Illustration by Tamera

The First Plague by Phil Temples


Illustration by Tamera
Illustration by Tamera

Fred opened the umbrella and raised it above his head as the first drops hit. The downpour started as a gentle patter against the cloth. Moments later, it intensified. Fred wondered if he would get drenched despite his large shield. He also worried that his lower pants legs would get soaked.

Just great. He had only four or five blocks left to walk before reaching his work place. Maybe I should wait it out under that awning ahead.

Fred arrived under the awning at the same time as an elderly woman and two businessmen. They had the same plan in mind. Fred closed his umbrella, and shook it to remove the moisture. Fred then nodded to the others with whom he shared the awning. No one said hello but the woman smiled back. One of the men wore an expensive looking fedora. He nodded to Fred in return. The second man glared back at Fred.

Grandma looked as though she wanted to make small talk. But before she could speak, the rain intensified. Fred heard the racket; he assumed it was hail. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the round, white balls bouncing off the sidewalk and adjoining street. And bounce, they did. In fact, the hailstones bounced repeatedly.

Wait! What? After a few seconds, Fred and the three strangers came to a startling realization: the falling stones were, in fact, not hail—they were eyeballs! Fred could discern the dark pupil in one nearby eye. The surrounding iris was light gray in color. The eyeball looked human. He spotted another eye lying next to his right foot. It was smaller, and sported a vertical pupil. The iris was bright green. A cat’s eyeball, perhaps? Others rolled into view. One eye came to rest near the curb. It was small, flat, and circular. Fred thought it must have belonged to a fish.

The old woman spoke first. “What do you think it means?”

Fred found her question interesting. She didn’t ask, What’s happening? but rather, What does it mean?

Fred replied, “I remember reading a story as a kid that described a day in the 1800s when fish once rained down from the sky. They say some storm or waterspout picked up fish from the ocean and dumped them onto land. It didn’t mean anything per se. It was a curious scientific phenomenon.”

“Fish is one thing,” replied the man wearing the fedora. “But come on—eyeballs? Where did they come from? And besides, human eyeballs! This is too bizarre.”

“It’s the End Days,” said grannie. Fred watched the woman as she made the sign of the cross with her hand. “It’s the first of seven plagues.”

“That’s ridiculous! You show me in the Book of Revelations where it says ‘God will send eyeballs to rain down on us’.” The comment came from the man who glared.

The old woman began to quote scripture. “Revelations, Chapter 16, Verse 21: ‘And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.’”

Glaring man picked up and examined one of the eyeballs at his feet. It looked like it belonged to a large mammal, perhaps a whale.

“Well, I’m not sure how much a talent weighs, lady. But these are eyeballs. Granted, a big, great eyeball. But not great hail.” Glaring man let it fall from his hand. It bounced once before rolling away. He shook the slime off his hand.

Fedora man said, “You have a better explanation, I suppose?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “Someone is playing a practical joke on us! In fact, I bet there’s a hidden camera that’s recording us now. A hidden mic, too. One of you is an actor, right? Like that old TV show—Candid Camera.”

A moment passed. The four stood in silence. The eyeball storm subsided; only a few random eyes were falling to the ground now. Fred looked around. All he could see for blocks were eyeballs. There were eyeballs in the streets, eyeballs in the yards, and eyeballs on the sidewalks. He even spotted a few embedded in the grills of cars. It was a literal sea of eyeballs! Some were squished, but many were intact. Fred even saw one nearby that looked bloodshot. He reckoned its former owner must have tied one on the night before.

It will be a treacherous trek to walk the remaining few blocks through this morass.

The four heard scratching noises behind them. Fred turned to look. He saw a large, scruffy-looking dog that had joined them. Scruffy was lapping up eyeballs, chewing on them as though they were some exotic treat.

“Jesus!” shouted Glaring man. “That’s disgusting. Get out’a here, you mangy mutt!” The man kicked at the dog. He landed a blow on the dog’s rump, but in the process Glaring man stepped on an eyeball and lost his balance. He fell flat on his back onto the pavement, wincing in pain.

Seconds later, a lone fish fell from the sky. Fred recognized the species as a Gadus morhua, more commonly known as the Atlantic Cod. It was a twenty-pounder at least. To add insult to injury, the cod smacked Glaring man in the head, knocking him unconscious.

Fred knew his fish.


About the Author

Phil Temples

Phil Temples lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, and works as a computer systems administrator at a university. He has published over one hundred works of short fiction in print and online journals. He is the author of “The Winship Affair” from Blue Mustang Press, and “Machine Feelings” from Big Table Publishing.


About the Illustrator

Tamera

Tamera is a young artist and ready to show the world the beauty in being different with a creepy twist. You can follow her on Instagram.


The First Plague is one of the many amazing submissions we have received for the second edition of the literary collection The Machinery. You can read the first edition here.

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