Whole Blood

I. Crystal

The fountain of lava churns and splashes in its oval pool surrounded by stands of cotton candy and toy syringes. Fluorescent signs for Charged Obsidian flash with arrows pointing to stones small enough to wear around a little finger or big enough to display in a living room window. I am sitting on an island facing the water and the floating fairground lights which curve along the shoreline in the middle of twilight, my favorite time. Half light, half shadow, the pink neon and blinking bulbs pop against the fading backdrop. A Ferris wheel spins yellow-white, a giant seahorse blinks one giant red eye and everywhere strings of electric bubbles glow with a green moon on the horizon. How is it that these lights look so different this time of day? Ignited with all their parts showing, they are richer, fuller than in direct sun or encompassing shade. But twilight only lasts a moment: a walk to the other side of the shore, a turn of the head, and the day will turn to night.

But first, before the sun disappears, the girl, a woman now, approaches. I’ve never met her but when she tells me her mother’s name, I know. Crystal. She sits by me on the stone bench with the colored lights reflecting in her dark eyes and we talk about her mother, despite my reluctance.

“I want to show you,” she says and I shake my head. After all these years, what does it matter. But a fire burns in her charcoal eyes and before I can stop her, she pricks her finger with a pointed seashell. I close my eyes, not wanting to see, not wanting to know the truth about her blood.

II. The Death of the Rainbow

No one knew who saw Vierge first. A hiker found it in the dew of a star-flower. A pilot spotted it in the lining of a rain cloud. A garbage man caught it between crushed cans and a carton of eggs. After the news broke out, the consensus was that Vierge had been simultaneously experienced on many different parts of the planet. What caused it, no one knew, and for the most part, no one cared. All we wanted was to be near it.

Vierge: The New Color. How to describe it? I was only a child when it came into our world. It wasn’t just a blending of colors that already existed like Chartreuse or Teal or Dusty Rose. And it wasn’t like an upscale Home catalog attempting to disguise puke green as “Retro Olive” or shit brown as “Espresso.” This was a brand new color outside of the spectrum as we knew it. Scientists were baffled. They held prisms through beams of sun and the rainbow we were all familiar with appeared. But Vierge wasn’t there. And yet it was in the steam of my morning jasmine tea.

I should know about the colors in the rainbow, after all, I was named after them. I don’t think my parents did it intentionally, but I couldn’t help noticing in grammar school, when coming up with anachronisms for the order of colors, we were given ROY-G-BIV. No one made the connection except for me: Royal Garrison Belmont IV at your service. People called me Roy. And that’s who I was, just Roy, not Royal. My parents ruined any shot I had of claiming nobility. They were wealthy but went bankrupt before my fifth birthday. I wouldn’t know what it was like to be rich until much later in life.

It became a privilege to witness Vierge in person. Those who hadn’t seen it were considered primitive or low-class. But it wasn’t always easy to acquire it and it was near impossible to describe it to someone who hadn’t seen it. It’s like trying to paint “clear” glass on canvas or conveying the look of water. How do you explain colors to the blind? There’s that old trick of giving them a hot coal and saying “that’s red” or placing a cotton ball in their hands and telling them “that’s white.” A cool stone for gray, an ice cube for blue. But how can you know if they really see what you see? Then again, how do we know the sited see the same colors at all? Maybe it’s like going to a store that sells televisions and viewing all the screens in slightly different shades. They each look right when you stare at them individually, but when they’re sitting side-by-side, one face looks greener, or too pale, or too ruddy.

People generally agreed that Vierge was the most beautiful color on the planet. It wasn’t phosphorescent, but it glowed. It didn’t exactly shimmer, but it shined. Picture your favorite color from another world lit up like a silver moon on a clear night. And then multiply that by a hundred. It made you feel good.

One word to describe it: magnetic. People flocked to it. When Vierge arrived, it changed lives. People were frantic to find it, but once it was within site, they were soothed and content. Even those who had tested positive for colorblindness reacted to Vierge in the same ways. It had a benevolent energy to it, one without an agenda, and people recognized its purity without knowing why.

