Friday, April 12, 2013

Story Extract: The Novel Color

He’d been fascinated by colors for as long as he could remember, a trait which had both served him well in his life as a commercial artist but also stymied his efforts to be known by others.  No one had ever understood his childhood obsession with laying out a new box of crayons such that each crayon was side by side with its nearest relative on the spectrum.  Red gave way to oranges and then yellows and then greens and so forth, creating a brilliant rainbow of colored wax on the bedroom carpet.  Still, some of the colors caused difficulty when it came time to place them.  Where did pink fit into the spectrum, for example, or peach or gray?  The metallic crayons presented an especially tricky problem, but so did basic white and black, as well as the vaguer, more tertiary shades.  He’d asked his parents about it more than once, at times when his fixation was so persistent that he could not finish his dinner or study or engage in any other form of conversation.  In such moments his father hid himself behind the evening paper while his mother, with her kind and worried eyes, stroked his hair and tried to change the subject.

Eventually he decided that his straight line configuration was not sufficient to accommodate the crayon spectrum’s complexity.  Over time he refashioned the layout into a sort of cross shape, but with multiple horizontal bars, in order to allow for branching paths.  Even the modified cross failed to fulfill his purpose, however, and it eventually gave way to a many-pointed star, and finally a multi-strand Mobius loop where colors branched away from one another but then came together again.  Red could lead to orange but also to pink and brown.  Orange could bleed into yellow but also peach, which in turn connected back to brown.  Teal could fall between green and blue but also touch violet by way of intermediates like periwinkle.  This delighted him to no end, and he altered the layout often.  He was convinced that there was a singular right way, an ideal way of arranging the colors to make them whole, and he was determined to find it.

By high school he had taken to calling his project the Wheel, though the name was only voiced within his private thoughts.  He saw it as the ultimate expression of what fascinated him.  It was like a god over lesser color wheels, which were imperfect forms developed by those who were free of his eccentric yet wonderful compulsion.  He loved the Wheel, and meditating on it was akin to a religious experience for him.  The concept never left him, though he outgrew the need to lay out crayons, instead using graphics software to create virtual Wheels.  And, as he grew older, he also became more adept at keeping his thoughts on the subject to himself.

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