2009 Totem Head Story Contest Winner: "Color Catcher" By Madison.
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Story Title: Color Catcher

So there I was, leaning against the school wall.  I spend most of my time during recess like that; the other kids do not exactly beg me to play with them.  After all, why would you want a soccer goalie that couldn’t see the ball coming?

I am blind; at the very least, I do not see the world as most do.  It is easy to see why I lack sight, once you get a look at my eyes.  I was born without irises or pupils.  Just white orbs, staring out at people.  I understand it is unnerving, so I always wear sunglasses, even inside.

I never knew my mother; she was not even the one to name me.  My father took care of that.  He named me Hathor, after an Egyptian goddess.  Hathor was known as the Eye of Ra, as it was her responsibility to guard Egypt and inform the gods of evildoers.  She was the ultimate guardian, and was feared for her all-reaching sight.  I am not entirely sure whether my father meant it as a prank, or perhaps a prayer.  I was never able to ask him.  Of course, it is a little unusual to have a name such as Hathor; I am known by my nickname, Hattie.  Hattie Lewis; I think the name has a nice ring to it.

But forgive me; I digress.  I was leaning against the wall of the school, when I saw a group of kids approaching me.  That is, I didn’t see them.  I simply…perceived them.  I will attempt to explain, though to someone with normal sight, it is hard to understand.  To me, the world is a swirl of innumerable colors, flowing like a river.  Living things, like animals, stand out to me.  I can see their shape and color, and by their color, I can judge their character.  I can see people, in a people-shaped form, all one color, with each person having their own individual color.  I have always liked color, and my peculiar faculty has come in handy.  For example, I can tell whether a person is lying by how their color changes.

The kids approaching me were the same people who had been hounding me ever since the beginning of the school year, taunting me for being the way I was.  I do not object to it; I can ascertain that, underneath their boasting, they are actually insecure.  They to not like my eyes; they find them alarming, unnatural.  You would think that nowadays people would be more tolerant.  Believe me, there is nothing less tolerant than a cluster of bored adolescents looking for trouble.

"What’s up, freak?  Need help putting your eyes back in?" One of them jeered.  This boy had always reminded me of a stunted olive tree.

The choking feeling came as they surrounded me in a semicircle, with my back against the wall.  I get claustrophobic very easily, and their hostility was not exceedingly pleasant.

I ignored the various insults; they did not particularly offend me.  It was the same repetitive string of unimaginative taunts they had trotted out for the past couple of weeks, and they were more tedious than anything else.

I am not sure why they pestered me; perhaps it was because they knew I wouldn’t tell on them.  Why should I?  It would not stop the harassment.  I am highly independent by nature, and believe that one should learn to be autonomous and self-supporting in life, despite one’s disabilities; moreover, I loathe pity.

The heckling continued for five, ten, fifteen minutes; on and on, unceasingly.  After one particularly ignorant remark, I couldn’t restrain myself any longer.

"If you are going to go to all this trouble just to insult me, then could you please be creative about it?  This is as interesting as watching grass grow."

There was an ominous silence.  The unpleasant feeling of inky, slimy blackness was circling me, like rising swamp water that threatened to drown me.  Then the leader, a boy whose color was a deep tan, gave a low chuckle.

"So, you want a change of pace, do you?" He asked, while the other guffawed.  "Well then, let’s take it up a notch."

He was going to strike me; his color radiated anger and constrained power.  Frustrated that his verbal abuse was not working, he was now attempting to torment me the old-fashioned way.

I felt his fist connect with the side of my face, and wildly I grabbed it.  That was when it happened.  All that drowning, claustrophobic, slimy swamp-water black, the color that had been brewing inside of me, released itself…right into the consciousness of my persecutor.

I heard a choking, gasping sound, and felt the fist I was holding onto relax.  It began to feel like a wet fish.  I took a shaky step back, drained in energy.  I watched in horror as the boy’s color changed from a deep tan to a pale, sickly shade, as if his color had been washed out.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

For the next few minutes, all was confusion.  When I at last had time to focus, I was sitting in a chair in the receptionists’ room outside the principal’s office.  All was quiet…or nearly so.  I could hear adult voices in the next room, but I could only catch a few phrases of their speech.

"…wild, staring eyes…sickly pale…unable to recognize anyone…Hattie Lewis…bullying her…attacked…he appears mentally unstable…"

I was horrified at the words that I heard.  Had I caused the mental breakdown of a student?

That was when I heard the breathing.  It was like a drowning person gasping at air, and it emanated from a few feet away.  The color of the individual quickly identified it as the former bully, now a victim of my accidental color-transfer.  I felt incredibly remorseful—I had meant him no harm! I had impulsively reacted in panic, and this boy was paying the price.

An insane thought popped, unbidden, into my mind.  I had done this to him…perhaps, then, I could be the one to heal him.  If only I could figure out what color to use…

Cautiously, I arose and made my way towards the boy.  I was careful not to make a sound; one creaking floorboard, and those in the office would be in here faster than one could say ‘busted’.

Tentatively, I reached out and touched the cold, sweaty hand.  It was scarily limp, and made me shudder.  The gasping breathing sound did not change at all.  I highly doubted that the boy could see me.  Even if he did, his mind did not comprehend that I was there.  Touching him, I instinctively knew what color to project: a fiery, hot pepper red, to awaken his dull senses.

I felt the color in my psyche, reached for it with my consciousness, and, like opening a dam, the color burst forth from my fingers, almost fusing with the boy.  The breathing changed; now, it was startled, as though someone had been stunned.  The boy’s color began to change back to its normal hue.  I changed the color I was projecting to a potent shade of purple; then to a mellow, warm golden tone, and last, a tranquil, content crystal blue.

Believe me when I say that I did not actually do it.  My body did this instinctively, quicker than I could contemplate.  I simply watched as I worked this strange new power of mine; I did not so much participate as observe the deed.

I could sense ht boy was now at peace.  Actually, I felt his pulse and listened to his deep, even breaths.  He was asleep.  I drew back, listening to the voices in the room beyond.  Judging by the heated tones, whoever was talking was livid.  I did not want to stick around; I could tell that I would be blamed for what had happened, even if I had repaired the damage.

Without making a sound, I slipped out of the office.  I had been going to this school for years; I could make my way through the halls with relative ease.  I turned and slid my hand along the wall to tell me where I was going; but I understood that, no matter what, I would have to ascertain how to control my strange new abilities.  I did not want to damage someone ever again.

If only I had known then that the incident at my school was to be the end of my old life…that it would mark the beginning of an entirely new one…

Written By: Madison, 15 years old.


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