I was standing in front of the judge who was looking down on me with a look of disdain. Up until the moment I had been brought in front of the judge I had been able to avoid marriage, and the unpleasant chore of having to bring up a child. Since the population was decreasing rapidly, due to HIV on one side and infertility problems in a large number of individuals of both sexes, it was written into law that you had to reproduce if you were a healthy individual. As I was healthy and reproductive it was clear that I was committing an offense by not having had a family by now. Up until this time I had managed to avoid getting married by traveling out of the States frequently and staying home only for a few months at a time. But unfortunately I had not accepted an offer of marriage from a very beautiful woman. She had complained to the proper authorities, and when I tried to slip back into the country I had been arrested and brought here to see the judge.
So now here I was in front of the judge. What would likely happen now would be that I would be assigned to a widow, not necessarily forced to marry her, but rather given the chance to help her bring up her kids and maybe have some of my own with her. My freedom to move around as I pleased would be limited and that was the bad thing. The good thing was that I wouldnít go to jail.
The trial went the way I thought it would. I was assigned to a widow with three kids, two identical twin girls 8 years old and an older boy aged 10. It could have been a lot worse, as I had enjoyed my life of freedom for much longer than I could have hoped would be possible. I was hoping the widow wasnít too ugly. There were no photographs of my new family available to me, and they had no real importance to me because I was being forced into this relationship by the courts. The judge seemed more than willing to send me to jail if I should object to this sentence in any way, and unless I wanted to depart from my homeland, leaving behind all my material possessions I had no choice. So I gave in and accepted the sentence. I had two more days of freedom before I had to move in with my new family. I knew their names and address, which happened to be not too far from where my own home was.
Two days later I rang the bell at the door of my new familyís house. It was a nice house with an ample garden. I could hear the children inside the house calling for their mom. The door opened and I saw my new family. The kids looked nice to me. Both of the little girlsí eyes looked a bit strange. One eye seemed to curve a little bit inwards. And I could see that they both had a tendency to bump into things.
The boy was nice and greeted me warmly: "You must be the new dad they assigned us. Come on in!" he exclaimed.
Now I saw my new "wife" who had come slowly out of the living room behind the kids. She was far more than acceptable looking. She had light brown hair and almost black eyes, just like the two girls. Her eyes showed almost the same vacant glance as her twin daughtersí eyes. Vision problems had been resolved a long time ago I had thought as, vision disorders were automatically detected during the annual compulsory medical visits. Glasses and contact lenses existed only in history books and were no longer readily available anywhere in the world. There were very few people around who wore glasses or contact lenses, not because they wanted to be different from other people, but rather because they had problems that could not be fixed without jeopardizing their remaining vision. But as I said these people were few and far between.
Sally, my new compulsory wife, greeted me warmly. I thought to myself that I had been pretty fortunate to get such an attractive punishment. I figured that she would put me a separate bedroom, but she surprised me when she told me she wanted me to share a bed with her. I was integrated into this family in a matter of minutes and I had the feeling that I had just come home from a long business trip.
She told me that her late husband had died a few weeks ago in a plane crash at work. The automatic emergency parachute system of his surveillance plane had failed completely after the planeís engine had exploded.
As I was supposed to take care of my new family I asked if there were any bills that had to be paid. Not having been married had allowed me to save enough money to support more than one family, so money wasnít a problem for me. Sally said that everything was fine at the moment.
Soon it was time to go to bed. When it was my turn to go to the bathroom I saw a funny looking thing on the shelf underneath the mirror. It looked as if there were two very flat round containers with a screw off cap that were glued together. It appeared to be almost the same type of container you get your pills in at the pharmacy. The caps, which obviously screwed off, were marked with an "L" and an "R". I had no idea what this might be for. So I asked Sally and she told me that this was the container for her contact lenses. When I came back from the bathroom she was lying in the bed. She had a funny looking contraption on her nose. It held two round clear ashtray like objects in front of her eyes. It took me a few seconds to realize that this thing had to be a pair of glasses.
