Nothing could have prepared us for what happened next. I seriously mean that. When we entered the pool of light, on the other end, we were still falling, though this time, we were falling out of the sky instead of into the blackest abysses of the Earth. Where we exactly were, I couldn't give it an exact name at all. But everything looked a little different than how it usually did. I just couldn't pinpoint it from this high in the sky. Besides the fact that everything LOOKED different, I doubted that we were in fact falling at the rate of acceleration of 9.8 meters per second squared downwards towards the earth. By that fact alone, it meant one (or possibly both) of two things. The first was that there was a possibility of having some sort of parachute being slipped onto us from when we bounded through the pool of bright white light. The other, with all things considered, was that we weren't in our own dimension or realm or world or whatever it's supposed to be called.
Looking up to behind us proved that there was nothing behind our backs, and therefore nothing that would be hindering our rapid descent towards the ground. But we were starting towards the ground, and if there was any indication of the gravity, it had to be no more than a tenth of Earth's natural gravity. This whole planet had to be no more than the size of the Moon then. As we got closer to the ground though, the sense of light headedness rushed into me, and soon I fell into a state of blackness… I believe this would be my first official "fainting spell".
When I came too, there were a large amount of things that refused to compute in my brain. At least I finally realized exactly why I'd thought that this world was so peculiar before. There was no such thing as a pine tree that was pine coloured – I mean really pine coloured. Even its trunk was that colour. The only reason I could tell that it was a pine in the first place was the fact that from its three dimensional-ness and how the light reflected upon each of its green crevices. Almost nothing on Earth was like that. But, it wasn't just the trees here, it was EVERYTHING! Even the… err… beings of this place were like that. It must be the gnome's world, or alternate dimension. The ghost gnomes that I've met over the week – they've all been mint green. The regular gnomes were all olive green. Alien gnomes seemed to take the emerald green tint. Gremlin buggers were cerulean blue, the colour not quite obtainable by anything natural. A flower was fully the colours of what I'd have imagined the petals to be. The whole plant was a bright pink colour – stem, center, leaves – everything! It was like someone took a can of opaque paint and basically poured it over objects at random in this world. Everything that I could see was monochromatic. Only Ted, grandmother, grandfather, and I were in a full spectrum of colours. Where were we, the world of different matters in monochromatic tints? Well, until someone would tell us where we were, I'll be calling this place "The World of Monochromatic Objects of Varying Tints" or something the like.
Still, this whole crazy mess had to be a dream, just a really, really long and really, really messed up one, but not quite a nightmare. I pondered that idea as I crawled to Ted's side to wake him up. We appeared to have landed in the middle of a field of spring green grass growing out of supremely brown coloured soil. The gnomes, ghost and other, had disappeared, as did the cerulean buggers. In the distance, I could see a stony-looking pale grey structure in the distance waving grey flags in the air – it was obviously some sort of kingdom or castle that I was looking at.
"Ted, Ted," I said, shaking him lightly on the shoulder. He mumbled incoherently, the kind of mumbling bumbling that people do when the alarm clock says it's time to get up and you want to sleep in for an extra twenty or so minutes, slap that button on it's head, and fall back asleep. I sighed, but he was pretty out of it. Without thinking, I went really close to his ear and said "Ted, it's time to get up," I whispered. But before I had enough time to move away, Ted woke up with a start, his head turned, and something happened that shocked us both once we were aware of exactly what happened. Our lips touched softly, and I had more than enough freedom to move away, but the brush of his lips held something similar to a pleasant stun gun's effect. He didn't seem to be moving away either for a second.
Simultaneously, the spells on each of us broke, and we pulled apart with a great deal of force. If I didn't like Ted that way, I'd have said he stole my first kiss. But I did, and I wouldn't accuse him of such an action. He was, after all, my best friend. "I'm sorry!" we called out at the same time, both of us having our back to the other with our hands over our mouths and furious crimson blushes on our faces. Ted was getting over Lucy. Ted was getting over Lucy. I had to remember that. Things like that were too easily forgotten in situations like these.
