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Rated: ASR · Fiction · Contest Entry · #2277792
A world of separation (Warning: small mention of suicide and death of a loved one)
In other worlds, pink is a symbolism for beauty and compassion, femininity and fun. But here in Roydo, pink symbolizes ugliness, shame, lacking and indifference. Each individual is represented with a color. If you represent the color pink, there will be much misery coming your way. The lighter the shade of pink, the worse. It is best to represent the darkest shade of pink, even if it has to be red.

In other worlds, grey is a symbolism for neutralism and lack of emotion, lifelessness and boredom. But here in Roydo, grey represents excitement and love, positivity and kindness. If you represent grey, many fortunes will come your way. The darker the color, the better, even if it has to be black.

Any color you represent, you must add it to your wardrobe at all times, whether it would be a t-shirt, a jacket, a pair of pants, a pair of shoes, or even a hat. If you are caught not wearing your color, you will be penalized.

There are rules within this society. If you break them once, you will receive a strike. Break them three times, and you will be thrown in prison for eternity.

Now, to determine what your color is, you are assigned to one at birth. Your doctor will tell your parents your color. If it is pink, even the lightest of pinks, you will be a huge disappointment to your family. People will treat you poorly or just try to avoid you. You will struggle with education and find it hard to find a job. But if it is grey, even the darkest of greys, you will be a huge joy to your parents. You will succeed in life. You will have an abundance of friends. You will have the best job in the world. If it is any other color, it won't be as important as the two main ones.

Now, everyone is assigned at random. One citizen can be born a red rep with a family of green reps. Another could be born an orange rep and everyone is represented different colors.

If you wish to change your color (which is probably pink), you must go to great lengths to change it. We will not tell you what these "great lengths" are. You must figure them out yourself. Your family and friends will not help you.

Good luck.


~Charcoal Sebastian Vlahos

~

Pembe Sherman couldn't believe that her representation was pink. The lightest shade! Where has she gone wrong? What did she do to deserve this punishment? She tried her best in school but failed every time. She tried to make friends, but everyone ignored her. She tried to make her family happy, but everyone hated each other. What could she do to make it right?

Her name meant "pink and beautiful", but she was the opposite. She had drab hair with a bad outfit: a pink stained shirt and black ripped jeans. And no, they were not made that way.

Other colors like red, green, and purple would have been preferable. The students representing those colors were treated depending on their meaning. For example, red was a symbolism for passion and courage. The jock, Crimson represented both. He had a passion for football and the courage to crush his opponents. He was one of the most popular among his students.

Despite the kind personalities of a few, they didn't associate with Pembe unless they were taunting her.

One day at school, Pembe and the other students heard an announcement of a new student. She was the only one representing pink, while everyone represented a different shade of color, but there was one color that was not represented at the school.

"Good morning, students!" Principal Ruby Alcius, representing red. "We have a new student. He is the son of ruler Charcoal Sebastian Vlahos. Everyone, meet Glaucus Vlahos!"

Some of the girls gawked at him as he entered. He was a hunk, alright. He had biceps and his skin tone was bronze. He wore a dark grey tank top (yes, you can wear that to school) and black sweatpants. It seemed that he represented grey.

Pembe wanted to see this guy as just another student. But she couldn't. He was flawless! There was no way she could catch herself interacting with someone like him. He was like a movie star, and she was like...well, you get the point.

The Greek Adonis sat in front of her, not at all noticing her presence. It looked like Pembe had the privilege to stare at the back of his head. That full head of black hair.

Pembe snapped out of it and went back to her work. Even though she wasn't smart enough for school, she tried her best to catch up. She had dreamed to attend college as a child, but gave up later since she acknowledged that no pink has ever succeeded in attending.

"Hey, can I borrow a pencil?" Glaucus asked, turning to briefly face Pembe.

"You-you don't have one of your own?" Pembe asked.

He raised an eyebrow. "Duh."

After digging into her pouch and handing him a pencil, he responded with, "Thanks, babe."

Pembe had never been called "babe" before. Heck, she had never been called any pet names before. But the way he called her "babe" seemed more playful than affectionate. But she didn't mind.

~

Pembe shuffled her supplies in her locker. While doing so, she heard a few gasps and sighs from her classmates. She turned to notice Glaucus entering the hall. As much as she wanted to turn away, she couldn't help but gawk with everyone else.