Sally laughed and it seemed she could read my mind when she said "Hey Jack itís nothing dangerous. It seems as if you have never seen a pair of glasses before".
Sally was correct. I had only seen glasses in my early school days in photographs in our history books. I went over to Sally to have a closer look at her. Her eyes seemed to be so minuscule behind those ashtrays. I reached out and took them from her nose to have a better look at them. They werenít as heavy as they looked to be.
"OK Jack thatís long enough. Give them back to me now as I canít see a thing without them" Sally said after a few minutes.
I gave them back to her and she answered a million of questions about glasses I was asking her. I couldnít help it but something aroused me while I was looking at her glasses dressed face. Sally looked kind of sexy to me with her glasses on.
"Do the twins have the same problem with their eyes as you have Sally?" I asked my wife.
"Yes they have bad eyes, but theirs are not yet as bad as mine" came Sallyís answer.
"Do they have?" I pausedÖÖ.
Sally helped me "glasses?"
"No they donít have them" Sally said, "Their father wanted us all to fly to Canada, because apparently there is just one person left who still knows something about glasses. And he charges you astronomically high prices."
"I thought that nowadays vision isnít a problem for mankind anymore" I said.
"Well yes, officially, but the rumors have it that over the past 10 to 15 years the States automatic vision correction during the annual medical checkups havenít always worked properly." Sally explained and continued "The official side neglects this problem and you are left alone with this problem. They say that whatever the problem you might be having with your eyes, it would be automatically fixed during the next medical exam."
I began to understand. If the official government statement said that there was no eye problem then there was no problem.
Our conversation continued a bit longer. I had not realized that there were problems in the world like this. The light of the bedroom reflected from my new wifeís glasses. She looked willingly at me and it seemed like an invitation to end the discussion of my new familyís vision problems and come to bed. So finally I moved into bed beside my wife. I was waiting to see what happened next. Sally moved closer to me and looked at me through her glasses. She removed her glasses and was just another person. I must say that her glasses altered her in a very special way. She switched off the light and soon she was on top of me, showing me that she was a very skilled love maker.
The next morning as we sat together having breakfast I thought about our conversation of the night before. There would be no possibility to convince health care that there was some defect in their vision correction. But on the other hand there had to be a way to help my new daughters.
After breakfast I watched how my wife inserted her contact lenses. I had never seen this before. It was very exiting to watch how she inserted those jelly like objects. Without her glasses she was so different. I felt I liked her better in her glasses. After Sally was dressed she signed the certificate for the judge that confirmed that I had shown up and taken my place in caring for my new family. Later, if Sally and I both wanted to, there would be an informal ceremony in front of the judge, confirming the marriage.
I was in a very fortunate position in that my professional activities, prior to the forced marriage, had left me with more than enough money for the rest of my life. There was no need to go out and work at a typical job if I chose not to. My new wife worked as an accountant and wanted to continue her activity for the moment.
I still kept thinking about glasses and how to supply them for those who needed them. I asked Sally if it was all right with her if I set up a small office for me in the spare bedroom. She said that it was fine with her and so I began to transform the room into an office. I got everything that I needed, and amongst the things of great importance was a new, modern computer. I planned an extended research on glasses on the Internet. The first research yielded nothing substantial.
One afternoon I came across an older server on the net that held an archive with the contents of the Internet from more than half a century ago. This was a private site that I had to pay to enter, so I registered with the company and soon had access to the past. It was amazing what funny things they were after during the later years of the 20th century, and the early years of this one. The only inconvenient thing about this search however was that you had to use one of the old computer keyboards to enter the search terms. The old server had no modern interface that allowed you to communicate mentally. I got hundreds of hits when I entered the term glasses into the search form.
I decided to start with the company names that produced glasses and lenses to find out what had happened to these firms. Some of them still existed, but had changed their range of products. One still produced cheap small lenses for video telephone cameras. But these certainly hadnít the quality and the size needed for glasses. I learned about polycarbonate a material used to make lenses for glasses. Within a week I was up to date in theory. The biggest problem however, was to put theory into practical work. I had plans for the machines used to make glasses and lenses. I had found old computer programs to design and calculate the front- and back curvature of all kinds of spherical and aspherical lenses.
