White Out by Ally O’Connor

2020-2021 Magazine Featured Piece

Thea’s life has always revolved around her business, she’s a “work-aholic” and that has never bothered her. The interior design company. Thea is CEO of takes up all her time, and by the time she walks into her New York penthouse every evening, she eats a quick dinner while finishing up some paperwork and falls into bed.

Though Thea never is able to spend time in her apartment, she loves it there. Every room is decorated a different theme with vibrant (yet organized) colors that always fulfill her, she lives alone and always has, but whenever she has guests, she loves to show it off.

However, one day when she was walking home from work, something felt off, so she double, and triple checked her calendar to be sure she wasn’t missing a meeting or a delivery of goods for decorating her next client’s apartment. She was putting her planner back into her bag when she unlocked the door to her penthouse, and saw that a painting that was once filled with brown wine bottles and a deep purple background was now white. Everything, down to the frame, was bleached.

Thea pulled out her phone to dial 911, but it felt pointless. As she looked around her apartment not one thing had moved an inch. All her valuables were still there and there was no sign that someone had climbed through a window or broken in through the door, so she went through her average nightly routine, and kept glancing at the white canvas that mocked her until she closed the door to her bedroom and fell into an uneasy sleep.

Thea knew the next morning when she woke up in her forest green sheets that the wine painting was going to be there, it all felt like an odd dream.

It wasn’t.

She opened her bedroom door and the blank canvas still hung there. Not only that, but the living room rug under the couch that was usually brown, was now drained of color making it look like her floor was coated in snow.

Thea jogged through her apartment. Every entrance was locked, all her valuables were still there and surely, she would’ve heard someone moving her couch in the middle of the night. It would’ve woken her up.

Her heart sped up as adrenaline coursed through her body, but it quickly turned to droopiness as she stared at the white accessories. These feelings vanished when her assistant called, the ringtone stealing
her attention.

“Good morning Nick.” Thea answers, rubbing her forehead.

“Hey Thea, how are you this morning?”

“Fine, a little worried, is everything running on schedule, according to

“Of course, nothings up that I know of.” Nick responds, clearly confused by the conversation. With Thea and Nick’s organization skills, things rarely run off track.

“Okay when I get to the office I’m going to compare calendars just to make sure I’m not forgetting anything, something is missing.”

“Of course, I called to tell you the order arrived this morning with all modern themed decorations and appliances, I’ve gone through everything but I know you like to double check quality.”

Thea rolls her eyes, “modern” these days means bland, white aesthetic, she’s never understood this new trend but business is business. Yet, she finds herself not wanting to look at more white décor. “I trust you, Nick.” She says, “Plus I’m going to be late today I might not have time.” And with that they ended the conversation with quick goodbyes yet Thea’s heart felt heavy as she hung up the phone, Nick is the only person she really talked to on a daily basis other her clients. Although their relationship was professional, Nick was a friend to her.

Annoyed, Thea throws on a maroon and gold pantsuit with heels double checks her bag to make sure she has everything and then rushes to the door and notices that as she puts her hand on the door handle the glossy bronze trails from the handle drains out as white bleeds from her hand until it takes up its entirety.

Thea jumps back and holds her plagued hand in the other, panic threatening to sink in. She walks to the kitchen and grabs a wrench from the toolbox under the sink and returns, heels thundering on the floor, to the handle and starts chipping away at it. Even when Thea managed to get a chip off the handle, it was still white. Tears stung at her eyes as she threw the wrench across the room and exits her apartment, barely managing to keep composure to lock the door behind her.

She made it to work an hour late, unable to recall the last time that she was late to any extent. The confusion she felt showed on the faces of her employees as she walked into the lobby and into the elevator. Thea touched the button for the top floor and it jumped as it glowed white in recognition, as it would have before, she just never noticed it until now.

Thea went without an incident — or at least one she noticed, she was distracted by work — until a few hours later during her lunch break. She ate alone, as she’d always done. She usually works while she eats, but Thea was struggling thus far to do work that she felt she deserved a quiet lunch, but her office felt so empty. When she reached for her chips, she found her lunchbox which was once a basic, brown paper bag, was no longer pigmented. Thea went back to work, her appetite gone.

By dinnertime her once black-painted nails were now eggshell, and she couldn’t find the means to keep working. She called an Uber and went to the nail salon, picking the most vibrant, neon yellow she could find, and went home; but by the time she arrived her clothes and nails had also drained of color.

Tears biting at Thea’s eyes, grasping at hope she stormed into her home and to her supplies closet and poured forest green paint all over her body, except as it left the can its color drained leaving her with white paint all over her hair and skin. She dropped to her knees, sanity finally slipping and bawled.

Thea crawled on her hands and knees into her room leaving a snail-like trail of white behind her and climbed into bed, paint and all. And by the time she woke up, struggled out of bed and looked into her mirror, her skin, hair, eyes and all, were albino.