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Clarence’s Spectrum–A New Short Story by Rose Guildenstern

Clarence’s Spectrum–A New Short Story by Rose Guildenstern

Sometimes I write a short story for fun;

sometimes I write it to challenge myself.

This story is definitely of the latter variety:

Clarence’s Spectrum


Taking the first step out the door is always hardest.

The empty blue of the sky, the hopeless green of the lawn.

A simple trip to the grocery store initiates his private Day of the Living Dead. Seven blocks to slog across ruthless gray sidewalks and suppressive black asphalt.

The glass sliding door malevolent in its refraction.

The produce section peddling its own brand of torture.

The violent purple of the eggplants, the bleeding red of the tomatoes.

Clarence counts.




Right foot for 3.1 million children who starve to death each year. Left foot for 124 cracks to cross on the way to sensory Armageddon.

Right hand for the millions upon millions of distinct frequencies visible in Clarence’s rainbow. Left hand for the seven colors that everyone else blissfully enforces.

Sunglasses muddle but never quite mitigate the googolplex of visible-light photons radiating judgment every second from the miasma of incandescent plasma called “the sun” by the unaware.

“What’cha buying today, fruitcake?” Ms. Cecilia, the checkout clerk, never fails to allude to when the police hauled Clarence away to the hospital because of the Christmas fruitcakes in fifty-seven wicked hues.

She takes a languid sip from a paper cup of sugar-laden latte, which he knows to be the color of dregs.

Her dreary brown eyes pity Clarence’s food choices as she scans his steel-cut oats and distilled water.

Ms. Cecilia, of course, blessed with faulty cone cells in her atypical colorblind eyes, loves the world and everyone in it.

Connection is easy when you don’t see.

Clarence accepts the sad beige plastic bag from Ms. Cecilia, and begins the agonizing trek home.

Right foot for the average human eye with three color receptors that can see about a million colors. Left foot for some rare folks who have four types of cones—scientists call them tetrachromats—and see a hundred million.

Clarence has over fifteen color receptors, like a bluebottle butterfly.

There’s a reason an adult butterfly only lives about one month, unless it migrates away from its cold, dead inception.

Light does not simply shine on Clarence, it flits about him. It plays and pounces.

It slaughters.

The Evil Ultraviolet stalks the living, but the living do not comprehend it.

Darkness offers even more shades to haunt him than the light.

Right hand for the colors that most people don’t realize are alive. The three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension of time are extended, but the fifth dimension is curled up and hidden within the colors of the first four. They are otherworldly entities, the gods of our physical universe.

Left hand for every decision a person thinks he or she makes, oblivious that it is the colors who really choose.

The colors of one make another fall in love.

The hated are inundated with despised tints.

Clarence passes the intersection of Mine and Thine. The sunny day provokes the colors to rage with divine right, altering the actions of their weaker-willed pets.

Clarence slides not one, but three pairs of sunglasses over his eyes, squinting as the white light begins its mischief.

Radio waves of beyond-red destruction reach out to influence and poison minds, as two teens honk loudly and gesticulate at a slow-moving car in front of them.

Meandering microwaves infiltrate cells, plumping them to bursting as a balding woman creeps before him, bloating with cancer stains.

Infrared rays greenhouse the eyes and atmosphere, as a tall man dials his cell phone and incandescent bulbs light up the town.

X-rays mutate and irradiate as electrons collide with the metal infrastructure of civilization.

Gamma rays from the local power plant and Fukushima continue their quest to liberate life from living.

Clarence glances behind himself to see his footprints glow florescent green and blue on the murky pavement.

Counting 124, he makes it to his own unpainted front door.

Clarence steps over the threshold, locks the door, and sits in his favorite easy chair.

He closes his eyes.

Only then does he allow himself to drift into the space between the colors.

The colors have taken sides, declaring war on certain preferences. Normal people don’t realize it yet: they call it “climate change” or the “race wars” or blame it on the president.

Their eyes cannot encompass the vast separation blighting the entire spectrum.

They only see seven intervals in their many-colored coats of tone.

Clarence listens to the evening news on television with eyes shut, perceiving the wavelengths through his ears and nose, preferring this resonant assault to his visual agony.

The newscaster drones on and on, both intense and bored at the same time.

Earthquake here.

Riots there.

Terror everywhere.

Clarence can’t stand the color wars any longer.

Knowing his home by blind touch, he reaches his right hand to pull open the drawer on his end table. He removes a 9mm.

With his mental health history, he’s not allowed to own it. But when did that ever stop anyone?

He opens his eyes one last time to see the disgusted black gun, loads one solitary golden bullet, places the muzzle in his mouth, and pulls the trigger with his left hand.

The colors steal his exhale as the bullet rips through his mind: the red of his blood, the pink of his brain, the white of his bones. His colors all mix together now.

As the colors pass away, Clarence becomes the lighting behind his spectrum.

One prism.

And it is so very, very beautiful.

The separation is gone.

Clarence is gone.

Ms. Cecilia gossips about the tragedy in stage-whispered poor-dear tones to her customers the next day, saying to this one, “Suicide…” and to that one, “Touched in the head…” and to everyone, “Such a shame….” She clicks her pink tongue as she takes another languid sip of hot brown liquid contained in a white throw away cup.

Thank god for sugar-laden lattes.


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