They called it Vierge after the French word for “pure” or “virgin.” They said it was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But was it the end of the rainbow or the death of the rainbow? With everyone so obsessed with Vierge, our natural color-wheel was set aside. Some white-washed their houses in preparation for the inevitable Vierge-colored paint. They put off buying dishes, sweaters, sunglasses, waiting for them to come out Vierge style. They put themselves on waiting lists for the new products. It was not only a personal statement but a status symbol.

Businessmen began scheming. They wanted Vierge toys and soda pop. It would become the fastest trend to saturate all markets. They wanted it in our shampoo, our cars, our candy-coated chocolate, but it would take time to perfect. There was something about the color that made it hard to reproduce.

It was studied in labs. Out of what particles was the pigment made? How could it be imitated? They couldn’t find a way to extract its essence. The only way to color an ordinary object with Vierge was to bathe it in a vat of naturally Vierge- colored objects. It was this way that they made Vierge paints and dyes but most agreed that the original, unexplained Vierge sightings had a stronger hue, a more striking presence.

The rainbow might’ve been set aside, but we needed it if only to help Vierge along. Studies found that if Vierge was put next to our own colors from the Earth’s prism, it caused heightened reactions. Vierge-blue made people calmer, Vierge-red made them more energetic, Vierge-yellow made them hungrier. It wasn’t long before the government began regulating it, saying it was a narcotic even though it hadn’t been proven that a drug could take effect just by looking at it. Marketers and politicians used it to sway their audience and the government couldn’t do much to control it. Vierge was everywhere.

And then nowhere.

One day, just as the color had ignited on our planet, it disappeared. A switch flipped and everything that had been painted, dyed, washed, soaked, enameled, dipped, coated, and bathed in Vierge turned to a dull brown-red. And since it had been such a popular color, the whole world became a sickly dried-up blood bath. Scientists attempted to reproduce Vierge, artists tried to mix it in their pallets, but every time they failed. People remembered the color fondly, talked about the days when it existed, tried to describe it to their children, but over time the color turned into memory.

Vierge was gone.

III. Huetech RLX System

TEST PROCEDURE

1. Let cassette sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
2. Remove the cassette from its pouch holding by sides only. Put cassette on flat surface.

NOTE: Gloves should be worn when working with blood samples.

3. Use a MiniFlick™ pipette and tip to place blood into the cassette. Whole blood should be at room temperature for testing. Mix all samples by inverting gently 7-8 times before testing.

NOTE: Do not use tube with any other additives because it may cause poor results.

4. Place blood into the cassette within 8 minutes of collection.

NOTE: Blood from the fingerstick should flow freely. Too much squeezing of the finger may cause poor results.

5. Cassettes must be stored in the sealed foil pouches. Place cassettes in the refrigerator after receipt.
6. Do not use a cassette beyond its expiration date.
7. Do not reuse cassettes.

PRECAUTION: All blood samples and containers, capillary tubes, and materials that have come in contact with blood should be handled as if capable of transmitting infectious disease and discarded into a biohazard waste container after use.

IV. Rebirth

I wish I had been the one to see her first. Maybe then the world would be different. I wouldn’t have told anyone and she would be mine. If I hadn’t been behind the laboratory doors, perhaps I’d have stood a chance.

“How did you hide it all this time?”

“I didn’t,” she said, holding her hand out to me. “No one noticed.” My heart.

I loved her instantly: her soft wide nose, her thick down-turned lips. That she went by Pam instead of Pamela. She didn’t look at me as I took her hand, her dark skin rich and velvety against my veiny skim milk.

“This won’t hurt much.”

She said she’d always been that way. No one had ever been right there when it happened. A prick of a thorn, a sliver of skin. It only lasted a few seconds before the magnetic hue turned to bright red and then the familiar dull reddish brown we were used to seeing in our own scabs. Maybe she had inattentive parents or maybe they kept it under wraps. But no one claimed to have seen her blood before that day in the chrysanthemum bed.

