author’s note: This was a submission to my school’s literary folio that wasn’t accepted. Took the “gray areas” theme too literally, I suppose!
Title: “Persons of Color”
Summary: James and Selek live in a world without color, until they don’t.
Genre: Science Fiction, Tragedy
“What are they?” Selek whispered, clutching James’ arm. James smiled, teeth pure white in the black room.
“Colors,” he replied. “Look. This one’s blue.” He pointed to a cool, pure-looking shade (hue, James had insisted. It was called hue), which eventually swirled into another, stronger-looking hue, forming something entirely different altogether.
“Are they always so… wild?” Selek asked, considering the difference between the odd, mixing hues and the simpler shades of whites and blacks he was used to.
“There are more than these,” James said. “So many. I could spend a whole day watching them if I could.”
“That seems irresponsible,” Selek said thoughtfully, and James shook his head, punching Selek lightly in the arm. “Says you,” James said affectionately. “But you gotta admit—it’s a whole lot better than looking at shades of black and white all day.”
Selek said nothing, but James knew him too well to bother pushing the subject.
James stuffed the glass ball into a black satchel, its strange, self-forming light stolen Selek’s sight. Nothing more to see, Selek sat on his own bed while James climbed up the one above him.
“Ten minutes till the next check,” James said, leaning down over Selek’s bunk. Selek rose from his seat and allowed James a quick kiss before settling under the covers. Ten minutes came and went, with the guards checking beds for anyone violating curfew, and when they were gone, James swung down in silence, worming into Selek’s space and staying for the rest of the night. Back to back, they slept, while James dreamt of skies full of color and Selek dreamt the same of seas.
“I can’t imagine your hair as anything but black,” James said. “But your eyes could be green. Or brown. Or blue!” He jumped down the platform, dragging the rope with him. Selek caught its end and helped James pull the machine upright, tying it to the anchor and keeping it docked, away from the oil drills that were being ferried across the floor.
“Great job, you two!” Chris called, ticking them off from his list. “Your progress is up 63.8% from yesterday. At this rate, you’ll be done before gray-down.”
Gray-down was the time when the white-noon shifted to gray, then black-night.. Gray-up was much the same, only backwards. James told Selek that they used to be called dawn and dusk, or twilight, when the sky lit up with color. Same as his dreams—their dreams, shared for many nights since James had confided in him.
They finished long before gray-down, given leave to spend the rest of their day for recreation, but bidden to return before black-night.
“I want to show you,” James said, taking Selek by the hand and leading him to the outskirts of Gray Shade, the city of milk and oil.
There were many dried up tunnels, used to store trash and whatever else. “Where I found it.”
They wandered down a cavern, descending a steep of oddly shaded stone—gray, but a little of what Selek learned was blue. James raised the orb of color and used the light to guide them both down a path deep beneath the earth.
When they came upon the great barricade, the stoic, unaffected Selek gasped audibly, his eyes widening at the sight. Piled so high he couldn’t see the top were objects—colored objects, varying degrees of red and blue and green and brown. They were dimmer than the colors in the orb, but a sight to behold nonetheless.
They wandered close, and James set the orb into a space between rusting chairs, their legs all manners of brown and red. “This must have filled a school once,” James said. “Here, look. This is where I learned what they were called.”
He dug out an old metal box, dented and chipped with colorful designs fading on the front.
In it were sticks of wax, each a different color, each with labels that proclaimed them. Red, Yellow, Blue, Violet, and combinations such as Blue-Violet, Yellow-Green, and so many others.
“This is amazing,” Selek said, despite himself.
“Why do you think they hid these away?” James wondered.
Selek knew the answer to that.
“Sameness. Clarity. Resolve. All things are black and white, and there is nothing to divide us. We are at peace, we are at peace.” The words of Gray Shade, words Selek lived by. But even in his clarity, his resolve, he knew that there was something wrong.
“Sameness,” James repeated quietly. “Why should we all be the same? There’s nothing wrong with being different.”
“Difference brings strife,” Selek murmured.
“And yet opposite poles repel each other,” James said, his frank wisdom striking Selek’s heart. “There’s nothing wrong with being different. The only wrong is in forgetting to accept difference.”
James slipped his hand into Selek’s, and in the light of the colored orb, Selek realized that James’ eyes were blue. “We’re different,”
James said, more plainly. “If we were the same, I don’t think I would’ve loved you as much as I do now.”
Quietly, Selek nodded.
His own hair was black, and his eyes, the same. But when James kissed him, his cheeks were a light red, their entwined hands soft shades of flesh.
Weeks, later, when James left the cave, the color went with him. There was no hiding what they’d done.
“Sameness is our way,” said the warden. “You have brought strife into our midst.”
“I’m not the one holding a gun to a man’s face,” James responded.
“James—” Selek began.
“There’s nothing wrong with difference,” James continued. “Only the fear of it.”
“For breaking our laws, James Claudius, I sentence you,” said the warden slowly. Shots rang. Selek stood, watching the light leave James’ blue eyes. In his hands was the colored orb, and before they could kill him, he broke it.
The sky bled with color, as did the seas—freely, made anew. The boys bled red in death, in love, different as night and day, but at peace in a twilight of many colors.
“Persons of Color” (c) Motzie Dapul 2013 [unedited]