I really didn't want to wake up my grandparents just then, with the situation like that – it was too awkward, and they would probably try to gut Ted again. Even without the sword, I had no doubts that my grandfather would have a problem with that task. Neither would my grandmother if she got her hands on the proper ingredients. Half of me wanted to cry, but I locked away my tears in an attempt to make the scene a little better. The pounding of my heart, the beating in my chest – it wouldn't tell me what was about to happen, and it definitely didn't tell me how to fix this mess that I'd half created.
This was just great, second official chapter of the book for alien gnomes, and I already lose my first kiss to the best friend that doesn't even like me that way and was still half mourning his lost love. Why the heck was I the one that always got caught up in freaky situations? Did I have some sort of sign on my head that I couldn't see that said "PICK ME, CRAZY. COME AT ME, I'M WAITING FOR YOU, BABY!" or something the like? Because it would be greatly appreciated if someone would at least give me some forewarning before Fate decided to mangle my strings any further. Go figure, the boring, average girls want an adventure to liven up their lives. All I wanted was to go back to that plain, old, boring, average life that at least I knew what I would wake up to the next day. And, come to think of it, it all started when the emerald alien gnomes stole my couch. Maybe they really injected me with a shot of "Insanity". Anyone can mix up labels on vials, right? I mean, they were aliens after all – complete with the whole "Beam me up, Scotty" mechanism thingamajig already set up perfectly and working the same way that Star Trek did it.
Two purple things, somewhat human shaped, and a fair amount thinner – pixies were my guess – came by us, chattering along as though they were from the kingdom in the distance. Patrol squadron duty, no doubt. Why else would anyone logically be that far out? It had to be at least a kilometre away from where we were situated.
One of them gasped upon seeing us. "Look, Schmeeki, it's them! They've got to be the ones that are causing the pandemic! They're chromatic giants!"
The one, Schmeeki, looked into the shallow crater that we'd formed in the ground, not enough to detriment anything except for maybe the hill that might have once been here. "Now wait a minute!" I cried out at them, standing shakily. "We just got here, and we aren't causing any freaky pandemic. I can guarantee that much for you purple brats. If you'll just listen to us, I could explain it all, but right now, we could really use some assist –"
The first purple pixie covered his ears and started to talk in that "I can't hear you" sort of way. "Don't listen to them, Schmeeki! They'll give us the disease too! LALALALALALALALALALALA!"
A few things that they said weren't adding up to make a whole pie at the moment. They called us "chromatic giants" – and while, yes, we were a bit larger than them, and by about double the height and three times the mass, I doubted that really constituted the necessity to address us as "giants". And what was wrong with being multiple colours, anyways? Just because we were different doesn't mean that we were bad things – it's just like all those old black and white movies all over again, the ones where they hunt down the aliens because they're simply not human.
[A. Gnome Note #1: Humans are particularly barbaric creatures without the capacity to understand anything outside of the mundane lives of which they so normally lead.]
At the loud and disturbing noise created by the two purple pixie brats, more started to flock from the grey kingdom. Besides, where were Pokey and Tinker Bob anyways? Why weren't they with us to help of sticky situations like this one?
"Don't touch them!" another one of the pixies cried over the cacophonous sounds emanating from all of its armies of pixie minions. "We can't afford another polychromatic in Monichrome! The Queen will have our heads!"
Suddenly, nets and ropes and wood were being strewn around Ted and I. My grandparents were still unconscious, so with some sort of purple gloves, picked them up and plopped them onto a wooden board for transport. All the while, someone's purple boot kicked my butt as it said in a stout and unfriendly voice, "March!" Sheesh, we had some really pleasant hosts entertaining us at the moment. They even had the net so tightly closed that Ted and I were practically tripping over one another as we walked until we found a strangely synchronizing pose – one where his hand was at the small of my back and the other one keeping me strictly in front of him as I guided the way. We were walking in the middle of a sea of lavender purple coloured pixies that were half our height but a thousand times outnumbering us. We'd been netted and bound and wooded and they had my grandparents. Even as annoying as they were, there was no way that I was going to abandon them.