She’d worked as a potter in public parks. It was her job to take new seedlings out of their plastic containers and nudge them into even rows of fresh soil. She told me her gardening partner flinched when he saw it. A broken piece of plastic tore her skin and Vierge spilled from her finger and he took her hand and kissed it. She pulled away and the blood changed to red. Being exposed to the planet’s air seemed to make the color turn. But the split-second of witnessing Vierge burned into the backs of his eyes and deeper into the folds of his mind where treasure is stored. He was ten years older than her and remembered Vierge from his childhood like I did. She was in her 20s so she’d only heard about it. People didn’t talk much about it anymore. It was the Great Disappointment of our times.

He asked her out to dinner, to movies, to plays. He talked to her softly in the park gardens. He brought her a rare kind of flower. But she wasn’t interested in him. He began making threats, saying he’d contact the authorities. And one day he did. He took her by the wrist and chained her to his own and walked down to the station. No one believed him. He thought not. But he was prepared. He took a knife and made a little slit.

* * *

I slid the pipette in and out in a smooth motion and snapped the sample in the cassette to store with the rest. The fluorescent light made her ragged afro shine yellow-green. I swallowed.

“Are we done?”

Inside my head, I screamed no. No, we are just getting started. There are worlds to share, galaxies to explore within each other. My skin pricked with the heat of possibility. But the words stayed within my body and she left the lab with only a thin plastic bandage around her finger, the “flesh tone” strip contrasting against her gleaming skin.

I wasn’t the first to see her. She came to me later in the process, after she’d been poked and prodded and hardly had an unmarked inch of skin on her body. If only her tears had Vierge in them—¬she’d given them her fill of those. But when she came to me, she was all dried out. Her blood was still strong but her heart had grown a thick casing to protect its weakened state. I was the last phase of her suffering. They’d devised a tool to extract the blood and preserve it, but they were still unable to reproduce the color. All their methods from the previous Vierge time had failed. There were no billboards or cars or hair with the new hue. Only small samples of this woman’s blood in tiny refrigerated vials.

No one knew what to do and the story leaked out. Not only had the color returned, but there was a new blood type. And if one person had it, maybe there were others. The fingerprick ensured a quick and relatively painless test to check blood for abnormal hues. There were people who tested newborns. I got to test her. Everyday. For over a year.

She was nice to me, considering what she’d been through. She would hold her hand out as if asking me to take it and press it to my lips. And I wanted to. But then she’d say, “Which finger today?” and sit on the stark metal chair and look away. She didn’t like the site of her own blood.

V. Wheel of Fortune

Everything is heightened at twilight. This island, this bench. As she approaches, a wavy blur in the distance, a boy from the Ogon Fairgrounds drifts near me, his face smeared with pink and blue cotton candy threads. My mind’s eye zooms in to the sugary fibers and closer, still, to the molecular structure of sucrose, and I think for a moment about the geometry of nature. I try to remember anything natural with hard lines and square angles but all I can see are spheres and the oblong, amoeba shapes that exist in all things organic. The only perfect cubes and triangles and six-pointed shards I can find in nature are those within the mineral level: sugar, salt, crystals. Sure, there must be others. Mankind can’t be the only party obsessed with boxes. But while my eyes remain blurred on the blue and pink sugar trail, I wonder why it is that these grains are so small. While mankind builds skyscrapers and big screens, nature keeps her hard lines confined to tiny cubes or shards of minerals hidden in caves and mountains. I zoom out and my eyes re-focus to see the boy licking his sweetened lips.

He spins a wheel in his small hands, concentrating on the sparks. It’s an old toy, metal and slightly bent. It reminds me of one I had around his age and I wonder where he got it. I didn’t know they still made metal toys. Now it’s all plastic and foam and plush fake-furred stuff. Back then it was tin and aluminum with wind-up backs and hand-cranked keys and handles. There were mostly cars and trains and robots but this one was none of these things. It wasn’t attempting to imitate its larger counterparts, but rather to serve as a complete, whole device strictly for the amusement of the child.

The boy holds the stick between his awkward middle and forefingers and pumps the lever with his thumb making the wheel spin fast, then slow, then fast again. The wheel serves two purposes: to look pretty and to protect him from the underlying sparks. It is aluminum with windows of red and blue cellophane. Tiny sparks burst behind the spinning wheel, making red and blue fire. It isn’t enough to cause any damage, but the potential is always there. What would happen if a finger was thrust behind the protective walls of the wheel? There is something magical about this dangerous firecracker light.

