Dawn had no idea what she was doing, & she figured that was the best way to do it. After all, if she already knew what she was doing, then other people probably already knew, too, & would be doing it already, too; ¿& why do something everyone’s already doing?
So she continued to stir the thick colors together in her plump tin can with her wooden spoon, pouring new colors in here & there while the clouds dripped its own in through the rainbows caged in its raindrops by the sun. All throughout, she whistled with the redjays standing on the thin fingers o’ barren branches.
She knew she was playing with danger, kindling dire fires. Colors could do anything — they were everything: from cinnabar mountains to goldenrod suns, to celadon seas, to cattleya flowers, to cobalt skies, to the rainbow spread ’cross the trees, their leaves smoothly shifting from golden to lime to scarlet.
& there were so many species, too: a whole 16,777,216 o’ so many hues, saturations, & lightness. Mo’ than mere human eyes could spy, which only meant that there were some that could strike ’hind your eyes, camoflauged next to a cousin just a bit off.
’Course, it wasn’t always this way. There were still those peepers who grunted ’bout how back in their day they sufficed with just 64 colors — & only 4 for each person, & people had to share colors with each other. E’en now some people found o’er 16 million colors too many to comprehend in one’s limited memory & would refine the world to 256 or fewer colors. Sometimes you had to play tricks with different colors to turn 256 colors into millions: a tiny drop o’ 1 color here, a tiny drop right next to it, & somehow these 2 drops combine to form a color that wasn’t there.
So if colors were so dangerous, ¿why was she messing round with them so much? ¿Why not settle with cleaner, safer activities, where the colors were carefully contained, like video games, books, or the sand ’neath her feet?
But then… the summer’s been so stale, & summer should ne’er be so stale. After years o’ creeping caution, she felt the burgeoning storm clouds o’ this fall fill her with the urge to venture out into things people weren’t s’posed to, like her habit, as if the specter o’ that mad scientist they kept running into had begun possessing her.
But everything will be OK.
Just so long as nothing tips the paint.
The air was that mix o’ warm & cold that caused one’s back to prickle with golden sunlight & one’s nose to itch with frigid wind.
That’s when Dawn got up & went inside for a cup o’ GellidAid.
Li’l did she know that the squirrel she called “Squirreltle” was watching her from aloft a cottonwood with leaves reddening & scraggly arms — a squirrel whose heart burned to fill this mortar pit with grass.
He scurried down the cottonwood’s dented stomach & leapt to the painted fence round the 3rd floor’s front. From there ’twas only a short skip ’fore he had his tiny mitts ’long the rim o’ that splotched & faded gray paint trap with its tattered label. He could see the colors rumble inside; like a sugar-packed child twitching with overflowing energy, rings formed in & out the surface.
’Twas time to let those rings out for good.
O, good: you did find it.
Dawn opened the fridge while Autumn stood by, staring @ a lime sticky note.
( buy "milk" "eggs" "bacon" "bread" "mayo" "pepperoni" "pepper jack cheese" "yogurt" "buttercups" "peanut butter" "jelly"
( think-o-anything-else-that-looks-good your-mind ) )
If you don’t have time, you don’t have to do it now, said Dawn.
No, it shouldn’t take mo’ than a few minutes, mumbled Autumn.
You should take Edgar with you.
Dawn lugged a pitcher full o’ purple liquid out with 1 hand & shut the fridge door with the other.
He’s asleep, said Autumn.
Wake him. He won’t care; he’d love to go.
Autumn went back into the living room, sat down next to their sleeping bag, & nudged Edgar gently a few times. She expected she’d have to try harder, but was surprised to see him turn on his back & sit up already.
Dawn doesn’t want you to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to go to a grocery store & buy stuff.
O. OK, said Edgar, his cheerful tone bewildering Autumn to no end.
¿D’you mind if I take a second to get ready?
This is urgent: they don’t just keep these stores open for hours, you know.
’K. It won’t take long, Edgar said ’fore scurrying toward the bathroom.
While Edgar readied, Autumn inspected the list further, ensuring she knew exactly what Dawn wanted from each listed phrase.
¿What type o’ milk do you want? Autumn called out.
¿What? Dawn called from the kitchen.
I said, ¿what kind o’ milk do you want?
