17 January 2024
Here is Allauch! says the doctor, we are perhaps saved. Walk in good order and smile. They are waiting for us. Don’t talk to them. It’s useless, nobody would believe you. Let me tell them. I can. That’s what a famous doctor said one day with two other people when they arrived at the foot of the hill. I had heard them, they all seemed to be terrified and at the same time relieved. And why did I have to go up the hill a few days later? Maybe I wanted to look down on the town of Allauch. I had become accustomed to perching on this spot to admire the clarity of the sky bathed by the sun. With a light breeze in the late afternoon, nothing could have relaxed me more than this daily solitude. Only my plans were spoiled the moment I arrived. Another person had come to settle in this place. A girl who must have been in her twenties. What was she doing here, all alone? I was about to walk away when she called me, turning her head in my direction:
- Say, can you help me walk up the hill?
I froze, astonished, before turning back to her. What I saw then struck me as if lightning had fallen on me. Her eyes, they were empty. A blue as clear and grey as a cloudy sky covered her irises and pupils. She was staring at nothing. She saw nothing. Her eyes were lost in the vague and lost at all, and she couldn’t even touch me. It was disconcerting.
- How did you get to the top?
- I am blind, but extremely resourceful!
And here she was, offended. I dared to take a step in her direction. She didn’t seem frightened or even confused. In fact, she didn’t even look lost. And yet, she was alone, directing her eyes towards a landscape she could not contemplate. Had she too come to this place to be quiet? Was she fed up with the mass of people who gathered around her like guards? Deep down, she had to live a good life. With her little girlish look and blank stare, she must have drawn the compassion and attention of many people. To me, both of these things were elements I didn’t know. She didn’t have to run away if that was what she was looking for, quite the opposite. She should tell herself that she was lucky to have been born this way. But was she even capable of thinking that? After all, one did not choose one’s birth.
- You should go home, your parents must be worried, I said.
- And yours, where are they?
- Don’t answer by asking me another question,” I sighed. Come on, I’ll walk you home.
- No! I don’t want to go home, I’m looking for someone.
It had been a long time since I had walked up this hill, and I was sure that I had not met anyone.
- In reality, I’m looking for a demon,” she confessed.
Thinking at first that she was making fun of me, I decided to retort:
- Demons don’t exist, is that really what you’re after?
- Yes, they exist! My doctor once saw one while walking up this hill with two of his friends. They were really terrified. So were they the three people who were fleeing to Allauch that day? When they said they were saved, it was because they had managed to escape this famous demon? Stupid.
- Maybe it was a wild animal,” I said.
- No, he said it couldn’t be an animal because it looked like a human being with horns on its head and completely red eyes.
- I go up that hill all the time, and I haven’t seen any creatures with red eyes,” I assured her. But she didn’t seem to want to leave. She got up from the rock she was sitting on and started walking in a direction she seemed to have taken at random. I could have left her wandering alone in the wilderness and been content with the sun’s gentle rays on my face, but I couldn’t leave her to her own devices. It must have been a fluke that she got here, and if she got hurt on the way and didn’t make it home, someone would surely come looking for her. I could already see a troop of strangers and policemen storming the hill, spreading out like a colony of ants to find the missing girl. And I, who was planning to stay here, did not want my night under the stars to be spoiled by a stubborn kid. So I decided to go with her and guide her, provided she agreed to go down the hill at sunset. So we walked aimlessly. At least that was my impression, but she had a very precise goal, to find this imaginary creature that she called a demon. Every five minutes, I looked at the sky to see where the sun was, hoping to see it go down more and more. Once, I tried to make her believe that the sun was disappearing, but she didn’t believe me. Despite the leafy trees that hid the sky with their branches, she was still able to feel the rays of the luminous star warming her skin. Then, little by little, she began to ask me questions about myself; “Where do you live?”, “What is your name?”, “What are you doing here? These were the kinds of questions I didn’t answer. I had no intention of revealing my private life to a stranger, especially since I simply did not want to talk about it. The only thing I was willing to say about myself was that I used to walk around that hill and that I had never seen a demon. Except that even with my word, she kept walking. Every ten minutes I would look up at the sky to see where the sun was. Then she began to change the kind of questions she asked me; “what shape are the leaves of the trees?”, “I hear a bird on that branch, what color is it?”, “do you know what the stars look like from the hill? To these questions of a distressing banality, I wanted to answer her well. I understood then that she knew nothing about this wilderness that Man had not changed too much. It was an unknown place, but she had been careless enough to go there. However, this place was dangerous for her if she was to get lost. A rock that was not in the right place, a branch that was hanging too far down, or even a ravine that a torrent of rain had created, all of these could seriously hurt her. Even if she had other senses, as long as she couldn’t see, she was in danger on this lumpy, misshapen path. Much more in danger than if she had found herself lost in the middle of the desert. For even if the stifling heat could drive men to madness and collapse, this was nothing more than a stretch of golden sand. The landscape as far as the eye could see did not change, and this was what led the lost to abandonment. But she who had not seen anything since her birth, what did it matter if the landscape changed or stayed the same? She would even do better in the desert than here. Because in the hill, on the contrary, for those who ventured there for the first time, one only came across new surprises. Beautiful and deadly surprises. And yet, here she was, walking ahead, waiting for me to tell her not to go that way so she could turn back. Every twenty minutes I looked up to see where the sun was. Seeing that I wasn’t very talkative, she started to tell me about her life. Not everything, of course, she only told me what she liked to do; listen to music, sing in her room, let the neighbor’s dog lick her fingers. She, who had come in search of a demon, was chatting with a stranger. And the stranger that I was began to answer her. I was no longer looking at the sky.
