into both mugs. "...Still."
The spoon quietly dinked against the mugs as she stirred. "As long as you didn't put any salt in my mug, it's fine, Morgan."
Morgan's head popped up immediately, "No, I would never do that. Your mug is yours."
Mary tapped the spoon against the side of her mug before she places it down, and she turned towards the marshmallows. "Then what's the problem?"
The worried expression on Morgan's face faded somewhat. "...I guess there isn't one."
Mary dropped a handful of marshmallows in both mugs before she smiled. "Right answer, Sir Morgan."
Morgan just smiled back as he reached forward and grabbed the mug closest to him.
The two fell back into silence as Mary bent over the counter and picked up the remaining mug.
The two lifted their mugs up to their lips, and each took a sip.
A beat passed, and Mary suddenly winced. Yeah, he grabbed the wrong mug, as the cocoa currently in her hands tasted salty as hell.
Morgan, however, just smiled as he quickly took a much larger sip of his- no, her mug.
He looked.. elated. Excited and thrilled as he sipped from the mug in his hands.
...Screw it, she can deal with the salty taste. He was happy, and she wasn't going to subject the poor man to this awful mix of ingredients that should have never been mixed.
She could just.. not drink it. But, yeah, Morgan can see some things, and while he could easily miss a wince, he probably would notice if she was drinking from her mug. "..Sooo... where'd you read about mixing salt and chocolate?"
Morgan seemed to perk up even more. "Oh! The newspaper! I think it was the Daily Sun? I'm not sure."
Ah. Yeah. The Daily Sun, known for posting wrong things almost daily. Yeah, that explains it. "I had to hold it close to my face, and without my sunglasses, but I'm thrilled it actually worked. I haven't had a cup of cocoa in a long while." As he spoke, the corners of his lips turned upwards even more than before.
...He was pleased about the cocoa mix working, huh?
Yeah, she's still not going to tell him the truth. She just took another sip before she nodded. "Neat." The word was slightly strained.
The salty chocolate tasted horrible, and it was causing her head to pound with each sip. She would stop, but that would be rude, and it could let him know that he had the wrong mug. And she wasn't going to do that.
Morgan suddenly cleared his throat, and Mary leaned forward slightly. Her posture has slackened somewhat. "So. Miss Mary, when are you going back to work?"
"..Ah. In, a few days, I think. I know I have, today, off. But-" Mary paused mid-sentence as her grip on the counter slipped, she had to fall forward to catch herself, and during the fall, her mug of salty cocoa started to tip before Morgan's hand lashed out and grabbed it.
"I'm, sorry, Morgan, but I don't, don't feel too good." Her words started to slur together as she held onto the counter. Her legs felt like jelly, and her arms were quickly following suit.
Morgan just continued to smile a sharp grin. "That's fine, Miss Mary. I'm almost done here anyway." His tone was filled with joy as he pushed back the stool and stood up. "Oh! And remember the time you said you'd let me borrow your eyes?"
Mary slumped further.
"I think I'll take up that offer!"
Mary's hold on the counter finally slipped, and she tumbled onto the hard floor of her small kitchen.
The edges of her eyes started to darken as Morgan pulled off his sunglasses and quickly walked around the counter into the kitchen. Almost like he knew exactly where to step without tripping.
Mary's breath hitched as she tried to pull herself up. Her limbs were feeling less like jelly and more like lead with each step Morgan took towards her.
Mary's arms scrambled against the floor, trying her hardest to pull herself up, to get away from the fog engulfing her head. But they were too heavy, and she was stuck on the cold floor with heaving breaths and a pounding head.
Morgan just stepped over her limp body to get back to the counter. "You know," he started as he pulled his duffel closer to himself, "I never said it was Salt, Miss Mary. Just that I read about it somewhere."
Mary's eyes started to flutter as she looked up at him. She couldn't move her head, couldn't look away. Just forced to watch as he took two silver instruments out of his bag.
"I did say I don't like to lie, and that is the truth. So, I'll let you know this now," With a smile and darkened grey eyes, Morgan turned and looked down at her. "If you don't struggle, I'll make this as painless as I possibly can."
His hands ran across the counter before they came back with two metal devices, a sharpened, scooper, and a weird-looking tong. Mary's head continued to pound as she blearily looked up at him.
Everything was getting foggy. And her eyelids were getting as heavy as her arms were. But she couldn't look away. She couldn't let her eyes flutter shut, she just watched as Morgan's smile widened and he bent down.
"Don't fight it, you won't be able to feel any pain if you just let the drugs take effect." His voice was smooth as he spoke, his fingers, his freezingly cold fingers glided across her cheeks.
