By Jared Kavanagh
On the Sea Lion Press Forums, we run a monthly Vignette Challenge. Contributors are invited to write vignettes on a specific theme (changed monthly).
The second theme was "Evolution"
I've selected a vignette that I really liked
As a child, I learned that I saw the world differently from others.
My memory remains vivid of the moment when I came to this realisation. As I suppose all memories are vivid of the time when one learns that one has been marked by Nature to stand higher than the mundane peoples of the world.
My mother showed me a flower, of a kind that I had not seen before, and told me that it was called a lily.
“That’s a pretty, colourful flower,” I said.
She gave me a strange look, one I still remember so many years later, and said, “This lily is white.”
“It’s not white,” I said. I pointed to a sheet of paper which she held, for some reason which cannot now recall. “That is white. This flower has colour.”
“It has no colour,” she said.
“Yes, it does,” I insisted, in a remembrance which remains as intense today as the moment when it happened. “It has colour. I don’t know the name, but this colour is to purple as purple is to blue.”
Fortunately, my mother was more amused than anything else. She told me that it was white, and I called it white, for the sake of obedience and family harmony.
But the lily was not white, and had never been white. It had a pattern of colour, even if my mother could not see it. Nor could my father, when I carefully tested that later. He, too, thought that the lily was white, and could see none of the vivid hue which coated its petals.
At first I thought this might be a frailty in adults, but surreptitious checking with other children revealed that they, too, lived in a half-coloured world.
I realised, then, that my sight was superior to the common folk on the world. That when it came to matters of colours and light, I was superior to the world.
My superior vision meant that I could see the wider, true range of colours which Nature provided. Some times that meant seeing colours where others saw white or black. Other times it meant distinguishing colours which to my parents and others were exactly the same. It meant that I could see colours for which other people had no name.
I learned to conceal my blessed vision, though many times it took considerable effort. It can be hard to remain silent, when you perceive the world clearly while others walk around in a haze which blocks half of their sight.
For my childhood and well into my teens, I believed that I alone had been granted this gift of true sight. I thought that I alone was superior, that everyone else was half-blind.
In time, I gravitated to the world of art. A natural fit for my talents, for who better to paint a depiction of the world than one who sees it as it truly is?
Amongst the group of worthy painters, many of whom had talent even if they did not have proper vision, I found at last that I was not alone. A few others, a very small handful of others, had also been blessed by Nature. They, too, saw the full palette of colours, not the restricted range granted to normal folks.
We learned who each other was, carefully, and we also spoke carefully. Each of us, it turned out, had gained similar realisations in childhood, and each had learned to conceal our true gifts.
The plain-sighted, we called ourselves. A term which we could use safely in the hearing of others, without ever giving away its meaning. It meant that we are those who see the world truly in a world of the half-sighted. It meant that we are those whose vision is greater, those who are marked by Nature to behold the full glory of what has been created.
The realm of art was the perfect habitat for us. This was the time of modernism, of the world changing, of breaking the old habits and developing new ways of perception. This was the time when art moved into the abstract, the time of cubism, expressionism, surrealism and a myriad of other styles of new perception.
In this era, we of the plain-sighted were truly blessed. We saw the world more clearly, and it let us express ourselves in new ways, which the half-sighted admired even when they did not fully perceive them.
Each of the plain-sighted made names for ourselves as artists of renown. Inevitable, given our gifts, given our nature and blessing from Nature. The half-sighted world struggled to classify our works into a single school of art, since they saw only half of what we painted, but they admired us none the less.
For our own amusement, we started conveying messages in our artwork. Colours which appear the same to the mundane can be distinguished properly by the plain-sighted, and could be written with whichever words we wished to convey. The ordinary folk saw only patterns of black and white with occasional purple and blue, while we saw the true colours, and the words they contained.
During my youth and into my twenties and thirties, this communication was simply a game. A private amusement played amongst the superior people, amongst artists who had grown up in the Netherlands but now had sometimes moved further afield, to Paris or London or New York.
Then the world changed again. Armies moved across Europe, just as they had done in my childhood, but this time the Netherlands were amongst the targets. My homeland was invaded and quickly conquered by those who called themselves the Master Race.
Many fled the advance of those armies, either in the dark days leading up to the outbreak of war, or in the last desperate days as word came of soldiers crossing borders. The escapees included all of the plain-sighted, save only myself.
For my part, I remained in Amsterdam. When the dark days began I was too engrossed in my paintings to notice much of them. When the desperate days came I clung to hope, trusting that like in the first great war that the Netherlands would be respected in their neutrality.
I was sadly mistaken in that belief, but fortunate all the same.
I remained in Amsterdam throughout its occupation, and truthfully my life was not greatly troubled. I was tall enough and blonde enough and apolitical enough, at least in outward appearance, that the invaders did not mark me as one of their victims.
More fool them.
When the half-sighted had squabbled amongst themselves, that was no concern of mine, but when they had broken up the camaraderie of the plain-sighted, that was another matter entirely. I wanted the war to end, and to do what I could with my superior gifts to help quicken that ending.
So I remained a painter, but what had become a game amongst the gifted became a tool to help the ordinary. Many of my paintings went overseas, amongst the few mails which still moved in these troubled times. Those paintings went to my fellow plain-sighted artists, and they in turn read the words hidden within them.
My messages were sent to artists, but to be passed on to the Dutch government-in-exile, and in turn to the British and Americans and others who stood with them. I told them exactly what was happening in occupied Europe, of what was being done by those who called themselves the Master Race, but whose vision remained cloudy.
My series of artworks went out to Britain, and the Master Race just smiled and passed them through the mail. A letter accompanied each painting, always written as bland and uninformative as possible. I imagine that the censors looked for hidden messages and ciphers amongst those written words, and not once did they ever find them, for there were none. My actual messages were ones which the censors could not see, no matter how much they looked.
I sent out report after report in artworks to Britain, right up until the liberation of the Netherlands, and the Master Race remained oblivious. Several times, I was even commissioned to produce paintings for members of the invaders’ leadership. I duly obliged, wanting to appear apolitical, and provided artworks which insulted each leader for whom they had been commissioned. Not once did any of those Aryan supermen realise what I was doing.
My favourite painting of my entire life was commissioned during the war. After I had painted it, it hung in the Berghof and then on the wall of the Eagle’s Nest, high in the Bavarian Alps. It adorned the headquarters of the so-called Master Race. They viewed it as a triumph of abstract art, but none of them could properly perceive it. To those who were truly favoured by Nature, they could read its true message: “Hitler has only one brass ball.”