¿What kind o’ milk?
Yeah, like what size or type.
I don’t know. A gallon, I guess.
Seconds later, Autumn heard the door open & saw Edgar walk back out, his eyes filled with fewer cobwebs.
¿You ready? asked Autumn.
Autumn stepped up to the door & opened it, only to jerk back, mouth hanging open.
On the other side wasn’t the sight o’ buildings, trees, & the street that she remembered but a mess o’ green-caked hills, mud pits thick with gnarled boughs & rainbow leaves, crusty mountains slobbering salsa saliva, glistening lakes leaking into warbling waterfalls, & icy, sharp towers powdered with snow. Covering it all was a gradient from cyan to cloud-clogged gray, to a deep, deep blue scattered with neon dots, all speckled by white sprinkles o’ falling snow.
What’s wr — O.
Seeing Autumn standing in the doorway so long, Dawn had walked ’hind her & peered over her shoulder.
Her eyes flicked down to the tipped-over paint can.
She clutched her head.
O, I’m an idiot. I forgot I left the paint there.
Autumn turned to her.
The paint ’scaped from that can, said Dawn as she pointed down.
All o’ those colors flooded the city, covering it with these landscapes. Dawn held her arms out ’long the scenery.
Autumn rubbed her mouth as her eyes tried to take everything in.
Well, fuck… ¿How’ll I get those groceries now?
We’ll have to fix this, said Dawn.
The core o’ each color is hidden somewhere ’mong all this, said Dawn.
That makes no sense, said Autumn.
Sure it does, if you’re not narrow-minded, said Dawn:
color can’t grow on its own; it can only dilute as it spreads. Though the colors are everywhere, their core are in specific places — wherever those are — & once we capture the cores, the rest o’ the colors will wilt to colorless water.
Nope: still doesn’t make sense, said Autumn.
The color molecules should just spread evenly ’mong everything, not pack together in ‘cores.’ Also, color by itself shouldn’t be able to make mountains.
Well, that’s what happened, anyway.
I don’t doubt you, said Autumn, nodding.
I’m just saying it’s wrong is all — the reality, not you.
Dawn responded with nods o’ her own.
¿Doesn’t it ever annoy you when reality keeps being unscientific? You’d think 1 o’ our Programmers would read a’least 1 science journal.
¿What can you do?
Autumn turned back to the landscape, shaking her head in disgust. Her lungs told her that the air was thicker & her twitching hair told her that ’twas windy.
¿You think we’ll need supplies before we go? asked Dawn.
O, I can get them, said Edgar.
Yeah. Probably, said Autumn.
She heard the carpet creak under Edgar’s scraggly feet as he dashed to the table, & then heard the zip o’ her pack being opened & the swish o’ objects being moved in & out.
What were you planning to do with that paint? asked Autumn.
Dawn shrugged ’gain.
Didn’t have any plan in particular. Just 1 o’ the many projects I did to show that I could do it.
She turned back & said,
We should probably get Dawn a pack, too.
’K, Edgar said, slowing to a stop.
¿You want me to give her a portion o’ some o’ our stuff that we don’t have extras o’?
Minutes later, they went out the door, bursting to start their adventure.
You have no idea where these ‘cores’ might be, ¿do you? asked Autumn as they descended the stairs, step-by-step.
Only the cores themselves know.
¿How would we recognize them?
They’re hard to miss.
¿Do they glow? ¿Do they look supernatural?
They’re in treasure chests.
They stopped on the bottom step. Autumn turned her head from the hills on the far left to the towers on the far right.
Where do we start?
We’ll probably have to search everywhere, so we might as well start on 1 side & go straight in the other direction, said Dawn.
The left’s closer.
Seems easier, too, said Dawn.
So Autumn led them to the hills, the sharp scrape o’ their feet gainst the concrete sidewalk softening as they hit spongy dirt & grass. However, that path didn’t last long, as it ended @ a waterfall glistening pink in the sunrise, plummeting dozens o’ meters below on coin-shaped moon-smooth rocks that bobbed under the weight o’ Autumn & co.’s feet. Said feet kept snagging on the pumpkin vines that spilled out from the rose bushes where a hole-black crow perched.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding the shiniest bytecoin in the world!
