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by BLAKE BUTLER
In the family’s handheld camcorder lens, the father began to find an eye — staring straight back on into him from the eyepiece, so that he could no longer see what was being filmed. The eye had a gold iris same as the father’s, a deep black pupil in endless hole, and yet the eye was no reflection, as when the father blinked the eye did not. This was a camera the father had used to record so many of the major events that made up his family’s life. He had recorded his son’s breech birth, cut from the mother’s body, and those early growing days and nights. Over time, on film, the child’s skin begins to lengthen slightly from one cassette and on. Most of these moments, very likely, the child would not in later years remember, without the presence of the tapes to play and replay through machines. And yet now, with the child more grown than ever, making each day new moments the father might preserve, there was the eye there staring at him, looking straight back into him, on and on. The father tried to tried to shake or wipe the image from the glass — standing cursing when first the eye appeared under a white sun watching his child run on a field of dying grass — and yet he soon found himself transfixed. The eye seemed to know a thing that he did not, a thing held in its watching. And yet the father continued to use the camera. He could not bring himself to ask the mother or the child to look into the lens and verify if indeed there were an eye encased inside there, staring at him. He found he thought about the eye at night, thought about it watching him in sleep. He sometimes felt the eye there in his head. The family’s tapes became unfocused, off-centered — as at the child’s fourth birthday the family had filmed, instead, unknowing then, straight on into the wall — an endless pure white shot of nothing while in the background the children sang — until in the late days, with the last tapes, the tapes that would be found buried in a small black box underneath the parents’ bed after the house burned, the son and mother’s found locked inside a tiny closet, blackened, all the hair scorched from their heads, the father found stark naked, cut up, runny, on the roof — the final weeks of films, those unrelentingly recorded hours, framed nothing there at all of name, aiming only ever at some section of the sky, or at a length of wall or some faceless color, hazy, fuzzing, while the uncentered action went on therein off screen, sounds of whining, aiming, eating, wanting, laughing, all underneath the panes of light, while behind the lens, the filming father spoke, using an old version of his native language, often choking, instructions from the eye.
Blake Butler is a writer living in Atlanta. He is the editor of HTMLGIANT and Lamination Colony. He twitters here. You can find more of his writing here. You can purchase Anatomy Courses, his collaboration with Sean Kilpatrick, here.
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