Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Second Visitation of Wandering Mary

Stephen Nunn, optometrist, sat down opposite James Bowen, a man of the same occupation, and twenty-six years his senior. Nunn had trained under Bowen eleven years previously, and although they now worked for rival chains of high-street opticians, they remained friends, meeting up regularly for drinks in a bar that occupied a point roughly equidistant between their respective places of work.

‘Hello Stephen, how are things?’ said Bowen, raising to his lips the pint that Nunn had just presented.

‘Oh fine, same old same old,’ said Nunn, ‘except, something rather odd that happened the other day that I wanted to talk to you about.’

‘Something odd you say,’ said Bowen.

‘Yes, very odd.’

‘Do tell, young Stephen.’

‘Well, it’s quite a delicate matter, but anyway… a woman came in to have her eyes tested. In her twenties, I’d say; very pretty, quite smartly dressed. From her accent, I’d say she was from up North. When she first came in, there didn’t seem to be anything unusual. She said that although she didn’t wear glasses or contacts, she thought it was time for a check-up, and that she might have felt a bit of eyestrain in the past few weeks. I could see that she was squinting slightly and, well, one of her eyes was wandering. Not that it made her any less pretty.’

‘Sounds all very normal,’ said Bowen.

‘Yes, well it was, at first. I tested her eye muscles and checked her visual field, and all was well. So I moved on to the visual acuity test, and got her to read the letters off the board. Without lenses, to begin with, naturally.’


Now, from her responses, it did seem that she was ever so slightly short-sighted, so I set her up for a refraction assessment. I had her looking at the board again, this time through the Phoropter and began testing her out with various lenses. And that was when – when she – ah, when…’

‘When she what?’

‘When she ah, well, began to get… aroused.’


‘Ah, yes. As the letters came more in focus when I applied the appropriate lenses she began to make… noises.’

‘I see.’

‘Yes, it was if… you know, ah, when you’re with a woman and you touch a certain spot and they respond…’

‘I’d like to think I do after thirty-four years of marriage, Stephen…’

‘Yes, well, when she could read the letters correctly, it was if… someone had touched one of her spots.’

‘I think I get the picture,’ said Bowen.

‘So I moved on to check her binocular vision. That seemed to get her more, um, excited. I tried not to look but… she was touching herself. I covered one of her eyes and told her to say what seemed closer, the red or the green bar in the stereoscopic viewer. She said the green, and so I applied a lens, and she said it was still the green. She sounded frustrated, but as if she was, well, enjoying it. So I tried another lens. Still the green. Then finally, I found the right lens. She said the closest bar was the red. She said it over and over again. And as she did so, she… well, she... she had what sounded like, ah, an orgasm. She, um, you know....’

‘And what did you do?’

‘Well I, ah, acted as if nothing had happened the best I could, gave her the prescription and sent her upstairs to choose some glasses.’

‘But she didn’t buy any did she?’

‘No, funny you should say that, but she didn’t. I asked the dispenser about it later and she said that she paid for the eye-test, but said that she had decided against having glasses after all and left. Very strange.’

‘And do you remember her name?’ said Bowen, leaning forward in his seat.

‘Yes, yes I do. Her name was Mary. Mary Hazlitt.’

‘Stephen, please tell me, when she climaxed, were you looking at her?’

‘Oh, no. No. I wasn’t. I was too embarrassed. I had to operate the equipment by feel and memory. I just couldn’t look. She had her hand down… there, I just couldn’t.’

‘Then you are a very fortunate man. Your bashfulness has saved you from a terrible fate. For that was no mere woman. That was Wandering Mary, the malevolent wraith who has been tormenting opticians and optometrists for as long as the trade has existed. A wandering spirit with wandering hands and a wandering eye, who never grows old, but is never out of style in her dress or appearance. Nobody knows who she once was or why she follows the path she does. All that is known is that for an optometrist to look upon her at her moment of highest pleasure is to meet a fate worse than perhaps death itself.’

‘You can’t be serious!’ said Nunn. ‘After all, we are medical professionals and therefore men of science. We can’t have any time for superstitious nonsense about spooks and spirits!’