As a result of my search for all things relating to the optical industry I suppose my name had been given out without my knowledge. One day I got a call from a former optical company that had found some old machines in a forgotten storage area in their production plant. They were doing a major renovation of their plant, and they were willing to give this machinery away as long as some one paid for the transportation. So I got all this machinery that I hadnít a clue how to use for free. When I went to the warehouse that I had rented to store this machinery I was able to see that this was equipment to shape and grind lenses out of blanks. And the most valuable thing was I got also several hundred forms to make plastic lens blanks. These forms consisted of a part that gave the front curvature and of a part that gave the rear curvature of a lens. These two parts of the form were clipped together and filled with the liquid plastic resin. After it hardened under ultra violet light the form was opened and then you got the finished lens. There was also a device to apply an antireflective coating on the finished lenses.
More than half a year had passed since my forced marriage. I had reached a good point I thought. The girls had been fitted with glasses and contacts in Canada. It had cost an incredulously high sum of money and they had to wait two months to get their correction. Soon after they got their glasses they went for their annual medical checkup. It was good that they had their glasses because the vision correction still had not worked for them again.
I still had to find out how to make, or buy frames to hold the lenses but this wasnít as big a problem as the production of the corrective lenses would have been.
I still often went on the old server on the Internet, which was an immense fountain of information. This is how I found the forum eyescene which had been up for almost 30 years both before and after the turn of the century. I spent days and days reading the old posts. I found out about the preferences of men who only liked girls wearing glasses and vice versa. I got an explanation for my feeling towards my wife Sally when she was wearing glasses. And I read all the posts and fictional stories of a guy with the nickname S4E, which meant Specs 4 Ever. This guy was in his early to mid fifties when he started to be an active participant in this old forum. With all the progressions in medicine it could well be possible that he was still alive somewhere. It was worth checking. I hired a company which specialized in finding people. This same company had been successful in discovering that I was still unmarried for the lady that wanted to marry me, despite all my attempts to hide it. They could just be as successful in finding out whom S4E was and if he still was alive. I gave them all the clues I had discovered so far on S4E and all I had to do now was wait to see if they discovered something.
In the meantime I had been able to produce two new lenses to replace the scratched ones in Sallieís glasses. It was wonderful to see that it had worked so well. Right now I was producing a collection of lenses in all possible powers in order to determine the corrective power of the glasses needed. After a month of work my first home made trial set was ready and I was very proud.
The next day I found a notice from the company searching for S4E. They had indeed discovered this guy. He was now 106 years old and still of good health, considering that that he was living with his third transgenetic pigís heart. He lived on his own in one of the new residential areas for senior citizens. I got his address and the number for his communicator. I knew that I had to see him at all costs. I sent a message to his personal communicator telling him who I was and told him about my plans to begin producing glasses. The next day there was an incoming message on my communicator informing me that S4E was on his way to see me. This was a surprise. When I had finished reading his message the doorbell rang.
I checked the monitor to see who was outside. I saw a guy of medium height with white hair and a short trim beard who seemed to be very fit. He wore a pair of glasses that seemed to be twice as strong as my wifeís,
"My name is Dave Smith" he said. "You probably know me best by my nickname; S4E" he continued.
I was still surprised at how he had managed to arrive so fast.
"Why donít you let me in? We have to talk seriously" Dave said.
I let him in and. S4E told me that he was already searching for me because he had been told that there was some fool around who wanted to start producing glasses again. So my message on his communicator had sped up the meeting.
Dave was pleased to see what I had discovered so far about the art of lens making. He said that he had always hoped for the return of glasses. It was so much fun to talk to him and I felt that I had known him for an eternity. He explained the process of shaping the lenses into a glasses frame, which is how the finished glasses were made. The most interesting part was his lecture about the materials used to make frames. While we sat together I got a call from a lawyer I had hired to investigate if there were any restrictions against me producing glasses. He said that he hadnít found any law that forbade the production of glasses. But there seemed to be still some very old law that was still on the books that stated you needed a doctorís prescription to be fitted with glasses or contacts. The lawyer said that he would investigate this old law to see if it still was applicable.
