This is a short story from Tabitha Tavery’s point of view. Warning: spoiler alert. Do not read this if you haven’t read Dragon’s Bane. Warning two: one tiny swear word. Mark really shouldn’t swear where his niece might hear him. 🙂
“World Without Color”
Tabitha counted the presents twice. Twenty-three sat on and around the low table in the hotel room. “Whose birthday is it, Mommy? And why did everybody use white paper?”
She frowned. She’d be seven soon, and her uncles had taught her how to think “outside the box,” as Uncle Mark put it. “Has all the colored paper been bought up?” Then she thought of what her uncles did for a living. “Or stolen? Did some bad people steal all the pretty paper, Mommy?”
Over on the bed by the window, Grandma had managed to get Davy into his pants, but his shoes kept falling off. On the overstuffed red chair in the corner, Tabitha’s mom wrestled Danny into a gray pair of pants.
“Tabby, can you find me Danny’s shoes please?” her mom asked.
“Mo-om! I wanna wear my red pants!” Danny freed one of his feet and delivered a solid blow to his mother’s knee.
Tabitha looked over at the presents again. What if all the paper in all the world had been turned white? Maybe this was like when her uncles fought the bad genie. Maybe they were fighting another one, only this genie was doing bad stuff all over the world, not just to the people who worked with her uncles.
“Tabby, get me Danny’s— Daniel Ezekiel Tavery, if you don’t stop right now, you’re going to miss your uncles’ wedding.”
“I don’t wanna go.”
Tabitha shuffled over to where her brother had hidden his shoes last night. Getting down on her hands and knees, she fished them out from under the other bed. They shone so brightly she could see a dim reflection of her face in the toes.
A whirring sound startled her, and she looked up as the door to the hotel room opened.
“Now this looks familiar,” said the man standing in the doorway.
Tabitha jumped up, forgetting the shoes. “Uncle Mark!” She sprinted to him, holding her arms up.
He scooped her off the floor, twirling her once. Then he kissed her cheek and carried her back toward her mom.
She clung to him. “Something’s wrong.”
“I can see that.” He squeezed her gently and set her down. “Naomi, do you want some help?”
Tabitha glanced at the presents. “Not with Mom, Uncle Mark. With the presents. They’re white.” She gaped. “You’re dressed in white too!” It was a bad genie.
A long time ago, maybe even a month, she’d watched a show about a place with no color. The ground and sky were black, white, or gray, and most of the animals weren’t much better. An evil creature kept all their colors trapped. Could that creature be real? Tabitha was old enough to understand that some of the “pretend” creatures in stories weren’t pretend. Her uncle Mark was a dragon, and most people thought dragons weren’t real. Her other uncle, Luke, was a genie. A good genie. The best.
Grandma joined Mom and Uncle Mark as they struggled with Danny.
Davy crept over to Tabitha’s side and pulled on her sleeve. “Whazzit?” he asked around the thumb in his mouth.
Normally, his four-year-old thumb talk drove her nuts, but he looked up at her as if he wanted to help. Sometimes he even seemed to have the same feelings she did.
Tabitha whispered, “Do you see the presents?”
He nodded, looking excited.
“They’re not good. A bad genie turned them white. It made Uncle Mark’s clothes white too. And yours and Danny’s clothes gray. If we don’t add some red, yellow, or blue quick, the whole world’s going to turn gray and white.”
Understanding shone in his gaze now. “I has crayons,” he whispered.
Tabitha considered. Normally crayons wouldn’t be quick enough, but she hadn’t brought a lot with her. “Did you bring your finger paints too?”
“Mommy wouldn’t let me.”
What was it Uncle Luke always said? “Then we’ll have to improvise.”
Five minutes later, Tabitha had her grandma’s most colorful balls of yarn, Davy’s crayons, and the fat markers she’d brought. She gave these last to her little brother, ordering him not to let anyone see them. She secreted the balls of yarn and the crayons into her white purse, hoping she’d be allowed to keep it since it was the right color.
“Tabitha,” her mom called. “It’s time to get into your dress. We’re going to be late.”
Tabitha looked up, afraid she and Davy had been noticed. But her mom was standing by a suitcase, her grandma was staring into the mirror, and Uncle Mark had taken Danny into a corner for what looked like a serious talk. Danny’s in trouble. But any pleasure Tabitha would’ve normally gotten from the thought disappeared in her worry about the missing color. The hotel room still had color, but maybe the bad genie, or whatever it was, had decided to attack her family first.
Oh no you don’t. I’ll stop you. Maybe I’m not Agent Tabitha Tavery yet, but I will be someday. You’d better be scared of me.
Her mom turned away from the suitcase.
When Tabitha saw the long, frilly, white dress, her stomach seemed to plummet to her knees. She frowned in an effort to keep her tears hidden. “It’s…nice, Mommy. Where’s Uncle Luke?” Maybe he could fix this. If the bad genie showed up, yarn and crayons might not be enough. Hadn’t the people in the movie had magic on their side as well as color?
“He’ll meet us at the ceremony,” her mom said. “Now hurry. We can’t be late.”
If I dress in white too, will I forget there’s danger? Tabitha glanced at her purse. Davy’s in gray and he remembers. It’ll have to be enough.
She smiled, but then had to wipe her face. Our whole family’s depending on a four-year-old. What was it Uncle Mark sometimes said when he thought she wasn’t listening?