Chapter 1:

Life is the place with colors and fun...


The flickering lights illuminated the narrow apartment, dyeing the scarce interior the color of blood. Not the vibrant color one would expect in movies or anime, but rather a filthy one. As if it had mixed with the filth and waste we humans used to mark our steps.

One last act of defiance mother nature threw at those who filled every little space with concrete and tar.

A rather wondrous thought.

A rather fantastical sight.

One that seemed too just to exist.

Because it didn’t.

The red lights were nothing more but the blinking pixels of my old TV, directing the viewers’ attention to the multiple layers of dust on top of the dining table and the sickening collection of old dishes and neglected advertising leaflets.

A spoonful of cynicism and a pinch of self-hatred on top and my brain was ready to entertain me with rather unusual thoughts. Or maybe distract would be the better description. Distract me from the scene that took place in front of me.

A young woman stood in front of an apartment building, presented a sorrow-stricken face, and recounted the events that led to this news broadcast. Two lovers, a rooftop, a wrong step, and now two sheets that covered the pavement below.

Afterwards, a shocked neighbor described the pair in more detail. Young yet respectful, hardworking yet always with a radiant smile, two single households yet one family. The chance encounter that brought forth love and long nights during which the pair would lie on the roof, looking at the stars.

One encouraging pat.

A smile.

And the young reporter took the reins once more. No enemies, no signs of violence, no suicide note. The police only found a few stains of sweat on the railing. The final verdict? Two lovers who underestimated today’s heat, slipped, and cut their budding love short.

The perfect story. Sad enough to produce a lump in the viewers’ throat. Yet without the real heavy topics that might spoil the mood during the upcoming festivities. And as if to replace that lump with cozy warmth, the station immediately replaced the scene of the flickering strobe lights with some new born animals in the local zoo.

Cheerful music, bright colors, and a narrator who was way more lively than he needed to be.

A sigh escaped my throat.

Too forced.

Too hyper.

Too many colors.

One click.

And the screen returned to the more familiar gray.

Soothing silence.

Yet my brain was still occupied with the colors.

Not that overwhelming cacophony of happiness.

But the measured pulse of the red lights.

I was jealous.

How deeply would one need to be in love to throw all caution to the wind and dance underneath the stars? How happy would one need to be to forget tomorrow and live in a single moment? How bright and vibrant would the world’s colors be?

I was jealous.

Did the color gray exist in their world at all? Had the word loneliness any meaning to them? Did they understand the struggle one would have in front of the mirror?

So much for not ruining the mood with this story.

I was really jealous.

I tried to drown another sigh, but the can in my hand had long become empty, forcing me to move my tense body. One more for a good night. One more and the gray matter would fall silent. Just one more.

My feet found the way on their own, circling garbage bags, piles of clothes, and unopened groceries. The remains of things I had wanted to do. Or should have done long ago.

The kitchen was small, yet fully equipped. Stove, rice cooker, kitchen helpers. Yet microwave and refrigerator were the only ones with any signs of wear. The remaining room appeared unused. Or rather sterile. No plant, no decoration, not even a towel.

Only convenience store packaging and empty bottles on the floor.

There was one more thing inside the kitchen. But I wouldn't call it a decoration. Decorations should bring color into your life and a smile to your face. Happy memories or auspicious dreams. Not self-mockery and anxious nights.

Yet there it was. Decorating the front of my fridge was a single magnet. Gifted to me by my mother, containing her hopes and wishes. A single speck of color. Or rather a single speck filled with so much color it rivaled stories about new born animals in the local zoo.

A myriad of colors framing a single sentence.

Life is the place with colors and fun.

A guidepost, a heartfelt wish, and also a request.

My dear child. Please stand up and get your life in order. Please open the door, step outside, and find that place. Please open your eyes and not only look at the things right in front of you, but also recognize their colors. Their worth.

Life is the place with colors and fun. A place filled with warmth. And a place filled with love.

A gift filled with a mother’s desperation after she had seen her child’s lifeless eyes. A gift filled with a mother’s grief after she had imagined a horrid future. And a gift filled with a mother’s panic after she had woken up from her dreams, the view of a single sheet covering the pavement still vivid in her mind.

Life is the place with colors and fun.

A desperate plea to pick life.

As if it was a simple choice between life and death. A decision between a colorful meadow and a pitch-black swamp. The simple determination to get up and things done.

But I was lost.

I had been lost for years.

I had never seen that colorful meadow in front of me. I had never drowned in that all-engulfing swamp. I had neither heard the god of life’s anthem nor the god of death’s tempting whisper.

All the time, I just sat in my apartment and gazed at the gray colors in front of me.

In fact, I feared the all-engulfing swamp. That sweat whisper. That mysterious angel of death found in stories and movies.

Instead, I turned toward drama movies and anime. So overflowing with emotions, so painfully colorful, that they broke through this gray shell and filled my heart with yearning. I want to move. I want to love. I want to live.

Yet my world would always return to being gray the moment a show ended.

No more movement. No more love. No more will to live.

Only the steps needed to survive.

And to return to my TV.

To those colorful stories that brought tears to my eyes.

Two years ago, I had sat down with my mother, took a white piece of paper, and made a list. An objective list of everything that made up my life.

My loving parents. A job that was neither great nor bad, but one that paid enough without killing me. A face that, while not handsome, was also not ugly. Just a normal face. Rather agreeable body proportions were it not for that extra weight my beer-filled nights had awarded me.

And the list continued on and on.

More and more things that described me as a child with no heavenly gifts, but a lot of chances.

The chance to become successful.

The chance to become happy.

And more than anything, the chance to get help.

Yet in front of my eyes, the white paper and the black ink just became blurred, mixed, and turned gray.

A gray paper filled with nothingness.

Inside a gray world filled with no emotions.

Inside a stale world with no movement.

Back then, I had wanted to scream. To cry. To ask for help. Show me the colors. Tell me how I get there. Show me the correct shrine and I’ll clap my hands twice and pray to the god of life. Or the god of love. Or any god that wouldn’t send an angel of death to my door.

But instead, I had displayed a life-less, and love-less, smile.

Lost in my thoughts, I hadn’t even realized I was back in my chair. In front of that gray television. Facing that gray wall.

My feet really knew their way around the chaos.

Yet something was different.

My walls were still red. Not the vibrant red of blood, but a more filthy one. Still, a color. One that pulsated. Like those flickering strobe lights. Or a gentle heart beat inside a stale world.

Tears filled my eyes.

I was so jealous.

A pair of lovers in a world filled with so much color they couldn’t see the darkness beneath their feet.

I wanted to see such a beautiful world.

I wanted to move. Not drink.

To love. Not despair.

To live. Not survive.

Find a life so colorful the god of death would seek me out.

And I would laugh in its face.

Hence, I took my smartphone and wrote a message to the single contact inside.


Help me.