So we shuffled along like good little captives and tried to keep our pace, even though occasionally we would trip on each other's feet. Upon reaching the side of the grey kingdom that I couldn't see from the small crater we'd made, I saw the grooves in the walls that made it look like a large amount of pale grey bricks and mortar were used to construct the place. Even the portcullis was grey, which surprised me even for in this place. I still wasn't quite sure whether the kingdom or the whole world was what they called Monichrome, but it sure suited the place well.
Those emerald green alien gnomes reading this book had better be getting one hell of a good story from this or I swear I'll find them and kick there sorry asses for putting me through all of this nonsense. But I looked at my grandparents that were at least a few heads of lavender pixies ahead of us in the parade and they looked fairly dead to the world. Maybe something was really wrong with them from when we landed in this odd place. Ted and I'd woken up within a reasonable time to one another, and although this was one freaky adventure and something of a psychedelic dream-mare on steroids, I doubted that the two of them would completely flake out.
We marched onwards into the kingdom castle thingy and I could see tonnes of different colours all around. There were olive green gnomes, minty green spirit gnomes, cerulean blue gremlin buggers, lavender purple pixies, and a whole selection of other colours and races (or species if that's what you choose to call them) hanging around what appeared to be the central square of the place. I think I even caught a few metallic silvery fairies floating around… or maybe they were just statues. When we entered said square, everyone turned their heads, eyes bugging out and jaws dropping to the ground before they exploded into a massive amounts of cheering for our captor's success. I mean, what else COULD they have been cheering for? As far as my not-so-vast knowledge and the fact that the "chromatic giants" were ensnared in some netting went, there was just about nothing else that came to mind. Eventually, the lavender pixies stopped with the fanfare and led us down into some really nasty looking and dank smelling dungeon prison place, tossed Ted and myself into a cell, and removed all the ropes and netting. They let my grandparents down in a cell opposite us.
I sighed and plunked down against a wall. There was no sense wasting our energy and standing when there really wasn't anything else to do. "So, Ted, how's your day going?"
Ted laughed softly, saddled down beside me, and then coughed once before answering. "I do conceive that today is a day that if I were not here with you, this is an adventure I would never believe, and what of you?"
I smiled and looked up at the small window in the otherwise grey room. Everything was grey – even the dirt, which was oddly discomforting. "I think I'll have to agree with you on that one. It's definitely not the day I'd planned on having with you when you asked to hang out."
"Oh, Sally Ann, the same I could dare say about how your words ran. It's the first I've heard of your magical spells and transporting wells. My heart has been shattered by the wounds you have made upon me. And good grandfather, I do say, has been quite the bother, what with him and the sword coming too close altogether."
"Stop rhyming until we get out of here, okay, Ted? Either that or scrounge up a lot of acetylsalicylic acid and coffee to sate my growing headache." I leaned my head against his shoulder and closed my eyes to emphasize my point. His arm went behind my shoulders and he used his hand to stroke my hair. After a while of that kind of silence, his cheek pressed into my hair, and I could feel that he was leaning on me as much as I was on him.
He whispered something so low that I almost missed it. "For you, and for this mess, I think I'll take you up on your request. And considering I haven't got any acetylsalicylic acid tablets on me, I'll have to go with the former. I'll only do this for you though, 'Chosen One of the Monochromatic World'."
"Thanks," I said softly. "Why did you start this rhyming thing three years ago anyways?"
I could almost feel him shrug. "I'll tell you another day. I've got to keep some of my secrets to myself for a while. But," he said ruefully, "I've finally figured out why I could only see you at lunch, halfway across town from where I was, and only on weekdays. I thought you found a new best friend and that was the only way to brush me off gently. Who knew you had such anal retentive 'rents?"
