Fall, 2007
24-Hour Short Story Contest
3rd Place Winner!

The vivid hues of the foliage seemed to bring the painting to life. Intrigued, she leaned closer. Blowing rapidly down the cobblestone road, the artist's yellow leaves were a dazzling gold, the red leaves burned a deep, unnatural maroon, more beautiful than reality, and the dark orange leaves faded around their edges, as if they couldn't decide which color they wanted to be. She peered closer still, desperately wishing to be there, in that place so far away, and so long ago. Her senses seemed to respond to her subconscious desires and she blinked back startled tears when she suddenly inhaled the scent of wood smoke, felt a cold wind stirring her hair, and saw a movement in the distance...

Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.

The Color of Reality
By Blake Garrett Anderson, San Jose, CAA

A finishing stroke here and there, golden yellow gleaming on the edges of the lucky ones, the burnished sunlight glancing over rusty leaves, lending its soft angel glow to autumn's raiment, a sheen to the bark of the forest's trunks and gnarled roots, to the deep crimson of the older leaves, the ones falling first, calling after them the young scarlets, the timid orange, and now the yellow too. Ashley set her brush on the stool behind her, using a finger that was free of wet paint to draw her black hair behind an ear. Her gray eyes studied the last touches, then backed away to judge the canvas as a whole. She watched the leaves as they followed their own windy ways across the cobblestones of the lane. Like flakes of fire...were there such a thing? You could have snowflakes, why not fireflakes? For this forest was aflame, and yet alive, more alive than anything here.

Meg, her roommate, always called her larger than life, but that was exactly the point. Why paint a place where you could already go? Go...it was a tempting idea. She cast a surreptitious glance about her apartment. Such a depressingly boring sight, the clutter and Meg's textbooks and those abysmal off-white walls. She looked to the clock with its dry ticking. Meg was out for the weekend. Ashley wouldn't be missed. Her gaze moved back to the painting. She raised an eyebrow. The autumn road almost seemed to look back at her, beckoning, waiting hopefully like a child. A smirk curved the edge of her lip. Then she nodded to the scene with a twinkle in her eye. It was high time for an adventure. She held out her hand toward the canvas, spreading her fingers...and waited.

She'd captured the wind better this time. One could really see its effect through the whole painting, swirling the leaves in spirals through the air up the road. At times a few stragglers, usually the scarlet ones, twirled low and caught amidst the cobblestones, but no sooner had the rocks taken notice then with a tantalizing flutter the leaves were off again, off dancing with the wind. A coppery maple leaf looped past her in the breeze that sent a shiver over her cheek. Then with a gust it was there, the thrill of the cold against her face, through her hair. She laughed up to the blue sky, tossing her head back and shaking it to free her raven locks from one another and let the wind run through every strand.

The sensation was glorious, but it was a bit chilly outside. She unrolled her sleeves to cover her forearms. Fortunately she had happened to be wearing shoes, for as lovely as these cobblestones looked--they had turned out fairly well--she doubted they'd be comfortable barefoot. She took a few steps forward, looking off through the woods, smiling at every detail. She sniffed. There was another scent on the breeze besides that wonderful autumn chill. Wood smoke. She'd imagined there was someone living here, in a cabin perhaps, on down the road around the bend. Not three steps more had she taken toward it, however, when at the rustle of the foliage she looked to see a man come striding briskly out of the trees. They both jumped.

"Great Scott!" he started, nearly dropping the apple he had in his hand. "Where'd you come from?"

She froze looking at him. He had reddish blond hair, gold in the falling sunrays, and a bright red flannel shirt rolled up at the sleeves.

He glanced down the road, then back to her. "I...just stepped away for a moment, and now you're here..."

She wondered whether she should tell him. It couldn't hurt too much, if he even believed her. "I'm from outside the painting."

"My painting?!" he exclaimed, his face brightening. "I've always dreamt of having a visitor! There aren't too many folk who come up this road, you know, aside from the leaves. It's nice to get away from it all, mind you, and have time for my art, but it does get rather lonely on occasion." He smiled. "At least one can always dream up a new place if they get tired of where they are...but I've always wondered if there might be a way to cross over, from one side to the other, and hoped someone might figure it out and come visit me."

"Well, here I am!" Ashley spread her hands and smiled.

"Tell me," the man asked. "How do you like your apartment?"

Ashley wondered how he knew about that. He must have been able to see out from the painting somehow. "It's a rather dreary place to live," she answered. "So much duller than a spot like this."

"Oh, yes..." he nodded sympathetically. "Well I'm colorblind, I'm afraid, so I couldn't tell you."

"Colorblind?!" she gasped, a little indignantly. "After I went to all the trouble of painting these colorful autumn leaves, you're--"

"Pardon miss, but did you just say...'painting these leaves?'"

She'd wondered if this would upset him, but he seemed fairly aware. "Yes..." she said gently. "You live in my painting, you see."

The man blinked at her, then chuckled. "What an amusing notion. You think <i>you're</i> real."

Ashley's brow furrowed. "Of course I do. I am."

"But you said you live in the apartment!"


"Well, begging your pardon miss, but I painted that."

She smirked. "That's impossible."

The man shrugged. "See for yourself." He extended his hand to motion past her.

Ashley turned around, her jaw falling slightly as she saw, set up on the side of the road, an easel, and on it a painting...the cluttered gray room of her apartment.

What Blake won:

$200 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)

Contest guidelines are HERE.

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