"Don't even think about it," Lime who represented green said to Pembe. "He wouldn't go for people like you. Pinks and greys don't match. Remember that." Lime flipped her hair as she walked by.

Pembe slumped her shoulders. Lime was right. But after she left, Pembe noticed that while Glaucus strode through the halls, she caught his eye.

~

Ignoring the stares, Glaucus went to his locker. He couldn't help but notice the girl a few lockers away. The girl representing pink. She looked so lonely. Glaucus never understood why people of various colors had to be treated in different ways. All of these labels. It didn't make sense. Everyone was human after all. His father was the current ruler of Roydo, so he knew quite a lot about the empire's history. However, no matter how much his father would explain to him why the rules must be established, Glaucus couldn't wrap around the fact that pinks had to be treated differently.

Although the girl wasn't well put together, there was something about her. No, he didn't have a crush on her, but the only thing he wanted was to help her and all of the other pinks. At his old school, almost everyone represented grey, except for a few greens and blues mixed in. All students seemed to get along well. Sure, there were cliques, light greys and dark greys together, but for the most part, everyone got along. Why couldn't it be the case in this school? Why must everyone isolate others?

The only reason why Glaucus treated Pembe the way he did in class was because he didn't want to stand out. He had to think of a plan to help her. And he had to come up with it alone.

~

As Pembe walked home, she heard a noise.

"Psst," it said.

Pembe scanned her surroundings, startled. She looked to the passing cars on her left, and then to her right, there was a shed standing on the grass a few feet away.

"Over here," the voice whispered.

She spotted someone in a grey hoodie wearing sunglasses. The person motioned to her.

Cautiously, she approached him.

The person removed his shades, revealing a pair of glittering, yet familiar eyes. Glaucus.

"C-can I help you?"

"Maybe not," he said, keeping his voice low. "But I can help you."

"Me?" Pembe put a hand over her chest.

"Yes. Let me show you." He grabbed her hand and pulled her to a shed. He opened the door to let her in.

The shed was pitch black and the two could no longer see each other. Pembe was not sure whether to trust Glaucus or not. Of course he was a beauty, but he could be a dangerous beauty.

"What are we doing here?" Pembe asked.

"Just keep your voice low, okay? I am going to tell you what I have not told anyone. But keep this between us. You know that my father is the ruler of this empire, and he makes all of these rules of how people should look at themselves based on their color. According to Roydo's website, you must go through 'great lengths' to change your color. I can help you do that."

Pembe swallowed. "But why did he make pink the ugly color?"

Glaucus shrugged. "I'll tell you all that later."

"I have so many questions to ask him. Do you think it's possible for me to contact him?"

"I don't think so."

"Well, since you're his son, can you get to him?"

"I can try. But let me warn you, my father is not one to change his mind."

"So, you said you would help me. How? What are the challenges I need to accomplish?"

"Well, there's only one, technically."

"Just one?"

"Yes, but it's not easy. In fact, it is dangerous. We need to arrive at a grove, but I must warn you, it is rumored to be cursed, and you may run into some horrifying creatures."

Pembe gulped.

"But don't worry, I do have some weapons in my RV. They may help. The objective is to find three gems."

"I don't think I can do this."

"Of course you can." He inched closer. "And I will help you."

Pembe backed up a bit. "But won't you get in trouble? It says on the website that no one can help you."

"My father won't have to know."

A sudden thought occurred to Pembe. "Wait, why are you doing this?"

"Because I think that it's unfair for individuals to be treated poorly simply because of their color representation."

"Do you tell your father this?"

"Yeah, but he won't listen to me. He won't listen to anyone. So, do you want my help or not?"

Pembe thought for a moment. "I don't know."

"Just know that whatever happens, I will make sure you are safe. I promise."

Pembe couldn't help but feel warmth in her heart. She thought that Glaucus was just going to be this jerk that would ignore her just like everyone else. But he ended up being the opposite. He seemed to symbolize kindness well. But then, another thought occurred to her. What if he was doing this as a trick? What if he used this "plan" to get rid of all pinks according to his father's orders?

"I-I don't think I trust you."

Glaucus sighed. "Well, if you change your mind about this, you can call my number on your device."

Pembe finally said, "You know what? I'll do it. I'll come with you. Just as long as you keep your promise to keep me safe."

