BY ROTEM LITINSKI
Her name was Violet, and everyone hated her. Despised her-to the point of utter and empty disgust. She would walk timidly, conform submissively to the public image of her. She didn’t show any care-which was convenient, for there would be no room for her to care otherwise- and tried her best to inhibit emotion. Violet was the reject who lived off the unwanted societal scraps. The girl whose parents were too ashamed to reveal themselves and the child who was forced to grow up all at once, yet not at all. Ignored by all that nurtured, neglected by all with the exception of abhorrence directed at her very existence, she learned to choose flight time after time, after realizing that it would never be her place to so much as entertain the flight option. She was Violet, but she might as well have been dead.
I woke up that morning entangled in my blue sheets. My rapid panting was alleviated only by the forced reminder that it was all a dream. Calm down Cyan… calm down. There is no fire. There this feeling that I get directly upon awakening-a temporary paralysis, almost, that creeps up and alerts me to my surroundings with its tangs and spikes. Most find it an annoyance, but it ushers in that soothing coldness I identify with. My contemplation was interrupted by a call from downstairs, and just like that, I was brought back down to earth.
“Breakfast Cyan! Call your sister!”
Saturday was my favorite day because of the breakfast mom made. It became something of a tradition, after my sister and I persistently begged mom to make pancakes despite the fact that the meal directly conflicted with her no-starch diet. Saph and I were entrusted with the utmost of responsibilities: collecting the blueberries from the garden, and I am proud to say that we deliver with expertise each time… though quickly we do not. I am the hands of the experiment while Saph is the mouth and most of the time, we end up working for hours beyond our projected time frame because magically all of our blueberries disappear the moment Saph takes hold of the basket.
The swirling aroma of the cakes enticed me to walk blindly all the way to the kitchen. I was so hypnotized that upon stumbling over a series of azure drapery, I barely noticed how blatantly I was eavesdropping. I stopped in my tracks once I overheard that hushed tone he employed-my dad never uses that tone. It was quivering, but not from fright or terror. It employed an anger and frustration I was not used to. Evidently, my mom was not used to it either, because it heightened the atmosphere of their conversation so much so that she began to tear.
“Don’t they know they are not welcome here?” He boomed, his voice escalating steadfastly.
“They’re the Reds, it doesn’t matter to them…”
“I swear to you the next time they show their faces on our side I’ll-” mother seized his arm once she caught sight of me behind the door.
“Honey, go call Sapphire, we have pancakes ready,” she said to my father as she winked at me. I walked in, tense and tight, and she gave me that morning hug.
I was used to these cautioned conversations by now with the attacks and injury rates escalating. I have tried to wrap my mind around it, but I always come down to the same question: When will they stop terrorizing us? The conversations may have become a regular conversational motif dignified in the quiet corners of our house, but I don’t think I ever got used to them, even when the situation got worse.
I walked up to mama, slowly and nonchalant, as if I heard nothing. She was her warm self again-you could tell by her embrace.
“Cy you look a bit pale today, are you feeling all right?” I stared at my reflection in the mirror to see if the fright from witnessing the scene before trailed onto my expression now. Nope, just as blue as always.
“Mom, I’m fine, you’ve got to stop being so paranoid.”
“Maybe,” she grinned, kissing my forehead. “Now, where is that girl… Sapphire! Come down honey, Cyan is eating all your pancakes!”
The breeze carried me home on my side of the street. It felt good brushing against my neck. My mind was usually so disparate on my walks home, trailing from topic to topic as I made my way back to our fire-brick house. I love that house-it keeps me warm. Warmth is really all that everyone needs-that and Ruby’s strawberry Sunday Sorbet. I have never moved all my life, so I guess one could say I have been pretty exposed to the same things. You wake up-always late in my case-and take the breakfast mama made you to go so that you don’t miss the bus that leaves Rosewood Street at 7:45. You walk into class and after our daily loyalty pledge, class starts.Then you come home to the echoing voice of the newscasters bouncing off the walls, revealing yet another attack, another brawl. Nothing really changes within this small bubble, though that is not to say nothing disrupts our patterned lives. When will they stop terrorizing us?
Mama is always glued to the screen, rocking baby Rose on her hip while Grandma complains about how we need more coals for the fireplace and entertains her constant urgings for more Venetian quilts. Still, that house always seemed to keep us calm when nothing else seemed like it could. The constant aroma of freshly baked bread beautifully dressed on its conventional crimson platter teased me when I walked through the door. It was picturesque really, that house. With its scarlet painted cabinets and complementary drapery, coupled with Grandma’s scattered quilts everywhere, it may have been mistaken with some picture in a magazine. That is, if you were successful in drowning out the rumbling of the newscaster’s voice in the background of the scene.