Dave aka S4E smiled and seemed to be very happy. "You know Jack" he said, "I never thought that Andyís computer program would work as well as it has"
"Computer program?" I asked.
Dave told me that after this new computerized healthcare system was introduced some of his friends felt very angry about the fact that glasses would completely disappear. So they came up with a plan to introduce a special program into the system. This computer genius named Andy had programmed it to gradually bring the power of the corrective system to zero. This didnít happen all at once but it did occur gradually over the last 35-40 years, in order not to arise suspicion. The government still thinks that everything is in perfect order. If they check the system the program realizes that they have run a control routine and it lets the program work correctly.
I was flattened. This was brilliant. But it still made no sense to me why they had put such a long-term plan into action. Dave told me that they had carefully planned it this way because the onset to the program of vision correction was also gradual. To fool the system you had to be careful. This made sense to me.
"Youíll meet the rest of our group soon" said Dave.
We went to my experimental lab that I had set up. There was still some work to do, mostly setting the old machines up and check if they still worked after such a long time. Here Dave was a real expert. He knew all those machines from the past. It came out that all the equipment had been stored under the best conditions possible and was fully operational.
So now we needed some of the doctorís equipment for a proper eye examination. But once again Dave showed me that he had planned this very carefully. With the help of his friends they had bought the practices of several ophthalmologists when they closed down two or three years after the vision correction program was fully operative.
Time had passed quickly. My wife Sally had returned from work. She had put her glasses on and I could see how much S4E liked to see the rare looks of a highly myopic woman. I couldnít wait for tonight. S4E had suggested leaving the light on when I made love to my wife. Of course she then would want to keep her glasses on S4E assured me.
We had made up our spare bedroom for S4E. The next morning S4E came up with a wonderful idea. There were still several companies that produced sunglasses of all kinds. Why not buy some to practice and put corrective lenses in them? This was a good plan. My wife said that she would bring some pairs back when she returned home from work. S4E wasnít wearing his glasses today. I had learned so much from him in just one afternoon. I knew now that he wore plus power contacts under his strong minus glasses. So without contacts he needed no glasses.
S4E had measured my new wifeís glasses. He wanted us to produce the different indexes of plastic lenses we could make in her power, so that we could test the machine that cut the lenses into shape, once she brought the sunglasses. It seemed that S4E had only been waiting for the moment to produce lenses. In a very professional way he selected the molds or the lenses. He combined front- and back power of the lenses. He knew exactly what he was doing. It had been no problem to get the special plastic resins we needed, because it apparently was still in use for other things besides lenses. S4E filled the molds with the resin. Now we had to wait a couple of hours, until the resin hardened under the UV-light.
In the meantime S4E was in contact with the rest of the group. After contacting them on his communicator he suggested that we set up a meeting in a few days between me, and his friend Andy, as well as any other of his old friends that could come. While we waited for his friends to show up we took some of the lenses that we had made out of the molds, and Dave showed me how to put the lens blank into the lens grinding machine, and set up the equipment so that it would place the correct curvature into the lens. Apparently Sallyís prescription was an excellent one to practice on, because she had -18 diopters of myopia, along with another -1.50D of something called astigmatism. Both eyes had the same spherical correction, and both eyes had the same cylinder, which is what S4e told me that the correction for astigmatism was called. Her astigmatism was on different planes though, as one eye had 30 degrees and the other eye had 150 degrees.