I, too, am mesmerized by the toy and yank it from him, from this boy, this child. I pump the wheel fast and my eyes glaze in a meditative trance. He looks at me as if to cry, then runs away. She is here, ready to spill.

VI. Instructions for Extinguishing

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Hold upright. Pull ring pin.
2. Start back 8 feet. Aim at base of fire.
3. Squeeze lever. Sweep side to side.

RULE: Aim the extinguisher nozzle at the base or seat of a fire for most effective extinguishing.

NOTE: Do not fight a fire not worth fighting.

LIQUID FIRES:

  • NEVER THROW WATER ON A LIQUID FIRE. Water does not mix with oil, and thus water goes underneath it. It then boils and becomes steam very quickly. Since the water is on the bottom of the oil, as it evaporates it sprays hot, burning oil in every direction. This then spreads the fire and usually leaves you unconscious.
  • TO STOP A LIQUID FIRE you must:
    • Use a safety blanket and smother the fire. Use this only if the fire is small enough for you to cover.
    • Use a fire extinguisher. Remember to read the instructions very carefully. If the extinguisher instructs you to not use it on a liquid or chemical fire, do not use it.

ORGANIC FIRES:

  • ORGANIC FIRES are the most common fires and must be dealt with quickly. The easiest ways to stop an organic fire in its initial stages is to:
    • Use lots of water. This is the best and quickest solution in the early stages.
    • Use a safety blanket. Remember to cover the fire completely and wait ten minutes.
    • Use a fire extinguisher. REMEMBER: only use a fire extinguisher on a fire if it is meant for it, if the instructions instruct to not use on certain fires, DON’T.

GAS FIRES:

  • GAS FIRES are the most dangerous fires. With high chances of explosion, you must always call the fire brigade in any gas fire or threat.

NOTE: If you suspect that the fire contains both liquid and gas, contact the fire brigade.

NOTE: If you are unsure whether the fire is liquid, organic, or gas, contact the fire brigade.

NOTE: If you have been knocked unconscious due to the spreading of fire, have someone contact the fire brigade on your behalf.

NOTE: Do not fight a fire not worth fighting.

VII. The Shield

I was one of twelve people who had seen Vierge since its disappearance over forty years prior. I wouldn’t say I was mesmerized. Or entranced. Or giddy. How to describe love at first site? Others have tried and done a better job than me. Poets, philosophers, romantics. I was just a scientist. I wished her blood was normal, mediocre red like mine, maybe then I could have stood a chance. But as it was, she could have anyone. And she did.

After a year of testing, they set her free. Dr. Head decided she’d been poked enough. They had gotten all the information they could. They would study their results but there was nothing more that she could do for them. This didn’t stop the men from wooing her, courting her. And the women too. They would take her to lunch and get pedicures and hope the sharp tools would slip. Who’s to say which came first? Did the color make her insides glow and leak pure radiance out her veins or did her purity transform her blood into magic?

And then she chose him. Ten years younger than her, a boy, really. So innocent, like her insides. He was so humble and normal it was sickening. I would’ve rather her pick Dr. Head who set her free. Or a rock star. Or the President of the United States. At least then I would’ve known there was no chance for me. But this guy. I could’ve been this guy. He was even white. I was painfully close and as far away as I’d ever been.

It didn’t take long for her to become pregnant. I didn’t want to see the pictures in the papers, didn’t want to know. The media and her fans wondered if her child would have Vierge blood. But Pam wouldn’t even reveal the gender of her child (though most thought that it was a girl), let alone the blood type.

I dreamt about Pam and her daughter for 27 years. Her child’s blood would be blessed, I could already see it. The master race would form with her as their queen. Infant suitors were already lining up to procreate with the child in hopes of Vierge-blooded offspring. She would have to have many children, all with different fathers to increase the odds. Still no one knew what caused Vierge to be. And Pam would be forced to stand on the sidelines as her daughter was raped and I would go to her. I would don my lab coat and rescue her and the child from their prisons.

But Pam was gone and hidden from the public, hidden from me, and the lab was cold and stark, the fluorescent lights boring into my soul. There was no meaningful work for me to do. The Vierge laboratory kept testing newborns but I didn’t want a part of it. I quit.

