The Color Crisis
by Renata Erickson
Runestone, volume 5
Runestone, volume 5
The Color Crisis
by Renata Erikson
The world at dusk is sepia and shapes. As the last muted rays of light fell below the tree line, my eyes ached to pick up even the faintest hint of color. I could hear them back at the fire. My friends liked to chatter like the blueless bluebirds in the campgrounds, all talking, none hearing, but conversation nonetheless. The emptiness of my jar weighed heavily in my hand as I imagined the colors they already captured. Before long, summer would be over, and by next summer, there might not be any color at all.
I kicked at a wildflower. It should have been something close to violet, but now it had the hue of death, though it was as alive as it was before the Color Crisis hit. I guess I was angry at it, or at the people who got to the color first, but the green of envy was taken so I had to find something else.
A twitter in the branches flicked my attention to a robin leaving its nest. The branches were low enough, the climb easy to find four eggs. A sneeze stifled in my nose as my eyes adjusted to the bright robin’s egg blue before me. What I found difficult was imagining the little bird inside the egg I chose. It would hatch among its siblings, but it would never join them in crimson bellies. Still, I unscrewed the lid and brought my jar to the egg.
“Hello there, Little Blue.” I felt silly. Then again, the lady with the fuschia earrings on the nightly news said anyone could be a color whisperer.
“Come into the jar, Robin’s Egg Blue.” The lip of the jar rested on the egg and for a moment nothing happened, then the robin’s egg began to fade from the egg and in turn frosted delicate patterns on the inside of my jar. A laugh of unbelievability huffed in my nose. I can do magic! Now I understood why only a few weeks were needed to concentrate the world’s colors into jars, everyone wanted to be a wizard, even if there wasn’t such a thing. The flicker of lighter grays warned of the fire’s reach as I joined my friends.
“What color did you capture? I got scarlet!”
I would have called it raspberry, but I nodded my congratulations to Avery and lifted my jar for all to see.
“Oh you are totally Robin’s Egg!”
“Blue for calming.”
“With a brightness for your positive energy!”
If the color hadn’t evened out as it was stolen, taking what color was left from our faces to give to the sunset, all of our faces would probably be flushed rose with the excitement of our first time as color whisperers.
“Jade, moss by the river. And Amethyst got hers from a flower.” Jade seemed all too enraptured with her jar to seem to care that she called Kristy by the color in her jar. And I just thought of Emma as Jade. My mometary pondering over our new names left me as I studied the robin’s egg blue in my jar. I couldn’t help but think of the viral video of the artist who had discovered the phenomenon. With little breath to carry his words, the painter explained how it was done.
No one had ever thought to talk specifically to the red of an apple before, or the blue of the sky, paying no heed to the apple or the sky at all.
My robin’s egg blue jumped in my jar again like a failing heart and I recalled the artist showing off his wall of shelved jars. Amber, indigo, pine, and so many more. To him and my friends they were a collector’s item. To me the trapped colors were reminiscent of pinned butterflies that still jerked in desperate flutters.
“I’m sure that was Walmart. Only a company that big could capture sky blue. And Target is red. They probably wished they had picked a more natural color. Like green.”
“Starbucks! That’s where the forests went.” Jade and Scarlet fell over each other in a fit, hugging their sides.
“No, I’m sure that was BP.”
Amethyst snorted at my comment. “That’s rich.”
A cricket chirped in the grass at my feet. I wondered if it’s color had been stolen too. Maybe by some small ink company that couldn’t afford the Color Market’s price on riverbed stones. Or maybe a child on a nature walk had stripped it of its hues, not knowing the dusty black was of little value with how easily it could be obtained.
“I’d like to get some of that sunflower yellow from the field we drove by. I think it’s a mile’s walk.”
“I’ll go with you, Jade.” Scarlet stood with jar in hand and on second thought pocketed her phone. “Amethyst?” Amethyst glanced at me. I looked up from my jar and shook my head.
“I’ll stay with Robin’s Egg.” I felt my toes curl in my socks, and Amethyst — no, Kristy — mouthed sorry to me.
Avery left the campfire, taking the only hue of fire in the campsite with her.
Emma paused. “If you change your mind, one sunflower isn’t going to hurt.”
“That’s what everyone thought,” I mumbled, but she had already turned to catch up with Avery.
Once the jars of jade and scarlet were no longer visible, Kristy stood and beckoned me. Her eyes once held speckles of emerald in hazel, but it was the amethyst in her jar that guided me through the shadowed sepia of trees. Without color, shapes guided my footing, until a hand at my shoulder halted me.
Upon closer attention to the shapes below me, I spotted the wildflower I had kicked just that night. Kristy knelt and coaxed the amethyst from her jar with comforting words, until the petals gleamed with restoration. I knew within a week someone else would become Amethyst, but Kristy’s smile made me ache to also relieve myself of the weight in my hands. I wanted to feel that too. To be more than Robin’s Egg Blue, even if it meant having an empty jar.
St. Olaf College
Renata Erickson is a senior at St. Olaf College studying English with concentrations in film and media. Enamored with storytelling, Renata also writes young adult novels and shares her passion through author visits with classrooms that have implemented her first novel into their curriculum. She is also the assistant editor of Bifrost, a St. Olaf journal striving to create bridges between established literary communities and publications at undergraduate institutions.