New Colors

By Janet K. Brennan

Only the green haze that engulfed the city permeated my consciousness on that dreary day in September. The leaves should have been standing out against a turquoise sky as gold and red-rust. Rather, they were hidden amongst the thick haze that threatened to choke all of humanity. Most sane people were huddled together in the basements of their homes after diligently, albeit a bit late, in boarding the windows and cracks of their homes. Now it was too late. Quick streaks of electricity sparked and crackled across the sky, snapping branches of dead trees as a thunder storm threatened to purge the decaying city. It would either rain or set it on fire again. My Grandmother, Mamu had begged me not to go out.

"You'll fry, girl, you'll fry, even if you are different from others, you will fry"

That was Granny Mamu, always thinking the worst. This was not going to be the end. I could feel it in my bones. Survival of the fittest and I liked to think that I was one of them. The stench of rotten apples was growing fainter each day, but then, so was the sound of traffic on highway 66. I guessed that most people had just decided to call it a day and curl up on their beds and wait.

"Reverend Smith had been secure that he would be raptured before this day came, and I was ever so curious as to whether or not that had happened. The walk down the weeded path to his church, solved the mystery for me., He was still there, all right. The Reverend was down at his crumbling church giving the last rites to anyone who could make it to seven o'clock service. People just did not seem to be making it through the gas, this time around. This was life in the slow lane these days. Anyone willing to beat the odds could probably do just that, but the problem was that so few were willing to try. Years of being beaten dogs at the hands of. callous world leaders had taken its toll.

Kicking up the dust in front of me, a strange odor permeated my nostrils and settled upon my lips until I thought I might puke Garlic... Damn! Looks like another heap of bomb that did not quite go off. Gas buzzed my head and ears and jogging away from it, albeit slowly, I felt myself grow free of the odious poison. Several of the neighborhood pets had not been so lucky. I guess that was the difference between life as a human being and life a bit lower on the totem pole. Or was it?

Yup, this could be the end. Wasn't going to be, but sure looked like it could be. Scurrying off in front of me was a prairie dog, rushing into its hole. Chances are there were hundreds of the critters all piled on top of each other just trying to make it. They probably would, as they tended to take care of each other. Unlike every man for himself these days, these little dogs would make certain each and everyone of their kind survived this near death experience.

As I plowed through the ankle- deep dust, my feet and toes began to burn. Now might be a good time to morph into the other me, the one with the super-powers, Ha! The one that I had kept secret for so long. Mamu said I was the missing link, the one that would change it all. Sure wish I could fly. Wouldn't save me, though. Testament was that all of the birds were gone. They were not able to make it through the gas. The sky was still and empty, except for the insidious green haze that spread wider and thicker each day on what was once a fertile, beautiful planet. God's Green Earth had a whole new meaning, these days.

I had to admit that I was more than a bit surprised when I saw a man walking up the road toward me. His head was lowered and he shuffled his feet as if in a quandary. What problem could he have? Everything had been pretty much solved for us, these days. We didn't listen, we lost our planet. Planes came in with lovely gas bombs attached to them, and began falling to the ground in random chaos. No one was certain where they came from, could have been our own government, I suppose. We did things like that now and then, whenever we did not want to admit that we had lost a war.

The stranger approached me and nodded

"Brave woman to be out on a nasty day like this. Tomorrow should be a bit better. Looks like we might have some rain and that will help things out a bit.

"Nah...not brave, just resolute. I have been walking like this every day since the bombs came. Actually, I guess I am looking for an answer as to how I can overcome this thing that has befallen all of humanity. Cutting off ones nose to spite their face, so to speak."

"Well, girl, I do think that there is an answer. We are not all going to perish. "Did you see anyone get raptured?"

The man looked at me incredulously, not understanding.

"What the hell is raptured?"

"You know, taken up to God so as not to have to endure this holocaust. They say you have to be saved in order to be raptured."

With this a laugh as I had never encountered by another human being fell from the stranger's belly.

"My dear, did it ever occur to you that you that this is the rapture?"

Suddenly with these words, the stranger fell to his knees and began to vomit. "Sorry about that, girl. I guess this atmosphere is just not agreeing with me any more."

I helped him back to his feet and thought I noticed a sudden lightness to his body. He went on, "I mean, it looks to me as if you have been saved. You are here before me, trying to figure a way to transcend this bit if bad luck here on the planet. So am I, for that matter. So I would say that we both have been saved. Reverend is down at his church trying to save his congregation when, geez, I dunno. It looks to me like if they are alive and in his church, they have already been saved. In fact, I would venture a guess and say that they probably all got saved many years ago. I guess it is all in how you look at things, but each time they went through something horrific in their lives and lived through it, or laughed in the face of trouble, they were saved. I feel that I may have been saved at least a hundred times in my long life. How about you?"

Right about now the odor of garlic was so strong, I felt like I might faint and moved along up the path to a better spot. Shrugging he followed me.

"No matter where you go, you will have this stuff. The sky will eventually clear, but then there is the task of cleansing, and learning everything all over again so that the same mistakes are not made. I really do not believe that man-kind has it in him right now to change things. We are not a more vicious civilization at all. Just more complicated. It actually may be time for another evolution of sorts.

"Well, then if I put my two cents in, I say one that heals my aching and burning feet, cleanses my watery eyes, soothes the pain in my stomach, and just allows this earth to rejuvenate, no matter how many millenniums it takes." I sighed Shaking his head he looked quite thoughtful. Was it my imagination or was he fading in and out? The gas had obviously gotten to my brain on this day.

"Well, I have a secret, girl. And since it is only you out here on this bleak day, it is you I will tell." Before I knew what was happening, the stranger began to fade in front of me. It began with his feet and moved up his body until he disappeared completely. Only his voice was yet there and it came to me as an ill-tuned Trumpet in my mind.

"I have been able to do this for years," he said. That is why I am out here today when everyone else is at home. None of this can hurt me, for I live in two worlds. I am physical and I am spiritual, yet one and the same.

This was beyond my immediate comprehension as I watched him suddenly appear into his physical body once more.

"Ah,"he laughed...came back just in time to once again see this pea green sky and inhale the rotten eggs. No thank you!" And, once again he was gone.

"The world is actually beautiful when you view it from here," he said. Best of all, I will be around to help rebuild what is left of this dump, as my physical body seems to be getting stronger along with my spiritual body.

This guy was incredible. Was I dreaming?

In a distance, I could hear Mamu calling my name. How she worried. Better make sure everything is all right back at the house.

As I bid farewell to the stranger, I realized he was once again in his physical body and walking down the hill toward the church. Guess he just wanteda ato see if anyone had been raptured today.

"Nice meeting you," I called. "Hey. . . good luck."

Furrowing through the ashes and gaseous air I felt an exhilaration I had never felt before. Maybe pea-soup green was not a bad color, after all. When mixed into a cocktail of bright orange haze and black thunder heads, it could be downright spectacular. The new colors of a rainbow, bridging across the mountain before me. Was there gold at the other end, or simply gilded dreams? There was a sense of hope, a joy a comfort....damn. Nothing seemed to hurt and I felt strong. Damn, where were my feet? Damn, where were my arms? The stranger was right. The world was prettier from the invisible side.

Better get home, how Mamu does worry!


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