It was just another gray, cloudy day. The humidity was a little higher than normal, and it was about the time in the early morning when houses begin slowly flitting open their blinds to let the sun in for the day. Newspaper boys had long finished their brief rounds; they had so few targets anymore, anyway. A thick flock of black crows layered the sky in shifting, formless swarms, all presumably searching for a fresh patch of green after another unusually long winter.
At once Rick woke with a start and an unsettled stomach. Still? It had been so the night before, and he’d swallowed enough of those soft little chewy tablets to satisfy a small field of cattle, or so it seemed to him. The stomach felt like it was going to rip him out from the inside. Typical, for him. There was never nothing wrong with everything, and today was no exception. There were more clouds, for instance. There were always clouds, but it never rained. Rick wondered how anything grew here with such dim lighting and scant water. He also felt bad for the next town to the east that was probably underwater every week. Pain or no pain, though, Rick had a presentation at work that day, so he was going to have to either get the knives out or sink them deep enough to keep them from coming out. Neither was very appealing. He threw up.
In the corner of the room above the sink there sat a dark, unlit area where some spider had taken on the task of crafting a massive, brilliant web. From his bent posture over the counter, Rick could see it in full. It was grotesque in nature, and various insects lay imprisoned upon it, exposed like trophies of a poisonous system, bored and awaiting death. Nonetheless, Rick hadn’t the heart to sweep the web away. Despite its eyesore appeal, it was unarguably elegant in its pattern and weave. Besides, it got the job done, clearing out pestilent flies and moths that snuck their way inside. There was something in the mystique of such an intricate pattern that kept a violent hand at bay.
After completing his purging, he faltered for a moment to clear up the ensuing dizziness and lightheadedness from the recent exorcism. Feeling adequate, he walked over and flicked on the TV before heading back to clean up the spillings in the kitchen sink. They were green and red and brown and orange and required his immediate attention. The TV flickered static and buzzed, and then went black.
“Damn it,” mouthed Rick, and he doubled back to turn it on again and absorb some news before work. He fixed the antennae a little bit to make the picture come through clear, and he reached into the closet to grab his one dark suit coat for the day. He must have been the only person in the world that still used a dial TV. He was just fixing his tie when he heard from the background noise:
“...And today, our top story: a scientist, Mark McElroy, claims to have discovered a brand new, never before seen color. Imagine that. He says that, through refraction, prism alignment, and hyperpressured particle diffusion, he’s essentially invented a new color to bring to the world. We’ll have more on that later. But first…”
‘Impossible,’ dismissed Rick, but he was thoroughly interested. He had a long time before his presentation, so he sat down and waited for the news to run its typical cycle through mindless entertainment, human-interest and political sports stories to finally get to the lead story. Once it finally did, he watched intently, practically ready to take notes.
“…McElroy, a leading scientist in the field of color technology, is already being hailed as one of the most important scientists in modern history for his discovery. Unfortunately, we don’t have an image of the color yet, as no press or photography has been let into the laboratory. Of course, it’s difficult to verbally describe a color to a public that hasn’t witnessed it, but reports so far are indicating it is a bright, vibrant, warm color with a very distinct shade. Obviously.” The anchor laughed. “Let us emphasize that this is not merely a new shade of yellow or red or any preexisting element of the rainbow as we know it. It is, we are told, radically different than anything occurring naturally on planet earth. A remarkable fascination…”
‘A hoax. It must be a hoax.’ Rick remembered stories from an entry-level college journalism class, like one in particular of a fecal drug, planted in the media as a joke and spread by gullible outlets to the viewing public as a serious story. It must be a hoax. It must. Rick didn’t want it to be true, for no particular reason other than to secure his grip on a familiar reality. It was a hoax.
Rick turned it over in his mind. He knew he didn’t know any more about modern science than the average person. He knew simply that it was echelons beyond his own understanding. If they can find a planet with life on it, or measure the ages of stars, why couldn’t they have created a new color? Is it really impossible? He couldn’t believe it. The stabbing in his stomach increased. He was going to die, he knew it. The dizziness was thickening now. He stumbled back across the hallway into his bedroom to grab his suitcase. The drapes hugging the window were a paler shade of red than he remembered, and he moved to close them and shut the blinding light out.
It was no use. He wasn’t making it to work today. Still he continued his morning rounds in an attempt to carry out the day as usual. He managed to sloppily shave amidst bouts of vomiting that mixed with the wet hot white shaving cream in the sink. He kept his suit bright and clean, though, as to keep the appearance that nothing was wrong. Nothing was wrong. He wasn’t too sick anyway, just a little under the weather this morning. It was a hoax. He couldn’t go outside looking like a mess. Nothing was wrong.
His blood was on fire. It was boiling in his arteries and freezing in his veins. His heart was screaming and his nerves standing still. The room was spinning, and the colors blurred. Everything was happening at once, and he couldn’t control it. He grabbed more chewy pills and shoved them down his throat. Within a couple of minutes they were forced up. He took more. Rick gritted his teeth and blocked out the pain, as to keep the appearance that nothing was wrong. It was just a hoax, he knew. It was impossible. The pain started to loosen. He couldn’t feel his extremities. At least it didn’t hurt. ‘Yes,’ he thought. There was power in true grit. There was control. He felt the pain leave in waves. Everything was going to be fine. He started thinking about the logistics of his presentation, and how to best impress his boss. He reached for the suitcase by the television and stood up to go. It was a hoax. It had to be. How could there be another color? It was impossible.
Rick stumbled outside and fell down on the lawn. He noticed his grass to be of a sicker shade than normal. He puked. His nerves were exploding. He stood up cautiously, using all of his limited ability. Looking off into a spring haze, he could make out nothing more than a blurry landscape of busy cars, sprawling concrete, and winding sidewalks. There was smoke in the air from the local power plant, or were those more clouds? There was no way to tell. In the reflection of his car window in the driveway, Rick noticed the small splattering of stomach waste on his lapel from his last ejection. ‘Good god,’ he thought. ‘I can’t go to work now.’ He looked like ruin.
He wandered deliriously back inside and clumsily cleared the kitchen table with the sweep of his arm. He felt his organs shutting down. It was impossible. It was simply too much. Rick collapsed upon the floor and reached for the pills on the countertop. He ripped off the plastic-wrap seal and took them all. The pain began to lift. It was just too much. Rick looked up and saw the spider web in the corner again, barely visible despite its intricate weavings. He looked intently as he could at it, his light head weaving back in forth. He searched in vain for some kind of pattern in the web. There were too many strands, and he was too dizzy, and it was too dark anyway. There might as well have been no pattern. He gave up now-colorless puke. There was no pain now. Something was wrong.