Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "A Rainbow Is Not Afraid"

This poem is spillover from the July 21, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] chanter1944, rix_scaedu, and Anthony Barrette. It also fills the "Fish" square in my 7-1-20 card for the Winterfest in July Bingo. This poem belongs to the Aquariana thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, and skips ahead some years.


"A Rainbow Is Not Afraid"

[Monday, December 14, 2026]

Aquariana pulled the boat up to one
of the satellite pads designated for
teleportation of maritime personnel,
allowing the traffic to spread out from
the Hamsa Teleport Hub to the waters
around Hulhumalé and Hulhulé.

A small pod of assorted whales,
and a larger pod of dolphins --
at least three of them bright pink --
accompanied her to meet the arrivals.

Aquariana had met one of the newcomers
on multiple visits, but the other three had
only been penpals for the last 13 years.

A loud KRAK-KOW! announced
the arrival of the group -- teleporters
with the most obtrusive emanata got
assigned to outlying pads to avoid either
annoying others or excluding useful talents.

The pad itself was the same kind of
floating dock used for the mini-airports
that serviced seaplanes, thus convenient
for travelers wishing immediate access
to a boat or to the ocean itself. It just had
a teleport beacon added in the center.

Four teenagers formed a cluster
around the teleporter, who then
departed with another KRAK!

Each of them was a different color.

The only boy, Dovey Ferguson,
was now a rich aquamarine all over.
His dark hair had relaxed a little
from tight curls to a lively wave.

Carole Flores was kelly green.
Released from its usual braids,
her brown hair formed a cloud
of curls in the warm moist air.

Pamela Sanders was purple with
wavy blonde hair to her shoulders.

The last was the most spectacular.

Kashten Ashenberg initially appeared
with fair skin and long brown hair, but
then colors burst over her skin and hair.

"Oh! You learned to do neons,"
Aquariana exclaimed, clapping.

"Just this year," Kashten said,
letting them fade to a few chevrons
here and there. "I finally settled on
a cape name, too: Panchromia."

"It suits you," Aquariana said.
"You'll be wearing your colors
for everyday activities?"

"A rainbow is not afraid
of showing its true colors
because it knows it is beautiful
inside out," Panchromia said.

"Well spoken," Aquariana said,
then beckoned. "All aboard!"

The teenagers climbed into
the boat and found seats.

The boat moved away from
the teleport pad, keeping to
a low speed due to company.

The dolphins, as usual, took
positions toward the bow and
sides of the boat, enjoying
the currents it produced.

"Look!" exclaimed Dovey.
"Some of them are pink."

"Those are leucistic
or albino dolphins,"
Aquariana explained.
"They're actually white,
but the sun turns them pink."

"It looks like we have
a Navy escort, too,"
Dovey said, pointing
to the whale spouts.

"Yes," said Aquariana.
"Those are Steel and
Moderato with their son,
Shale. You'll get to meet
some of the others later."

Right on cue, Moderato
erupted from the sea, then
gave a graceful twirl as he
crashed back into the water.
Hello, new friends! he sent.

"Hi, Moderato, it's good
to see you again," Dovey said
as the girls all squealed at
their first telepathic contact.

Welcome to the Maldives,
Steel added. You seem
interesting for landers
.

Steel's mindvoice had
mellowed over the years
from frequent contact with
humans, but his opinions
were slower to change.

Daaad, scolded Shale,
who was only a few years
younger than the human teens.
You're embarrassing us!

Steel gave a leftward snort
and dove under the waves.

There he goes again, Shale said.
Please don't take it personally.
He's had some bad experiences
with humans. Well, so have I, but
I don't have to let that stop me.
I hope that you all like it here.

"I love it here," Dovey said.
"Honestly, I'm almost as excited
to be moving to the Maldives
for college as I am to have
my real skin on permanently."

I'm thinking about college too,
but I can't decide what I would
want to study,
Shale said.
I want to study everything!

"General Studies," Pamela said
at the same time Dovey said,
"Generalist," Carole said,
"Interdisciplinary Studies,"
and Panchromia suggested,
"So build your own major."

