Author: William Gray
“I’m scared,” Leanna said, staring into the kaleidoscope, eyes wide, turning the aperture.
“Scared of what? It’s just colors,” I responded.
She put the kaleidoscope down on the bedside table.
Her skin was pale, as if she had coated her entire body with a paste of milky ashes. No tan lines. She wore only a thong, bright neon pink. Its contrast with her pasty skin agitated my retinas.
“Let’s go to the top of Rockefeller Center,” she suggested.
In the elevator on the way up, Leanna wouldn’t look me in the eyes.
“I’m not from here,” she said, shivering. Maybe “resonated” would be more accurate. The borders of her silhouette became fuzzy, blurred.
At the top, a heavy mist drifted down, rain in slow motion. Leanna was standing at the edge of the roof, leaning against a glass barrier.
“Ever heard of wormholes?” she asked.
“Yeah, so? So what?”
“They’re stackable. You can string wormholes together, then stack them. Like ice cream cones. Form them into an intergalactic superhighway. That’s how I got here. Now it’s time for me to return.”
She peeled her mist-soaked t-shirt up off her torso, over her head. She pulled one arm out, inverting a sleeve, then the other. Tourists were approaching. I stepped in closer to shield her.
She held her head in her hands, sobbing.
“I failed my mission,” she said.
“Back home there are no colors. Only grayscale. We send probes into wormholes all the time. One reported wavelengths of light from 390 to 700 nanometers in this solar system. I came here because it’s the closest habitable planet with this light. I am supposed to go back and describe experiencing these colors. But I can’t. I’ve tried to think of a way to do it, to describe the different wavelengths, but it’s impossible.”
“Take back a souvenir in your spaceship,” I suggested.
She laughed through the sobbing.
“Only my body and the travel mechanism implanted in my bones can go through the wormhole stacks.”
She pulled off her soaked skinny jeans.
“You’re going to get us both in trouble if you don’t stop undressing.”
I grabbed her hands as she brought them back to undo her bra. My grip wasn’t tight. She pulled loose and completed the task.
“It’s all about optimizing the travel signal. Higher elevations, and lack of clothing, help it to focus.” She resonated again.
I brought her long hair forward. A thin layer of wet hair accentuated the curves of her bare chest. The clouds in the distance cleared, revealing a rainbow over the Hudson River.
“Look-it’s the perfect final memory!” I said, pointing over her shoulder.
She looked for a moment.
“That is NOT a perfect final memory! It’s the source of my frustration! When I describe this “rainbow” thing as an arc, consisting of six different wavelengths of light at 650, 590, 570, 510, 475, and 445 nanometers, will their eyes tear up like mine? How do I convey the emotion of this phenomenon with only a technical description? This is what I was sent to do!”
A security guard approached.
She took my hands, although I could barely perceive the touch of her skin.
She looked down at her waist.
“I’m going to miss you,” she said.
I couldn’t tell if she was talking about me or her vibrant underwear.
The security guard shoved me aside.
“What’s going on here?” he demanded.
Leanna was gone.
The guard and I stared at the neon pink thong on the ground.