Author : Christine Rains

All they cared about was the color red.

When we landed on blue-gray gaseous Kepler 3, the squirrel-like beings greeted us peacefully. The Keps were primitive and living in small farming communities. They’d never even seen the full spectrum of colors, but they were intelligent and eager to learn. We brought them machinery to help with their fungi crops and technology to make their everyday lives easier. We even shared with them the secrets of space travel.

The first time some of their kind entered one of our ships on the surface out of the color filtering atmosphere of the planet, they cried out and some fell to their knees. Our galactic allied flag was brightly dyed, and the ship’s name was in red letters underneath on the wall. The Keps reached out their stubby hands, trembling as they traced each letter.

We were proud to have made new friends and allies. Not all beings we met in the galaxy were friendly. Yet we humans managed to make enough allies to help us flourish in the darkness of space.

The Keps worshiped us at first. And, not surprisingly, we liked it. Yet we didn’t stop to understand why. We assumed it was because we were strong and smart. They were small and comic in our eyes. We had brought them into a new age. We were gods.

We were blind to when it started to change.

They created a new flag for their world and wore uniforms. All red. We saw it as a tribute. They learned about weapons and strategy. They became great pilots and techs. Every farmer became a warrior. The Keps left their planet and made space their home.

When they helped us win wars, we gloated. When they conquered our most feared enemies, we congratulated them. We were the most powerful alliance in the galaxy.

Then they turned on us. We didn’t understand why. We had given them so much.

We lost several billion humans in the fighting. We feared we’d become extinct. When the Keps accepted our surrender, we thought they would kill off the rest of us. They were hungry for violence and glory.

They kept us clustered in camps on Mars. Earth was no longer habitable having been devastated by the war.

The Keps used us as entertainment, but mostly for livestock. They’d bleed us to stain their flags and uniforms. The red kept its intense color through ingenious fabric preservatives. Our blood was so different from the bluish-black ichor in their veins. Perhaps it was a statement to other aliens of their superiority, but in the end, we realized it was something more primal. Something that reached into their hearts and souls to bring out centuries of suppressed anger, passion, and hostility.

It was the color red they truly worshiped.

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