Glaucus nodded. "I will. So tonight, you will need to pack your bags and sneak out. Then meet me back here at midnight."

"What? But that's too risky. This is all too risky! What if we get caught? What if our parents start looking for us?" Not that my parents would care, anyway.

"I'll think of something. All of your questions will be answered when we get on the road. Now, go home."

Pembe didn't want to go home. She didn't want to have to face her family. The people in her own home that hated her.

~

"Where have you been?" her mother snapped as Pembe closed the door behind her.

"I-I went to the store," Pembe said.

"You know you're not supposed to go anywhere without our permission, right?" her father demanded. "Outside of school?"

Pembe wanted to explode in their faces. She was tired of feeling like a prisoner in her own home. "Can I just do my homework?"

"Homework? Ha!" her mom scoffed. "Pembe, what's the point? You're never going to finish it! You're too stupid!"

Pembe had enough. "You know that we all represent pink, right? So instead of bringing each other down, why don't we build each other up?"

"Build each other up?" her dad repeated. "What good would that do?"

"The website said that we would be a disappointment to our families, Pembe!" her mother shouted. "My mother was a disappointment to her mother, I was a disappointment to mine, and now you're a disappointment to me!"

Pembe couldn't help but tear up. "But that can all change. We don't need to believe everything the website says, Mom. We can stand out from all of the other pinks!"

"You're pathetic, Pembe! Of course everything the website says is true! There is no hope for us!"

Pembe then thought about Glaucus and his plan. She was contemplating whether or not to tell her parents about it. But she decided against it.

"Well, you're wrong," Pembe retorted. "There can be hope for us! You'll see!" With that, she rushed up the stairs.

~

Midnight struck and Pembe packed her things as Glaucus ordered. She still wasn't sure if this were a good idea, but she was desperate enough to not become a pink anymore.

She snuck out, tiptoed to the shed, and scanned her surroundings to ensure that the coast was clear. When she arrived outside of the shed, she saw Glaucus standing there. This time with his tank top. He led her in and switched on the lights, revealing two computer monitors with a desk, chair, and a few picture frames. The shed seemed bigger than expected.

"Wow," Pembe said. "Is this your dad's or..."

"No, it's mine. Dad built it for me as a birthday gift."

"Oh, that's sweet. I wish my parents gave me gifts on my birthday."

Glaucus frowned sympathetically.

"Anyway, how did you get all of this equipment? Were these all a birthday gift?"

"No, I bought them myself."

Glaucus turned to the computers and switched on one of the monitors. He started typing, then motioned for her.

Pembe walked over and leaned in. Glaucus pulled up a map on the computer. "So, it says here that the grove is an eighty-minute drive."

"Wow, that's a long time. I'm still not sure about this, Glaucus."

He put a hand on her shoulder. "Trust me. This will all be worth it. So, are you ready to do this?"

"If it will change my color, then I'm willing to do anything."

"Okay." He rose from the chair. "Let's do this."

They hopped into his RV and drove away.

"Goodbye, Roydo," Pembe said to the town. "I won't miss you."

Glaucus laughed softly as he continued focusing on the road. "You know we're coming back."

"Unfortunately." After a few minutes, she asked, "Can I sleep?"

"Sure."

Pembe allowed her eyes to weigh heavy as she laid against the leather.

~

While she slept, Glaucus couldn't help but glance at her while driving. She was peaceful when asleep. He couldn't see how the world would see her as unattractive. She was kind, thoughtful, and dare he added, beautiful. If not beautiful on the outside, then beautiful on the inside. However, Pembe was both. Her hair may have been undone, but it matched her features perfectly. She seemed to be just as beautiful as the girls of grey. Yes, he went there. And the girls of grey were drop dead gorgeous.

Glaucus snapped out of it. He couldn't have feelings for a pink. Pinks were supposed to be undesirable. But Pembe didn't seem to be that way at all.

Nevertheless, Glaucus knew he was doing the right thing. However, he shouldn't do this for only Pembe. But for the other pinks. His history with the pinks were always interesting. At his elementary school, he had many pinks as his classmates. Everyone bullied them to no end. Even his friends pressured him to harass them to which he had no motivation. One day, he ended up befriending a pink. The two guys would hide somewhere at the school and hang out. They couldn't be seen with each other. He started to wonder what was wrong with the guy since he was a pink. His hair was messy, he had a mustard stain on his shirt, but he was nonetheless a nice guy. Later, Glaucus and his friend were caught by his father and the sheriffs, resulting in Glaucus being forced to transfer to a new school and the boy being sent to prison.

