At age 16, every teenager develops an aura of a color representing their personality. The auras determine your school opportunities, potential workplaces and more. It is your sixteenth birthday and your family is freaking out. Your aura is pitch black.
“Now now darling. There is no need to panic.”
My grandmother bustled about me like a large brown hen, as brown as the aura she had emanating from her own shoulders. I looked at her dumbly. I wasn't panicking. Everyone else's complexion in our living room had become an ashen gray, but I wasn't panicking.
“It’s black, mom! My daughter's aura is black!” My own mother took my shoulders now, clinging on to them, before my dad tore her arms away.
“Don’t touch her,” he rasped.
I stood as unthinking as a cornstalk. None of this shit interested me. In fact, I soon found the terror spreading on the faces of my extended family comically entertaining.
My grandmother bawked out at the crowd once more. “You are all overreacting! A black aura is meaningless these days!” She then replaced where my mother’s hands were on my shoulders with her own bulbous, overly damp ones, a pair of hands my dad new better than to touch. “My dear, do not be afraid of a black aura. I myself have become quite intimate with that color.”
This shook another tremor through the crowd, spurning them to turn to one another with their wine glasses in one hand and wild hand gesturing in the other, as they shared their own interpretation of what a black aura meant. The lack of consensus only showed how little anyone knew about the black aura, on account of it being so rare. And, as in any world, what was unknown was immediately considered strange and dangerous.
But all I could think about was the cake. I don’t want to be a buzzkill, but to be truthful, all this aura stuff never really convinced me one way or another. In fact, I always felt they were a great way to hold you down from your dreams, you know?
Take my brother for example. He’s the guy over there currently picking his teeth with a broken chicken bone at the buffet. All his childhood life he wanted to be a baseball player, until he woke up my age and found his aura snaking about him in a calm, mediating blue. Now the poor guy's gotta go into psychoanalysis, even though his own head's full of rocks and he's got a temper that could pop your fingers off like a cherry bomb.
Then there’s my mother. Her aura's a vibrant purple, which represents a passion for the arts. The bank turned down her application as a loan officer without giving her the chance to prove herself, thanks to that fucking color. They wouldn't even let her interview. Now she sucks as a painter, but that doesn't matter. Everyone instantly loves her work when they learn she's purple. That's the sort of recongition all auras command. A doctor with a red aura is considered the best. Doesn't make a damn difference if he amputates the wrong damn leg.
My dad’s a hot pink. I’m not gonna go into that one. But I’m telling you, this aura stuff is bullshit, through and through.
Then again, I’m not right 100% of the time. Every now and then, someone’s 16th birthday (in this case, my own), makes a scene unfold like the one you’re seeing now. And it couldn’t make me any happier. My grandmother, the large, white woman with her hands squeezing my shoulders, is a pro when it comes to color analysis, and even she doesn’t know what a black aura means. Black auras are the most feared color in our society, but no one really knows why. Some think Black represents calamity, extreme danger, or even (and my personal favorite), rampant sexual deviancy. But I see it as only one thing.
I see it as opportunity.
Mom called out for my brother.
"Jeffrey! Jeffrey, your a psychiatrist. You tell us what to do about this."
Jeff hardly gave me a look over. His eyes were the only two in the room that seemed to hold me in complete and utter disinterest.
"I dunno. Let's shoot her."
I shot him back an evil look before we both saw an old man, no younger than his late 80's, actually produce a pistol from his nether regions and shakily begin to load it.
Jeff cried out- "Christ, I was kidding!" - before annoyingly having to set his beer down and lunge at the doddery old fool. The fervor of the party only seemed to compound from there, making everyone's aura's start to mash and swirl together into a sickly, vomit-like glow. My mother weaved through the crowd pouring into wine glasses like mad while people who called themselves my family insisted she investigate certain medical procedures known to alter one's aura color.
"Yes, yes, we'll look into that," she replied as calmly as she could. "Please, have more wine."
Then my own father stormed up to me, his pig-pink aura burning around his ears.
"I've had enough of this, Katy! We've gathered family from around the globe for this big day, and I didn't think you could pull this off, but once again you've brought absolute chaos into our lives!" He pointed up the stairs. "Go to your room, while we figure this mess out!"
