The Remarkable Case of Davidson’s Eyes

This short story is another tidbit from H.G. Wells’s collection, “The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents.” It is one of my favorites and showcases the stupendous imagination of this famous author. I’ve been pondering about imagination lately, as I was also quite impressed with its being on vivid display in Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games Trilogy,” and was reminded again at the Kurt Vonnegut Book Club meeting on September 30th, where several club members marveled at Vonnegut’s “imagination” and “How did he come up with that?” sort of questions. At first I (internally, anyway) dismissed this as a case of the non-artist (as in me or my colleagues in the book club) not easily understanding the artist. I still believe that is largely true, because such things “might never occur to us” as non-artists. We often need, I think, things to be “closer together” before we can make a connection. It’s as though the artist has stronger “pattern recognition” muscles than the rest of us. He can see similarities that the rest of us cannot. The neat thing is, once he trail blazes those connections for us, we usually – or at least often – have an “oh, yeah..” moment as realization dawns.

The premise/setting of this story starts with an accident in a lab resulting in a temporary experience of a sensory trans- or dis-location: the sight of the unfortunate Davidson is mapped to a point the other side of the globe. Wells speculates that Davidson’s condition was brought on by accidentally “stooping between the poles of some big electromagnet” and had “some extraordinary twist given to his retinal elements.” Other curious symptoms of his affliction are that he can hear and feel those around him in the “real world”, even though he sees another world, which is apparently on the other side of the globe since when it is daylight where his physical body is, it is nighttime “wherever his eyes are” and vice-versa. Also, as he gains or loses altitude in his local landscape, he does the same wherever his eyes are, even going underwater at one point. Another odd twist is that Davidson cannot taste tobacco as he smokes, and our narrator comments that now neither can he, unless he can see the smoke(!)

An interesting little story, written in 1895, no less. Oh, and I even saw somewhere on-line that some view this as one of the earliest descriptions of “remote viewing” – a popular pseudo-scientific phenomenon.

H.G. Wells

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