mark ryan

something to stay awake for

Eiko Tanaka sits on her porch sipping her tea. The wind is low, and it gently ruffles the shrubs and the hanging golden ash trees that line the boundaries of her little property. So little it seems, barely much room for anyone. Yet hers is a seemingly amble garden on a street so squashed and encroached by looming tower blocks. She is proud of her garden, knowing it blooms brightly in the grey field of the city.


She is waiting patiently, as she does most days. She is waiting for her granddaughter to visit after school is finished. She comes by every day. She comes to help her. Eiko doesn’t need help in the usual sense, she has gotten around perfectly fine for years. She adapted well after the incident, but people worry. They care and worry, as her Nanoko tells her. Her granddaughter, only fourteen; yet knowing the many twisted ways of the world. And she is right, there is care mixed with the worry; she can tell. As her own bones are getting more tired and her body is struggling, simple things are not always so simple. Being blind now is only half the battle. The people who visit her always note on her living by herself, always quick to propose some horrendous situation where she’ll meet her end. All because she can no longer see.

It hadn’t always been that way of course. She had lived for years alone in that little house with no problem. Just her and her dog Aio. Then it happened, and though she wished she could erase the memory of that terrible day, she had gotten through the worst of it. The insomnia came later, wreaking such havoc over her little life, disturbing her soul.

Nanoko had been a blessing. Eiko hadn’t wanted any fuss herself, but her granddaughter had done what she could to help her. Eventually she confided in her that she could no longer sleep, she spared her what she saw in her mind when she tried to calm it and be still. So Nanoko had started a blog for her, telling her story to the world, hoping to get some advice and see if anyone else was going through anything similar. She wanted to help her grandmother, she wanted her to be happy after the trauma.

What happened next surprised both of them. Along with similar stories and messages of support, people had responded to Eiko's problematic sleeping and began to send in short stories for her; something to entertain her through the vast sea of struggle. The first had come with instructions for Nanoko to read out the story to Eiko, seeing as she had lost her sight and was there to help her. This led to Nanoko recording her stories for her grandmother to play back time and again, as she never bored of listening to tales. More people began to send them in, each one fanciful or romantic, scary or thrilling. They would both have fun as Nanoko would act out the story, and she would also post them on the blog for others to enjoy also. It brought them closer and brought an extra bit of light into Eiko’s darkened world.

Eiko's story

My name is Eiko Tanaka and I am 74 years old. I live with my dog Aio, who is always getting into such mischief, despite his age. We are both ageing cheekily and gracefully. I am blind, but not as a result of the shifting clock of time which is unrelenting. I was blinded in an incident which changed my life forever. My granddaughter Nanoko is the light in my darkness. She is there to steady my soul when it wobbles and falls. I love to hear stories and fables, and as such; I thought it best if you read mine…courtesy of my granddaughter.

My story is much like anyone’s, at least to a point. I grew up in the same city I was born in, married and had children. I worked and loved and said goodbye to my husband when he passed; earlier than either of us imagined. I stay in my little house most of the time, gardening and cooking. Doing the things older people do. My life was ordinary and silent, safe and structured. That was until one day a knock came from my front door.

It was a rainy day, I remember that. Great sheets of rain were pouring from the sky. The knock surprised me as due to the weather, who could be out in such a downpour? I went to answer it quickly, curious to see who it was. Standing on the step there was an old lady, much older than myself; who I admit am pretty old. She was small and haggard, her back bent over in a stoop from years of pain, not from the rain. Her eyes were milky and narrow. Her clothes were loose, and she wore a cloak which took her away from this day and age. She was, with respect, a frightening sight to behold.