"This isn't my fault! I didn't choose this!" My hands were pressed on my chest as I raised my voice back to him, if not to stand up for myself, then to at least be heard over the rancor of the crowd and loud party music. A strange feeling deep below began rouse right beneath my fingers then, like an uncoiling serpent, or a panther flicking his ears, woken by the sound of my angry voice. It felt like a pair of ugly eyes opening inside me, a dark heart begging to drum and rush alongside my own. My breath quickened at the feeling, but I don't think my dad noticed. He was too busy yelling at me. That is, until we both heard another voice cry out-
And just like a fire, the volume went out. The feeling in my heart dispersed. All eyes were on my grandmother who began bulldozing her way through the parting crowd with flecks of salmon and crackers still attached to her thin lips. She spoke really sternly to my dad.
"There's no need for any of this! The only thing we have to worry about is if people of our society will act as ridiculous as we do!" She pressed a pudgy palm on my father's shoulder. His face went so tense even his thick, dark mustache began to strain. "Believe me," she told him. "Her aura speaks to me. And I do not think it wishes us any harm."
I had to hand it to granny. She was going insane, but she knew how to command our attention. And could you blame us? The woman had such a massive carriage you could mistake her for a supporting wall. She gave me a quick grin, bearing bits of fish still caught in her teeth, before returning to the buffet table in well-earned peace.
Thanks to her the party finally began to die down. Most of the party goers made weak attempts at leaving as early and as politely as possible, which couldn't have been a faker sight to see. Still, it meant they were gone, so I couldn't complain. What caught me by surprise, though, was the expanding crowd of children that somehow began to surround me. Their eyes gazed at my black aura, seemingly too young to understand why they should be afraid of it.
One of them asked nicely if he could touch my skin, so I let him, and soon enough I had a bunch of curious hands poking and rubbing my arms trying to catch the dark wisps flowing from beneath its surface. Physically touching an aura is impossible, obviously, but I guess everyone in the room thought it was impossible to be related to someone with such a color.
One of my younger cousins asked me if it hurt. I told her it doesn’t.
“So why is everyone scared?”
“Because they don’t know what a black aura means.”
“Do you know?”
“So aren’t you scared?”
“Okay.” She played a little more with my fingers before a bunch of fretful mothers cried out their names, immediately reprimanding them for touching me. A particularly stupid woman ran to the sink and washed the little girl's hand under what looked like steaming hot water. Maybe it was the boiling temperature, or maybe it was the blind panic that scared her, but either way it tore my heart open listening to that young little girl start to cry.
It also made me want to bite her mother's face off.
That black, indiscriminate head of something began to raise again in my chest. When I breathed in I felt it breathe in too, ready to howl, ready to pounce-
But I wrote the feeling off as stress, and ended up gravitating to the one person who came closest to being my friend at that party. Jeff wasn't so happy to see me, though. He didn’t even pull the beer away from his lips as he spoke.
“I would say 'Once you’ve gone black,' but for you, it’s a pretty funny literal case, isn’t it?” This made him smirk. Only him, though. I just rolled my eyes and felt disgusted as the fat slob started to guzzle his beer. It didn't matter the way it dribbled down his hairy chin, or onto his thickening, barely covered stomach. His dreams were dead, you know? It's not easy to face that fact every day.
He burped loudly. “Congratulations, little sister. You’re the talk of the town.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I won’t be hanging out in this town much longer.”
For some reason this made my brother lower his glass, with his harsh green eyes showing some faint relic of curiosity. “What, because of the black aura stuff?”
I shrugged. To be honest I didn’t really know what I meant. It just somehow felt that, after learning about my aura, there just wasn’t much left here for me besides all this fearful chaos. My only real role models were my grandmother, who believed that colors could talk, and my mother, who at that moment was parading about the room trying to convince her many relatives that my aura wasn't “that black”.
Jeff’s hand suddenly brought me to the present moment. He had this weird smile on his face. “Hey. You’re in your own world again?”
“I guess so.”
“Look. Katy. If you don’t wanna hang out here, I'm not one to stop you.” He settled his beer back on the kitchen counter. His lips tightened. "Hell, I'll welcome it. That's a party I'd go to any day. The "we might never see Katy again' party. Bring it on."
Before I left Jeff's side he told me something interesting. He said he'd cover for me, if I needed him to. "Tell me what you want me to tell them," he said, raising a finger at my dad, "and I got you covered."
Then he caught me smiling at him. "Whatever gets you to leave quicker," he added. But I smiled at him anyways. I think we both knew what he really meant.
And I think I'll take him up on it. He already owes me some 400 favors. This'll make us equal, bro.
This will make us equal.