And she was far from me, finished with being prodded and interrogated. She kept her family sheltered and didn’t allow people with questions into her life, let alone the very man who had needled her for a solid year.

I remember our last encounter. It was in the parking lot outside of the laboratory just before dusk and the sky cast a bronze-red shimmer. I followed her toward the idling car that was waiting for her.

She turned toward me, as if sensing my presence and said, “What are you going to do with all my blood?”

The expression on her face was one of true puzzlement. After all this time, the fine lines around her eyes had grown deeper and she still wasn’t any closer to an understanding. I searched through my mental files for something to comfort her, something to give her peace.

I said, “We will preserve it, document it for future generations. There are still people who’ve never seen Vierge. You’ve been of great help to us—to the world.”

She looked at me briefly, then at the setting sun shining gold on her black skin. The car’s engine revved and she was swallowed into the passenger side. From the back window, I thought I saw the head of a young girl peeking out.

I neglected to confess about the vial of her blood that I kept in the back of my refrigerator at home. I loved her and she didn’t love me.

And then.

And then the other side of the world turned over. It was winter and somewhere in the snowy depths of a Russian wasteland: a howl. A new color, different from the first. This one just as spectacular, maybe even more so. And there was plenty of the new color to go around—it was erupting from volcanoes.

They called it Ogon, the Russian word for “fire.” Indeed, it was like staring into flames, warping and melting before our eyes. Just like with the original Vierge sightings, Ogon had been spotted on different parts of the planet simultaneously and the Hawaiian underwater volcanoes were full of it. If Vierge was beauty and all that was liquid purity, Ogon was the soft flame of clean fuel, powerful and energetic, yet with a pure stillness to it. Again, it defied scientific explanation, and again, people flocked to be near it.

I grew tired of theories and predictions. I followed the progress of Ogon but cared less about how and why it worked and more about what could be done with it. Already they were harvesting it and creating simple batteries to store its energy. It wouldn’t be long before they released the first Ogon-powered vehicles and erected Ogon-run homes. The progress was good but tiresome, bogged down by the archaic scientific method. Who could predict when the next wind would blow or which direction a new river would turn? Why did the branch choose to grow and curve at one precise spot over another? There are some things that have to be accepted.

Three years after Ogon’s discovery, I got an idea. I stared into my Ogon fireplace, mesmerized by the melting lava flames and I thought that together, the two colors could help to reshape the planet. If the internal Vierge blood was forged with the external Ogon fire, something miraculous might happen. Scientists said there would be an explosion of catastrophic nature, but I didn’t believe them. I just had a feeling.

I took the vial of blood I’d kept in my refrigerator for so long and went to Hawaii where most of Ogon was being extracted from underwater volcanoes through giant needles. I’d seen pictures of the deep trenches of the Pacific where Ogon squirmed out and turned to the familiar orange molten glow, only to be cooled instantly by salt water. Deeper, still, where sunlight was a dream yet to be comprehended, there lived other creatures. Most aquatic life was transparent, invisible in the black ocean backdrop. But some sported vibrant lit-up gills or phosphorescent skeletons or glowing sequined skin. I marveled at how such otherworldly life forms could have evolved in the depths of our own planet. As I learned about their neon tentacles and nautical light-sticks igniting in their inky habitat, I was reminded of seeing Vierge and Ogon for the first time. There was a sense of awe and wonder and with that, a kind of respect that resembled fear. I studied these underwater terrains for months before deciding to go above land with the vial.

There was only one known Ogon volcano above water. I didn’t have anyone to stop me. My actions bore no consequences.

It took half a day to climb to the summit of the smoking volcano. I put one drop in the lava fire and created an explosion which turned into the magic of The Shield. No one ever asked me where I got the blood.

VIII. Periodical

Scientist Discovers New Healing Color Combo

KOHALA, HAWAII – Dr. Royal G. Belmont, a former Vierge Fingerstick Tester, was taken to the emergency room last week after performing a controversial experiment involving the mixing of Vierge blood with Ogon lava. The experiment resulted in an explosion spanning approximately 100 meters. Belmont, who was only wearing safety goggles and his former lab uniform, appeared to suffer from third-degree burns on 80% of his body. However, after spending just one week in the hospital, his wounds have healed rapidly and many doctors are saying his health is better now than ever.

