by Mark Rosenblum
My name is Fen and it’s been a month since I experienced Color Change. I’m now a Green Citizen. I understood it could happen one day — it occurs to citizens on our planet every day — but I never gave it much thought. We are all born with a distinct skin color, but through a random metamorphosis, some of us experience a change of color during our lifetime. It can happen at any age. The change is immediate, and comes without warning.
When it happened to me, I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Assuming it was a prank, I blamed Tol. We had grown up together; childhood buddies at Student Training Station 114, co-workers at the First Citizens finance depository, always inseparable.
Everyone liked Tol because he was a prankster. Not long ago, he pulled a good one on a Green nutrient server at a nourishment market we hung out at after classes at Training Station. I, along with several students, sat at a table and watched Tol take a green highlighter and color in the faces of the Administrators that adorn our currency. Tol then gave the bills to our nutrient server as a tip.
As the server looked them over, Tol said, “I thought Greens couldn’t be Administrators? I guess your kind can become somebody!” Everyone laughed, except the server. Later that day I asked Tol what would happen if one of us experienced Color Change. He told me that nothing could come between our friendship.
* * *
Last month, when I awoke to find myself Green, I immediately called Tol on my communication pad to find out if he slipped me some kind of temporary skin colorizing drug during our meal together the evening before — I wouldn’t put anything past Tol when it comes to a practical joke. But it quickly became obvious during our call that this was not the case.
“What are you talking about?” he said. “I didn’t slip you any kind of—” Silence deafened the line for a moment, and then he continued: “It must be Color Change.”
“Tol, tell me you’re joking.”
“Listen Fen, I’ve got to go, I’ll call you later,” he said, then abruptly hung up.
* * *
Even though the government makes Color Change easier by enforcing laws to make lifestyle reorganization a quick process, there was much to do. I had to move from my residence because my living pod did not allow Green Citizens. I had to change work status because Greens were forbidden to work in a finance depository.
My own dealings with Greens had been fleeting: Living Pod Cleaners, Nutrient Servers, Transport Drivers and such. The Blue and Red Administrators, who never agree on any topic of debate, did concur on the laws governing Greens. They found that that our laws kept Greens — I mean us — in our “rightful place.” Perhaps someday a more lenient Orange or Gray Administrator will get elected and revoke some of the stricter laws, but I doubt it. People have, how shall I say, unspoken opinions about Oranges and Grays as well.
I was surprised at how quickly the government’s assistance made my evolution. They provided me with Green Citizen appropriate clothing, nutrient assistance credit stamps and a new government job: Transport Driver. I was also provided with a new residence in a Green Citizen living pod complex. I left my new number on Tol’s communication pad some time ago, but I have not heard back.
* * *
My new living complex is partially buried in white crystals of ice, flurries of which continue to fall. It’s been unseasonably cold this past week. It is not a typical workday for citizens, and I would rather stay indoors, but most Greens work on these days to help support themselves.
I wear a pull-over sweater mask to keep the frost from my face and heavy gloves to keep my hands warm as I make my deliveries. I leave my residence and stride carefully along the icy sidewalk toward my company transport shuttle. A Citizen taking quick steps ahead of me slips on the ice and losses the grip on the daily news tablet in his hand. As he gets up and brushes snow from his coat, I bend down to retrieve his tablet. As I straighten up, he looks at my covered face and sees only my eyes — not my skin color.
“Thank you,” he says while huffing breath into his cupped hands to stay warm. “I really need to slow down in this weather.” I nod in agreement. His eyes glance at my uniform. I watch as his face registers with the realization that I am wearing the government assigned work uniform of a Green Citizen. When I reach out to give him back his tablet, he yanks it from my hand, turns and walks away.
“Wait!” I yell.
He stops, turns and looks at me. I pull off my sweater mask. He stands motionless for a few seconds as white crystals dance around us. No words are exchanged. He turns and walks away. It is the last time I ever see Tol.
Copyright © 2013 by Mark Rosenblum
[Author’s note] Previously published in Alienskin Magazine, January 2009 (no longer available on line)