Soon we had the lenses blocked and fined, which is what the polishing was called. The finished lens blanks were pretty thick, and the prescription didnít reach all the way to the outside edge, but Dave told me not to worry, because most of that would be ground off by the lens shaping machine. We had made 4 blanks, and while the last 2 were being finished by the polishing machine Dave showed me how to set up the edger so that it would take the lens and shape it to the frame, with the cylinder ending up on the correct axis. It wasnít that hard to do, and soon we had a pair of finished glasses for Sally. Then we made the second pair. For this pair we used the special machine that coated the lenses with an anti reflective coating. And when we finished the second pair Dave showed me how to tint the lenses in the first pair to make them into sunglasses.
Sally was thrilled. She had been having a bit of trouble wearing her contact lenses for the full day at work, so the following day when she left the house she wore her new prescription sunglasses, and when she reached the office she changed to her new clear pair of glasses. She told us when she returned home that evening that everyone in her office was amazed that she had been able to get new glasses. Apparently there were a number of other people at the office who wore contact lenses, and they all wanted Sally to see if we could make glasses for them as well.
Two of S4eís friends from the old days showed up the following day. Andy, who we had expected came, along with Bobby, the man who had the website that I had read so many of S4eís and other writers stories on. Andy and I had discussions well into the night about the program that he had hacked into the government medical examination system. He assured me that it didnít matter how many times they rewrote the program the program would never be removed, nor would it ever be caught. After talking to Andy, I understood how the vision correction program was supposed to work. For a few years before the government announced that they would correct everyoneís vision in the future they were using the program to stop childrenís eyesight from deteriorating. What the machine did was that it tweaked a childís eyesight back to 20/20 at the annual medical examination. I didnít understand how it did this, but Andy explained that by using some sort of ultrasonic waves it strengthened the childís eye muscles so that the eye remained perfectly round, and would not become longer for myopia, or shorter, which is what causes people to become farsighted. As the level of myopia dropped off to nothing in children the government used all of the other techniques such as lens implants and lasik eye surgery to correct the vision in most adults. There were, of course, a few holdouts, as well as a small percentage of the population who had such serious problems so that they could not be corrected. This is why there was still one place that could make glasses, although they charged a lot of money for their glasses and contact lenses, which I already knew.
Andy had written his sleeper program and had integrated it into the government program so that it completely negated the effects of the ultrasound treatment. So, if the government official examined a childís eyes, and discovered the onset of myopia they programmed the machine to do the ultrasonic wave correction thing, but Andyís program canceled out the effect, and assured the operator that the child now had good vision. The original test of the equipment had gone on for 10 years, and then they announced that there was no more need for glasses, and everyone was going to have a compulsory health and vision exam every year. This is when Andy had planted his sleeper program, and from then on people with vision defects were pronounced as having perfect vision. Many of these people who were severely nearsighted had gone against the government and had gotten glasses or contact lenses on their own, but there were a lot more people out there, walking around in a fog, with myopia ranging anywhere from -2 to -10.
My lawyer called, and told me that he had managed to get the old law removed from the books, so now anyone with the proper computerized equipment could do an eye exam. Dave, Andy and Bobby had enough of this equipment to set up 3 complete exam centers, so I rented space, and we set them up.
Busy? Well let me tell you we were busy. Unfortunately we were so busy that we were unable to make the lens blanks fast enough, so now our turn around on a pair of glasses was almost 2 weeks. But most of our customers were thrilled to be able to now obtain good vision with a reasonably priced pair of glasses. Soon the money was pouring in, and when you went for a walk on the street you could see a sea of bespectacled faces. It was wonderful, and S4e, Andy and Bobby were in heaven.
Of course we knew it couldnít last. Soon the Ministry of Health noticed that a very large percentage of the population was wearing glasses again. They worked on the equipment for a while, but could not find the problem. They then dismantled all the vision correcting equipment and had put out a tender for replacement. So far no company has been able to come up with replacement equipment, because any of the experts that had specialized in this type of work back when it was originally developed had either passed on, or had gone into another field of work. But I am sure that someday someone will come up with the machinery to fix most vision problems again. I only hope that there will be another Andy around to work his programming magic again, because I really like looking at my very nearsighted wife, and my 2 nearsighted daughters. Forced marriage hasnít been all bad.
From a story idea by Andy, completed and edited by Specs4ever