I greeted her, but she said nothing. I pressed her again, but still no sound came but from the rain pouring around us. She continued to stare at me, as if scanning through my bones. She rested on my eyes, which have always been something of interest. My violet eye colour was unusual, and many would remark on it. She did not however but screwed up her face. I was unnerved but thought she might be in need of assistance. I asked her if she needed help, or a warm drink. To this she parted her lips and out came the most awful sound. Low and guttural, it crept from her mouth and flowed deeply into my ears like a hot warm oil. She spluttered and her eyes widened. She croaked out some words at last, asking if I were alone. No, I replied. I had my dog of course, though I think she meant someone else. She laughed a wicked laugh. You will be, she told me.

It came suddenly, I was unprepared. Who would be to what happened next? She unfurled her withered hands, the long black fingernails extended like a wing on some wicked bird. She leapt forward and dug those nails deep into my eyes. I could feel them enter, but at first without any pain. Like sticking your finger in your ear. Then the nails began to gouge out my eyeballs, tearing through the optical nerves like a horrible pair of scissors. She tore them out of my head, for what purpose I did not know. The pain and the disorientation took hold, and in a whirl of agony I collapsed to the floor, her cackles leaving me as she made her way down the small path and out of my life.


My neighbour found me eventually, I had passed out and was stunned by what had happened. As the days and weeks unfolded, the police informed me the same woman had been reported in the city; each time inflicting some pain on someone and taking a different part of their bodies. Some, naturally, had not survived the ordeals. It seems I were lucky.

I do not know truly the reason why she attacked me; I know my eyes were what she wanted for whatever the reason her mind told her. I am changed by it, but I appreciate I am still here to live the life I have. I now suffer with insomnia due to the ordeal, and it is very hard for me to have the energy I need for the day when I get little rest at night. Stories take me away from the reality of my predicament, that and the love shown by my granddaughter who has always been there for me. I have been able to adapt and find some solace in different things. I just take each day as it comes and am thankful that it wasn’t worse for me than it could’ve been.


Eiko's story is painful to hear, but the stories that others send to her fascinate and entertain her.

Here is a collection of those tales that her granddaughter has so dutifully put together for her, so she may listen though she cannot see.


Sapporo, JP

the woods

They could of course take the road that led to Maysbrook, the one that went around the woods. It was safer. It was lighter. It offered a nice rest-stop at The Three Ducks where they were told the innkeeper was very welcoming and the ale was very good.

Elizabeth F.

Boston, USA


harder to fly

The coffee had spilt over his leg. He noticed that now, a dark brown patch like a cancer spreading on his trousers. The material clung to his skin as he moved, like a small wet hand pressing on him. His cup was broken of course...

Mark R.

Melbourne, Aus





you hurt me like no other

I wish I could believe you. Or at least have the courage to leave you.

Always the same, predictable. She could set her watch by it. Rolling out of bed at four in the morning. The sticky sheets peeling away like unripe fruit.

Fran M.

New York, USA


When a person or neighbour in your village cries out “troll”, lock your children inside the house and keep your hunting rifle by your side. I used to believe they were only children’s tales to scare the kids from stepping deep into caves or under bridges....

Harley A.

Lincoln, UK



It had begun to rain, a light drizzle that peppered the people as they walked along Bradley Way. Not the prettiest street in the world, and today it was overcast with a churning grey cloud that dampened the mood...

Jane H.

Birmingham, UK

turn of the tide

It had started out as such a beautiful day. The tangerine sun above glistened down unknowingly on the little boat that bobbed on the waves like a cork. The vast expanse of ocean to one side of him shimmered into the distance, being pulled into a far-off string...

Matt B.

Venice, IT


grace & josh

It had rained all morning and a small stream of water now ran down the slope of the playground outside. Miss Carbine stole a look out of the darkened window from the warm classroom she inhabited, seeing the water hammering down the pane...

Scarlett B.

Oxford, UK

elle va bien

They jostled onto the train that had arrived with a clankering commotion at the station. The vaulted tiled ceiling of the underground station swirled with the sound of metal, tannoy announcements and tourist hubbub. 

Mark R.

Melbourne, Aus

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