- Why do you want to find a demon on the hill so badly? Even you should know that it doesn’t exist.
- At home, no one believes the doctor, so I just want to prove that he’s right and that other people can stop saying that he’s a liar. Because he’s my friend, and it makes me sad when people say that about him.
- But even if you find a demon, you won’t be able to prove its existence. Especially since they’ll probably say you must have mistaken it for something else. She must have understood the implication I had just made because she brought a hand to her pale eyes.
- It’s useless to go on if in the end nobody will believe you, I continued. I might as well go home now…
- No! You said you would go with me until sunset. You promised, so you must keep your promise. She continued to walk, but this time in silence. She had a good life, but she still felt unhappy. Then I realized that I was cruel to have told her about the sunset. This moment of the day so splendid and colored that she will never be able to observe. I realized that I had been clumsy in not describing to her the feathers of the bird or the beauty of the stars. All these things that seem insignificant to us at first glance must surely have been a real treasure for her. But like all treasures, she only had the rumors that circulated about it, and was unable to contemplate it or verify its veracity. Just like that demon she was so eager to find. She really wanted to know for once if what she heard from others describing the world she lived in was true or not.
- You know,” she finally said in a soft voice, as if she was about to confess, “because I’m like that, people around me tend to overdo it. So much so that I collapse under their watchful eyes. – It must be nice though, that so many people are paying attention to you too.
- It’s nice for sure, but it’s also extremely frustrating. Because I don’t want to be treated like I’m unhappy or like a baby. I don’t want to be nice to me only not hypocritically or pitied. I just want to be treated like an ordinary person. A twelve year old girl who is growing up. I didn’t choose to be born this way, but since God forgot to give me sight, I learned to live without it. You didn’t choose your birth after all. I was in the same situation as her. I too wish I had been born differently. Many people suffer just because they didn’t have that choice, to choose their birth. A girl who had a dark complexion and wanted to have it lighter, a child born in a family of believers and who would have wanted her to be an atheist, or a person who was born male but who would have liked to be born female. All these criteria that define us and that we have from our birth, we cannot choose them. But with hard work and willpower, some people manage to change them over time. Those around them then begin to see them in a new light, whether it is more negative or positive. At least we all have that choice. The choice to change.
- The sun is setting, isn’t it?” she said suddenly. Indeed, I hadn’t realized it myself. I could feel my heart tightening as we walked down the hill together. When we arrived, the sky was drenched in red and orange paint. It was dusk. I planned to leave the girl here, wanting to return to the hill. But before I disappeared completely, she threw me:
- I’ll be back for the demon next week! Maybe we’ll meet at the same place. And indeed, once the week was over, we would meet at the place where we had met. And so, each week, we would meet up on the hill to look for the demon. Each time, we would meet at the same place, and each time, we would leave each other when dusk appeared. That moment when day and night met, was also the moment of our separation. For even day and night were not supposed to stay together for too long. Then, each one took a different route. She went home, and I went back to the hill, looking forward to the next week. Ten years had passed since our first meeting. This time she had not left at dusk. She stayed with me even though it was already dark.
- Tomorrow I’m leaving to continue my studies,” she announced. So we won’t see each other again for a long time. Maybe never. I felt my heart crack. I realized that my loneliness was not only pleasant, it was also oppressive. It was eating away at me from the inside, creating an indescribable emptiness in the depths of my being. Then I remembered one of the first questions she had asked me: “Do you know what the stars look like from the hill? The stars. Those bright, shining dots that didn’t express anything. They were just like her eyes. As long as there were stars above my head, I could always feel her unseeing gaze on me.
- In the end, she said, we couldn’t find the demon on the hill.
- Of course I do,” I said. It’s even been ten years since you found it.
She turned to me with a surprised look. And I, almost at the same time, plunged my red eyes into her pale ones.