The pinks and greys could interact with each other, but only to a certain extent. Once you become close with each other, that's when things become illegal. You could not befriend them nor become intimate with them.

Glaucus stopped by a shelter where he told the group of pinks to hide in. The group consisted of eight people. He came out of the RV and motioned them in. "Come on. Come on! Hurry!" he hissed. As soon as everyone climbed in, he shut the door and drove.

"Okay, everyone be quiet. My friend's sleeping here!"

"Wow, Glaucus," one pink, Fuchsia, said. "You have a nice van here."

"Yeah, dude," Pinkie, a male pink said. "I wouldn't mind living in here." He laid against the seat with pillows.

"Shh! Keep your voice down!" Glaucus said.

"Sorry." Pinkie said.

"Glaucus," Magenta started. "Thank you for doing this. It means a lot."

"No problem," Glaucus said.

~

Pembe fluttered her eyes open and realized that she heard voices behind her. She veered to Glaucus who was still driving. Then she turned her head to see the group of pinks sitting around, talking and laughing, but quietly. Nervous, she gripped her seatbelt as if it would protect her from these strangers.

"Um, Glaucus?" she asked. "Who are these people?"

Glaucus looked to her and smiled. "Oh, you're awake. Don't worry. These are the other pinks we're helping out as well."

"I thought it was just you and me."

"Nope."

She glared. "Why didn't you tell me other people were coming?"

"I didn't think you would mind."

"I wouldn't have minded if you told me before."

Glaucus sighed. "Okay, sorry. I'll introduce you to everyone as soon as we get to a stop."

Pembe leaned back and stared at the road. "How much time do we have left?" she asked.

"Just forty minutes."

"Yo, G," Pinkie started. "When are we going to make our first stop?"

"Yeah, can we at least get something to eat?" Magenta added.

"Fine." Glaucus pulled over in front of a tiny shop. "Everyone, stay put." He hopped out and approached the shop. The shop had baskets of fruit: apples, oranges, kiwis, and favorites of pinks, watermelons and grapefruits.

"Ooh, I can't wait to get my hands on those watermelons!" Fuchsia squealed.

"So, your name is Pembe?" Magenta asked her.

Pembe looked over her shoulder. "Yes. What's everyone else's?"

"Are you going to face us, or do we have to see your back the whole time?" Pinkie asked.

"Pinkie!" Fuchsia snapped.

"That's okay. I'll stand up." Pembe unbuckled her seatbelt and stood up to face everyone. They seemed to be expressing their color well.

"I'm Fuchsia." The young woman, darker skinned, had a black afro with a dark pink bow on her right side. Her bright pink lipstick seemingly matched her skin tone.

"I'm Pinkie." The guy had on a green and pink floral shirt and his hair was braided in dreads.

"And I'm Magenta." The girl had her hair pulled into a ponytail, a pink ribbon tying it.

The rest of the gang seemed to be sleeping. They consisted of a child, an old man, an old lady, a woman in her forties, and an infant the woman was holding.

"Do you guys know each other?" Pembe asked.

The three strangers exchanged glances. "Yes. We used to go to the same high school," Fuchsia explained. "But I'm the oldest."

"And I'm the youngest," Magenta added.

"What do you guys do now?" Pembe remembered that pinks were less likely to graduate from any level of school, especially high school. One would have to be quite fortunate to achieve such a thing.

"I just want to surf," Pinkie confessed.

"I want to become a fashion designer, but I know that you need college for that," Magenta said, bowing her head.

"And I want to do hair," Fuchsia said with a sad smile. "But I need college for that, too."

Pembe felt sympathy for them, as well as herself. She personally didn't know what she wanted to do after high school. It probably didn't since colleges didn't accept pinks and they were less likely to get into a good job.

"Just out of curiosity, did any of you graduate from high school or..."

"I dropped out." Pinkie shrugged his shoulders.

"I was far behind in my studies," Magenta said. "But I was able to graduate. Not on time, though."

"As for me," Fuchsia said, "I graduated on time. It would've been worth it if I got accepted into a college."

