The forest is wide and brimming with natural sounds. In enclaves of umber, in shadowed thickets, mire-pitch and sweet with dew, live words left abandoned like brush under deerfoot. Beasts thrum in blood. Stags sup on new leaves. Insects act as jewels on brown bark.
A man in white and a person in orange have stalked past the prey-like, the predator, the buzzing-somethings, and the valley lilies in unnatural purple.
The man in white unfolds a circle of pink fabric, and produces water and tea from nowhere.
The person in orange sidles on the pink fabric, nestling in the comfort of natural sounds, of light and warmth, of the whispering woods, to perch a cup of water to their mouth.
The man in white joins them, mulling over a mug of milk tea, a cautious feline brow cast in a direct angle at the person in orange, who is looking at him much the same.
A severe expression. The air is tense in silence, and yet the natural sounds persist, like a downy cloak to buffer the nothing-sounds, and cloister the pair’s internal storms.
“What you said earlier,” he ruffles his hands through his pale blond hair, “I’m sorry. Can you explain what you meant?” The person in orange snorts at the man in white.
“X is Y, and X is always Y…but you need nuance. But X is always Y, because it’s a slippery slope to hating orange,” the person in orange says between sips of water, shrugging.
The man in white narrows his brows. He takes out a cigarette. His shoulders seem weighted by the unseen. He twists to examine the person in orange. Their face. Their expression. Their casual expertness.
Their self-causal deduction that there will never be any other answer than what is given, as the man in white has been given no real answer.
“I don’t understand. Can you make it make sense to me?” The man in white’s gaze is sharp. Blue like a laser yet more deadly. He smears his hand over his face. He doesn’t want to stare like this.
“I don’t have to. I’m orange,” says the person in orange. They sip.
“I’m orange too,” responds the man in white, “but…not so overt, I guess.”
The sun cascades over his shoulders and the white becomes a creamsicle, having been blotted out by the colors of the clearing. Undeniably orange, but not as expressively so.
“…I still don’t understand.”
“I don’t have to. I’m orange,” the person in orange explains, and then all at once, opens their mouth and valley lilies in unnatural purple explode in a fountain.
The man in…creamsicle narrows his eyes, knocks his milk tea into the back of his throat, drops the mug with a dull thud, stands, lights up his cigarette, and stares down at the person in orange.
He inhales, exhales. His smoke is blue, pink, and purple. His shadows are neon orange like the light of some hellfire war. Vibrant, violent, but lovely.
Each color sears as it escapes in ribbons to the sky above. The forest grows quiet at the smoke. The forest grows quiet in his orange shadows. They light the very air with paint.
It grows quiet and he can feel the beasts thrumming.
“You know…” his words catch in his fanged jaw, “some people could think…you’re using orange as a shield.” The man in creamsicle realizes, in this moment, he said this to himself. No words came from his mouth.
In fact, all sounds have ceased. The forest is deathly quiet. The jeweled insects pause in time and flicker. The trees grow inert; the wind’s been murdered. Birds hang over head like mobiles.
The man in creamsicle looks up at the birds. They could drop at any second.
The man perches his cigarette to his lips. The man looks at the person in orange, spewing out thousands of devastating purple flowers.
“You know…that those colors are more complicated…you probably should think a bit more before you puke them up all over the fucking place.”
Again, the words are nothing-things. The man in creamsicle squints. He takes another drag. He turns to the forest, and sees thousands of little red dots staring back at him.
His orange shadows are explosive. His colorful smoke is heavy and thorned. It melts the trees as he continues to smoke.
The person in orange sips their water, taking a pause from puking up valley lilies in purple.
“I’m really not comfortable with it,” the man in creamsicle says, clicking his teeth, “but you have so many little spies…”
The words do not reach the person in orange, who is yet again vomiting flowers.
The man in creamsicle’s words, however, reach a tall yellow deer.
It steps from beyond the death-silent woods. It tilts its head to the side. The man in creamsicle tilts his head the same, acknowledging the deer.
“You should probably just go, or whatever,” the deer says.
“Yeah, yeah I fucking should.”
“But you, like, don’t want to…why is that?” the yellow deers asks. The man in creamsicle boils in cataclysmic indigo.
“It’s fucked up.”
“It’s not your fight, or whatever,” the yellow deer has grown a human face. She’s familiar, and rolling her eyes.
“Almost all fights are my fights. But this one especially.”
“Why?” asks the surreal, woman-faced yellow deer.
“Because I’m orange. And that one…is using the paint wrong. You have to explain it. You can’t default to a paint when your flowers are filling up a field. They’ll burn people if not handled properly.”
“You burn people,” the woman-faced yellow deer says, stepping back slightly.
“For good reason.”
“Is it always ‘for good reason’, or whatever?” the woman-faced yellow deer asks.
“…almost always,” the man in creamsicle responds, body immolated in indigo fire. Purple flowers have curled in his fists. His face is adorned with a serrated maw of fuschia in fangs like a snake, in a mask over his mouth.
“How do you, like, know?”
“I have enough burns, Polly. I know when the paint explodes for the hell of it. I know when the paint can be used as a shield. I know when the flowers can stop all sound. I know when the flowers will choke the landscape and set it on fire, I know when the flowers can become…dangerous,” the man in creamsicle looks back at the pink circle, the person in orange, and the clearing.
The valley lilies in purple have filled everything up. They’ve made vines in the skin of the person in orange.
“I know because it’s been done to me, and I am very capable of being stained in red as orange. I choose not to be, because I know the devices. When you know you can purge the landscape with flowers, and you choose not to, you are a better judge of these things.”
“Is this person like…red-orange or whatever?” the deer-faced woman asks, stepping forward on gold hooves.
“I don’t know.”
“And it bothers you?”
The man in creamsicle is no longer masked, no longer caked in colors, and no longer burning.
He jams his cigarette between his teeth and speaks:
“Because I’m orange.”
This post was originally written on Medium.com: