“Are you feeling okay?” she asked. She frowned and set a coffee cup down on his desk. “Working hard, or hardly working?” it said, in a flat, overused font.
“Appreciate it,” he muttered, clutching the cup tightly to keep his fingers from shaking.
He longed to see her golden kindness, but he kept his eyes down. The other afterimages were too much. He’d seen the icy blue of her depression, brought on by the recent death of her daughter. Sickening harassment from their boss stoked the red embers of anger. Her green tranquility, once strong, now withered.
He’d grown used to seeing the colors in people, but he no longer wanted to see hers. She’d lost so much, and would lose more unless those colors cooled. Today was especially terrible. A new afterimage followed her: a skulking figure of smokey gray. Evil.
He didn’t know what she’d done.He didn’t want to know. She was his best friend. When she spoke again, he stood and walked away. He didn’t even hear her words. In a flood of fear, he turned his back to her and left.
He directed himself towards the restroom, which took him the long way through the office. There, he saw the secret faces of his co-workers in a kaleidoscope of ghosts. His vision laid bare all of the quiet hatreds and secret loves, the loneliness, the longing, and the tender dreams all around him.
The restroom door shut heavily, and he locked it behind himself. With a panting breath, he moved towards the mirror. There he saw himself, flanked by sallow fear and rosy ambition. Those were the colors he knew. But now, as his stomach sickened at the thought of her gray cloud. His best friend, showing a face of evil. His own colors dulled, replaced by the damnable faces of dread and loss.