The crow flapped off its wings the snowflakes dropping from the sky & dived @ Edgar. Edgar ducked for 1 o’ the castle’s crenelated eaves, only to slip in a puddle o’ thick brown mud. Autumn reached out & snatched him by the sleeve, barely yanking him back before he toppled o’er into the steamy, bubbling orange stream o’ lava.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding a rainbow feather!
While the crow distracted itself with acorns it found in a patch o’ long grass, Autumn led her friends down the burning, cracked, sandy flatland that stretched to the sun-filled horizon. Then they saw a green robot with a metal spike protruding from its chest & jumped & grabbed the nearest chain.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding Crazy Delicious Bamboo!
They climbed upward, stopping & starting ’tween the neon lasers that shot out the pulsing purple walls till they noticed a starry twinkle o’ light @ the end o’ the gloomy cave & swam deeper toward it, dodging the fat bubbles that floated up from the claws & coral.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding the last golden frog!
They leapt out & landed on the nearest ice cube platform, shivering as the icy water dripped from their hair & apparel. They almost slipped on the oil puddles reflecting rainbows from the giant sun as they ran for the elevator door. They had to hop left & right as they went, dodging electric bolts that dropped from the gray clouds steaming from the boiling bull chasing them with its head down, its sharp silver crescents circling them with sunglasses & a grin, spitting neon stars @ them. It shocked them. It almost knocked them off the railing & into Cap’n Clearbeard’s ship full o’ venomous metal pufferfish.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding a can o’ Winters Cola!
’Stead, they fell in a hole in the middle — a colossal hole with walls o’ gnarled wood o’ pinball cabinets. They landed on a bright red bumper ball with a hollow, high ¡tunk!, knocking them into a harbor hook hanging in the orange sunset clouds o’er the oil ocean. They tried to grab the crane, but their hands slipped & they plummeted in the ball pit, splashing red & pink balls all o’er.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding a certain someone’s memories!
1 o’ those balls bounced out o’ the tub, causing the bathroom door to open & a pair o’ moccasins to step onto the checkered linoleum with a click, clack, click, clack went the beetle as it slowly crawled toward them. They tried to run ’way, but their feet couldn’t beat the steep slope o’ the leaf & were pushed back by a falling bead o’ dew. It trapped them & flew them through the starry skies in its talons, dropping them just ’bove the salsa-smudged mouth o’ Mt. Rooster.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding the Shiny Golden Koi!
As they fell down its throat, they tried to avoid its chomping teeth & falling stomach acid, its deep red walls pulsating runny. Ribs scattered as they ran forward — as well as dust luminescent white in the cold iron-gray sky from their feet hitting the dry, hard dirt.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding the Afternoon Moon!
It soon became loose in the mountain o’ dust that surrounded them in the blistering air. But they couldn’t wait for it to subside or their feet would sink further into the soft sand, so they hurried down all o’ the streets, not e’en stopping @ red lights to check for cars, just passing skyscraper after skyscraper, landing on each roof with heavy thumps gainst the soles o’ their shoes. Each time they looked up nervously @ all o’ the #’d doors, fearful o’ waking a guest & alerting the ax-wielding staff.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding a rock!
Ne’ertheless, no matter how lightheaded they felt, they still hopped onward through the empty black atmosphere, scarcely touching the crusty gray ground. They wiped sweat from their brows as they felt the flame waves flutter all round them & their noses sting with the high scent o’ helium. Said helium carried their bulbous blue balloon ’cross the rosy cyan, cloud-clogged skies till ’twas popped by the sound o’ a needle dropping, causing a thick gust to puke out the hole, blowing their balloon far off into the faded rainy mountains, only for it to get popped itself by the rays o’ the sun; so the mountains’ dying breaths pushed their sails back in the other direction down the rainbow river, only to spill off the cascades o’ the Big Pitcher, crashing into the sharp rocks below.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding the Heart o’ All Seasons!
