The Lost Country

Fall 2012 • Vol. 1, No. 1

issn 2326-5310 (online)

The Albino Girl

By Mark Collignon

This work was published in the Fall 2012 issue of The Lost Country. You may purchase a copy of this issue from us or, if you prefer, from Amazon.

I was wandering aimlessly across campus one afternoon. It was early fall, although I could not recall the day. Helios was beginning his descent and a brisk gust of wind carried with it the sharp caress of cold. Harsh realizations tugged at my mind as I watched others pass me by. I know the people scurrying around me, preparing for some guest arriving shortly. A man who is important enough for champagne, an expensive feast, and the students to play servant for an evening to appease him. The faculty and their families are dressed in their finest attire, with notes of both anxiety and excitement in their faces as they engage in idle chatter and groom each other to distract themselves from the growing tension.

The people seem to only increase their hurriedness as the time passes. They seem as though unaware of the frivolity of their actions. In the movement of the modern era, we have lost the ability to wonder. The mind is hurried along as the information is easier to grasp but harder to contemplate. While the biting winds encourage the quickening steps of others, it gave me pause and pulled me back to youth.

This sharp breeze not only summons common memories of family and holidays, of seeking the perfect Christmas tree and a fireplace in late winter evenings. It brought back the open fields and dense forests where I spent many a night watching the universe drifting lazily above and engaging friends in old tales passed on from campfire to campfire and surviving the pass of their originators. The sky is not as beautiful here, the few stars visible shine dimly, as though a curtain were hung before them. In the open field, amidst the tall grass, the full moon on a fall night shines forth with such brilliance that the entire world basks in its serene glow.

The city never feels the peace given by that light, and it is not meant to. I no longer knew why I had come here in the first place. I longed to return to the place of my memories, where the beauty of the heavens was open before our eyes and it was proper to stop and wonder about the infinite before us.

My meandering thoughts were interrupted by a strange flash of white across my eyes. A wave of snow white disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, as if in the passing moments it had been carried by a wind grown stronger. I turned to seek the source of this brief distraction, but there was nothing but the continued bustle of the others. Something of that brief form drew me to seek the source of the wintery wisp. I walked briskly, ignoring the eyes following my suddenly determined pace.

I saw a woman ahead of me, her clothes were old, like those of the last century. She wore a long rust-colored dress, the skirt reaching her ankle. A waistcoat conceals her frame, although I can notice that she is short and visibly thin. Her hair is long and flowing past her shoulders and whiter than freshly fallen snow. She turned and opened the door to the dinner room. She turned back and smiled toward me, meeting my curious glance with a knowing and mischievous eye before disappearing inside. Her smooth, young skin was nearly the same color as her hair and her eyes were of a pink hue. She was young, perhaps beginning the third decade of her life, but something about her superseded the beauty of youth and carried with her an immortal, or perhaps even divine light.

I was taken aback by her beauty; she shined with the same purifying serenity of the moonlight. I wanted to know who she was. I tried to call for her to stop, but couldn’t find my voice before she disappeared again. Where had she come from? I knew everyone at the school, but I had never seen her before. Maybe she is a visiting niece of one of the faculty members, perhaps she was a new student.

I followed her inside: I had to know who she was, if nothing else. The room was warm and hospitable, the people who were previously scurrying about were now eating hors d’oeuvres and engaging in friendly conversations, waiting for dinner to begin. Talk of a bishop can be heard spontaneously slipping from the lips of guests as they talk of their plans for the future. Hope for success in their endeavors seems to be the theme of the night. I quickly maneuver through the murmuring merry-makers; none seem to notice my presence. Once again I see a brief glimpse of the snowy hair and rusty skirt slip into a dim hallway. The kitchen door opened, filling the room with the scent of slow-roasted pork and a wave of heat from the still-running oven.

The hallway has no light of its own. Only the glow of the dining hall reveals any details at all. The worn and faded wooden floor creaks with each of my steps. As I step into the darkness, I turn to see the silhouettes and voices of the guest grow reverently still. It seems the bishop has arrived and the blessing of the meal has commenced. A small creak issues forth from within the hallway, and I turn back into the darkness. The dark corridor seems to lengthen with each step I take; my only guide my hand on the peeling wall.

