Vincent Dawson's Observatory

Nathan Wykes

 

Vincent glared at the empty seats surrounding him. They too, were part of this failure; his failure. His eyes stung with pain and when he closed them tightly he knew that his sight would soon fail him. To his surprise, it was sooner than he expected because when a voice spoke from across the room he opened them to look but could see nothing. “Vincent, oh Vincent,” the voice said, “look what you have done.” Vincent knew he hadn’t done anything, at least anything wrong. It didn’t matter anymore to Vincent Dawson. Nothing did. In a stoic voice he replied, “What I have done?” In one smooth movement he found the safety on his Colt, flicked it, moved the barrel to point in the direction of the voice and inhaled deeply. She had come to see his show, of all people… her. “I fucking hate you Stephanie!” he blasted at the top of his lungs. Then before she could reply, Vince tossed the gun a hundred and eighty degrees in his palm, moved his hand close to his face, and firmly put his own thumb around the trigger. Tears streamed from his eyes as he opened his mouth.

 

In the past, Vincent had been a man with a plan. Not just a plan for a standard cultural success. He knew something about the moon that, although it was factual data, nobody cared or knew about. In 1996, Vince, age 22, had just graduated from college at UC Berkeley in California with a degree in physics. In his time at college he became fascinated with eclipses. Solar eclipses to be precise. Even more particular, one solar eclipse that was to take place on August 21 st, 2017. Vincent had centered his entire life on this one event. His plan: To move to the farmland North-West of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, get a job, and build an observatory. For it was on this specific date in 2017 that the total solar eclipse would pass over the continental United States, and cast its tiny umbra upon the earth. The umbra was a shadow cast by the moon when the angle of the sun was directly behind the moon to the observer, totality occurs, and all light from the sun is blocked. The penumbra was the partial shadow cast by the moon when it covered up part of the sun. Geometrically speaking, solar eclipses are quite something considering the perspective required for the moon to be almost exactly the same size in the sky as the sun. The land that Vincent Dawson had purchased was on the path where the umbra would travel. It was the one point during the whole eclipse where the shadow of the umbra would last the longest. Some two minutes and forty seconds. To Dawson, it was also going to be the most beautiful.

 

Vincent moved with his girlfriend Stephanie to Kentucky finally, after taking out a hefty loan from the UBank where he had previously lived. He landed a job as an Assistant Professor at the University in Hopkinsville. It wasn’t long before he bought the land from the farmer there and settled down. Stephanie was a law student, and they met during an exam for calculus. She had dropped her pencil through the girders of the lecture hall seats before she even got to write her name. Vincent, being precautious and logical, had brought an extra one for himself because he was prone to break them mid-test usually during the frantic erasing of a filled in bubble. It was there that they met and came together for the first time. Vincent hadn’t broken his pencil because he was too preoccupied with her the entire time, and consequently had failed the test. Later that week Vince and Steph arranged to study for the next one. Steph had felt the necessity to compensate for the pencil and so she arranged a study session for him and her. Thus they began a swift, intense, yet ultimately fatal relationship. For it wasn’t long after they had moved in together in Kentucky that Stephanie began to become impatient with Vince. He hadn’t asked her to marry him, and she was convinced of that destiny. Vince’s only destiny had been his observatory. After a few years she was done with him, and his bullshit. If they weren’t going to get married she had no purpose with him, and decided to move on after a brush with suicide.

 

This upset Vince greatly, but not to the point where it was going to interfere with his goal. Every day since and after, he had been building his prize that resided a couple hundred meters west of the closest intersection on his property, the corner of Stone Quarry, and Princeton Road. It was a massive building that he had disguised to look like a barn, but if you were a close observer to the rest of his property you might deduce that he had no conventional use for this building. He most certainly did not, but he wasn’t going to let that be known. Not by any meaning of the word. The inside of the structure clearly revealed a different purpose. It looked like a theater, except the seats were angled toward the sky, and there was no physical stage. Underneath the fake wood roof was an object really worth looking at. Two sheets of glass sat atop some simple electric motors that would extend the glass sheets to the side at the press of a button and then back again. This glass was his “eclipse glass,” or at least, this is how he referred to it. It had been specially designed to block the harmful rays from the sun that would otherwise cause severe damage to the unaided human eye. During an eclipse these rays are especially dangerous because the pupil won’t contract due to the decreased glare from the sun. The eye will also not feel any pain during, or immediately after direct viewing. It’s not until some hours later that many people go permanently blind from the damage. Vincent was well aware of this.

