The Perception Shifter

Zoe Langman - The Perception Shifter

Up ahead you see a beautiful river wide river, flowing calmly. On the far side of the bank is a green field, with long rowing boats that look ready to be launched. There’s a group of guys kitted out in matching blue sports attire. Must be worth watching you think. Maybe later, once you’ve finished your mission.

“Whoops”, you say out loud as you trip over a cobblestone. You feel a bit embarrassed as you notice a family up ahead, looking at you. As you get closer and more level with them, their eyes look at you through their noses.

The houses are petite on this little street. A patchwork of architecture, all old, with beams holding the slanty houses up. For their slightly wonky look, they are all beautifully maintained. Most of them having windowboxes full of color, that liven up the subdued yet elegant street.

That look through the nose look always happens in these little towns you think, and you bet you’re dressed to startle. You look down and sure enough, in complete contrast to the elegant and graceful street, you are dressed in ragged, dirty and rather smelly clothes. A lone blue butterfly, adorns your khaki jacket, the only bright light about you.

You touch your face. You are old, your skin is sagging, and it feels like your beard has a week’s growth on it. Dear me you think, these missions get harder and harder. Why am I always shaped to be so confronting? Secretly you do like to watch the startle, as it’s always there on their faces. As hard as they try, it still shines very clearly though.


You open the door slowly and see an elderly woman sat alone on a faded blue wooden chair at the back of the shop. A huge wooden table is centered in the middle, taking up most of the floor space. It was a fine shade of green once, by the looks of it, but that too is pealing and faded.

The slightly musky ancient air mixes with the sweet smell of the wares on offer and you get an intense feeling of sadness that permeates the mood. This had a wonderful heyday you sense. Children running in and out, parents popping by to say hello. The elderly woman a center of the community, always with an added penny sweet for the young, or a word of wisdom for the grown.

She looks at you slowly, through her nose. She registers your clothes thoroughly, looking you down to up, before resting on your face with a look of barely concealed horror.

She looks afraid, so you think you’d better speak.

Hello, you say. “Do you have sweets for a special occasion ?”.

Her eyes dart rapidly, Entranced by what’s happening above your head.

“Don’t you see that”,  she says?

“Of course”, you say.

“Where did it come from? It’s definitely not from around here. I have only seen those on the nature programmes on BBC. That one looks like it’s from the Amazon ?”

“You are quite right”, you say to her. “It is indeed from the Amazon, it’s a Morpho butterfly.”

“Is it yours?” she asks, looking very perplexed

You just smile. No point complicating matters and inviting more questions. You do have a mission to fulfill after all, and you are rather keen to watch those rowers on the river. So the faster you can perform this little miracle the better, you think to yourself.

You can see that she’s shocked, perplexed, but her eyes have started dancing, as the beautiful blue of fluttering wings is entrancing her, little by little. Good, she’s shifting you note.



“So to my special occasion”,  you say. “I am in need of a bag of sweets to make my visions reality”.

Her eyes stop dancing, and her look says, You are completely mad.

“I have no idea what you are talking about”, she says in a stern matronly voice.

Dammit, you think. How quickly we lost her. A second ago her eyes were dancing, and now she’s back to judgment and seeing through her nose. Why is it always so hard for people to keep their eyes wide open.


“It’s not quite as difficult as you may think. You have everything that I need right here Madame. It’s just a case of bringing it all together.” You tell her calmly.


She does still not understand what you are saying at all. But you know within a few minutes, there will be a ping, a startle in her mind. It will become clear and forever she will be changed. As long as she listens and leans into the startle you think.


“Madame let me walk you through what we would need to make visions a reality. You see I have an idea, it’s a very big idea, and within that idea is another idea, and within that is another idea. An idea, within and idea, within an idea.”


“And each of those ideas”, you continue, “has more ideas of it’s own and before I know it there are thousands of ideas. Sometimes I started off with just one vision and that vision has transformed into so many visions, that they reproduce and recreate all on their own, while I am awake and while I am asleep.”


“And so overnight when I wake up, my visions and dreams have intermixed, bred like rabbits and then there’s even more. There are so many visions and ideas, that somedays I can’t even get up off the floor. I am pushed down by the sheer weight of carrying them around in my head.”


She’s looking at you intently now. “Sir, I am sorry, but I cannot help you. This is a sweet shop. It sounds like you really need a doctor. Would you like me to call someone for you?”

“Are you lost? I know I have not seen you before”, she adds, getting angrier now. “Are you from around here? , she says, through her nose

“No Madame, not local, you say, but it’s quite clear to me that you can help an old man like me, make my visions a reality”.

She’s starting to look even more like an angry bull now, How can such a little woman, morph into something so intimidating, so rapidly you think.



“Madame. Let me explain at a very basic level”. Or perhaps let me ask you a few questions. If you have an idea, what do you need to turn it into reality?”

“Well, it depends on the idea”, she says.

“Yes, but lets think of it as personal skills that you might need, or maybe lets call them emotional skills. What would you need ? ”

She looks at you, the eyes start to dance, the startle is happening.

Very timidly she says. “Courage”

You nod very enthusiastically.

She continues, slowly getting louder. “Confidence, clarity, determination”

You keep nodding and she adds “perseverance”.

“You are very wise Madame”, you say.

She beams now, her eyes are dancing, the startle is growing.


“But I still don’t see how I can help you with the sweets ?”, she says slightly crestfallenly.

“How can my sweets give you confidence, clarity, determination, and courage to help with your vision?”


“Here is £1”, you say. “Please choose me the sweets that you think, can inspire me to convert my vision into reality. I really need a magic potion. Sweets are magic potions are they not?”

“Only you can do that”,  she says, “My sweets can’t do that for you. Sure they taste nice, but only you can turn your dreams and visions into something real”.


You watch her, the old woman, the woman that was sat down, cowed, tired and alone in her chair.

Now her eyes are dancing, and she’s stood up. Empowered and enlivened. The air in the shop has changed, the tables don’t look quite so worn, the floor not so threadbare. The light that beams brightly off her face, dances like stars on the glass containers of the sweets. The shop feels alive.

The butterfly lands on her shoulder. She looks down at it and smiles. You smile back and her, put your pound on the counter and pick up a small pack of marshmallows.

“These will do, ” you say. The sweets are just sweets as you say. The alchemy is in your words, your love and your smile. Please always remember that.


Outside you see a huddle of kids walking down the street, parents running behind. They are all looking at the shop as if they have never seen it before. There’s an ethereal light emanating from the doorway, showcasing its warmth to the street outside.

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