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The Burden Of Indigo

an extract from the novel
by Gene O'Neill


PROLOGUE

It was nightime, the time of buying and selling in the trading area of The Ruins, a cleared area just east of Ocina Shield on the northern coast of Cal Wild--hot, muggy, and noisy, the air tingling with electricity like before a tropical thunderstorm.

And Dooley was indeed excited, his two older brothers leading him through the jostling crowd to the southern edge of the clearing, looking for painted ladies near the perimeter of oily flames leaping from 50 gallon drums, casting dancing shadows against the wall of pine trees beyond--

Suddenly, three figures appeared like apparitions out of the night into the flickering light: A dragon, a huge neon-green butterfly, and a golden hawk. Dooley stared with his mouth open, amazed, as the creatures blinked on and off like strobe lights, revealing three women, wearing only dangling earrings and shoes beneath their holographic costumes. He swallowed hard as the painted ladies came closer, hoping for a longer look at the naked breasts and furry crotchs.

In a hoarse, sexy whisper, the Dragon Lady asked, "You boys are looking for company?"

Dooley's oldest brother laughed and answered, "Yes, ma'm, we are indeed."

The three moved in closer, the Dragon Lady clutching the arm of Dooley's oldest brother, the Hawk his other brother, and the Butterfly fluttering near his side.

"Not him," Dooley's oldest brother said, laughing and pointing at Dooley, who was shrinking back from the exotic butterfly, and the woman beneath. "He's too young, only eleven. He's just looking."

"But he's such a, a...beautiful boy," the Butterfly said in protest, the other two women laughing. She ran her hand lovingly through his kinky blonde hair, pinched his cheek playfully, and said to him in a voice too low for the others, "You come back when you're ready, and I'll do you free. You're gonna be a fine-looking man." She moved closer and kissed his cheek.

"You two c'mon then," the Dragon Lady said to the older boys. "Flower can find another customer for herself." The dragon and the hawk started to lead the older boys away, the leader adding, "You wait here, boy, just be a minute or two." Everyone giggled except Dooley.

As the four moved off toward a path leading off into the darkness of the woods, Dooley's oldest brother said, "Meet you at Wilson's, later," referring to the wine stall where the older boys had fortified their courage before moving across the clearing in search of the painted ladies.

Dooley blinked and they were gone.

He was all alone now, excited about this, his first trip outside the Shield, but also apprehensive. He wished the older boys had stayed, but he understood. Even though he was not quite ready for sex, he was interested in the female anatomy and would've liked a closer look at the butterfly woman's naked body. But of course she was too busy to hang around if he wasn't a paying customer.

So, he turned back to the trading area, the flickering light from the drums revealing a huge crowd of people moving about the circle of stalls, stands, and blanket displays of goods and services. He grinned to himself, realizing there were probably more people here tonight in the trading area than attended the Funpark inside the Shield on the upper level. Dooley and his brothers were supposed to be at the Funpark.

And the people...

Of course there were others like Dooley, Shield residents, dotting the crowd, wearing the latest modtrend that shifted through the spectrum of colors as they moved, some wearing matching funmasks, all out for an illegal night of revery. Even a few domestiques--contract workers in the Shield. But mostly, the people, including the proprietors of goods and services, were Freemen, those who lived outside the Shield in Cal Wild for whatever reason--rebellion, orneriness, or, in most cases, just lack of necessary funds.

The Freemen stood out in the crowd, wearing their characteristic bundled-up garb: All manner of coats, dusters, rain-gear, even a large number of longcoats cobbled together from blanket remnants; assorted headgear including caps, helmets, hats, hoods attached to longcoats, and what-have-you. The fronts of most of the garments were decorated with an assortment of dangling amulets, charms, and trinkets assembled from plastic, glass, feathers, and other junk. The bundled-up attire had once been functional, protecting the Freemen from environmental hazards, such as U.V. poisoning; but now it possessed a mystical sort of power, protecting the wearer from evil spells and bad luck in general--in fact, it was commonly believed that properly-garbed mothers would not bear a newborn burdened with one of the common Cal Wild birth defects.