We both laughed at his comment because we both knew that I didn't even know my grandparents before my parents died. It wasn't like my father loved his parents – they'd rejected my mother point blank when my dad said that they were going to marry – with or without their blessings. I would've sworn that when my parents eloped, that my dad became estranged from the family. Maybe that's why my grandparents were so… so helicopter-like towards me – because they didn't want me to be like my dad and run away with some mysterious stranger cousin. But my grandparents just didn't want my dad to marry my mom even though she was in the family… somewhere. It would be a wonder if I ever found out WHY.
A few more moments passed before anything else happened. And then – bang – it hit us like lightening as the doors from the central hall of the dungeon opened and a violet lady, quite regal in appearance, stepped into the place. She was probably one of the only things that could rival our height in all of… Monichrome. Her dress was modest in puffiness, but her hair made up for the modesty with its piling height and sparkling violet purple jewels. She walked slowly down the hall, and stopped just in front of our cells. "You smell of nothing in this world," she said softly, almost so soft I wasn't sure if she was talking to us or herself. "Ayre and Sorbumpt tell me that they have brought you here," her volume rose to the point where everyone could hear it. "They say that one of you four is our saviour from this plague, that all of you are not the cause of it, but in fact, a cure. Speak the truth to me."
I stood up abruptly, almost falling in the process except for how my hand found the wall and kept me upright. "I am Sally Ann. I am not sure about being a saviour, but my companions and me," I said looking around at Ted and my still unconscious grandparents. "We have not caused the plague of which you speak. In our… err… world, since only one week ago, I have been able to see the beings of this world. Only I was able to see them."
The violet lady smiled, "Understood… then I suppose you do not deserve to be in this foul place. Shall we discuss this in a little less… grey of an environment?"
She left, without even telling us her name, and after her disappearance, four mint coloured spirit gnomes floated in. One unlocked the doors and then with the combined strength of them all, transported my grandparents. We followed them out and into a room of sparkling things, a carpet of pure wheat colour that seemed to be enchanted with glitter, green coloured wooden tables, and monochromatic fruits arranged in bowls made of clear glass swirls. In the room sat two lavender pixies with hats that reminded me of nurses' hats, half scowls on their faces. The kind of expression reminded me of the saying "We're only here because we've been told to be here by a higher up." It wasn't like I exactly wanted to be in the same room with them either… though I think that our distaste for one another was because of differing reasons. They didn't like the fact that we were coloured. I just didn't like the fact that they didn't like us. I mean, who would like the people that hate them back? Common sense said no one. I listened to common sense when it applied.
They were mixing various fruits together into some sort of bubbling rose coloured concoction and then slipping it into my grandparents' mouths. After about sixteen seconds, my grandparents' eyes opened as though that concoction was made completely of raw caffeine and sugar – a total eye-opener.
In any case, I wanted to make my grand escape before either of the two purple pricks really got underneath my skin. My nice, multiple coloured skin. But before Ted or I could think of an action plan, the door clattered open and hit the wall squarely with the sound of a rather nice BANG. Something that looked like a plum coloured human-height walking flower clattered into the room, somehow looking tired even though that seemed impossible. After it caught its… breath, I guess you could say, it started dancing around in crazy, slightly spastic motions as the two pale purple pixies nodded every so often as though the flower were telling them a story. When the flower stopped its dancing, another figure appeared in the doorway, this silhouette, though was a great deal calmed than the plum purple flower, although I could tell that they were both deep shades of purple.
At the sight of the violet figure, every monochromatic creature gave a solemn bow. Even the flower nodded its head, stepped out of the way, and then slipped through the door once the violet figure came through. Whoever this lady was, the same lady that was in the dungeon earlier, she had to have been somewhere high up, the equivalent of a princess or queen back home. Ted gripped my hand tightly, nervous at the second sudden appearance of the mysterious violet lady. By the way he held it I could tell that he seriously didn't trust the lady.