A new sight hastens my steps. A sliver of light begins to bleed from beneath the door and the soft patter of footfall from within. Opening the door, I faced—a guest, it seems. The young woman that appeared before me is admittedly attractive, although actively avoiding any attempt to analyze her anxious actions. An ardent adversary of approximating adulthood, she was adorned with amethyst and clothing one could argue belonged to an adolescent. She smiled and I saw her mask.

As her shimmering lips part to reveal glittering teeth, her eyes glint like those of a panther preparing to pounce upon its prey. Everything she wears, the innocent and modest dress, the ignorant expression, the look of hope for a better day are all a masterful camouflage. She knows what the cold wind blows in tonight; she draws in the unknowing, more witnesses to the encroaching darkness. She gazes in my direction, but not at me. I am already trapped; we both knew this and thus had no reason to acknowledge each other.

A wisp of white flew by the window. I left my silent enemy and slipped back into the cold darkness. As I once again braced myself against the icy gusts, I begin to ponder my pursuit of this girl. I do not know her, nor have I seen her before. Nothing about her is that striking but her ice white hair, and yet I want nothing but her. At this moment I care for nothing else.

That hammer blow paused my gait and I stood aghast at my obsession. There’s some strange beauty about her that has nothing to do with her appearance. On her own she is rather plain to view; frail figure on a tiny frame and her pallor is that of a glacier. Her eyes, however, glittered with an iridescent glow, flickering ethereal flames behind the pink irises. She had the scent of old, well-worn books as if she had slept in an ancient library. I had never seen her before and yet I felt she belonged to this place far longer than I. I knew that I belonged to her but she did not belong to me.

A door slams shut at the opposite end of the small, poorly lit garden. The only light emanates from a pale spotlight revealing a lonely statue of Our Lady. She stands silently, mournfully overlooking the dying plants and lifeless stones. This place shows the same sadness that consumes the entirety of the school. This is no longer the place I knew, nor is it the place I loved. I’ve become lost in the emptiness of this place and I do not know where my life is leading me. It doesn’t matter where I go in this place, each corner is as dark as the last.

I push myself onward, because this girl gives me a reason to continue. I do not know her and yet she’s been in my life forever. I will not allow her to flee again; I cannot stay in this place alone. I find the door leading into the former chapel and enter silently. The door creaks open and I am greeted by that pleasant scent of the library.

I look up and see her long dress, her worn brown shoes and pale legs show as a gust of wind follows me through the door and gently lifts the edge of her skirt. I approach her, my hands trembling slightly. Before I can say a word, she steps in close to me and gently caresses my lips with her own. The dark cloud over my mind dissipates as bliss seeps into me from her.

“Who are you?” I ask, as she steps back.

She smiles gently and watches my eyes. She takes my hand in hers and continues her gently silent gaze, “You know who I am.”

Her smile becomes wily as confusion draws over my countenance.

“I’ve never seen you before,” my frown unconsciously turning to a smile, her warmth overwhelmed my cold thoughts. “How do I know you? I only have seen you tonight, but the idea of not seeing you again tears at my heart. I never want you to leave me, but I know that’s not an option.”

Her smile grows wider and she holds my hand tighter. “I don’t belong here anymore. I will not abandon you though, as you do not belong here either.”

She stands on her toes and kisses me again, deeper and more passionately than before. We’re held together by an eternal second, and I finally feel that I have a place in this world. She draws back and holds both of my hands. “I’m leaving tonight, and I will never return to this place. Find me.”

Just then, the door swings open and two freshmen walk in, one smiles at me, her bright blue eyes filled with curiosity, “Were you talking to someone?”

I turn to introduce the girl, and she is not there.

“No,” I said, “just thinking out loud.”

I look around the room one more time, nothing but the two girls who had just walked in. Sadness begins to sink in, but then I remember her last words: “Find me.”

I follow the students out the door toward the party, but the albino girl remains the only thought in my head. I will not see her again while I remain here. I must seek her out. I will not rest until I find her again.

My eyes drift open as sunlight pours in through my window. It was a dream, but not merely so. This girl would forever haunt my thoughts and lead me onward. Her existence gives me a path to follow, an unknown path, but it is more than the drifting I had become accustomed to. I know that she is out there, and I will never stop seeking her, no matter where she takes me in the journey.