Dale Stromberg grew up not far from Sacramento before moving to Tokyo, where he had a brief music career. Now he lives near Kuala Lumpur and makes ends meet as an editor and translator. His work has been published here and there. "Tints and Hues" is in Short Circuit #08, Short Édition's quarterly review.

Image of Short Circuit - Short Circuit #08
Bellatrix Sakakino worked for a commercial bank, focusing on securities valuation and research, and nobody liked her. This was because of her tints and hues. The colors emanating from her person were too raw and vivid, oversaturated, garish. They struck the eye with nauseating force. She was a crackerjack on the job, but those around her shied away.

Then one day, she began to fade. At first, she didn't notice.

People at the office, finding the sight of her easier to bear, started speaking to her beyond what was necessary. A handful of her coworkers—amiable pastels, chirpy neons, au courant grays—even socialized with her. This was her first clue that she was changing.

As she faded further, she attracted the interest of men. She even, against all expectations, got her first boyfriend: Mark, two years her senior, medium-dark cyan, boyish and graceful. Bellatrix Sakakino, whose soft-focus picture of happiness had always been that of a couple holding hands, finally got a taste of joy.

But still she faded. Others soon had trouble making her out. She'd be in the office pantry or a conference room for several minutes before anyone noticed her. She became translucent; her voice got harder to hear; when she reached for things, she could hardly pick them up. Mark eventually moved on to a more discernible love interest.

It stung, but Bellatrix thought, "Being hard to see is still so much better than being hard to look at."

As she vanished from sight, Bellatrix put her fingers to her lips, fingers which could not feel the ghost of a smile she knew no one would see. Though she was sad that her observable moment had passed, it was a delicate sugar-crystal sadness, for she had never been as happy as during those weeks when she had faded to just the right hues. "No," she whispered inaudibly. "I wouldn't have traded that for anything."

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