Sierra heard there would be color on the other side, but she didn’t understand what that meant. She lived in the hills near Marcus and his people. She had met Marcus among the breezy trees that outlined a grassy path. It stretched between the base of the hills to the edge of the valley, where Marcus lived. A divide from his tribe to hers. It was forbidden to walk the path. But neither could resist the cool air and sense of calm within the trees.
Sierra never spoke about Marcus to the others. She thought she’d never see him again, but now he’d become her favorite secret. She arrived early today, wandering under the leafy canopy, touching rough boughs, plucking grass, searching the light and the dark and everything in between, trying to find color.
“What does color look like?” She’d asked Marcus.
“You’ll see,” he had said.
But Marcus didn’t know. Color scared him and excited him all at once.
On this day, he stood near a bent trail tree, watching Sierra move smoothly through grass. She walked with pointed toes like a ballerina. Her dark skin glowing. Her warm eyes brimming with curiosity.
“What are you doing?” Sierra noticed Marcus staring at her as she stepped through tall grass. It seemed like he appeared from nowhere, standing near a crooked tree. He had skin as fair as the sun, and eyes as clear as the sky. His hair flowed past his shoulders.
“Watching you,” he said, wanting more.
“Tell me everything you know about color.”
He led her a few paces along the path. “I’m thinking about the best way to describe it.” But he didn’t have a clue. Searching his mind, begging his soul to fill his mouth with words, Marcus finally said, “Like wind changes the air, color changes light and fills the spirit.”
“I want that.” Sierra ran to a thick tree. Grabbed a branch and pulled herself up. Marcus followed. They sat on wide branches that pointed toward the hills.
“I feel like I’m missing out,” she said. “You haven’t seen color yet, have you?”
He reached for her hand. Carefully, he kissed her palm. He wished they could stay there forever. “Can we just sit for a while?”
She swung her legs out and dropped to the ground. “Let’s find the other side.”
Marcus remained in the tree. “We can’t.”
“No, seriously.” Sierra tugged on his foot. “Let’s go.”
His head nearly exploded when she touched him. He knew he’d follow her anywhere, but he never thought about chasing color until now. It just didn’t seem possible. Could they? He jumped out of the tree and wrapped his arms around her. “We can try.”
Sierra’s stomach swirled. What should they bring with them? Clothes, food, blankets, the usual travel items. She’d need to say good-bye to the others, and water the garden. How long would they be gone?
“Let’s just follow the outward path,” he said.
“But nobody comes back from there.”
“We can be the first.” But he only wanted to impress her. He felt so unsure of leaving. “It’ll be fun. We’ll finally know what color is.” He held his hand out. “C’mon.”
Sierra stepped away from him.
“You want to know, don’t you?”
She crossed her arms. “You go, and then come back and tell me.”
“But you still won’t have seen it.” He laughed. “We’ll be having the same conversation. I still won’t be able to describe it.”
Sierra thought about that for a few seconds. “I don’t know. Can we do this tomorrow?”
“Just one quick look.” Swept up in thoughts of anything but white and black and all the shades in between, he said, “What do you have to lose? Let’s just see.”
Sierra back pedaled a few steps and then ran from him as fast as she could. She dashed through the trees and up the hill. Her lungs burned. Her heart ached. Her knees protested.
Marcus watched Sierra until she disappeared over the ridge. He exhaled. Then he inched his way forward on the path, reasoning with himself. I’ll get to the edge, mark the trail, and return tomorrow with Sierra for a closer look. But as the sky grew darker, the path narrowed. Thorny shrubbery scratched his arms. Doubt crept in. Marcus began to turn around and return to the trees that outlined the path. But he noticed a twinkle on the horizon and that stopped him. He watched a spark morph into an explosion. He covered his head, closed his eyes, expecting to be vaporized. After a few seconds, when nothing happened, he opened his eyes. The sky was neither white nor black, but different.
Marcus felt a kaleidoscope of energy sweep through him. He spun around to return, excited to share what he’d seen with Sierra. But the path he’d come from had disappeared.