The dull, drab, well-worn colors of the Freemen attire contrasted sharply with the bright colorful modtrend of the Shield residents--

"Uh, uh."

A beggar dressed in rags had grabbed Dooley's arm, gesturing at his mouth. He wore an empty smile on his face and drooled slightly from the corner of his mouth. Remembering his brothers' earlier briefings of what to expect, Dooley guessed the beggar was a chucklehead.

"Let go!" Dooley said too loudly, shuddering at the touch before pulling out of the young boy's weak grip, then quickly moving away into the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd circling the trading area. Of course, in the next few minutes just walking around, he spotted two more defectives, a quosimodo and a gargoyle. But he ignored the wasteland beggars, caught up now in the excitement tingling in the muggy blanket of air.

The mixed cries of the sellers, hawking their strange goods:

"Hooks, lines, nets..."

"Charms, one hundred percent guaranteed to ward off evil..."

"Rope, braided from fresh hemp..."

"Smoke, soar, giggledust..."

"Coats, shirts, pants..."

"Piglets..."

"Firearms..."

"Paint, oil, dye, wash..."

"Carts..."

"Carrots, beets, beans, tomatoes, corn, rice, all fresh..."

"Stock..."

"Bows, from only hard wood, true arrows..."

"Adobe bricks, mortar..."

"Tents, no holes, waterproofed..."

On he walked, savoring the smells, some familiar, some exotic:

Pungent onion.

Garlic.

Other spices. Sharp. Musty. Tangy.

Meat roasting.

Stew.

Fishy something.

A mixed smell from a barbeque, smokey, sweet, and sour.

Perfumes, spicey lemon, musky cinnamond.

Linseed oil.

Something so sharp it pinched his nostrils with pain.

Baking bread.

Other food smells that were even stranger, but still made his mouth water.

He stopped at a stand and ate barbequed chicken bound with thin, round wrappings, all of it heavily spiced, washing it down with honey-sweetened lemonade.

Finished eating, Dooley licked his fingers, looking curiously over at a nearby grouping of stands: People throwing balls, darts, rings...and what seemed to be other games of chance.

Curious, he wandered over to an especially large, noisy group, most of the Freemen busily exchanging Shield script and watched them for a moment; then he moved through the heavily sweating crowd, until he could see the real focus of attention, a makeshift small wooden stage. Sitting about the center of the platform was a bamboo cage, divided into halves by a glass partition.

Intrigued, Dooley pushed in for a closer view.

An old Freemen with a sparse, scraggily beard, wearing a black plastic helmet with the faded orange letters, SF, over the bill, and a gray, ankle-length topcoat, was leaning over and holding the top of the cage open with one hand, while letting something slide out of a dirty sack he held with the other hand.

It looked like a coil of brown hose.

Whirr.

Dooley flinched back from the raspy sound of danger, his eyes locked with fascination on the snake, only the rapidly-moving tail and flicking tongue indicating any life in the coiled reptile. Of course he'd never seen anything like this in the Shield except on the Viewer.

"Sidewinder from the Black Desert," the old man announced to the crowd.

"Rattler," whispered a man next to Dooley in a voice heavy with respect and fear.

Dooley glanced up from the sight of the dangerous coiled snake.

The old man was raising something above his helmet, so all could get a clear view. It was a small, wooden box, with wire netting covering its open side, and it contained another creature. The old man grinned, exposing a nearly toothless mouth, and in the dim light his expression was an evil, cunning leer.

Shaking the box, he announced dramatically, "Mon-goose."

The animal in the box hissed angrily, its tiny eyes reflecting the firelight and glowing like live embers. The loud betting had gradually faded away now, the pressing crowd growing quiet, expectent, respectful, mystical, like a gathering at a religious faith healing.

Dooley sucked in a deep breath, aware of the increasing tension in the air. And even though it was quite warm, he couldn't resist a slight shudder.