But then, when we heard the first things out of her mouth, the tense air seemed to evaporate back into the regular breathing air that we all enjoy around us – devoid of any sort of emotions. "You are not the cause of the polychromatic pandemic in Monichrome. And you have no side effects by being the way you are. Therefore, I need your help."
Ted and I exchanged a rather quick glance before turning back to the sparkly violet lady. "Can you answer our questions first, before we agree to help you?"
"Certainly," replied the lady, no amount of uncertainty left in her voice. The hesitation and embarrassment that was there a moment ago seemed to have died from the desperation brought on by whatever she needed us to help with. "I will answer any question you may have."
Why all of this left a bitter after taste in my mouth I did not know for certain. Something was still not exactly right with this place or these monochromatic people. "Who are you?"
She looked at her hands. "Ruler of Monichrome – I really don't have a name, but Ayre and Sorbumpt have been calling me 'Queen' since they got back from their travels abroad, across the multi-dimensional plane. It sort of caught on with everyone here. You may call me that if you so wish."
"Surely you must have a name, your parents must have given one to you when you were born," I reasoned the logic. A name was the one thing that a parent can give freely and is a marker of love, one that should never have to be erased. I didn't know of anyone without a name, even the people that grow up in shelters and foster homes and orphanages are given names by people that want to love them, want to care about them. As I pondered that thought, I saw the two purple pricks slip out the door in much the same way that the walking flower had.
She shook her head. "I was born without a name. It was because I was born to be the Ruler, because my shade is violet. My predecessor was on his deathbed, meaning that a new Ruler would soon be born. For two months, guards stood watch over every birth in Monichrome, waiting for a violet shade baby to be born. When they saw the violet, everyone thought I would be born a male, as was every violet being before me. The guards took me away from my birth parents before they could even hold me once, or give me a name. That would be the same thing that happened to my twin brother, the one born blazing red. The ruler of the Furious Lands, our sworn enemies, was my own blood brother," see the irony in there much?
"Right," Ted cut in, wanting some of his own questions to be answered. "What exactly is this whole pandemic thing about anyways? Why is everyone thinking we're the ones that are causing it?"
Queen looked at us for a moment, studying our faces. "I cannot tell you much about it, as I myself know very little in this situation.
"It started about one month ago, perhaps a little bit farther than that, but approximately there. A perimeter scout with a lovely pink-red shade to him returned to the castle with a shocking change. While on watch, he appeared to have changed to being polychromatic, just as you are, only with more… symptoms. This scout used to be able to see all sorts of the different colours in Monichrome but since this polychromatic change, his vision has turned into only allowing him to see pink-red of everything. About a day after that, he fell into a terrible sleep and has not awoken since then. Within this time and since as well, there have been many more cases of this polychromatic illness spreading throughout the citizens of Monichrome, with no known cause or cure to our names. With all the chaos around here, the people must have thought that you four were the causes and captured you, as you truly do not look much like any Monichrome species, do not have the symptoms of the illness, and seem generally, well… well. If I knew about your capture sooner, then I would have never let you touch the dungeons."
I exchanged a glance with Ted. Things in this story made it sound like this place was right out of a story book, unless the emerald green alien gnomes literally teleported me and a few of my closest fellow humans into their own form of crazy and hilarious story. "How did you know that we were not the ones causing your polychromatic pandemic thing?" My throat sputtered out the words using a vaguely hoarse voice before my brain even processed what was exactly happening.
The Queen smiled softly before started another answer. "Ayre and Sorbumpt told me of their travels, and that when they returned, said that they found a saviour who would be strong and vigilant against whatever evil has plagued our lands." Her hands were quivering from what appeared to be stress and a lack of sleep.
