The Strange Color Of Love

This was written for a speculative-fiction anthology put together by the editors of Triangulation. The theme was 'the end of the rainbow', and the submission guidelines said, basically, that anything went. So this is what I sent them. They sent me a polite little critique/rejection note that made me wonder if they skimmed it and/or wanted me to take 5000 words to say what I did in 500. Personally, I don't think this would work as a longer piece, not really. You, however, can make up your own mind.

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Innocenzio’s world had color. Most of the colors were some variation of white; off-white, French vanilla, ecru, eggshell, palest taupe. There were a number of browns, too; cocoa powder and milk chocolate and dark chocolate, the red-brown of pecans and the yellower brown of walnuts and the washed-out tan of pine nuts.

The remaining colors, reds and blues and yellows and the colors resulting from combining them, those came in small doses. The bloody slash of raspberries between snowy white layers, for example, or a bright bluebell centered on a small field of buttercup yellow.

No one in Cenzio’s world had ever really spent much time thinking about color, at least not the amount of colors that made up their livelihood. Colors were only important in terms of measuring doneness, or the appeal of certain items, and that was the way it had always been.

That was the way it was, and Cenzio had never questioned it; most likely never would question it. He had too much to think about, too many other pressing concerns; color and its place in the way of things wasn’t ever likely to become a priority.

Cenzio himself was a spare palette: hair the color of goma, black sesame seeds; skin the color of milk with a drop of tea in it; chocolate eyes. His clothing, too, was plain, the houndstooth check of his pants and the black piping at the collar of his white jacket the only nod toward acknowledging that there was something more to clothing than covering up.

While none of that changed, after he met Julian, everyone still told him he was different. Cenzio just ducked his head and tried not to smile, because yes, he was. As he had changed, so had the colors his hands reached for. In spring, he reached for the grey and the blue; in summer, fall, and winter. For Mawlid al-Nabi, Thanksgiving, Easter, the Fourth of July, Bikrami Samvat, Valentine’s day, and Sukkot, he came back to the same combination of a dark grey and a brilliant blue.

The colors went into batches of fondant and marzipan and gum paste, which in turn became salamanders. Dark grey salamanders with blue spots that blazed and glimmered like jewels; salamanders coiled on cupcakes and creeping over cakes; salamanders nestled in tart shells and peeking out from under pie crusts.

He always took one or two home to Julian, who would peer at them—his eyes shimmering the same electric azure as the spots—and sigh.

Some days, Julian would set them aside and tell Cenzio that he appreciated his strange way of showing his affection. Other days, Julian would simply eat them. On those days, Cenzio would smile, kiss his giant salamander on the end of the nose, and think about the next batch.

- Awydd - fiction index -