 

He worked on it every day after getting back from his job at the University in Hopkinsville. By the time he considered it complete in 2013, what it looked like on the inside was extraordinary. It was techie, smooth, clean, mostly white space with stylized black artwork on the walls and floor. There were shiny murals at the front and back of the room depicting amazing eclipses of the sun. Integrated into the fine plaster walls were some massive surround sound speakers. The area really was quite wide and long, and the ceiling was low so as to allow for the best viewing of the sky when the time came. It sat this way for four and a half years until the year that Vincent had been waiting for. He was going to make a killing off this place, and all in one day; he knew it. After the show of the eclipse, and selling his property Vince had calculated that interest of the payback from his investment would serve him for the rest of his life. No more work, and plenty of time to do whatever he wanted. It would be heaven. In May of 2017, Vince unveiled his building upon the world and it really was something to look at. It was perfection to Vincent, and very attractive to any whom laid eyes upon it.

 

In April, the landmark of Vince’s property made the national news, and was the buzz for a week after. Sites popped up all over the internet, and Vince hosted his own official site advertising the one time show. Four months people bid on tickets to the show on his site. On August 1 st, the winners of the tickets were announced and the money came pouring in. Five hundred and twenty five seat tickets were sold for roughly nine-hundred fifty dollars apiece and an additional two hundred and fifty standee tickets were sold for seven hundred a pop. What did this all mean? $673,750. And that was just ticket sales. The property had been appraised at $326,000. This was better than he even thought possible. A million dollars would be his in just twenty some days. This was it. He quit his job, and went about hiring security, and making official plans.

 

The day finally came; it was a good day – no clouds. The people came in droves. Seven-hundred and seventy-five were all that were to get in. At last they had all been sorted out, and his observatory was occupied by people other than himself. Vincent Dawson was beyond nervous, but he knew it was alright because all he had to do was press the button that opened the glass at the right time. 11:21 a.m., the lights turned off, and the ambient music began. The crowd hushed, and then cheered. Vincent looked into the eyes of a young boy staring into the sky. Here he was going to make an impact on this child; one that he’d never forget. Vince smiled, and looked at his stopwatch. A minute and 46 seconds went by, and the shadow silently engulfed the small building. The penumbra was here, and Vince couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. People just couldn’t take their eyes away from it; everyone was staring. Bailey’s Beads could be seen around the edge of the moon, and it was a sight to remember if any sight was to be. Another hour later, and his hand was on the button. “Here it comes,” he shouted, “totality is here!” Then at 12:25 and 28 seconds p.m., blackness. Dawson pressed the button firmly, and the glass sheets spread apart to reveal the true beauty that lay beyond. Cameras clicked, and people sighed. Vincent simply gripped his knees and laughed. He was rich, and there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do about it. He got his, so screw the rest of the world.

 

At least this was the mindset that he reveled in for another few hours after the show. He had went and bought himself a gun, a new car, and then thought about what to do. It was when he was sitting in the empty seats of his observatory playing with his Colt 1911, that suddenly Vincent Dawson’s world was turned upside down. His eyes burned and he knew why. Somehow the glass wasn’t what he thought it had been. It wasn’t protective glass, but a fake, and everyone in the show had been blinded. The only point in time when their eyes weren’t being slowly fried with radiation was when the glass doors had been open. He had blinded those people, and himself. He blinded that young boy… How? How was this possible? He didn’t know. But someone else did. Stephanie, she knew. She knew the whole time. It was her who had paid off the glass dealership to sell Vincent the wrong glass, and it was her who had achieved revenge. Revenge for the heartbreak that a mindless Vincent had caused her years ago. She reeled in evil pride at her accomplishment, and knew that Vince would be finished after the lawsuits came rolling in. His stupid fucking observatory, he had paid his price for what he had done to her. Now she would reap the benefits of his creation, and not him. She would bring every single blind person, all seven-hundred and seventy-five of them to court as their attorney and destroy the poor, and now blind Vincent Dawson for good.

 

Vincent could see it all now, the lawsuits, the bankruptcy, the end. After shouting at his ex-lover, who he could no longer make out, he coolly opened his mouth and pointed his gun at his sobbing face and fired. The last thing that passed through Vincent’s head besides that lead bullet was a realization of a misled life. That he should have learned to live and to love. “Stupid obsessions, you will be the end of me.”

The glass sheet above Vince’s corpse broke and fell from the shot, killing the nearby Stephanie instantly. The hatred and obsession was ended on that fine day where the moon’s shadow had covered the ground; just a couple hundred meters west of Stone Quarry and Princeton crossroads.

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