"Well, it's a good thing we're doing this, then. Right?" Pembe smiled. "We won't have to be pinks anymore."

"I guess," Fuchsia said. "I'm just not looking forward to the challenge."

"Yeah, I don't want to be eaten by monsters," Magenta said, shaking.

"I don't know. Fighting monsters could be pretty cool!" Pinkie said.

"Pinkie, sit down," Fuchsia mumbled.

"We can do this!" Pembe encouraged. "Come on! Who's with me?" Pembe laid her hand in front of the pinks to let them join in.

The other three placed their hands on top of hers.

"On three, we say team pinks. One, two, three..."

"TEAM PINKS!"

As soon as they shouted their cheer, Glaucus climbed back in, catching the ruckus. "Hey, what's going on here?" He smiled.

"I'm just trying to cheer us on for this journey," Pembe said.

"Oh, alright, so you seem to know the first three already. Awesome." He handed each individual a basket of fruit to which everyone responded with a "thank you".

As he returned with a "you're welcome", he started the engine.

The gang finally arrived at their destination: the grove located out into the hills. "Now, about our destination," Glaucus started, "this grove has been rumored by locals to be cursed. I don't know the full story, but it has been out here for centuries. Or longer than that." Glaucus turned to the rest of the team. "Now, I want everybody to stay close. We will split up. Pembe and I will partner together. Any of you can choose to pair up with whoever they choose or go in groups. Everyone present?"

"Yes," they all said, including the people that just awoke.

"Young man, can you tell us again why we're here?" the mother Blush asked, keeping her baby by her hip.

"So, our task is to find three crystals. One of them is small, heart-shaped and orange. The second crystal is opaque, spherical and colorless. The last one-"

"What does 'colorless' look like?" the older lady Rose interrupted.

"Please raise your hand when asking," Glaucus said, trying not to be annoyed.

"I'm sorry, son." Rose stood back.

"That's alright. The last crystal is large with many sides on it. It's sparkly, but a dusty red and blue. Oh, and it's shaped like a teardrop. Now, to answer your question, Rose, colorless can be pale, white, grey, or black."

"How large is the last crystal?" Magenta asked.

"I don't remember, but it may or may not be as big as an average human. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me on my device. If anyone has found any of the crystals, take them back to the RV."

"How do you know about all of this?" Blush asked.

"Only me and my family know. My father has told us all of these secrets."

"Why can't anyone else know the secrets?" Crepe, the older man, asked.

"I can't tell you everything. Maybe some other time, I will. But right now, we need to find those crystals. Everyone out."

The group climbed out and scanned their surroundings. The place was dark and woodsy.

"Wait," the little boy Punch said. "Will there be m-monsters out there?"

"Oh, yes. I forgot!" He walked over to the trunk and grabbed a few swords. "These will defeat almost any beast coming your way. However, some are harder to beat than others. Only one person per group can use it." He handed one to Crepe, Pinkie, and Blush.

"Sir, I don't feel safe with my baby around this place," Blush said, holding the sword tightly.

"You need to do this if you want to change your color."

Blush looked down at her baby Peach, then back at Glaucus. "I'll do it. I'll make sure my baby's protected."

Pembe felt scared. She started to rethink this decision. After they split up, she scooted closer to Glaucus for safety, but tried not to get too close.

"Here, hold my hand," Glaucus said, holding it out as he noticed her fear.

Pembe took no time grabbing his hand. It was warm, but firm. The touch of it immediately gave her comfort.

The duo scanned for monsters. Even though nothing horrible was happening yet, Pembe felt like she was trapped in a horror movie.

"Try to stay calm," Glaucus said, feeling her hand tense.

"I'm calm. It's just-" She thought for a second. "I'm afraid of the monsters."

"I am too. But remember, I'll protect you."

Pembe still didn't understand why Glaucus was doing all of this for her and her color group. She knew he didn't like how pinks were treated, but there had to be a deeper motive behind it.

"Why haven't you done this before?"

"Done what?"

"This. Helping us change our color."

"Because I was afraid my father would catch me doing it. But not anymore."

"How does your dad treat you and your family?"

"He treats us well. But if I decide to bend the rules, he might get angry. For example, he was not at all happy with me hanging around a pink. So, he grounded me and sent the pink in jail."