"And there you have it,"
Aquariana said. "Those
are all different names for
programs that combine classes
from many different departments.
Regardless of the standard rules, I'm
sure the university would bend over
backwards to accommodate you."

Just then, one of the dolphins
popped up and tailwalked
alongside the boat, followed
by several of the others in the pod.

"There are so many!" Carole said,
leaning against the railing. "I've gone
on some sightseeing ships before,
but this is just ... incredible."

"The Maldives now has
a thriving population of
cetaceans, some of whom
enjoy human company,"
Aquariana said. "There are
several islands with beaches
and docks devoted to interaction,
and they have private islands too."

"What for?" Carole said. "They
can't get out of the water!"

"No, but if they own an island,
they own some water around it,
and the island makes a good place
for humans to visit," Aquariana said.

"Yeah, that was in the materials I got
for Marine Science," Dovey said. "We
can make field trips for class credit."

"The Maldives National University
offers many outside activities for
class credit, along with teaching
online classes," Aquariana said.
"There is neither enough room
nor diversity on a single campus
to cover the needs of all students."

Carole nodded. "My packet for
Environmental Management said
I can choose from garden projects on
many different islands. Some focus
on orchids, or tropical fruits, and
there are even coral gardens."

"Most islands cultivate coral,
and many also grow some of
their own fruit," Aquariana said.
"I think that Amilla Vazan has
the best orchid garden."

Carole promptly wrote it on
her waterproof computer.

"A majority of them have
sport facilities too," said Pamela.
"I have decided to major in
Health and Physical Education,
and my advisor recommended
touring different islands so I
could compare their offerings."

"It's usually tennis and soccer
on land, plus all the watersports,"
Aquariana said. "Don't forget the spas,
because they often host yoga, T'ai Chi,
and other relaxing physical practices."

"I was just looking forward to working out
somewhere people are less likely to stare
as soon as I show more skin," Pamela said.

She had evidently dressed for local weather,
because she wore a black bikini under
a sand-colored coverup and rope sandals.

"About that," Aquariana said, "it's been
long enough that most people don't stare at
visible superpowers, but the exposure rules
differ from one island to the next. We now
have everything from nude beaches to
Muslim beaches where everyone is
required to cover their 'awrah."

"Private parts, right," said Carole.
"There was a flyer on that too."

"It's not just about modesty or
respect for other people's religion,
the tropical sun is a serious threat
to most people," Aquariana warned.
"Do you know your melanin levels?"

The teens all looked at each other,
then looked at Panchromia.

"I have no idea," Panchromia said.
"SPOON just told me that my power
wouldn't hurt anyone by changing
their skin tone, even permanently."

"In that case, you should all visit
the Full Spectrum Self-Study Center
on Cinnamon Island," said Aquariana.
"Their medics can help you figure out
how much sun protection you need."

"Cinnamon Island?" said Pamela.
"I haven't heard of that one."

"It's near Red Island, which began
as a sanctuary for people with red hair,"
said Aquariana. "Since redheads are
the only soups who haven't been
terrorized away from scientific study,
they've taken the lead in exploring
superpowers and how they work."

"That makes sense," said Panchromia.
"Some of the historic stuff is ... scary."

"So is gingerism, which is why Red Island
isn't very welcoming of people who have
other hair colors," said Aquariana. "However,
the increasing scientific activity has turned
that isolation into a problem, so they
expanded to a neighboring island
which is freely open to everyone."

"Okay, that's a good solution,"
Panchromia said. "The redheads
don't have to sacrifice their refuge,
but other folks can access the services."

"I'll have to check whether they offer
anything for college credit," Pamela said.
"Maybe they have things I could apply
toward the Health credits I'll need."

"They probably do," Aquariana said.
"It's a pretty advanced facility now."

They'd started with one clinic on
Red Island that offered health care,
fertility treatments, and a few studies,
but now look how far they had come.

Dovey gave Aquariana a shy glance.
"As much as I look forward to college,
I still really want to be your sidekick,"
he said. "You told me I could ask
again after I turned eighteen."