‘Ah, Stephen,’ said Bowen, ‘you are young, and I once thought as you do now. But I knew a man who looked upon Wandering Mary at that moment. He was the very optometrist who taught me, and… he spent the last years of his life a recluse, unable to work. A shell of the man he once had been.’

‘But there must be something else behind it. A trick of some kind, or –’

‘Stephen,’ said Bowen, his face grave, leaning closer still, ‘you have no time for doubt. If Wandering Mary does not work her evil spell on her first appearance, then she will very soon come to test you again. It is only a matter of time before Mary Hazlitt will make another appointment. When she does, get in touch. I will immediately come to your assistance, as you are in the most incredible danger. For the second time round, it is that much harder to resist. Only with my help, I fear, will you escape the most terrible fate a man such as you or I could ever meet!’ Nunn was puzzled as to what Bowen could mean by this, but sensed that further enquiry was not welcome.

Beginning the next morning, Nunn did as his mentor had advised and checked the appointments diary regularly, to the extreme that it took on the characteristics of a compulsion, noted and commented on by the receptionist. Then, one afternoon, he came back from lunch, checked the book, and there it was. Three o’clock the following afternoon. Mary Hazlitt. She was coming back. Bowen had been right.

Nunn immediately went to his examination room and dialled Bowen’s number.

‘She’s coming tomorrow afternoon!’ he said, as soon as Bowen picked up, ‘three o’clock!’

‘Right,’ said Bowen, ‘I’ll be there ten minutes before.’

Bowen was already waiting at the door of the examination room when Nunn showed out his final customer before the fateful appointment. He was carrying an old leather bag that he proceeded to unzip as he made his way inside. ‘Don’t be surprised by anything that happens from this point on,’ he said.

‘Don’t worry,’ said Nunn, ‘Since I last saw you I’ve prepared myself for anything.’ In fact, since Mary Hazlitt had rebooked, Nunn’s imagination had been running overtime. Although nervous about facing such a delicate situation, and genuinely curious as to gaining some insight into Mary’s true nature, he was also unmistakably excited by the prospect of the self-arousing spirit’s return. So much so that as the appointment drew ever nearer, he could now feel a little tingle in his own groin region, and was somewhat embarrassed to find Bowen pointing down at his unexpectedly aroused member.

‘First things first,’ said Bowen, ‘quickly sort that out. Don’t worry, I won’t look.’

‘You mean - but I can’t-’

‘Yes you can. Just do it in the sink. Then wash your hands. If you go up against Wandering Mary fully loaded then you won’t stand a chance. And in case you’re curious: yes I did, just before I left.’

It was the first time since boarding school that Nunn had attempted it with another man in the room - or anybody in the room for that matter, his sexual experience being little and unadventurous - but the thought of Mary’s wandering eye looking up at him brought him quickly to completion.

When he turned round, Bowen had disappeared. He called his name.

‘I’m here,’ said Bowen, from inside a cupboard. ‘If Mary sees me when she comes in she will know something is wrong, and her demonic aspect will become all the stronger. But don’t worry, I will be right by your side at the vital moment.’

There was a knock on the door.

‘Right, she’s here,’ said Bowen. ‘Just act as if everything is normal: as if you haven’t even seen her before. I will give you further instructions at the appropriate time.’

‘From the cupboard?’

There was another knock.

‘Yes, from the cupboard! Now answer the door, quickly!’

Nunn’s hand shook as he twisted the doorknob. And there she was again. Wandering Mary. Even though he had just emptied himself, Nunn felt a rush of blood down there as he looked at her in her smart business outfit, her left eye pointing slightly to the ceiling. Now she was not just pretty. She was beautiful.

‘Um, Mary, Mary Hazlitt?’

‘Yes, that’s right,’ she said.

‘Ah, if you could sit yourself down here please.’

She did as he asked, and as she did so, he could not help but notice that she kept her legs wider apart than was conventional for a smart lady wearing a skirt.

‘So… ah, what seems to be the problem,’ he said, his hands still shaking as he sorted out his instruments.

‘Oh, I just thought it might be time for a test, because I’ve been feeling a bit of eyestrain these past few weeks.’ The same story as before, thought Nunn, as if she had never been.

