300-word story: A woman spends her final moments assessing her life's work.
Lying in a hospital bed, a tube feeding nutrients into her failing body, Helen was completing the ritual of assessing the value of her life's efforts. Many of the classic milestones were absent: getting married, having kids, travelling the world, even moving out of her childhood home hadn't been ticked off the list. For her, work had been the all-consuming factor. Her mission, the meticulous task of chromatology; the scientific study of colour.
"Helen, are you awake?"
She opened her eyes. Standing there was Michelle, her closest colleague. For decades the two of them had enjoyed a strong friendship whilst fervently researching their respective areas. Michelle had focused on the emotional influences of green, whereas Helen had been immersed in those of red. Despite having similar jobs, their personal lives were nothing alike.
"How are you feeling?" said Michelle, sitting down beside her.
Helen's voice was a painful rasp. "Do you ever regret it?"
"Becoming a chromatologist."
Michelle gave a puzzled frown. "Never. Do you?"
Turning to face the window, Helen could see a young couple happily chatting on a bench. "I didn't until recently. Now it haunts me."
Michelle was flabbergasted. "But why? You achieved so much."
"Did I?" Helen looked her in the eye. "For years I studied how shades of red make us feel and reflect our actions. A lifetime ascertaining exactly why that particular colour is associated with energy, danger, excitement, rage, desire, strength, love."
"And your work is magnificent," replied Michelle. "You helped humanity to better understand its application in a multitude of ways. You've received awards and won the respect of the global scientific community. What more could you ask of the colour red?"
With great physical effort, Helen used her dying breath to answer her friend's question: "To have lived it."
Copyright © 2020 Rich Sutherland