Because otherwise he would have
been hounding her in every letter.

"In that case, you'll want to check out
the Silver Arm School of Supernary Pursuits
on Vihamanaafushi," said Aquariana. "I can
absolutely use a marine biologist, but you'll
need to know how to deal with supervillains,
terrorists, and other nutjobs as well."

"I can do that," Dovey said eagerly.
"I heard they teach freediving and
Mer Systems sends them samples
of new equipment to beta test and
someone is even trying to make
supernary fish that can resist
the ravages of climate change!"

"I can confirm freediving and
Mer Systems," said Aquariana.
"If you're interested in the tech,
though, there are gizmologists and
super-gizmologists all over here."

"I've heard about the fish, and it's
not just those, it's corals too,"
said Carole. "But the work on
resilient corals is coming more
out of Thalassia than here.
I want to study those too."

"Hmm, then I should call over
to Thalassia and see what's up
with that," Aquariana said. "Most
of my work with corals here has been
frameworks, repairs, and gardening."

"I love how they use underwater sculpture
as a base for new coral beds," said Carole.

"Huge tourist attraction," Aquariana said.
"It used to be plain rectangular beds --
the first ones were literally old bedframes --
but since Fa Bo Lei moved here, we have
a lot of underwater statue gardens now.
Some reef fish really love those."

"I can't wait to show everyone
the fish," Dovey said, bouncing
on his toes. "Tropical fish are
so much more colorful than
the ones in North Carolina."

"What about you, Panchromia?"
said Aquariana. "Everyone else
has already shared their college plans."

"Political Science and International Relations,"
said Panchromia. "I'm also volunteering at
the Silver Arm, in case anyone there wants
to become a crayon soup. Short-term stuff
I can do en masse, of course, but I can
only do about one permanent case a week."

"You'll have a waiting list," Aquariana predicted.
"Lots of people wish they could be super,
even if it doesn't give them powers."

"I just hope that spreading out the colors
will make people smile and discourage bigots
from picking on anyone for how they look,"
said Panchromia. "I want to be an activist,
so this seems like a good place to start."

"I'm more into nature, but I'm an activist
too," said Carole. "Yes, I'm green, but I
am still a kickass beautiful black person."

"I doubt they have any African Studies,
but maybe we can share some classes
on activism techniques," said Pamela.

"I'm sure you kids will change the world,"
Aquariana said fondly. "I'm impressed
with how much you have done already."

There had been years of bickering because
some of the temporarily tinted kids had
wanted to keep their colors, and Kashten
had wanted to help them, but not all of
the parents had been on board with that.

Some families had moved out of state,
including one of the black boys who
had been turned crayon-white (which
was his favorite color) and a couple
of the girls who had gone pink.

Others had compromised
to allow their children
a temporary change
for their birthdays or
other special occasions.

None of the parents had
agreed to a permanent change
before the kids turned eighteen,
though, which had frustrated
some like Dovey who'd gotten
quite attached to their true color.

That was all in the past now,
and Aquariana suspected that
these weren't the only kids who
would ultimately make that decision,
even if they didn't all move here.

She'd heard that another black boy
had chosen to become crayon white
specifically as a form of political protest.

"Malé harbor, coming up," Aquariana said
as the cetacean escort peeled away
to avoid the heavier traffic there.

Goodbye, new friends!
called Moderato. We
will visit again soon
.

"There's the university!"
Carole said, squealing.

The boat docked, and
everyone climbed out.

Heads turned their way.

"New college students,"
Aquariana explained.

People nodded and went
back to their own work.

"They're not staring at us,"
Pamela said, awed.

"Most of them have
seen stranger things
than crayon colors,"
Aquariana said. "That's
the Maldives for you."

"I think I'm going to love it
here," Pamela said, grinning.

Everyone else nodded.

Aquariana couldn't wait to see
what these kids would bring to
the world's weirdest melting pot.

* * *

Notes:

This poem is long, so its character, location, and content notes appear separately.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, education, ethnic studies, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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