"There's something you're not telling us about, isn't there?" Ted and I said simultaneously – both of us must have noticed the signs of sleep deprivation. The shaking and the hollowed eyes tended to be a clear indicator. I wondered why no one in her castle or court or whatever noticed it, or if they noticed it, said or did nothing about it. Having a ruler that wasn't working at a hundred and fifty five percent type of efficiency wasn't a good sign. Something else had to be going on in order for anyone, let alone everyone to ignore the needs of the health of a higher-up. This polychromatic illness situation was most likely only the tip of the ice burg when it came to the problems in Monichrome. At least one other thing had to be going on right now, if not a dozen complicated and possibly irresolvable problems.
A grim sort of frown replaced the gentle smile from before as though the very thought of it released some sort of bitter base into her mouth that just wouldn't swallow down in any particular way. "There is a w –"
Just as she was about to confess exactly what other madness was going on in the realm of Monichrome, probably something that existed only to her as a real problem, a mint green gnome that looked oddly like Tinker Bob burst through the door. The only difference between my Tinker Bob and this guy was the fact that he was wearing medieval clothes – stretchy tights, ballooned out pants, puffy shirt, feathered hat and all. His green hair was combed into a neat comb over and tucked under said hat meticulously. "Queen!" his voice boomed, even coming from such a tiny, vaguely shrunken looking body. I never heard Tinker Bob talking and to be honest, he seemed more of the nose to the grind stone kind of person to me. "There is another wave coming from the emerald front. They will be arriving before then next dawn."
There was just something about all of the seventeen words that Tinker Bob said that made the Queen's eyes flicker with a sense of neon emerald green over her normally violet self. She nodded and then turned back to us. "A faction has decided to argue with another faction about the colour that a proud gnome should be. Between emerald and mint greens they believe that one is better than the other. And the emerald ones are too headstrong to listen. I wish not to say anything about it, to stop this mundane fighting, because to be quite honest, the emerald gnomes would believe I sided with the mint gnomes, and vice versa. Then both of them would be against the Capital of Monichrome and my head. And that would not be very pleasant to deal with, oh no." She looked at the wall. "The emeralds are clever, they have the anti-magic on their side, at there disposal. The mints have the old magic with them, the kind of metal craft and mystery. Both are great forces within themselves, and if they were to realize that they were equal, then this silly quarrelling would be over before it began. But…
"Harsh words were said in bitter tones, actions taken in a blind and furious haste, and now a cloud of jealousy covered their vision. On both sides, many folk have died a painful death. It won't end. In this settlement, there is no war, no violence; this is a refuge to anyone. Only the worst are treated like criminals here, and that is not without having them severely earning their placements. I… It has no solutions, no settlement, nothing that will change how they are. And it has been going on for too long, for since before I was ever the Ruler of Monichrome." Her fingers twitched every now and then as though she had a sort of Parkinson's disease that invaded or already existed in this place.
It was quite possible that Queen really did have some sort of disease. How likely was it that very few children were born these odd and supposedly revered colours if not for their genetic codes being slightly altered? The skin might have been more than just destiny marking its newest leader. It had to have been, on a scientific level. Even the emerald alien gnomes would probably believe that more than the fact that the skin colour was divine intervention.
[A. Gnome Note #2: Humans believe science more than magic. Perhaps they are good worker people for next entanglement.]
[A. Gnome Note #3: Sally Ann Rose Alistair perhaps is on to this study and infiltration of the woodland gnomery and Monichrome. Suggest termination of project? Termination suggestion DENIED.]
I had the nagging feeling that the emerald gnomes were talking behind my back again, probably about something in this story that they didn't like or wasn't funny in some sick cosmic way. In any case, the way that Queen was describing it as, it was almost as though the gnomes that she was talking about with the fighting were the same ones as the ghost gnomes and the alien gnomes I'd met earlier this week. Coincidence… probably not. Considering that there was nothing coincidental about landing here, or getting locked up, or meeting Queen – all of that was definitely not coincidental. Tinker Bob and Pokey sought me out.