The old man lowered the box to his waist, and after unfastening a clasp, he let the animal slide out, dropping it into the unoccupied half of the bamboo cage.

With blurred quickness, the creature darted across the cage and had its forefeet up against the glass partition, its angry gaze riveted on the still coiled snake.

As if the sudden movement signalled a reopening of betting, voices around Dooley flared to excited life:

"Ten on the goose under two minutes."

"You got it!"

"Five says he'll take the rattler in a minute."

"Yer on, chucklehead."

"Got twenty here..."

And so on, Dooley unable to concentrate on the frantic back and forth betting.

Then the old man was moving through the crowd collecting an admission price of five Shield credits. Dooley paid.

The man next to him bumped his shoulder. "Won't last thirty seconds, Boy, goose is a demon. You watch."

Dooley studied the mongoose. He'd never actually seen one, but he was aware of the animal's fearsome reputation as a destroyer of every kind of reptile. It appeared to be a poor relative of the weasel, but had none of that creature's sleekness. Hardly bigger than a young, ill-fed cat, the mongoose had a scraggly, tan coat, almost mangy looking. It really was not physically impressive, until it turned slightly, and Dooley spotted the needle-like, sharp teeth. Still, only the intensity of its burning gaze reinforced the animal's reputation of ferocity--

At that moment, Dooley felt an overwhelming creepy sensation, raising the hair on the back of his neck. He was being watched. From his position kneeling by the stage, he looked up and checked the circle of excited faces...No one seemed to be interested in him. All eyes were locked on the bamboo cage and its pair of combatants.

Ah, there he was!

On the far side of the crowd, a man stared back at Dooley.

Even though the night was muggy, the man's nostrils appeared pinched, as if he were breathing cold air; and his face was pale, as if chilled. He's a chucklehead, Dooley told himself, continuing to stare at the man's face. But that couldn't be true, he thought, because the man wore no protective garb. In fact he was dressed just like Dooley in trendy modtrend, the high collar framing his neatly-trimmed hair. Obviously, he was a Shield resident, not a Freemen defective.

The man licked his lips, continuing to peer at Dooley.

Why?

What did he want?

The gaze unnerved Dooley, reminding him of the way his brothers stared at the painted ladies--kind of a hungry need...And the recognition chilled him to the bone.

The crowd surged forward, making Dooley break eye contact with the weird stranger, forcing his attention back to the bamboo cage.

The old man was gripping the handle of the glass partition with his boney fingers, signalling a young boy with his free hand. "Ya ready, Bowdie?"

Bowdie nodded, looking intently at an old-time stopwatch he held in his hand.

Enjoying the undivided attention of the crowd now, the old man paused and grinned his toothless smile. Then after another moment he spat out, "Time!" Simultaneously he jerked up on the glass separation.

Instantly the mongoose darted into the rattler's half of the cage, easily avoiding a sluggish strike by the snake, its red eyes smoldering as it arched its tan back and pranced in a circle around the snake.

Around and around the mongoose danced, provoking attacks by the sidewinder; but each time the snake struck, the mongoose easily avoided the lethal fangs, gracefully twisting or turning just at the last moment, the hapless rattler striking air. The movements seemed cued, almost supernaturally deft to Dooley, a dance choreographed by a demon conductor.

At the end of each unsuccessful strike the sidewinder recoiled a little more slowly, apparently beginning to tire, only its rattle's raspy whirr maintaining an intensity of deadly threat.

The mongoose was relentless, darting in and out at the tiring snake.

Finally, after avoiding a feebly slow strike, the demon grabbed the completely extended snake by its head; then, jerking it from side to side, it shook the rattler like a dog shaking a rat.

Startled by the ferocious counterattack, Dooley flinched back from the stage, his heart hammering in his chest. But before he could catch his breath, the mongoose surprised him by releasing the snake.

Even with its fangs crushed and its mouth a bloody pulp, the dazed and exhausted rattler tried to fight back, striking out at its tormenter.

