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art by Melissa Mead

Love Is Orange, Love Is Red

A Nebula Award winner, Hugo Award nominee, and winner in the Writers of the Future Contest, Eric James Stone has had stories published in Yearís Best SF 15, Analog, Nature, and Kevin J. Andersonís Blood Lite anthologies of humorous horror, among other venues. Among those other venues, Daily Science Fiction has published several of his stories.

If you'd like, visit Eric's home page and read more about and by him: ericjamesstone.com/blog/home.

You don't say "I love you" anymore.
Neither do I.
We had only been dating two months the first time you told me you loved me. "I love you, too," I said.
Of course, that was long before the empathy virus, so you hugged me tighter and believed.
You love me with a waterfall of emotion, churning bright white in the sunlight as it roars down from a dizzying height, scattering rainbows everywhere.
Maybe things would be different if you had come down with the virus first. I woke up feeling better after a good dose of Nyquil the night before, and I marveled as I lay in bed beside you, feeling for the first time the powerful emotions surging inside you, awed that anyone could feel so much for me. I told you how wonderful that was.
I love you with a deep blue river of emotion, slow and steady as it flows gently to the sea.
The morning after you got sick, you woke up and looked into my heart expecting to find a waterfall, the mirror image of what you felt for me.
And it wasn't there.
You don't say "I love you" because it hurts to hear a reply you can't believe.
I don't say "I love you" because it hurts you when I do, and it hurts me to hurt you.
On one of our early dates, we got to talking about colors. "They're all in our heads," you said. "Just perception. But there's no way to know that the color red in your mind is the same as the color red in my mind. It might be what I see as orange, or even green or blue."
I shook my head. "Red is red. Orange is orange. How can they be different for different people?"
I hope one day you'll understand I was wrong about colors.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Author Comments

I wrote this story for a flash-fiction writing contest with other members of CodexWriters.com. We each had to write a story of no more than 750 words in a weekend--each weekend for five weeks. This story was my entry for week three. It was based on the following prompt: "Everyone in the world has developed the same psychic power (i.e. telepathy, pyrokinesis, etc). How does the world change?" One of my best-received stories that Daily Science Fiction has published is "Buy You a Mockingbird," which was only about 350 words long. I decided to try to write something similarly short, and to focus on the relationship of two people as the world changed. I picked empathic reading as the psychic power, because it seemed like knowing how another person felt would affect the relationship. And then I wondered what would happen if people could sense someone else's emotions, but couldn't properly recognize them because they experience emotions differently.

- Eric James Stone
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