“So, while there are theoretically infinite colors in the universe,” Professor Tanaka said excitedly as he circled the infinity symbol on the chalkboard, “the human eye can only detect between two and three million of them!”
Despite the oppressive heat and humidity in the classroom, Bree smiled. Mister Tanaka’s Color Variations and Their Effects on Magic class was the highlight of her curriculum. Even though, every day, more and more people believed the world was ending, it was inspiring to see someone exuberantly sharing knowledge about something they obviously loved.
“And this is the truly awesome thing about color variations,” Tanaka said turning towards the class and pointing over his shoulder to a bar graph of subtly changing hues. “For every one of those fluctuations in pigmentation, there is some effect on the spell you are casting. Every single one! Whether the human eye can detect it or not.”
Someone sitting in front of Bree raised their hand.
“Yes, Inspector Gadget, go!” Tanaka was famous for giving his students nicknames which were exclusively cartoon characters from the 80s and early 90s.
“Does that mean that, if there are unlimited colorations available…” Inspector Gadget began.
“Precisely!” Tanaka cut him off. “There is an unlimited number of variations for any spell you learn. This is why studying color variations is, without exception, the most important aspect of spellcasting you will learn.”
He moved over to one of the dozen or so electric fans straining to keep the air circulating in the room.
“If only we had more time to learn,” he whispered more audibly than he had intended.
“Professor?” Bree raised her hand.
“Yes, She-Ra, you have the power,” Tanaka pointed at her.
“Does that mean that you agree with what some people are saying? That the world is ending? That Armageddon, the Apocalypse, the Descent, whatever you want to call it, is real and is happening right now?”
Tanaka raised his shoulders in the shrug of a man who had been asked a question that he honestly did not know the answer to.
“There are certainly signs that could be interpreted as such,” he moved away from the fan. “Our Earth seems to be descending into some sort of terminal event horizon. The climate is becoming less habitable day after day, forget about year after year. The minds of more humans are becoming closed to not just reality, but possibility itself… And a mind that is not open to possibilities exists in a reality without hope.”
“So, then you think there is no hope?” Bree asked after a momentary silence.
“I didn’t say that,” Tanaka smiled. “Did I say that? Did you hear me say that, Lion-O?”
The professor pointed at someone further back in the room.
“Um, no? I don’t think so?” A voice hesitantly answered.
Despite the significance of the conversation, the room was unable to refrain from laughter.
“No, no,” the professor clapped his hands together, “I did not! For you see, my mind is open to possibilities. Indeed, it is filled with them! Some people see the universe as a dark, cold place inexorably decaying. But I see it filled with a shimmering vibrancy, breathing color and life into the planets, the stars…”
Just then the brief squeal of the PA system activating interrupted the conversation as a deep, underlying bass sound was broadcast. It was quickly joined by the unmistakable, high-pitched skirl of bagpipes.
The students looked about nervously as Tanaka glanced up at the speakers.
“It’s the perimeter alarm,” he said. “She-Ra, follow me. Everyone else, report to your dormitories!”
“What is it, Professor?” Bree asked as they ran into the courtyard.
“You tell me.” Tanaka held open a small bag of very fine, colored sand.
Bree quickly dipped both of her hands into the sand, immediately placing each of her forefingers along the sides of her nose, wrapping her thumbs around her chin while the rest of her fingers lay against her face and head.
She looked into the sky, through the veil of multicolored sand that floated up from her hands.
“What do you see?” Tanaka asked.
“A presence. A consciousness. It hungers!”
“Hungers for what?”
“Okay, listen, what I was just talking about in the classroom. This is it! This thing that is coming, it is the entropy, the decay of the universe. Like so many humans today, it doesn’t believe in other possibilities. It can’t see the vibrant reality that is all around it. We need to make it see!”
“How the hell do we do that?” Bree yelled as people ran all around them.
Tanaka smoothly cast a wide arc of glittering sand above them.
“Close your eyes… Make a wish… Count to three…”
Suddenly, there was no sound other than the impossibly calm tone of the Professor’s voice.
“Feel the sand floating around us. Each grain reflecting a thousand versions of its own unique color from the sunlight, painting a thousand different realities within our minds. See the vibrancy of a million universes giving life to a countless, single consciousness. Breathe all of it in… Live it…”
Bree could feel it growing within her: laughter, sorrow, tears, joy… Possibility.
“Now… Show him.”
Bree opened her eyes and it seemed like the fabric of existence imploded around her into absolute darkness for just a moment before exploding like an atom bomb.
Bree was certain she could see infinite colors.
As the colors faded and her eyes returned to a mere two or three million variations, Bree realized that she was not sure where she was any longer. But, there was a figure silently sitting before her.
“What are you?” She whispered.
“I am the end,” it spoke softly. “I have always been the end.”
“Then… Why am I still… Here? Talking to you?”
The figure looked up at her. Sharp, cobalt blue eyes the only feature visible from its otherwise dark silhouette.
It exhaled and a single word became Bree’s entire reality.