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by on March 19, 2014

Looks can be deceiving. For instance, when Hadley Baxendale pulled up in her skimmer and saw the corpse lying on the blue grassy sward beneath the tree, she naturally suspected that a murder had been done. She was right so far. An ordinary detective would then have begun with the usual suspects: a random mugger, an aggrieved lover, or perhaps the Flossicans from Beta Four.  But Hadley Baxendale was not an ordinary detective. She immediately suspected the tree.

“Lieutenant!” she called to one of the officers milling about. “Scan the tree yet?”

The lieutenant, Glenshaw by name, had encountered Hadley before. “No, we haven’t scanned the blasted tree,” he said tiredly. “Why would we scan the tree? It’s not like the tree did him in.”

“Oh, isn’t it?” said Hadley, her left eyebrow quirking.

Lieutenant Glenshaw sighed. “No. It isn’t. Because it’s a stupid tree. What, you think it whacked him over the head with its branch or something out of spite? You think we’re in for a plague of homicidal trees, now do you?”

“Is that so hard to think on? You’re discussing the murder of a sentient dolphin, after all.” She gestured to where the poor creature lay sprawled on its hoverpad.

“Dolphins are one thing.  Trees are something else. You should know; we had this conversation last year, remember? The ambassador from Verin Prime was murdered, and you promptly announced that it was the fault of his rogue eggplant collection.”

“And was I wrong?” Hadley said.

“Yes. Actually, you were. It wasn’t eggplants. It was the Betelguese Syndicate.”

“Who placed the bomb that killed him inside the eggplant!” Hadley exclaimed in triumph. “So you wouldn’t have discovered that if you hadn’t followed up my theory! And that’s exactly why you should really be taking a closer look at this tree-”

She had taken a step towards the tree, to get a closer look herself. But the moment she went under its shadow, Hadley Baxendale vanished. Glenshaw shrugged. She tended to do that.

Hadley blinked. Quite suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, she had found herself standing on a platform of blue metal. A wall curved on her left, dotted here and there with concave impressions. On her right was a long glass window. Hadley barely registered that an immense field of stars shone outside. She hardly needed to know about them. What had happened was clear. She’d been kidnapped, by the same beings who had murdered the dolphin. “It was a setup!” she announced to the air. “They were trying to get me!”

“Very well done, human,” gurgled a voice. “And now we have you.”

Hadley spun round, but the only thing she could see was a puddle of oily liquid in one of the wall impressions. She assumed something had leaked somewhere. “Yes, you have, but you’d better teleport me right back this instant. You’ve made a serious error, you know.”

“We can’t send you back,” the voice said. Hadley couldn’t quite place where it was coming from; it seemed weirdly distorted. Was there a speaker in the wall somewhere? “For such a long way, the portal only has so much energy.”

Hadley rolled her eyes. “Don’t tell me. It’s a wormhole, or some sort of teleportation array, and now I’m in a quadrant thousands of light-years from my home. Wonderful. Well, you still missed up. I’m not human.”  All at once her form rippled, and turned mauve all over. Then the mauve seemed to blossom out, until what remained was only the color itself, pulsing in the center of the room. Hadley’s voice echoed from it, a lot more serious than she had sounded before. “Yeah. I’m not even biological, exactly. I’m a sentient shade of color. You’d better send me back right now, or the Reds will be coming. You don’t want that.”

The voice seemed very much alarmed. “We can’t send you back. The portal only has-”

“So much energy, yeah. But c’mon, it’s only a quadrant hop or two.  What’s the problem?”

No response. Hadley flickered around idly, waiting for the teleporter to engage, or other beings to come in, or something. As she bounced around the room, she happened past the window. She froze. “Oh. That’s the problem.”

The stars should have been red, or yellow, or blinking white. They weren’t. They were no color Hadley knew. That meant only one thing. She wasn’t in a different quadrant. She was in a different universe.


This is my response to the Speakeasy’s weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less  using “Looks can be deceiving.” as the first sentence, AND (2) make some sort of reference to the media prompt- a painting called Avond (Evening): The Red Tree by the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian.  I was also inspired, I will admit, by offhand references in Doctor Who, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

  1. interesting…really good tk on the prompt…

  2. Excellent interpretation of the prompt. I love how you turned the tree into a portal used by space aliens. You held my interest to the end, and I would have loved to read even more! Are you working on a novel, by any chance?


    • I am thinking of turning this into a novella, at any rate, if not a full-fledged novel. 🙂

  3. Here I thought eggplants were pretty harmless. I know better now 🙂 Another universe…yeah, that’s a problem!

  4. *LOVE* But then, you already know I’m a fan. You have such a quirky, light tone – I wish I could write like that. It’s very Douglas Adams, I think – and I just noticed you mentioned the Hitchhiker’s Guide, so I guess I’m on the right track. 🙂 That opening paragraph was brilliant (and I’m dying to know why the Flossicans from Beta Four have such a bad rap). And a *sentient shade of color*?? Who comes up with that? Oh, right: you do. 🙂 Great story!

    • You’re very kind; I have read a good bit of Douglas Adams, so I suppose he rubbed off a bit. I’d like to know more about the Flossicans myself. You just can’t trust them, or so I hear. 😀

  5. shailajav permalink

    OH I need to know how this ends! What happened to Haley? And did the tree let her back into her world? 😀

  6. You really caught me with the opening sentences, it drew me right in. Great read, thanks!

  7. A sentient shade of colour – love it! And I love her threat about the “Reds.” Fast-paced, funny, and creative. And now I want to know what happens next. 🙂

  8. Now that is wild!! Interesting take on the prompt. I wonder if she ever gets back.

  9. So much imagination in this one. Loved the line ‘You think we’re in for a plague of homicidal trees’. Difficult to solve a crime though if people regularly vanish 🙂

  10. Haha, this is so much fun! I love the concise glimpse into a strange world, and you tell the story with a lot of humor. Have you read Douglas Adams? He has a sentient shade of blue (I think) in one of his books somewhere. It doesn’t have its own interesting tale, though, from what I remember 🙂

    • I was actually inspired by Douglas Adams and the Hooloovoo. I thought to myself, what must a sentient color’s life be like? Thus, Hadley.

  11. Oh man…is this a continuation of something or did you just create a new cast of characters? This is getting ridiculous. No, wait, you were already ridiculous. I think you’ve hit Ludicrous Speed now :). Honestly, I can think of no better references to pull from, well done sir!

    • This isn’t a continuation, not yet anyway. I do, however, want to return to Rain’s world soon. 🙂

  12. Wow! So interesting. A sentient color? I think you got me beat for imagination. You had me fascinated from beginning to end. I like Hadley she’s spunky and interesting. Fun story!

  13. How does this end in Hell I wonder. Ah and a planet explodes along the way right?

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Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC

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