And for a little while the slender demon was content to play with its now harmless foe. But, then, with no warning, the mongoose caught the sidewinder by the tail and began to slowly eat it alive.

The old man snatched the stopwatch from Bowdie and announced, "Two minutes, twenty-two seconds, and that's official!"

A flurry of activity commenced in the group of Freemen, as winners collared losers before the latter could disappear into the larger crowd.

Mesmerized by the sudden violent end of the match, Dooley remained standing still, as if rooted in place. It had been so exciting. He sucked in a gasp of air, wiping his sweaty face.

Suddenly, he remembered the strange man across the way, and he anxiously searched the breaking-up group for the pale face with the pinched nostrils.

He was gone!

Dooley sighed with relief. Even though he wasn't quite sure why the man stared at him--exactly what he wanted--he remembered the longing stare and instinctively knew it signalled danger.

So it was with a good deal of relief that he stood up and relaxed. He noticed a pair of the holographed women working the winners in the crowd, and it reminded him he better get back to the wine stall.

A hand clasped his shoulder!

Dooley jerked around and stared into the now familiar pale face, the glazed eyes.

It was him!

Despite his chilled appearance, beads of sweat dotted the man's upper lip.

Fear spurred Dooley to action.

He pulled out of the man's grasp, darting away into the main crowd, hoping they shielded him from view. He ran directly into a raggedy gargoyle, gasped a cry, then twisted away.

I have to find my brothers, he thought, fighting off panic. Looking about frantically, he knew he left them about over there...someplace near the edge of the pine forest.

He cut across the circling crowd, to the approximate spot where the three holographic women had first appeared.

Where's the path ? he asked himself, searching the forest wall. He moved closer, noticing now the shacks among the trees. Were his brothers in one of those? He thought they'd moved deeper into the forest before they disappeared from view, but he wasn't sure.

Ahead of Dooley in the darkness a Shield man and a naked woman--her hologram apparently off--were talking; then abruptly they disappeared down a footpath.

That was the one. He was sure.

Dooley followed the couple, pausing after a few steps along the darkened path to look back to the trading area. Light from the drums framed the entrance to the footpath.

Empty.

He'd escaped.

Dooley moaned with delight, the knot beginning to ease in his stomach. But halfway through a sigh, a figure appeared at the mouth of the path, silhouetted in the flickering firelight. "It can't be him," Dooley whispered hopefully between clenched teeth.

But as the man began to move toward Dooley along the path, he glanced back over his shoulder at the clearing, the side of his pale face momentarily visible in the firelight.

It was him!

Dooley turned away from the spotlighted figure, searching the darkness for the couple on the path. They were gone, swallowed up in the night. All the nearby shanties seemed to be dark, quiet. He was all alone...except for the pale man.

Dooley began to run, the path uneven and littered with debris, his eyes soon adjusting to the darkness. And despite stumbling repeatedly, he managed to keep on his feet and avoid the larger objects in the path. But terror snapped at his heels now, and he was growing panicky.

Run, run, run, faster, faster, he thought, sprinting until he was forced to slow, gasping for breath. He glanced back over his shoulder, his heart banging against his ribs.

"Oh, no," Dooley moaned to himself. The sight of the pale man closing in on him, spurred Dooley on. He sped up again, sprinting at full speed.

He had to find his brothers.

Where were they?

Then, he hit a patch of loose gravel and sprawled on all fours, momentum making him skid along, the rough gravel tearing the skin on his hands. Despite the burning pain, he had the presence of mind to look back.

The pale man was only ten yards or so back.

Dooley pushed himself to his feet, stumbling toward a glint of light to his right off the path, as if it were a beacon of safety in the blackness. Gasping raggedly now, he lost his balance as the ground sloped steeply, finally falling, his face striking the ground.

Stunned, Dooley lay completely still, his nose pressed into soft grass, its dampness partially reviving him. Maybe he was hidden where he'd fallen off the path. He tried to hold his loud breath, be quiet--

He was pounced on, the remaining air exploding from his lungs, consciousness slipping away, as rough hands tore his modtrend from his body.