“It’s a miracle,” said Dr. Head of Vierge Laboratories. “We knew Vierge and Ogon were powerful on their own, but they have such different properties—like oil and water—we never thought combining them was an option. Dr. Belmont has proved us wrong.”

Dr. Belmont, age 64, reports that he feels more energetic and previous ailments have disappeared. He does not claim to have found a miracle cure, but rather, a “salve to aid in healing.”

Already the general public has sent numerous inquiries to Dr. Belmont and lines have formed outside his hospital room in attempt to be first to sample this new Vierge/Ogon phenomenon. However, Dr. Belmont has discouraged visitors and with no surviving family members, claims to only want to see one person: a woman by the name of Pamela Johnson, one of the first people to reveal Vierge blood during the Rebirth almost thirty years ago. It has since been determined, however, that Mrs. Johnson has been deceased for two years.

IX. Refuge

Infants were checked for Vierge blood world-wide at birth. It was found in less than .003% of newborns. If they tested positive, they were asked to come back every year once they were of legal age to donate blood. It was considered an honor to give Vierge blood and the government paid well. So while the blood was still the rarest of rare, it wasn’t extinct and only a few drops were needed per ton of Ogon lava to create The Shield.

After I stumbled down the volcano and was carried to the hospital, the doctors found shards of glowing obsidian wedged in the cuffs and folds of what was left of my clothing. Reminiscent of prehistoric mosquitoes trapped in drops of amber, they found traces of Vierge blood suspended in the cooled Ogon lava glass. This charged obsidian was the tangible counterpart to The Shield.

The marketplace exploded. Spiritualists put aside their quartz crystals and healing gemstones and proclaimed we were living in the Post New Age where peace and wellbeing were on the rise. They donned the new Vierge/Ogon-charged obsidian around their necks, fingers, waists, ankles, encircled their homes and work stations and vehicles. The word spread and people seemed to be less hostile toward each other and longevity increased. But this did nothing for the missed connection of two souls. The spirit’s journey was still the same. Improved health and safety did not obliterate suffering, searching, or the constant feeling that something was missing.

Charged obsidian was harvested, farmed, and yet more testing was done. Nothing had been proven, only the results were known and seen. They couldn’t leave it alone, could just accept, they had to pick everything apart. But I was through with testing. The Vierge/Ogon explosion was my last experiment. I moved to Hawaii permanently and watched as they built the Ogon Fairgrounds as a kind of commercial tribute to the phenomenon. There you could buy Ogon-colored saltwater taffy and ride the Ogon Volcano Float but I preferred to watch from across the shore and gaze at the lights from the Earth’s rainbow glowing in twilight.

Pam was considered the first of the Viergees during the Rebirth and once she was free from the laboratory, she fell into the clutches of the media. But she held strong. She wouldn’t allow her child to be tested, but that didn’t stop people from trying to find out. She had the birth at home with only her husband to help her through the delivery. She kept the child under wraps, wouldn’t give interviews or allow photographs. Tabloids said the girl had Vierge blood. Attempts were made to break into the house and prove it. But Pam put all her effort into securing her child and as time went on, the attempts lessened until most had forgotten about this mysterious child if, indeed, there ever had been one.

My burns disappeared within two weeks of the explosion. Doctors said it was as if once the burns healed, it created a “shield of protection” against disease and aging. Charged obsidian was coveted as an added force field against harm. I was made famous almost overnight and was awarded with metals and large sums of money. I received letters of praise and thanks and invitations to corporate events and strangers’ homes. But I was more alone than ever, knowing Pam was dead.

X. True Blood

The boy snaps his metal firecracker wheel and edges closer. I snatch the wheel from him and pump it fast, sparks flying. The boy looks as me as if to cry and I push him away with the force of my stare.

It is twilight when Crystal comes to sit with me on the bench facing the water, facing the fairgrounds. She must be in her 40s now. She looks only vaguely like her mother, but her mannerisms are the same. She sits with her legs uncrossed but pressed together and her hands rest lightly on her lap, as if waiting to be plucked and kissed.

