Color Bind

When the aliens come of observe us, of course they will take the form of cats.

There is only one way of seeing them, and that is,
seeing the whole of them.

–John Ruskin

Life forms from V12 in the NGC4203 galaxy 10.4 million light years from Earth had inhabited Providence, R.I., for five weeks.

They assumed human appearance and blended well with the local population, even dropping their “Rs” when appropriate.

There were four aliens in all — two females and two males had been created from fabricated human flesh for the mission.

In reality, V12s possessed no gender variations and were autopoietic — self-reproducing.

The terminus of the nanosecond matter transference had been random — not chosen for any reason other than it held a concentrated population of the planet’s dominant species.

Seconds after arriving, the four V12s were successfully moving among the subjects they were sent to study, and with only a short time remaining in their expedition, they believed they had accomplished their purpose.

In 1400 wextars (four days in human time) they would beam back to V12 and submit their findings to Archivius of Mew, the keeper of extragalactic data. The highlights of their report included the following:

  • Highest form of intelligence indeterminate.
  • Archaic digestive systems and nourishment practices.
  • Life spans comparable to primitives on V12.
  • Conflicts frequently resolved with violence.
  • Cruelty inflicted on other species.
  • Technology misused and lethal.
  • Atmosphere and surface contamination high.
  • Leaders mostly ineffective, arrogant, and ambitious.

The list extended two hundred lines and cast an overwhelmingly negative image of Earthlings, but there were a few exceptions:

  • Interesting tonal manipulation with instruments.
  • Nurturing behavior with infants and infirm.
  • Extensive diversity of spoken idioms.
  • High participation in competitive games.
  • Still and animated visual material prized.
  • Plant arrangements accentuate dwellings and public spaces.
  • Myriad dry goods emporiums.

However, in the aggregate, the cons outweighed the pros ten to one.

This did not surprise the V12 researchers, since they had encountered similar outcomes elsewhere during their many exploratory assignments in several different planetary constellations.

* * * * *

As the intergalactic visitors prepared for transfer home, they experienced an irregularity in their vision, which they deduced was a reaction to some disparate compound in the exotic planet’s four basic elements.

Their sight normally colorless, except for black and white, now discerned all degrees of red, and it had a strange effect on them.

Always astute and emotionally detached, they began to experience fuzzy thinking and felt sensual arousal in the presence of their faux gender opposites. This led to experimentation with their human genitalia and ultimately physical union.

For a full day they engaged in libidinous activities until their energy flagged and they lay exhausted in a naked knot.

When they began to revive, another anomaly occurred in their sight. They could now see yellow objects, and the aberrant behavior inspired by the color red was supplanted by extreme anxiety, verging on panic.

They quickly dressed and locked the doors and drew the shades in their living quarters, where they remained silent and alert lest something horrible occur.

When night passed and the sun seeped through the window coverings, the V12s felt their anxiety dissipate, replaced by a rapidly expanding sense of wellbeing. They could now perceive another vivid hue—this one was blue.

Almost instantly, they experienced intoxicating exhilaration and joy, something unknown to them in their long existences.

“Weeip err hurup,” uttered one of the male V12s, observing the wondrous change that had come over him.

“Sherp ssss fafa waiow,” responded the female V12, noting how strange and superb she, too, felt.

Unable to contain the euphoria prompted by all things blue in their field of vision, they left their confines to bask more fully in their newest human sensation.

Happily, they set about to benefit the planet with their advanced knowledge and formidable powers.

In the following weeks, they had significantly improved the quality of life for all of Earth’s living creatures. For example, humans no longer got acne, venomous snakes became loving house pets, and Big Macs and Whoppers became healthy alternatives. However, in their exultation the aliens had overlooked their transfer date and would suffer dire consequences.

The V12s realized their mistake when their ability to see colors faded, and their vision returned to black and white.

“Eeow maiow prrow,” said one of the galaxy jumpers, declaring that it would be 5600 wextars before a series of nebula would shift enough to permit them unimpeded passage to their habitat.

“We will not last,” declared another, using the native tongue.

After some discussion, they decided to preserve as much of their power source as possible in order to last the sixteen Earth days until departure.

They planned to accomplish this by entering a state of suspended animation and by denying any non-V12 impulses that might attempt to assert themselves.

To insure the success of the latter, they covered their eyes to prevent the invasion of color into their ocular pathways.

* * * * *

On the twelfth day of self-imposed isolation, their human disguises began to molder and by the time of their scheduled transfer pieces of the simulated dermal covering had fallen away from the voyagers it was designed to conceal.

The stench of rotting tissue permeated the small apartment building where they anxiously awaited embarkation. The foul odor aroused neighbors and the building’s superintendent tracked the fumes to the V12’s rental.

He knocked on the door several times, but rather than enter the flat for fear of encountering a gruesome scene, he called the police.

“Something’s dead in there,” observed one of the two officers outside the door behind which the V12s awaited their molecular shuttle.

When they took the super’s key and opened the door, the rancid vapors hit them like a tidal wave and they buried their noses in their sleeves as they entered the tenement.

They immediately recognized the source of the stench.

Piled before them were four carcasses.

“Jesus,” gagged the building super backing out of the apartment.

“What the hell … they look like deflated dummies. Like they have no bones,” commented the younger officer.

“Better call the coroner’s office and homicide, Bob. We got some real strange stuff here.”

A sudden noise came from behind the mound of limp corpses causing the rookie policeman to jump.

“What’s that? Something moved over there!” he exclaimed, drawing his gun from his holster.

“Cool it, Bob. It’s nothing. Look.” He peered beyond the decomposed cadavers to four black and white cats of varying sizes and breeds.

“I’ll be damned. Thought they were …”

“What? The boogeyman?” said the elder cop mockingly. “You’re as big a pussy as they are. Let’s get those freaking mousers out of here before they eat the evidence.”

As they moved toward the huddled animals, a bright flash filled the room. When the burst of light subsided, the felines were gone.

It was as if they had vanished into thin air.

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Michael C. Keith

Michael C. Keith

Michael C. Keith (“Losing His Head,” “Color Bind,” “The Burning Turtle”) is the author of over 20 books on electronic media, as well as a memoir and three books of fiction. Prior to joining Boston College, Keith was Chair of Education at the Museum of Broadcast Communications. He is the recipient of the International Radio Television Society’s Stanton Fellow Award and others.

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