They struggled to unstick themselves from the thick swamp water, only to collapse into the pile o’ cans, newspapers, cardboard boxes, & banana peels that flew into Autumn’s hand as she ran the 7-yard dash to the touchdown in the roaring crowds o’ gray silhouette bleachers in rain-streaked winter. As they ran ’cross the valley, they had to duck to avoid the beach pelicans trying to choke them with sharp plastic pop can containers from the fridge where they hoped grill to grill, dodging the grapes & carrots being shot @ them, the toxic vapors emanating from the plastic container full o’ slimy noodles with green fur, & the falling cartons o’ milk. 1 carton’s milk splashed o’er them, knocking them o’er the grills & into the fiery charcoal.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding the master music box!
There they not only had to step quickly to avoid o’ercooking their soles; they also had to dodge the giant pitch fork poking @ them for clambering all o’er its sweet cakes full o’ angel frosting, strawberries, butter crackers, & bread with the material o’ sponges they rode down the shiny sink full o’ hairs till they fell in the drain, thrashing gainst the metal walls as they plummeted meters down the pipe, which blew them back out into the factory o’ blinking lights through thick black smog.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding the Coin o’ Heroes!
There their progress was impeded by swift conveyor belt escalators keeping them on the 3rd floor o’ the Sterling Mall, where carts passed, which they could hardly steer from inside before crashing into the shelves full o’ holiday cards, scattering kings, queens, jacks, & aces all o’er the felt green table, knocking the poker chips & cue balls to bounce gainst the walls.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest hol — O, wait, ’twas the seaweed-green Grand Hidon pretending to be a chest, which attacked them! They defeated it & won a bag o’ wasabi chips.
There were so many & they flew so fast that Autumn & co. could barely dodge their traffic, all going backward on a 100KM-per-hour highway. Many were huge trucks with thick grilled hides, some were plump but slick vans. Regardless, they struggled to steer their motorcycle through the course without crashing into a moo cow. Unfortunately, they drove into a banana peel, causing them to spin round in their tea cup ride till Autumn became so nauseated that she puked o’er the edge — a puke boiling like magma they were dodging o’er the crusty cliffs round the edge o’ Mt. Rooster they were riding down the farm, hopping o’er fences & red wheelbarrows coated by the rain & ’long barn roofs, feathers flying from its dirt-stained hiding in the leaky throat o’ a soggy green cave ’hind stalagmites sticky as running pot throwers chasing them down the terrace surrounded by dust gray Olypian colonnades, each maroon-&-black pot shattering like a lit firework as it crashed just ’hind their path snaking through the blue walls in the otherwise black void, pastel sheet ghosts lurking round every corner o’ the attic covered in cobwebs & crawling with green wood spiders whose fangs dripped with neon lights spreading o’er the black space, tectonics grinding gainst each other, their anger wakened by rain drums & sea bass made o’ strumming lightning.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding Euler’s Sexy Formula!
They dodged the buzzed dancing honeys tightly wrapped in fur hides with sparkling fairy wings till their feet became stuck on the glowing golden water, shining under the sparkling silver walls o’ the crystal caves. They yanked their feet all @ once to break the young ice, only for the straw to stir them back in. As they fell back in, Autumn knocked the lemon wedge in with them & dragged Edgar & Dawn onto it, rafting down the milky-furred back, turning sharply to avoid the giant paws that reached up & scratched, followed by hard wooden covers slamming shut, causing them to bounce on fluttering paper waves, breaking through the clouds’ cotton candy so that their coaster could land back on its track just in time to jump on the speeding train o’er the moonlit hills, where they had to dodge flowering bombs in bramble pits stinging their bees with
Honey, you look tired, he said with a coy smile as he his shadow rose from the strumming thunder in the ornate window ’bove the bed o’ flowers hiding the ravenous snapdragons fluttering ’bove the gray-bricked walls graffitied & covered with tattered posters for pizza, damp from the runoff water shoving them through the maze o’ sewer tubes & blocks o’ wood & painted letters that formed tall towers.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding the seed to the Grape Apple Tree!