 


THE JOURNAL: FIRST ENTRY

"There is no greater punishment than that of
being abandoned to one's self."
--Pasquier Quesnel


ONE

The sun slides behind the rolling hills, leaving the cloudy sky streaked with neon-pinks, -oranges, and -violets. Out of the darkening hills, a band of gray extends across the valley, neatly dividing golden fields of hay and emerald ponds of rice, bypassing a Freemen village and continuing east, the band of faded asphalt a pre-Collapse relic, a multi-laned highway separated by a thin median. The median plants, once carefully tended, are mostly dead, only a few grimy oleanders surviving to do battle with weeds, crab grass, and lack of water. Long gone, too, are the white stripes that carefully divided the highway into lanes, the once smooth surface cracked and pitted with potholes sprouting bunches of field grass.

As the day dies, a stillness settles over the western section of the highway, nothing moving. Suddenly a last heat wave shimmers off the road, and from the perceptual distortion a figure emerges like an apparition.

It is a man, ambling along close to the median with the energy-conserving gait of an experienced wanderer. Even at a distance his dress appears odd, not the bundled-up style of the Freemen, for he wears neither hat nor coat. His old-style shirt and pants are coated with dust, his shoulders rounded and slumped as if he carries a much heavier load than a small backpack. In one hand he clutches a polished walking stick, his only adornment. Nearing the outskirts of the village, he stops, most of his body shadowed by a huge oleander, and he glances back, shading his eyes and watching the sun slip completely from sight. After a moment he steps from the cover of the plant and makes his way across the undivided lanes, stopping again on the shoulder of the road overlooking the Freemen village.

Only then, as the man stands frozen in the twilight, does his most curious physical characteristic become apparent: He is the color of dark blue ink; his hair, beard, and all exposed skin are dyed a deep indigo. He is old, his face heavily wrinkled, deep crow's feet radiating from the corners of his slitted eyes--a lifetime outdoors etched onto his dark blue features.

For a moment, the indigo man cocks his head, listening, then sniffs the air like an animal. He peers intently down into the village, maintaining his alert, wary posture. He knows he can not be too careful, for the peaceful-appearing farming villages often contain unpleasant surprises for his kind. As time passes he remains motionless, all his senses alert for any hint of danger.

The village is a small collection of tents, shacks, sheds, all lining a single unpaved street. As full darkness descends, bullfrogs begin croaking from the distant rice checks, accompanied by a chorus of cricket chirruping. A mosquito buzzes near the indigo man's ear, but he ignores the tiny pest, not lifting a hand, not even twitching a muscle in his face. He continues to peer down into the village. Here and there, he sees candles and lanterns flaring to life, but no one is moving on the empty main street, not even a dog.

A slight smile breaks across the indigo man's unshaven face, softening some of the wrinkles, easing the harshness of expression, for he realizes he's reached the village just at mealtime.

Good, he thinks, thankful.

Nevertheless, he works his way cautiously down the loose slope of the highway, approaching the street quietly and gripping his walking stick tightly for security. Silently, he creeps past a few shacks, moving down the center of the dusty street. He passes closely to a tent on his right, candlelight flickering through the cracked entrance flap and cooking smells hanging heavy in the air. Stomach grumbling a protest, the indigo man moves on, pausing in front of a wood-frame building, the largest structure on the street. Slipping into the darkness below the building's overhang, he spots a sign in the left corner of the grimy window: ARBUCKLE RICE CO-OP AND GENERAL STORE.

The indigo man grins wryly. A Freemen co-operative and store? He's seen neither before in the wasteland. He presses his nose flat against the glass, peering into the unlit interior, but he's unable to see more than a barrel and some baskets of unshucked corn--too dark to read the marking on the barrel. He backs away from the window and turns, glancing both ways before leaving the shadowed storefront.

