Colorimetry

What if we could smell colors?

*  *  22  *  *

“It’s a simple question, Mr. Jeffries. What color was the victim’s shirt?”

Jeffries stared at the prosecutor, dumbfounded.

“Objection, your honor,” said his attorney.

The judge grinned. “This ought to be good. Grounds?”

It was the attorney’s turn to look dumbfounded. “Uh,” he stammered. “Relevance?”

The prosecutor merely stared at the defense attorney. The judge laughed. “Overruled.” He turned to Jeffries. “Answer the question.”

Jeffries cleared his throat and tried to wet his lips. “Could . . . could you repeat the question?”

“What color was the victim’s shirt?”

Jeffries looked from his attorney to the jury to the judge to the prosecutor and back to the judge. “I . . . it, uh . . .”

“Mr. Jeffries,” said the judge. “May I remind you that you are under oath?”

Jeffries sighed. “I don’t know.”

“I see,” said the prosecutor. “And why not?”

“I . . . I . . . no. I didn’t . . .”

“And why not?” he repeated.

The courtroom suddenly melted away leaving Jeffries sitting in a large, empty white room staring at the man who moments ago had been prosecuting him. Jeffries shuffled backward until he found the corner where he promptly dropped to the floor, curling into a ball. “I’d like to go home now.”

The other man took a step forward and seemed to shimmer for a moment. When the shimmer faded, a woman stood in his place. “Not yet, Mr. Jeffries,” she said placing a hand on his arm. “We still have work to do.”

Color began to swirl around to white room, slowly coalescing into the form of a dank warehouse. A few feet in front of Jeffries was a large clock attached to several small, red cylinders. He instinctively crawled forward and began to examine the device. Its loud ticking seemed be the only sound in the room. At least, until Jeffries heard the woman breathing an inch from his ear.

“You know what to do, Jeffries,” she whispered. “Save me. Please.”

Tic. Toc.

Jeffries wiped the sweat from his forehead. He found a small cluster of wires connecting the clock to the cylinders. Reaching into his pocket, he found a small pair of scissors.

Tic.

Jeffries brought the scissors up to the device and held it next to the wires. After a few moments of tracing them, he narrowed his options down to two.

Toc.

He took a moment to appreciate the cliché.

Tic. Toc.

“Go ahead, Jeffries,” whispered the woman. “Save me.”

“I . . . I’m not sure which wire to cut.”

Tic.

“It’s a simple choice,” she said. “Red wire or blue wire?”

Toc.

Tic. Toc.

“Come on, Jeffries. Red or blue?”

Jeffries tried to wet his lips. Reaching forward with the scissors, he closed his eyes and cut a wire. Even through his closed eyes, he could sense a bright light.

When he opened his eyes, however, he found himself back in the white room. No woman. No prosecutor. No courtroom. No judge. No bomb. Just a dog.

Jeffries reached forward to introduce himself by letting it sniff him. The dog, however, seemed to have different plans. It very calmly and mechanically opened its mouth and let out a wail that sounded less like a noise an animal would make and more like the sound of a vacuum charging at him . . .

. . . threatening to take him away . . .

. . . forever . . .

He woke up and looked down at his paws, relieved to find all four intact. “Come here, Mr. Jeffries,” said a little girl down the hall. “Come here!” Jeffries jumped to his feet and sprinted down the hall, leaping into her arms. “Who’s a good boy,” she asked. Jeffries knew it was a rhetorical question, but desperately wanted to answer. He did the best he could by licking her face.

“Marissa,” shouted a much taller girl in the next room. “Put Jeffries down. It’s time for his lunch.”

Jeffries knew what that word meant, and he leapt from the little girls arms, running for the kitchen. He was met by two bowls that, to him, were identical. He closed his eyes, made a choice and took his chances. He ate from the bowl on the right. The moment he smelled the food inside, he knew it was the wrong choice.

The growling behind him confirmed his suspicions.

“No!” said the taller girl. “Jeffries, that’s Maximus’s. Yours is the blue bowl.”

Jeffries looked down at the bowls again, wishing on some level that they weren’t there at all. That level, however, was several floors below the level that was screaming, “Eat the food!”

So Mr. Jeffries ate from the gray bowl on the left.

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