Nunn looked into her eyes, searching for any obvious damage. Other than the squint and the wandering eye, all looked normal, as he knew it would, having only examined them the previous week. She responded when he asked her to look up, down, left and right as he shone a light in each eye, as if she were an average customer, merely having their eyes tested. Maybe, Nunn thought to himself, last time was an aberration, and this time all would proceed as it should.

‘Ah, if you’d like to look at that chart,’ he said, ‘and tell me what you see.’

‘Oh, yes,’ she said. ‘Eee… Efff…’ No, it was happening again, starting with the chart, just as it had before. ‘Pee… Tee… Oh! Ohh…’

A piece of paper slid from under the cupboard door. Nunn stepped on it and gingerly dragged it towards himself with his foot. Quickly he bent down and read it, hoping that Mary’s eyes would stay on the chart.


Mary stopped reading. Nunn froze, still bent over.

‘Is there someone else in here?’ she said. ‘I feel like I’m being watched.’

‘No!’ said Nunn, a little too loud. ‘Ah, no one at all. Just us.’

‘Pity,’ said Mary, ‘I like the idea of being watched when I… have my eyes tested.’

She continued to read and Nunn stood up, struggling not to look as he heard the rustle of clothing being unzipped.

‘EFF! CEE! ZED! … Pee? I can’t read any more.’

‘That’s fine…’ said Nunn. ‘Ah, now what I’d like you to do is –’

‘The bars! Are you going to show me the bars? The green… and the red?’

‘Y-Yes, we’re going to do that…’

‘Show me the fucking bars you bad boy!’

Nunn positioned the stereoscopic viewer. As he did so he could not help but see that much of her torso was exposed. Indeed, once he had seen it, he could not stop looking.

‘Right, could – could you tell me which one looks closer, the green bar or, um, the red one?’

‘It’s… the green one.’

Nunn applied a lens to the viewer. He did not know which one it was, as he was not even looking at it. Instead he was looking at her chest, which rose and fell with excitement, punctuated with the odd tweak of a nipple.

Suddenly, Bowen burst out from his cupboard.

‘It’s all right, she can’t see me,’ he said, ‘she’s hypnotised by the bars. You must put this on.’ He handed Nunn a blindfold.

‘But how can I operate the viewer with this on?’ said Nunn.

‘By touch,’ said Bowen. ‘All that matters is that you stop looking at her.’

‘I tried not to, but –‘

‘Yes, but you’re already under her spell. Look!’

Nunn looked down to where Bowen was pointing. His own member was in his pumping hand, shockingly erect.

‘My God, I didn’t even realise…’

‘Never mind. Just put the blindfold on.’

Nunn did so and applied more lenses, clumsily slotting them into the viewer by touch. As before, Mary seemed to enjoy the frustration as green continued to dominate, until…

‘Red! Red! Red! Red! Jesus Christ, RED!’

Then all was quiet. Mary seemed still.

‘It’s all right,’ said Bowen, ‘you can take the blindfold off. It’s over.’

Nunn did so. Mary was buttoning up her clothes and sliding out of the chair.

‘Ah, right,’ said Nunn, ‘you’re a bit short-sighted. Take this upstairs and see if you can find some frames you like.’

‘Thank you,’ said Mary, a wicked glint in her wandering eye. ‘I’ll see you again some time.’

‘She’ll be back,’ said Bowen, as he wiped his hand on an antiseptic wipe and zipped up the stubborn fly of his trousers that had become undone since Nunn had seen him last. ‘Wandering Mary always tempts an optometrist three times before she leaves them alone. But even though it will be your most severe trial yet, I am afraid I will not be able to help you on the next occasion.’

‘Why’s that?’ asked Nunn.

‘It appears that I myself was weak at the crucial moment of Mary’s climax,’ said Bowen, now oddly facing the cupboard from which he had sprung. ‘I neglected to bring a blindfold for myself. Pride, no doubt, thinking that I was strong enough to fight her spell. But it was a stupid mistake, one for which I will pay the rest of my life. I shall never work again, for I have met the worst fate possible for a man of our profession. Having gazed upon Wandering Mary at the culmination of her pleasure, and indeed, being so weak as to have partaken in a similar indulgence, I find that I am now completely blind!’

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