Vanishing Point

There was a newspaper article about her; LOCAL TEEN DISAPPEARS in letters half an inch high on the third page. It wasn't much of a story because there was nothing more to say; her parents and the police were mystified. For a time, after she left, an empty space wandered the classroom and the neighborhood paths she had frequented; but all too soon the rift healed, and life flowed smoothly around the place where Isthia had been.

How can I describe her to you? She was tallish and very fair; I used to think of her as silver, my silver girl. Her hair seemed to catch the light and hold it until it would dart away laughing, and her voice sounded like a cotton ball falling gently onto a snowdrift. I guess the word for her was ethereal; I used to sit and just look at her, expecting at any moment to blink and find her gone.

She walked and worked alone, knowing only her own crystal self and the clean joy of knowledge. In saying that, I don't want to imply that she had no friends--she did. She dressed as they did and could act much the same way when she tried, but her true uniqueness remained. I could never accept her as one of them, and that gulf was her most closely guarded secret. Watching Isthia, one had the feeling that she was an exchange student studying our culture, only to depart in a year to write a paper on us.

I don't tell you all this about her because I want to dredge up the mystery and hurt people more. I say it because I loved her and still do. This was *my* most closely guarded secret, and though I never spoke of it to anyone I'm sure she sensed it. I think she knew much that she never voiced. She walked to and from school, but she flew sometimes when no one was around to see her--always in the summer midafternoon, drifting up from the field like a confused October leaf. I used to tell myself it was my imagination.

The night it happened was clear, and through a frosted window I could see her lying on the floor in her room. She was concentrating on something to the exclusion of all else; for the first time, I could not follow her thoughts. They were foreign, overwhelming, filling my mouth with the heady taste of appleseeds. As I struggled to understand, Isthia opened her eyes to a cold victory I would never see; then she rose, disappeared from view, and came out her front door. The moon was just rising.

She wore the tight pants that were in vogue at the time, and a white coat with a blue scarf. She started down the road with her head up and her body erect, and her hair caught the starlight briefly but let it go. She walked straight ahead for a short time before her feet at last relinquished the snow; her long legs trailed gracefully, uselessly, in the fluid air. She spoke to the night, and the night answered her, and she followed its directions.

I know where she went; it was the place the winds go when their work is done, for they still talk about her sometimes. Isthia rising and leveling off, leaving without a glance to spare for my discordant world. Isthia, dwindling steadily toward a point between the moon and the horizon and the mist, toward the only place in that deepened sky where I could see no stars.

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