Something warm dripped from her eyes. Morgan's hand just glided towards it and wiped it away.
"Don't cry, Miss Mary. You did say I could borrow your eyes." His expression softened as he lifted his thumb up to his mouth, "Just stop fighting it." He then licked the tear off his thumb.
Mary's chest heaved with a barely hidden whimper. Morgan just smiled again before he lifted the tongs up, and with a press of a button, they opened to reveal the sides of the tongs having dozens of sharp needle-like hooks.
Her eyelids suddenly became more controllable as she stared at the tool. "Now, don't move."
The homeless man's voice and hands were steady as he brought the device to her left eye, Mary immediately slammed them shut, not wanting to watch her own eyes being taken out-
The metal hooks of the device dug into the skin of her eyelids. She may not want to see it, she may be trying to keep her eyes safe, but the device dug into the skin and forced her eyelids open.
The needles were cold, but they burned as they dug into her skin. Mary felt her own warm blood start to pool around the small pinpricks of the hooks. And she was forced to watch Morgan grab the sharpened scooper before he paused.
"...Right," his smile dropped, "I always forget to take them out first."
His cold hand reached up, and he prodded around his own eyes.
And the eyelids reacted. They darkened before they peeled back from his grey eyes. The tendrils seemed to writhe in the air, twirl around his eyes and skin. Some of them buried back into his eyes, but the remaining just wriggled in the open air.
Mary didn't realize she wasn't breathing until Morgan's hand was placed on her neck. "Relax, Miss Mary, the drugs should keep most of the pain at bay."
Her chest just hitched as she watched the twirling black tendrils, and her breaths started to come out ragged as she stared into the grey eyes. The grey eyes with red and green outer edges. The grey eyes that suddenly looked like they were rotting.
Something bubbled up from her stomach. She gagged, and then Morgan's hand was forcing her head to the side as vomit fled from her mouth.
A beat passed, and Morgan forced her to look back at him. "... I'm pretty sure it's considered rude to vomit when a guest shows you something about themselves." The tendrils continued to writhe as he tilted his head, "But I guess it's understandable in this context."
"... I'm actually surprised that you are still awake, normally people pass out by now." Morgan's neck cracked as he tilted his head back. "Ah, no matter. I've been waiting for weeks to be able to do this, to be able to see clearly again, and I really don't want to wait anymore."
Mary wasn't able to hold back the gag as Morgan lifted his cold hand from her neck to his eye. He didn't even hesitate before he jammed his fingers into the rotting eye. His sharp nails punctured the eye, and even more extremely skinny tendrils burst out of the hole, tearing the remaining bits of the eye to bits and forcing the skin of the eye out of the black tendril filled pits of his own sockets.
Mary's eyes blurred with tears as he dropped his hand to the remaining tool. "Just don't look around, Miss Mary. You should be okay."
Though his words were soothing, the sight of the sharpened scooper above her own eye had sobs rip from her paralyzed chest and vocal cords.
And when the corner of the freezing tool dug into the corner of her eye, her vocal cords finally listened as a warbling cry ripped from her.
The scooping motion didn't slow. It just dug deeper and deeper into her reddening eye. Then, it hit the back of her eye. And she saw nothing.
She just felt the scooper scrape against the back of her eye, and she felt a rush of cool air flood her eye socket as the scooper was pulled away.
A beat passed. One filled with frozen air, filled with shakey sobs and whimpers, and then, and then, squelching.
The sound of something being shoved into something else, the sound of ripping, and the sound of something being squished out of something else.
The device was removed. And her eyelids immediately slammed shut, sagging without anything behind it to hold it up she felt her salty tears burn as it mixed with the blood that was filling the hole her eye left behind.
Her chest hitched, and the tongs were forced on her other eye. Vomit flooded her mouth when she saw Morgan again. Her own green eye was looking back at her, something was inside of it, pulsing and wriggling as clear goop dripped down Morgan's pale cheek.
It mingled with his scruffy chin, and Morgan just smiled as he lifted the scooper up again.
Again, she was forced to watch as Morgan ripped out the remaining rotting eye, and again she felt the cold metal dig into her eye.
Within a minute, she was completely blind. Completely blind and forced to listen to the squelching of her own eye being forced into Morgan's sockets.
Warm blood flowed down her cheeks as she heard Morgan rustle around. Nothing but ringing in her ears as Morgan started her sink, and nothing but pain as Morgan's footsteps walked away.
Mary just laid there. Blind, immobilized. And as the blood rushed through her body to get to her eyes, quickly succumbing to the drugs that coursed through her system.
Morgan didn't care. He just smiled as he scraped the clear goop off his cheeks, and he walked away from Mary.
He needed to see how the town looked with his new eyes.