To reach them they had to twist the key on the back o’ their paper plain, the spokes o’ their cowboy boots jingling as they stepped toward the dilapidated wooden building they called a bank with their cannons shooting them into space ’tween the floorboards o’ the spiderweb-fed attic holding crates sliding down conveyor belts that they had to jump ’cross carefully to avoid falling into the molten chocolate spraying out from the cracks in the walls made o’ crystal-clear beacon o’ the lighthouse on which they stood, dodging the lightning while waiting for the face o’ the coyote prowling the withered cacti ’mong the dried gray trees stretching to the periwinkle sky o’ this crackling veld, trampled by gators & wolves hopping ’cross the sunset-lit cliffs ’bove the mountains & firs surrounded in a blanket o’ flames in the lake, caused by neon chemicals dumped by the fish-head hose sprinkling the lawn with dew that twinkled like stars that they had to dodge like pop rocks shattering under the teeth that they had to dodge o’ the R. rex chasing after them ’cross the glass onion fields fore’er with its gabbing mouth spewing party streamers rushed round them as they hopped from balloon to balloon till they finally landed on the silver-wrapped presents under the Marxmas tree, which they tried to climb by the grooves in the wood till they ran into a hideous flying eyeball full o’ greasy-colored varicose veins with blood & pus filling the corner o’ its corners that dropped molten blood down o’er their cereal box space ship, which they steered round, shooting whole grain starshines in a constant rapid stream till they finally hit it 50 times & caused it to explode with an ear-withering screech that reached all distances o’ the Whole Milk Galaxy.
¡& that was when they found a treasure chest holding The Economicon!
Autumn & co. found themselves sitting with their backs to a thick red oak o’erlooking a hill under the stormy blue sky & o’er foggy gray mountains. From said oak sprung tinny tunes apparently from the station KSS 96.2 All-Stars, mixing with the static o’ the scattering raindrops on the leaves outside their tree canopy. Though they miraculously ne’er felt a single drop touch them, they could feel a dry chill shiver through their bones on each strum.
♪ Rainbow trout,
¿What’s it ’bout?
There’s no need
To feed a drought… ♫
While Edgar let his eyes fly all round him @ every cloud, every bird, & every leaf that passed & Dawn bobbed her head to her tree pillow’s symphonies with her eyes closed, Autumn stared forward with sharp eyes.
♪ Drizzle in my dashboard,
Feels rich e’en when poor.
My music box has lost its cord;
But I’m ne’er bored… ♫
Those paint drops could be anywhere in that environmental morass, Autumn said to the air in front o’ her.
♪ Cat, don’t yawn,
It won’t be long;
Drink your milk
& I’ll sing this song… ♫
¿You say something? asked Dawn.
I said, there must be some way to find those paint drops, said Autumn.
Eh… Honestly, ¿is the way everything is right now all that bad? Quite enthralling, truly, said Dawn.
♪ She’s got the key,
she’s got me treed,
won’t let me leave no matter how much I plea… ♫
Autumn turned to Dawn with bullet-point eyes.
¿Are you insinuating that we should just leave everything like it is? ¿Just sluff off fixing it?
Gee, I dunno…
♪ I’m falling down ( falling down ),
but I have no ground ( have no ground ),
& if I fall ’lone in my wood,
¿would you make a sound?
( Make a sound. )
When you finally figure me out. ♫
Autumn’s pupils shrank e’en mo’.
¿How will I get our groceries?
I doubt it’s that urgent, Dawn said as she began fiddling with a blade o’ grass.
♪ ..& I’m breezing down the sidewalk on a Friday afternoon,
bumble bee spreads its wings like it’s ’bout to bloom…
’Cause that’s how I fly,
that’s how I fly,
that’s how I fly,
& that’s how I fly. ♫
Autumn rose to her feet.
Nuh uh. Buying groceries @ a store is the 1 task I’ve ne’er failed. My dignity can’t take such a hit. I’m searching ’gain.
¿What ’bout that time you were caught & put in jail? asked Dawn.
That’s different, said Autumn.
I said ‘buying’, not ‘stealing’. I’m searching ’gain.
¡That’s the shit you get livin’ in a fascist nation! ♫
As she stormed ’way, Edgar slowly rose, looking rapidly ’tween Autumn & Edgar as he went from sitting to standing. Dawn shrugged & rose herself.
Might be fun to explore ’gain & see what new it might have, said Dawn.
Legends say that they’re still out there wandering through the waterfall o’ desert rocks, forest leaves, cotton clouds, digital lasers, & city bricks, still searching for every paint swatch in the rainbow. But you shouldn’t always listen to what legends say.