Still moving quietly, the indigo man continues down the street to an old hummerpad. Unlike the shacks, the pad looks solid, substantial. On the far side of the disc of concrete he finds the heavy metal door built into the side of the pad with its inoperative palm sensor and the designation: Ocina Shield, SE 41. He smiles to himself, wondering if anyone in the village remembers its primary function? Perhaps a few of the elders, he thinks.

In the old days, when the wasteland was too hazardous to harbor any villages, this had been a supply cache for his kind, serviced by hummer from one of the coastal shields.

The indigo man takes a deep breath, then he moves along, past a shed with padlocked doors, metal drums stacked along one side, one bearing the white letters: DIESEL, until a few more paces down the street he passes another wood-frame building, half the size of the store, but freshly painted white. A meeting hall or school? He can't tell from the front and doesn't care to peek in a side window.

At the end of the street, beyond the village proper sits an isolated quonset hut. The indigo man approaches the front of the structure, and breathes a long sigh. Scrawled on the hut's door in large red letters he reads: Dyed People.

He touches the red scrawl, his gaze blurrs, and the words distort to: Dead People.

The distortion makes him shudder.

He blinks away the gloomy image, and spreading the fingers of his right hand, he palms the sensor inset built into the ribbed wall right of the door jamb. Then he waits patiently for one of the Company computers to record his present location. The awareness of being tracked makes no emotional impact on the indigo man; it's an everday fact of his existence, and long, long ago he grew accustomed to it.

Whirr...click. The metal door into the hut snaps open a crack.

With one hand the indigo man gingerly pushes it open fully, gripping his walking stick tightly, letting the fading twilight provide some illumination to the darkened interior. As always he has mixed feelings--apprehensive of danger, but hopeful for congenial company. Tentatively he steps inside, letting the door swing in behind him.

Then, dead silence.

Within a step or two is a wooden table and a dish with a candle and several matches. Quickly, he steps forward and lights the thick candle, holding it up and examining the interior of the hut, the flickering light making shadows dance along the curved left wall. To his right, partitions separate the hut into four sleeping cubicles. He can see into the doorless first cell which contains only a cot with one wadded-up, faded gray blanket. At the far end of the hut a door hangs from a broken hinge, labelled: TOLIET. He can't see into the dark area beyond the broken door, but he can smell the acrid odor of disinfectant. A bug scurries away from the candlelight, disappearing beneath the first partition. He lowers the candle slightly, turning his attention to the table. There are two wooden chairs, both scratched and scarred by years of use. On one chair lies two old-style books. Without touching either, the indigo man knows that most of the yellow, brittle pages will be gone--used by previous tenants for toliet paper.

Before moving again the indigo man lets his gaze scan the hut once more, the wrinkles across his forehead deepening into a frown. His spirit sags. He'd hoped to share the evening with another of his kind. But he's alone, alone in this filthy, stinking place.

He sets the candle on the table.

Then, sighing again, the indigo man turns around, spotting the vending machine set into the front wall beside the entry. He drops his pack and stick on top of the books, then rummages through his stuff for his cup and bowl. With both in hand, he steps back to the machine, inserts them into the proper slots and palms the machine's sensor. After cup and bowl are filled, he returns to the table and light, slumping down heavily into the empty chair, reaching over and digging his spoon from the backpack. He eats mechanically, spooning up and chewing each mouthful of weak stew thoroughly, before washing it down with a gulp of the unsweetened, luke-warm tea. In a few minutes he is through with the simple meal

Then, with a good deal more enthusiasm, the indigo man rises and returns to the vending machine for his allotment of smoke. He returns to his seat, cracks the ampule, and deeply inhales the blue vapor. Almost immediately he stiffens, feeling a grabbing sensation at the base of his skull just above his neck, almost as if he'd been struck a blow, except there is no pain. This sensation is followed by a warm, almost liquid feeling that flows down his spine, relaxing and washing away his fatigue. His despair and loneliness are forgotten, replaced by a sense of well being. For several minutes he sits quietly, unaware now of his dismal surroundings, enjoying the euphoric impact of the drug. Finally, the indigo man takes a long deep breath as the drug's effects gradually diminish.

