The Button Collector: Part III
Swain meets the girl who lost all her color
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Friday, April 19, 2013 16:04
Something was wrong with Verow Drange.
It was something very dreadful, and very strange. Swain could first see it on the girl’s hands when her gloves came off. Then the scarves unwound and he could see her face, and the robes fell so that he could see her arms, and Swain saw that the terrible thing had taken her all over.
The girl had lost her color.
It was not the way you are imagining it now. She was not grayed or blackened, even, not like she had paled out. It was much worse than that. Looking anywhere about her (eyes or hair, or even the dangly thing at the back of her throat, if you could see it) was like looking into the great void behind your eyelids, when they are shut tight and you are sleeping dreamlessly. To understand it clearly you’d have to turn your imagination off altogether, and this is not easily done.
“Like a shadow,” Swain whispered, but no one heard the boy.
Another voice rang out much louder than his, and much shriller. This other was a voice of panic, and it brought silence and stillness to the street, and turned heads in the crowd.
“HIDE IT! NOW! PULL UP THOSE SCARVES!”
It was that awful Mrs. Gordon, the great beast. Her crash into the street with Swain had knocked her senses rather loose (you could hear them rattling when she shook her head), and every time she tried to get to her feet, she slipped back down into the dust before she could find proper balance.
“DON’T LET THEM SEE YOU!”
This was all no good. She tried, but no matter how many fabrics Verow pulled up, double that amount would fall the next instant; and up again she’d raise them, and down; and up and so on; but the girl knew her defeat.
Her peculiarness could not be put away, now that it was out, and Verow hung her head low and folded her arms. At least that is what Swain presumed her to be doing, for it was rather difficult to see her outline when her whole body was one smooth shade of nothingness (he could not look at her for very long without feeling that he had gone blind).
Finally Mrs. Gordon had the idea to lean against her umbrella, and use it as a sort of walking stick. At once she was upon Verow. There was a flurry of scarves and ribbons, and before Swain could get his wits about him, the girl was once more bound in her disguise by the quick hands of Mrs. Gordon. In another moment the frantic pair was gone into the crowd.
But he could not let them get away. The girl had lost her color, and Swain knew where she could go looking to get it back.
Topher Daniel can be reached at email@example.com