My parents were in this building. I could feel it. I tried to keep my wings from vibrating too rapidly—too much fluttering would alert the evil Bezra that a free, albeit young, Ytori had infiltrated their city. I flitted cautiously from one shadowed alcove to another, until I reached the hulking entrance of this building that I sensed my parents were enslaved in. My breathing came more and more rapidly and my hands trembled as I inched my way cautiously into the sinister interior. Tears of sorrow and despair filled my eyes when I saw the shapes of dozens of Ytori huddled against the back wall, huffing into giant tubes. I gulped in horror. The Bezra were using my people to lure others of my kind to enslavement in their city! Gazing at the colorless shapes that were Ytori slaves, I clenched my fists in anger. The Bezra had filched these Ytori’s colors, and their identities. At one time, the enslaved Ytori sparkled with colors that identified families, from gentle purples and blues to bright oranges and vibrant greens. Now, I realized with despair that since my parents’ bodies no longer radiated soft blue, I would never be able to identify them.
I tiptoed into the darkest corner of the room that I could find. I needed to think. Everything I had learned about the Bezra and my parent’s capture paraded through my mind. The Bezra, shadowy creatures with twisted bodies, arrived in our dazzling world of purple skies, lofty cream-colored trees, and countless arrays of exquisitely hued vegetation shortly after my parents were married. The evil creatures were accompanied by a massive floating city. The Bezra never leave their dark and dismal city; we believe that they are afraid of color, though we aren’t sure why.
When the Bezra first brought their city, it hovered quietly above our planet for many months. My people are wary of other creatures, and they were relieved when the Bezra did not venture out of their murky home in the sky. Some Ytori even began to think that the colorless city was beautiful: one giant, tangled mass of gray towers set against our majestic purple sky.
One day, a beautiful melody floated out from the city. The Ytori love music, and many of our people began to flit closer and closer to the hulking fortress during their daily ramblings. Some of the older Ytori worried, warning that we needed to stay away from things we didn’t understand, quoting an ancient proverb about how evil is coated with alluring colors.
One day, my mother left me, still enclosed in an egg, in the care of her sister, while she and my father, along with many other young Ytori, drifted near the city to listen to the captivating music. The music on this day was particularly enticing, and they began to sway to it, all the while floating closer to the city, unaware that their color was beginning to fade. My aunt watched in horror from her home as the hulking forms of dozens of Bezra swarmed out of the city, slashing the air with peculiar silver sticks. The Ytori near the city lost all of their color, becoming as powerless as new hatchlings. Then the Bezra herded them out of sight.
I have lived in the shadow of the city into which my parents disappeared ever since I hatched. Once, according to my elders, my people were full of spontaneous and radiant joy. Now, joy is only a mask that covers a palpable sorrow.
When I first learned that my tiny fingers could transform an ordinary blade of grass into a tiny rainbow, I should have been ecstatic, but instead I felt hollow and empty—I wanted to share the joy of creating with a mom and a dad. My auntie loved me dearly, and called herself my mother, but she and I clashed. For one thing, I was a different shade of blue than she. For another, my auntie confined herself to a miniscule area, experimenting with the colors there for endless days. I, on the other hand, fancied adding color to the fringes of the land on my planet. My auntie allowed me to venture a small distance from her confined area, but it was never enough for me. I lived with a feeling of discontent, an itch that I could not scratch.
Finally, when my wings first budded, with a sigh, my aunt told me the story of my parents. I think she hoped that I would heed the story as a warning not to be too adventurous. What she didn’t know was that she made my unscratchable itch intensify. I had to find out what the Bezra had done to my parents. I had to free them. And so I secretly made preparations. I practiced coloring my surroundings to camouflage my blue body so that I could approach the city without being seen. I watched the Bezra patrol their borders, eager to lure in foolish Ytori that flew too near. I found gaps where no Bezra patrolled, shadowed spaces between building where I might flit in. I wove a cloak of grass that covered my form completely, and experimented until it was colored with the blacks and grays of the city. I hoped that if the Bezra could not see me, then perhaps they would not be able to drain my color. When all of my preparations were complete, I donned my murky cloak and fluttered cautiously into the city. I was relieved when I peeked under my cloak and found that my color had not faded.
As I stole carefully between buildings, I reviewed my plan to rescue my parents: I would find them and touch them to restore their color. Then, before the Bezra could capture us, we would fly free of the city. After hours of combing the city, I had finally reached this building. Now, huddled in a corner watching the bent and sad forms of my fellow Ytori, I realized that saving my parents wasn’t enough; I must try to free all of these captured Ytori. But what if my parents weren’t among the Ytori in this building? Tears filled my eyes as I struggled with the impossible choice I had to make. And that is when a Bezra guardian squinted his eyes with the realization that a tiny Ytori was standing in the shadows, not working. I knew then that I had to act quickly. I threw off my cloak, and as the Bezra guard yelped and shaded his eyes so that he would not have to look at my colored form, I dove, touching Ytori one by one as fast as I could, not noticing that as they began to glow faintly with their unique colors, my own was fading rapidly.
“Little one, quickly, grab my hand!” A hushed bass voice urgently begged. As I weakly grasped his hand, I gasped at the sensation of warmth that filled me, astonished to see that his color was identical to my own. Frantically, we moved to clasp hands with the Ytori scattered throughout the room, amazed to discover that together we created a blazing blur of color that could not be extinguished. Bezra guards tried to step in our way, wielding their silver weapons, but screeched in alarm as their bodies began to dissolve.
“This way!” a melodic voice called to the others. “Keep holding on to each other! I know where the other Ytori are.” As one, we floated through the city, grasping any Ytori we found, creating a radiant ball of light. Bezra shrieked when they saw us, even as their bodies were shrinking! We roared with delight as the city itself began to crumble, disappearing faster and faster, until, as if by magic, the Bezra and their hideous fortress were gone! The light and cacophony of noises had awakened all of the Ytori from our world, and as they watched they sang a song of exaltation.
Cries of “We’re free!” and “How did this happen?” began to erupt from the Ytori surrounding me.
“It was this little one,” a rich, deep voice said, as its owner lifted me and held me above the others. When I looked down at him, I gasped! This was the Ytori who had helped me in the building, whose color was identical to my own!
“Daddy?” I whispered.
Before he could respond, the melodic voice that had urged us to rescue the other Ytori in the city spoke from beside him: “Oh, my. You are beautiful, just like I always pictured you. You must be our daughter!” Weeping, I leaned down, stretching my arms out to these two Ytori whose colors so perfectly matched my own. My family was together again!