This week over at terribleminds.com the bearded overlord has paint colors on the mind and has provided the following challenge:
I’m going to list ten paint colors. Choose one. This chosen paint color forms the title to your story.
Bonus challenge: try to make color a big part of the story. In imagery, plot, character, whatever.
So I picked my color and did what I could with it. These challenges always come with a 1000 word limit and this week I’m coming in at 994. I’m not sure this is a story really. It feels more like a scene, but I’ll let you decide for yourselves. Please feel free to leave comments and criticism below.
Carmen Solana followed the funeral director into the cream-colored chamber with its seamless, curved walls and was startled to find it already occupied. The director, Mr. Perkins, noticed Carmen’s surprise immediately.
“I’m sorry sir,” he said. “Clients do sometimes find a grief channeler’s appearance startling at first. I should have warned you.”
“No, it’s all right. I just didn’t realize we would need a, uh, channeler’s services just yet,” said Carmen
“Oh yes, I’m afraid so. The service details would be impossible to arrange otherwise. Please have a seat and we can begin,” said Mr. Perkins.
Carmen looked from the director to the grief channeler and took the lone chair in the room. The director wore a sedate, somber charcoal suit of the highest quality, and a small smile that was almost not there. The grief channeler, on the other hand, wore voluminous robes of black and a featureless mask of white. He (or was it she? or perhaps it?) presented such a stark contrast to the neutral walls of the room that it almost hurt to look at him (Her? It?). Carmen tried to comfortably rest his hands in his lap but found he kept moving them, trying new placements throughout the interview.
“The first question then, Mr. Solana, is when did your father pass away and when would you like the service to be?” asked Mr. Perkins.
“Well, actually, he’s not dead yet. They’ve scheduled his execution for Friday. I think the service should be as soon after as possible. Saturday,” replied Carmen.
“I see. Very wise of you to plan ahead. Saturday will be no problem. Do you expect a large gathering? This room is but an example; we have various sizes available to meet your needs.”
“I doubt it. I mean, probably not many people will be there, but we should have something. I mean, that’s what we’re supposed to do, right?”
“Of course sir. Let’s assume a room of this size then. It is perfect for a small gathering but can comfortably hold more than you might expect. Now we come to a very serious issue,” said Mr. Perkins. He waited a moment before continuing. “Do you feel you will be able to direct the service yourself, or will you require a surrogate?”
Carmen stole a glance at the grief channeler and then fixed his vision on a point of the floor a couple of feet in front of where he was sitting. “I don’t think I can do it.”
“A common feeling, I assure you sir,” said Mr. Perkins. “Still, it is usually best for someone in your position to try an expression of grief at this time. It can help give the surrogate, a role I’m happy to perform for you, valuable information on the proper way to conduct the service.”
Carmen looked at the robed and masked channeler again and realized he hadn’t moved in any way since Carmen and the director had entered the chamber. He swallowed and nodded to Mr. Perkins. “Ok. I’ll try,” he said.
“Very good sir. You just need to allow yourself to feel your personal sense of loss. Focus on that feeling and then imagine yourself sending it to your grief channeler in the form of a beam of light traveling from your forehead to the channeler’s.”
Carmen started to break down the walls he had built up about his father’s life and its imminent end. He let those walled up feelings free and grabbed them firmly with his mind. He took a deep breath and then looked at the channeler’s mask and tried to stare a hole through the space between its eyes, tried to borrow through it with that imaginary beam of light. Nothing seemed to be happening and Carmen thought he must be doing something wrong. He started to look away, to look back to the director, when the channeler moved at last. His robed arm shot up, his hand revealed in the rigid, universal sign for stop. Carmen did stop. He didn’t think he could move if he wanted to and beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. For a minute, maybe two, they stayed frozen in their respective poses and then Carmen felt released. He leaned back in his chair, breathing hard, and realized the chamber had changed.
The walls were the color of sun-bleached bones and mottled with little black lines that looked like cracks. Splotches of dark red had appeared on the floor and harsh chords sounded in the air like an angry attack. Carmen covered his ears and looked at the funeral director.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “This is terrible. I’m…ashamed,” he said.
Mr. Perkins maintained his tight smile and appeared unperturbed by the sights and sounds his client had conjured up. “There is nothing to be ashamed of Mr. Solana,” he said. Looking at the grief channeler he made a small movement with his hand and in an instant the room returned to its original quiet and neutral state.
“My father killed six people. He said he wished it had been sixty,” said Carmen.
“I see. Well, these things will happen from time to time,” said Mr. Perkins, still smiling. He started walking around the room and appeared to be considering something. Finally he stopped and said to himself, “yes.”
Then Mr. Perkins raised a hand to get the channeler’s attention and looked straight into the mask. Within seconds the room took on a pale violet color and quiet, slow music murmured in the background.
“We call this color Timeless Lilac. I think perhaps your father would approve of the choice,” said Mr. Perkins.
Carmen looked around the room and nodded. “I think you’re right. Thank you, Mr. Perkins. This is much harder than I thought it would be.”
“I understand, sir. It always is of course. We are happy to help navigate these waters. After all, that is our job,” said the funeral director, his simple, small smile intact.