"Oh, my gosh," Pembe said, sympathetic. "I'm so sorry about that."

"Yeah. I have tried reasoning with him about this, but he wouldn't hear the end of it."

Pembe started to imagine herself in that other pink's shoes. If she spent too much time with Glaucus, even though she had just met him, she would never get to see him again. She would never get to see her family again, although that wouldn't be a loss.

Would going to jail really be a loss? She didn't even have a chance to go to college, anyway, and she might not graduate. So, what would have been the worst thing that could happen?

"Why is your father doing this? When did he decide to categorize people based on their color?"

"You know my dad is not the founder of Roydo. It traces back down to when one of the first men discovered a pink gem and found it completely appalling to look at. But when he discovered a rock, a grey rock, he bowed down to it."

"A rock, really?" Pembe couldn't help but laugh.

"Yes. I know. And that went on since then. People were disgusted by the color pink yet astonished by the color grey."

"What about all the other colors?"

"It varies. Red is a desirable color and so is blue. So, if they see a rock in those colors...you get the point."

"Okay, since you and your family represent the color grey, a neutral color, what about colors like black, white, or brown?"

"They can vary as well. For example, if you represent brown, some people will respect you because you're welcoming and wise. Some may avoid you because you're boring and predictable."

Pembe started to remember what the website said about the neutrals. "Wait. I think I remember now. Black here represents strength and positivity, while white represents emptiness and hopelessness. Black is supposed to be the darkest shade of grey, right? And white the lightest shade?"

Glaucus nodded.

The two teenagers went further into the woods and found a dark tunnel.

Pembe tightened her grip on Glaucus's hand. She didn't want to go in there.

"Come on," Glaucus urged her. "One of the crystals might be in there."

"You can go in there. I'll wait out here."

"No. Some beast might get you. I can't be responsible for that. Come on." He pulled her inside. The cavern was almost pitch dark. What lit it was the small heart-shaped gem. The two kids inched closer to it.

"So, why don't we grab it?" Pembe asked, noticing Glaucus's hesitation.

"We can't just grab it. The beasts are protective of these gems, so we have to be careful." Glaucus dug into his backpack and pulled out a net.

"A net, really? What are we catching, fish?"

"Shh! Trust me. This is one of the safest ways of grabbing these crystals." Cautiously, he inched toward the gem with his net and caught it. "Got it!" They took a minute to examine the gem's beauty, its glow leaving them in awe.

"Wow," Pembe breathed. "I wouldn't mind having those as jewelry."

"Yeah, I-"

Suddenly, they felt a vibration underneath their feet.

"Come on!" Glaucus ordered, grabbing Pembe's hand again and dragging her out.

"What's happening?" she asked.

"Just keep running!"

The duo ran as quickly as they could. Even if they were out of breath, they wouldn't stop. They could hear a beast roaring, its giant feet gaining on them.

Glaucus then grabbed a sword and flung it at the beast, making the terrifying creature collapse onto the ground.

Pembe looked to Glaucus, out of breath. "J-j-just like that? The monsters can die just like that?"

"Like I said before, some are easier to defeat than others. That was the Glob. He is one of the easiest creatures to defeat."

"So, what would happen if they can't be defeated?"

"You do can do three things: fight hard, hide, or get eaten."

"Okay, so we've found one of the crystals. Now what?"

"I notify the others." He took out his device and typed in a message to the group. "Alright, let's go."

After a long while, the group met back to the RV, except for three: Crepe, Rose, and Punch.

"Want me to help find them?" Pinkie asked while heading back toward the woods.

"No," Glaucus said quickly, grabbing his collar. "We stay right here until they come back."

"Why don't you message them or something?" Magenta asked.

"I have. No one respon-"

"Help!" a voice called out. It sounded like the older lady, Rose. She came stumbling, grabbing the hand of the grandson, who was crying hysterically.

"What happened?" Glaucus asked.

"They took- they took my husband!" Rose bawled. She was shaking and could barely look at anyone.

"What happened?" Fushcia asked. "Who took him?"

"Those monsters! My Crepe tried to fight them off with a sword, but they were too powerful! They-they ate him up! I didn't want to run, but we had to. They were going to get us next!" Her voice breathing quickened after every sentence.

"Okay, calm down," Glaucus said, approaching her.

"I can't!" she sobbed. "They took my husband!"

