Of Green Skin and Red Hair

Over lumpy green hills behind lush sky-scraping trees lay a small town encircled by a high wall, decked in brightly hued sweet peas and clematis, which in springtime would fill the town with a sweet fragrance. Butterflies would dance to the chirping of birds as they hopped from one flower to the other. No one could remember how this wall of flowers came to be or why it was even there. Equally strange was that it had no visible opening and the plants neither withered nor died.  

In this town lived a pleasant if somewhat unimaginative and dull people with skin the colour of the sea and hair as white as silver. On the seventh day of every week, they would gallivant through town festooned in bright ribbons and multi-coloured sashes. They would politely nod to each other and talk about how wonderful the weather was, and how nice it was that the flowers had bloomed.  

It was on such a day that someone happened upon a little creature in the town square. It sat quite snugly in a Moses basket, the elaborate water fountain casting cool shade over it. Other than the sound it made as it sucked on its thumb, it gave no other noise. Soon a small group of people gathered round, perplexed at this strange creature and how it came to be there. It had two arms, just like the people of the small town. It had two legs, just like every other inhabitant of the small town. It even had eyes, lips, ears and a button nose. And all other parts could be found in their appropriate places, just like those of the people who gawked at him. But that was as far as the similarities went. For its skin, unlike the blue of the onlookers, was a glaring emerald green. And atop his head raged large curls, its redness the primary source of wonderment for the spectators. The people of the town had never seen anyone with red hair before. In fact, they had never seen anyone whose hair wasn’t white and skin wasn’t blue. And so they were gravely disturbed and flummoxed by this tiny creature. "What is it?” someone asked.

“It looks like a baby,” came a reply.

“What nonsense! Have you ever seen a baby that looks like that?” retorted another gentleman.

“But what do we do with it?” asked a soignée lady with pink ribbons in her hair.

“We could throw it down the well.”

“But what if it sinks? Or worse, flies away!?”

“That would be most terrible,” someone shrieked.

“We could put it to work in the bakery.”  

“But it doesn’t look like it knows its way around doughs and ovens,” countered the baker with the plump cheeks.  

“First things first,” said the town school teacher, Ms Knowit. “We have to identify the creature. We’ll know what to do with it once we know what it is.”

Her suggestion was met with nods of agreement. And so they all scratched their scalps, pinched their chins and cocked their heads to the side. But they weren’t any the wiser, which was no surprise, seeing as they weren’t particularly smart to begin with. And then someone said,

“Why don’t we ask Cognias?”

Everyone agreed this was a great idea. For if there was anyone who could identify the creature, then it was surely the town genius who lived in a house made of books and parchments. He seemed to know things that no one else did. But how he came about his knowledge was a mystery to everyone. And so, with haste, a boy was charged to fetch the man who would provide a solution to this quagmire.

Soon enough, Cognias wobbled along, pulling at his handlebar moustache as he approached the crowd. Upon seeing the red-haired creature, he gave a slight gasp then got on all fours, crawled towards it and began his inspection: he pulled at its hair, sniffed at it and licked its face. As soon as he was sure he’d reached a verdict, he straightened himself, stood legs akimbo in front of the expectant crowd and said,

“This is a baby.”    

“But how did it get here? And most importantly, why does it look like that?” someone asked.

“Unfortunately, I am not in a position to ascertain how it came to be here. But I can tell you why it looks the way it does.” Cognias cleared his throat. “Judging by its hair of flame, I can confidently say that this child is from the town of Gingeria.”

Murmurs of confusion trailed this new information. For the people of the small town had no idea that there existed other towns and peoples besides themselves.

“Oh, the world is filled with wondrous places and colourful people,” the town genius added. “There’s Afropia, filled with people with skin the colour of coal and thick black hair that grows towards the sky. And then you have the Brunetians with long flowing dark-brown hair reaching their very ankles. I’ve even read of Balderia where no one has a single strand of hair on them, just smooth shiny scalps.” Everyone gasped in shock and bewilderment at these stories. 

Done with the business of identifying the little creature, they turned their attention to the question of what to do with the child.

“He’ll stay with me, of course,” Cognias said, scooping the babbling baby from its basket. The stunned crowd looked after him as he strutted away towards his house of books, the child in his arms. No one objected because no one had a better idea. 

And so the red-haired child came to live among the people of the small town. And whenever they saw him, they would wonder about all the peculiar places outside the wall and the creatures who lived there. And someone would say, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to see all these places for ourselves?” And everyone would nod their heads in agreement. But then they would shrug, turn around and go back to their sheltered and vacuous lives.     

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