Warning: This poem includes some intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. There is local restlessness, a hunter stirring trouble from afar, prejudice, an albino who seems very troublesome, and Clyde freaks out when he sees that portrait, references to past abuse, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
"A Significant Threat"
The village was restless;
Victor and Igor knew it;
everyone knew it.
A mail carrier had come through,
and some of the messages
were worrisome at best,
threatening at worst.
"More of this grumbling
against people who are different,"
Igor said. "Some days I wish that
society was a person I could slap.
I am not like you; so what of it;
stop acting like that's a bad thing."
"I don't think it's a bad thing,"
Victor assured him. "I think that
going about stirring trouble is a bad thing."
Despite all their efforts, it wasn't that hard
to do -- Ilona was a hothead, Bálint was
easily led, Anne was a gossip, and Bogdana
had a tongue sharp enough to shave a pig.
Victor and Igor crossed paths with
Lóránt the woodcutter, alongside
his apprentice Clyde who was not
dealing well with the disturbances.
"Kálmán wants to speak with you,"
said Lóránt, pointing out the priest
who stood a few yards away. "He
mentioned something about a warning."
"All right," said Victor, and
went to speak with him.
"I received this from another priest,"
Kálmán said, taking out a portrait
no bigger than a Bible page. "This man
claims to be a hunter, but raves about
demons instead of elk or wisent."
Looking at the picture, Victor saw that
the man had white skin, lavender eyes,
and short wavy white hair with a mustache
and beard. His face was very long, with
high cheekbones and vivid red lips.
"He looks like an albino," Victor said.
"That's a highly distinctive condition."
"On the one hand, we have people
kidnapping unusual children, and on
the other hand, rising resentment of
anyone who is different," Igor mused.
"Children do grow up ... and I wonder
if they might, in time, turn into the kind
of damaged men who do unto others
whatever has been done to them."
"Now there's a morbid thought,"
Victor said. "We already have
more than enough mad tales
about albinos being evil."
"He's not evil because he's an albino.
Someone may have kidnapped him
because he's an albino, and then
tormented him the way we have
heard of others being tormented,"
said Igor. "If that's so, then he'd
be evil because of the torment."
"That may be true," Victor agreed.
"In any case, I received this portrait
because some other priests believe that
this man may pose a significant threat,"
said Kálmán. "At least we have warning."
Victor took the portrait and tilted it
to catch the thin winter sunlight,
searching it for further clues.
Clyde gave a keening whimper
and backed away, both hands
pressed over his mouth.
Lóránt hastened to soothe
the fragile man, assuring him
that he was safe here and
nobody would hurt him.
"Herr Weisskopf," said Clyde,
pointing shakily at the picture.
"You know this man?" Victor said,
his voice sharpening with interest.
"Victor, be gentle with him," said Igor.
"We don't know much about what
has happened to him, and he is
already doing poorly today."
Clyde had slumped against
the wall of the nearest building,
so Victor handed the portrait back
to Kálmán and then crouched down
so that he could look up at Clyde.
"Did you know the man in the picture?"
Victor asked. "Is he a bad man?"
"The white hair makes him look old, but
he's not," said Clyde. "He's older than me,
some years --" He stared at his hand as if trying
to figure how many to count. "-- but not a lot-lot."
"What is he like?" Victor said.
"He always learned so fast, the hunters
punished us slow ones for being stupid,"
Clyde said. "They'd hurt us any time we
didn't do what they wanted, or couldn't.
He'd help them, he was good at it, he
learned to do that quickly too. And now
he's important, so it's even worse than
when he was just one of the bigger boys."
Clyde shuddered. "He scares me."
"We won't let him bother you," Victor said.
"Thank you, Clyde, you've been very helpful."
Clyde cringed. "Don't. They always said
nice things when I made them happy,
but then they'd turn mean again later."
"All right," Victor said, wondering
what kind of monstrosity was
going on out there and how
he was supposed to stop it.
"Is there anything you want, Clyde?"
Igor asked gently. "Something
that might make you feel better,
that we could bring for you?"
Clyde shook his head frantically.
"I don't want anything," he said.
"When you want things, they
just use it to hurt you."
"You see what I have to deal with?"
Lóránt said, spreading his hands.
"I've tried and tried to tell Clyde that
whatever it was, it's not going to happen
again here. But he won't even tell me
what he likes most of the time, let alone
ask for anything he wants or needs."
"Maybe we can help by making things
different than they were," said Igor.
"Nasty people usually yell, and
sometimes send children out in
the cold. Let's get Clyde indoors
where it will be warm and quiet."
Victor's fingernails dug into his palms,
even through the gloves he wore,
as he thought about someone
putting a young Igor outdoors
in the frigid winter weather.
"That man is trouble," said Kálmán,
gazing at the portrait. "He seeks
to rule by fear, where he has
no honest authority at all."
"He is a significant threat," Victor agreed.
"What shall we do now?" Kálmán said.
"If Clyde is right, Herr Weisskopf will not
be an easy adversary to stop."
"Make a few copies of that picture,
as best you can, or find someone
good at drawing," Victor said to
Kálmán. "Show those around and
make it clear that Herr Weisskopf
is not welcome in this valley."
"Yes, mazil," said Kálmán.
"Perhaps I shall also prepare
a lecture about Jesus and the leper,
to remind everyone of the Lord's care
for the unfortunate and the disfigured."
"We'll all do what we can,"
Victor said. "I just hope
that it will be enough."
* * *
One of the hunters is Herr Weisskopf. He has white skin, lavender eyes, and short wavy white hair with a mustache and beard. His face is very long, with high cheekbones and very red lips. He was originally from Innsbruck in Tyrol in Austria. As a child, he was kidnapped by hunters because he looked different, and trained to be one of them.
* * *
"Terrorism is a significant threat to peace and security, prosperity and people."
-- Ban Ki-moon
Child abuse can cause a particular form of PTSD, otherwise described as developmental trauma disorder. It has other lasting impacts too. This creates a cycle of violence in which victims may grow up to be victimized yet again and/or to abuse others the way they were abused. About one-third of abused children later become abusers. There are many kinds of child abuse. Clyde is describing a type of behavior modification sometimes used in "therapy" which is extremely destructive. There is help for adult survivors of child abuse. Be gentle and support them as best you can.
The Evil Albino is an entertainment trope which can cause real damage to living people. Here are some movie examples. While I try to maintain some trope awareness, I don't feel that having a certain trait should give characters a Get Out of Hell Free card in literature. I prefer to write both positive and negative portrayals. So if you'd prefer positive albino literature, see the Archivist.
Terrorism is the use of fear to force people to do things they do not wish to do. This tends to cause a lot of mental injury. There are resources for coping after terrorism.
Read about Jesus and the Leper.