He reaches back and massages his neck. Then he bends over his pack again and digs out a small journal and pen. After opening the book, he pauses, pen hovering over the blank page as he prepares to begin.

First, the date, he thinks...But he does not know the month or even the day. Sadly he shakes his head, then begins to write very slowly, the pen feeling clumsy in his hand. He pauses often to capture his exact thoughts.

FIRST ENTRY

I begin this journal today because something strange is happening to my color.

I was assigned indigo thirty-two or maybe thirty-three years ago--time blurrs. But recently the color has begun to fade. I've suspected for some time that this is happening; but only last week I figured out a method to check. I cut a lock of my hair for a standard, and each day I compare the standard to a new snip. There is little doubt my color is gradually fading each day, the change very slight, but perceptible. Of course it is ironic; after all these years of failed schemes to rid myself of the color, it is fading on its own. Strange because the dye and process is supposed to be permanent, applied after the judgment during conditioning and programming before banishment from Ocina Shield to Cal Wild. Perhaps this is wrong. Maybe the life of the dye is finite. After all, thirty odd years is a long time for anything to last.

That could be an explanation; but I don't think so. I've never heard of another DP losing his color like this. So there must be some other reason.

It has occurred to me that I may be ill in the head again.

Years ago I was sick and saw and believed strange things--hallucinations. I'd been wandering in the southern wasteland just north of San Barboo Shield, near the old shuttle departure site, and I developed a fever and congestion in my lungs--a viral pneumonia. As the law allows during illness, I stayed more than one night in the local DP shelter; but I got no better without medical treatment, and eventually the Companymen picked me up and took me inside to the medcenter, where I remained for almost a week. During that time I was a boy again, living with my aunt in Ocino Shield, not like a dream, but really living in the past.

But this is different. I'm not living in another time or daydreaming or imagining things. My color is fading.

As I walk between shelters each day, I consider a number of explanations. Most of them I dismiss as ridiculous, but one seems to stand up and I think of it again and again. It makes my pulse race, my throat tighten even to consider. At this moment my hand trembles at the thought, for the implications are astounding...

There, I am steady again.

The thought: Could the dye be fading because I'm rid of the evil flaw that caused me a judgment of color? Cured? Suppose that in thirty odd years I have changed. The wandering with color has actually had an effect on my character! In the old days before the Collapse people served a sentence in a place of confinement, with a chance at rehabilitation and eventual release. They believed people could change, even criminals. Why not?

So, I try to visualize what it would be like to live without color, to not be an outcast, able to remain in one place for more than a day, to work, to play, to read, to write, to be a living part of that place, to be respected, accepted, to have friends. To be a free man once again. The thought boggles the mind. It is almost too much to hope for. I don't know. It seems a dream.

I will keep this log to record the progress of this color transition, and to speculate on causes, hoping to validate my hope that I'm cured, free of the evil urge that led to my judgment.

But I have a secondary reason for keeping the journal. Even a dyed man's life must be of some value, with lessons for others. So I will record what it is like to be assigned color. Perhaps this will be of some value.

So this is the diary of an outcast, and all that means. For a DP the only solace is smoke. And like all the others I'm addicted to the drug. That is why I wander a pattern of sorts, each day checking in at a DP place. Not just for shelter and food, but to recieve my ampule of smoke. A pitiful admission...

I am old and tired, and the thinking before writing requires too much effort. I grow weary. I will record more tomorrow.

The after effects of the drug hit the indigo man--a slight sense of disorientation, weariness, a need to rest.

He pushes the journal aside, and with an effort rises. He shuffles across the hut to the first sleeping cubicle, then he slumps down on the stained cot without taking off his clothes or spreading out the blanket. Closing his eyes, he tries to drift off to sleep, but has difficulty.

Thirty-two, thirty-three years? He's not sure, but the judgment day itself is as vivid in his mind as if it were only yesterday...


© Gene O'Neill 2002.
The Burden Of Indigo
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