"And I'm sorry. But we have to keep going."

"Not without my husband! Just leave me here! Please!"

Glaucus looked back at the team. Everyone was silent. Pembe wished she knew what she could do to help Rose and her grandson. It must have been traumatizing to witness a loved one getting killed.

The team then came over to comfort Rose and Punch.

~

The team stayed in the RV quiet. It had been half an hour since Crepe had been eaten. As requested, Rose was left alone in the grove.

Pembe was at a loss for words. What would have happened if she or a loved one got eaten by a monster? Even though it was common for families that represented pink to hate each other, it was rare for them to love and accept one another. If one of them died, the response varied on how much the person meant to them. Typically, if the family were dysfunctional, there wouldn't be much of a fuss about it. No funeral and no tears. No remorse or sorrow. Just moving on with life.

She was amazed at how distressed Rose was when she witnessed her husband being devoured. That showed real love and care.

If Pembe died herself, she had wondered how her parents would feel despite the hatred of her. She even wondered that once they woke up, they would try to find her while realizing she had snuck out.

Glaucus glanced to her. "What's on your mind?"

"So many things," she said softly. "Too many. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I-I just want to go home. This was a bad idea from the start."

Glaucus looked down.

"Nothing you did wrong. I just felt like if we weren't going to make it out here alive, what was the point?"

"Clearly, I did do something wrong. I read the instructions carefully."

Pembe turned to him. "What instructions?"

"My father locked them into a filing cabinet. Only my family can see it."

"So, if he doesn't want the citizens to know about how we can change our color, why does he have instructions for them in the first place?"

"To share with us."

"None of this makes sense to me." She paused to think some more. "I'm sorry, Glaucus. But I'd rather stay a pink than get eaten."

"Are you sure?"

Was Pembe really sure?

"Maybe. I don't understand how finding crystals help change our color, anyway."

"Well, the next thing we do is put them in a machine and it will allow you to choose what color you want to change."

"Well, we have the two other crystals. Why not just use those?"

"No, we need all three."

"This is dumb. Let's just get out of here."

Glaucus turned to the rest of the group. "How about you guys? Want to call it quits?"

Everyone remained silent until Fuchsia spoke up. "Yeah, let's just go home."

"Okay." Glaucus turned on the engine. While the RV backed up, Pembe couldn't help but watch Rose curl into a ball.

~

It was four o'clock in the morning when Pembe arrived back home. She snuck in without waking her parents up. She tried to get some sleep but couldn't stop thinking about what happened in the past three hours. She almost got eaten!

She finally managed to fall asleep by five and then woke up at nine. She walked to her mirror and realized that she was no longer wearing her pink, dirty t-shirt, but a grey clean one. Her hair was no longer drab, but more fab.

She rushed downstairs to find her parents laughing and talking. That was the first time in a while that she saw them so happy.

Their house was no longer filthy and putrid. It was clean and fragrant. Her parents were dressed nicely: Her mother was wearing a sparkly, silver dress and her father was wearing a grey suit. Just like Pembe's, their hair was done up well.

"W-what's going on?"

The parents both spotted her and smiled.

"Oh, Pebble, darling," her dad said. "Come, come. We've got news to share."

Pebble? Darling?

Pembe hesitantly stepped closer as her father wrapped an arm around her.

"Tell her, honey," her mother squealed.

"I just got a promotion from the law firm!"

"Wh-what?"

"You heard your father! He's officially a lawyer now!"

Pembe stepped from her father. Too many questions swirled around her head. How was this possible? Was this a dream? What law firm?
How was her father able to obtain a job as a lawyer? The real question was: how were they able to change colors when the plan failed?

"Well, what do you think, darling?" her mother asked. "Are you proud of your father's accomplishments?"

Pembe looked to her father who beamed down for her.

"Um, s-sure, I am. Congratulations, Dad."

"Thank you, pumpkin!" He hugged her again. "I can't wait to tell everyone in our family!"

Pembe had to talk to Glaucus. Soon.

"Can you guys excuse me? I need to make a call."

"Oh, it's to one of your friends, isn't it?" her mother asked.

Friends?

"Um, y-yeah. I'll be right back!" She raced upstairs and grabbed her device. Taking a deep breath, she waited for Glaucus to respond.

"I'm sorry. But the person you have reached is no longer available."


6164 words

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