“Why have you come here?”

“We have something in common,” she says. “She didn’t love us the way we loved her.”

I shake my head and run my fingers over my rough face. “She didn’t have to love us. She was love. She had it circulating through her veins.”

She looks down at her lap and laces her fingers. “She ignored me.”

“She protected you,” I say. I flick the wheel, spinning it into a hazy purple blur. “The media would’ve devoured you. Whatever the color of your blood, they would’ve drained you until you were sucked dry. Pam shielded you from their siphons.”

“No.” She is quiet for awhile. “She didn’t want anything to do with me or my father. Everyday she sat underneath a tree and stared out over the hillside. Or sat by the brook and listened to the water rush. She wanted to be left alone.”

I can’t help but wish Pam had been pining for me even though I know it isn’t true. Crystal continues with her story, but it is hard to follow. There is so much missing information and the summary of the past can never do itself justice. It’s like trying to explain colors to the blind. She tells me what happened but I can’t hear her properly. Something about Pam walking into the night and never coming back.

Her voice gets tangled in the water and lights. The sun dips down and I forget to pay attention. She grabs my hand and forces me to look at her, her eyes, ignited charcoal embers. There is something she knows that I don’t. Something she is trying to tell me. Her mouth opens wide as if to form a scream but no sound escapes. She jolts back and her head shakes and she lets go of my hand. Her lips curl downward. I catch her spark and my ears turn on to hear her screaming. She points to me and I look down. My fingers are sliced with red. The innards of the wheel have caught my flesh. The blood flows freely for several moments, then begins to freeze.

Twilight definitely has a look, but does it have a sound? I could say it sounds like the faint turning of the Ferris wheel in the distance. Or the wavering line of the shore sloshing over the black lava rocks. But she might say it sounds like a man’s heart leaving his body for the first time, sprouting wings and beating over the sand like webbed fingers paddling through water, over the molten fiery river, into the peak of the rupture, and down the hollow into the churning liquid fire of the volcano.

Some people think color is just personal preference, like wearing a particular style of denim jeans. But I have felt their energetic properties and I know their hidden powers. They can lock themselves inside, deep within your ribcage, deeper, in the folds of your skin, in the cracks of your brain, deeper, in the twines of your intestines, in the shadows of your cells, in the spaces between thoughts. They can make your arteries speak, give voice to the mind of your guts until you are out of breath with the realization of possibility. Imagine if everyone wore the same color on the same day. What would that do to the energy of the planet?

“I want to show you,” she says and I shake my head. After all these years, what does it matter. But a fire burns in her eyes and before I can stop her, she pricks her finger with a pointed seashell. I close my eyes, not wanting to see, not wanting to know the truth about her blood.

The boy’s toy wheel is still in my hand and I drop it to the ground. My wound is already closing. This is what The Shield can do. The bleeding has stopped and there are only droplets of red/brown on my hand.
She pricks her finger and it bleeds. Red. “AB negative,” she says. “It used to be the rarest blood type.”
I catch my breath and our eyes meet with our hands, the blood mixing with the sun gone and twilight rising. We are the same.

“Are you disappointed?” she says. Her tears are cloudy with salt. Colorless.

I shake my head and press my thumb to her wound and her wound to my lips. “I’m ecstatic.”

We walk, and then sail together in an orange peddle-boat to the island which holds the Ogon Fairgrounds. From the boat, we watch the colored lights blink and pop against the twilight sky fading into night, and somewhere in the deep ocean trenches the phosphorescent fish buzz with their own private lightshows. And deeper still, in the blackest parts of the planet, all probability says there are more phenomena that await our discovery. And I can feel those who are restless for them, but I am not one of the seekers. This time, I am content.

Now, near the bubbling pool of lava, I feed her cotton candy and adorn her with charged obsidian jewels, not to protect her, but because she says they remind her of me. She smiles, her mouth a smear of pink and blue, and for once, I put the past and the future aside. Our hands touch. The wound on her finger has formed a scab, the familiar dark reddish brown which I call Crystal.