Purple Prose

* Muses Note: This week our featured guest writer is Seth Petherick, a comedian, Dungeons & Dragons aficionado, and otter expert. He lives in London. *

April 2018 prompt 2

At 6:30 the clock radio comes to life and speaks to the bedroom. It isn’t magic or anything like that, 6:30 is just when the alarm is set for.

“… early reports appear to confirm the phenomenon can be seen across the whole – “

Andrew’s hand reaches out and turns off the alarm. He waits and listens. The house is silent. His wife, Amelia, left yesterday afternoon to spend the bank holiday weekend in Italy with her girlfriends, and their children, Erin and Arthur, twins, are apparently still asleep.

This summer had charged on for Andrew, it is practically September now. He hopes his children felt the opposite. That time has trickled by as slowly as it had for him when he was their age. At eight August lasts as long as Christmas Eve. He thought back to nature walks in the woods with his grandparents. Birthday parties in gardens. Swimming. Winning a prize on the coconut shy. Sand in between his toes. Riding his bike as the sun set.

“… seem to think that a cloud of fine dust, perhaps chemical pollution is the cause of   –”

That was never ten minutes! Had he fallen back asleep? Andrew instinctively reaches for his phone. He stops. Instead he sits up and swings his legs out from beneath the duvet. Determined he walks across the room and takes his navy blue dressing gown from the back of the door.

Andrew listens against the door of his children’s bedroom. Faint songs and voices play from iPad speakers. They were awake, but occupied. He continues past the door and down the stairs into the kitchen. A semidetached 45 minutes from King’s Cross is his castle. It is a couple of steps further down into the kitchen. Taking a capsule from the tin beside the machine Andrew turns on the Nespresso.

Andrew takes a mug from the shelf in front of him and puts in under the spout. As the coffee pours he glances out of the window for the first time. Everything is purple.

He looks back at the now full cup. Adding a spoon of brown sugar, from a jar on the other side of the machine, he gives the coffee a stir and walks to the back door. Stepping out onto the decking Andrew breathes in the fresh morning air. He sits down in a wooden chair. There is a selection of Petunias in a pot on the table. All in full bloom but every petal is a rich purple. The planted boarders are awash with lighter shades. Geraniums nestled against the still green grass are a consistent mauve whilst all the varieties of rose are a purple so deep they may as well be playing Smoke on the Water. Andrew’s sole addition to the garden is a sad potted plum tree on the decking. Here the fruit hangs plump, purple and ready to eat. Andrew smiles. His plant is doing well. He was great at gardening. It seems to have ripened so quickly. He glances across to the apple tree, hanging over the fence from the neighbours to the East. He had heard of golden delicious and red delicious. Pink ladies and he knew the fresh green of a Granny Smith. But was there a purple delicious? Had the scientists done something with grape DNA and engineered a cross? If fermented would you get wine or cider? Andrew thought cider. They looked like apples, it was just the colour. Like looking through a filter. As a boy Andrew had made a kaleidoscope from toilet roll tubes and old Quality Street wrappers. It made him think of the purple one, with the caramel and hazelnut in the middle. He would ask what they were, the apples, if he bumped into next door later on in the day.

Or Amelia would know. She was the gardener really. He reaches for his phone but it is still upstairs. It can wait.

Andrew sits in silence. He continues undisturbed for the next 10 minutes. Some very purple blue tits stop by to breakfast from the hanging seed feeder. Andrew hopes this morning will last as long as his childhood summers felt. It is only when a fat purple wood pigeon lands on the bird table that Andrew notice something wrong.

Everything is purple.

Silently he gets up and goes back inside. He wants to tweet a picture.

He stops in on Erin and Arthur’s room and tells them that there is a strange looking bird in the garden. He tells them to turn that off and come and look outside for once. He tells them that he can have his phone because sometimes Daddies need their phones more.

Fingers on their lips they creep out of the kitchen door. The purple pigeon is still feeding from the top of the bird table. Erin starts to speak but Andrew taps the finger on his lips. A second wood pigeon flies down to join his mate.

Andrew opens the camera app and takes a picture of the birds. One of them had stopped eating and is staring at the three humans in the kitchen doorway. After a moments reflection it turns its head back down to the seeds on offer. Andrew turns his head down to his phone. Here the wood pigeons were adorned with their usual grey plumage. His plums, also in shot, now don’t seem as ripe. He takes another photo. The results are still the same. He shows the phone to the twins, Arthur, who spots the disparity before Erin, laughs that daddy’s phone is broken. Which was fair. Andrew mimes closing his lips and gestures to the birds. They pause, then they seem satisfied and carried on as before. Miming a rectangle Andrew then points upstairs to the children’s bedroom window. Erin gets this before her brother and goes to fetch their tablet. Arthur points to the roses. After a few moments he mouths the words Red, White and Yellow whilst pointing at  the different rose bushes in the garden. It is only now that Andrew realises, that before they were purple, he hadn’t even noticed that there were roses in his garden. He tries to remember when he had last properly looked.  Erin returns with the iPad and takes a picture. Just like the phone this too returns the natural colours.

Andrew gestures to his children to follow. The wood pigeons watch as three of them take seats around the table. Now confident that the humans pose no threat the pigeons feast again. A short while passes and the purple blue tits return to peck at the feeder suspended from the bird table. The rose bushes shake in the wind. A petal falls to the ground.

10 minutes of silence follow. The children watch the birds and Andrew watches his children.

Then his phone rings. It startles the wood pigeons and smaller birds take flight, making for high branches up in the apple tree. Erin climbs down from her chair giving her brother the iPad. He opens YouTube. A robotic voice on the end of the line tells Andrew that he could make a ppi claim. He hangs up.


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