I took a deep breath, knowing that the sweetness of the air would remedy any negative lingering thoughts. I tried to occupy myself thinking about what I would eat for dinner that night, or how I would manage to wiggle out of my homework assignment by purposefully feeding it to a stray dog. My contemplations were successful for the most part, until I saw her…until I saw it on the opposite side of the street. I had never come so close to one of them before; I’ve been taught that it was safest to hate them from afar.
I feel sick when I look at them, think of them. Those things. They’re not people really-they can barely be identified as beings. At least, that is what I am told and what I have been raised to believe, not that I negate any single part of it. Mama always warned me of them and I’m old enough to comprehend now that it’s their fault Paps is gone.
He went missing three years ago during the war. The thing is, you never really believe that it’ll happen to you- that death will be creeping on your door. The strange part was that the week before the news was delivered to us was plagued by a constant string of nightmares. Scenes of floods, flashes of drowning victims, and constant dreary winter days enveloped by the coldest and rainiest of times marked my nights. I knew something was wrong by the third dream. It reached the point where I refused to sleep. With me, though, when I don’t sleep, I think; it’s my outlet and my companion when I have nothing else to retreat to. I thought a lot about Paps that night. About how he would throw me in the air when I was younger and how though I always feared I would fall, his promise to catch me never faltered. I thought about how long I hadn’t heard his voice, or really anything about him for that matter. My greatest contemplation drew on the underlying thought that was obliterated from all house discussions: if he would ever come back. I knew Mama tried to convince herself every day that he would. But that was Mama, optimistic Mama. Her romantics had the stroke of an idealist’s, which left a gaping arena for the naturalists and the realists, which was where I came in. I knew in the back of my mind that there was a chance I wouldn’t see him again. I would never be thrown in the air again, nor would I get to see him throw Rose and Ruby. My thoughts grew dark then, complementing in the ink blackness of the night. It’s their fault he’s gone…their fault we are so misunderstood. It’s their fault I can’t stand the color blue…
Altogether, the atmosphere changed. I was no longer enjoying my walk home, and I could no longer trail from topic to topic-only one. I swallowed hard, and continued walking. She is not worth your time, Amaranth. She’s not worth your time…
And that was how they lived, these people. They were fueled off sectional pride and indifference toward the “oppressor”-toward the Opposite. The world seemed to be entirely focused on how to mobilize and how to inhibit the mass attacks incited by both sides. The reincarnation of another Great War seemed inevitable with the cause of conflict and the motive for murder deeply seeded in even the minds of the children. The pandemic affected everyone, yet no scientist, no global economist, leader, psychologist or scientist knew how to classify it. We know it as hate, they knew it as life.
And that was how they liked to live. That became how they knew to live. Their worlds were separated down to the sides of the street, yet somehow, life went on.
Amaranth looked up at the board then down at his paper, writing down April 7th, 2045 neatly at the top right hand corner. He had bubbled in the first answer to his test only to be disrupted by a howling alarm on the loudspeaker, indicating the utmost of emergencies. All students were forced to concentrate in the big field, Reds and Blues alike, though obviously on opposite sides of the field. Simply upon being called into the same area, shouts and screams cried out, cursing their Opposite. The uproar was silenced then: “All students will be sent home immediately. School is cancelled for the remainder of the day. Dismissed.”
A wave of confusion enveloped the crowd of students, quickly evacuating the field. Cyan recalled the entire scene to her mother upon her arrival at home, whose concern only escalated.
“You don’t understand Mom, it was so strange. It was not a planned evacuation, and we haven’t heard anything on the news all day and-”
“Hush, Cyan, hush!” her mother urged, her brow furrowing as she took a deep breath and took her daughter’s small hand. “Baby, they found a Coalescent today..”
“A Coalescent…” I whispered, awestricken. We had read about those in our history books, but they seemed more of a tale, a myth really, never nearing the realm of reality. The Coalescents were almost as hated by the whole of society as the Reds were to us. Our elders liked to explain that the Coalescents were a danger to the infrastructure and to the totality of the system, but I knew that it was really because nobody could tolerate a Coalescent-a mix of a red and a blue. Nobody could wrap their mind around how one could love an Opposite or be so plagued by treachery as to bring a Coalescent into the world.
“A Coalescent?” I echoed. “How did they find it? What are they going to do to it?”
“We don’t know my love, we don’t know.”
Her name was Violet, and everyone hated her. Despised her-to the point of utter and empty disgust. She was a Coalescent and she was a monster. Soon, she became the face of the new war. The one that somehow repositioned the hate that fueled the Opposites away from each other and toward her. It was funny how their hate kept their world spinning. If they didn’t hate each other, they had to hate something else-and what better subject to hate than a mixture of themselves. What better to despise than the Coalescent that reminded them of the ugliness of their own existence?