Fiction by H. MILLARD © 2000

    I was sitting at the bar of Clancy's one night when a guy came in who I had seen around a couple of times. He sat on the stool next to mine, and nodded to me. I returned the nod. He ordered a drink and then another and then another. The booze was starting to loosen his tongue, and he started talking to me. I mostly listened. I had nothing else to do.

     "My name's, Ed," he said. "I've seen you in here before. You don't work for the government or anything like that do you?" I assured him I didn't. " Look I'm going to tell you something that's been weighing on me for a couple of days. I just don't know who to talk to about this. I'm in sales at the Human Factory. My job is selling humans made in our factory. As you know, you can buy them in a variety of designer colors to suit your tastes. You can get them in basic white or in black, brown, red or yellow.

     "As you no doubt know, the basic model is white. We call these white blanks. If you want a white human, you get it right out of the mold in white. If you want a different color human, the factory simply takes the white blanks and sends them to the paint department where they are sprayed with the different color paints we offer.

     "At least that's what I thought happened. Funny thing, though, after I'd been in the sales department for a couple of years I started noticing that customers were ordering different color humans depending on the function to which the humans were going to be put. I scoffed at this at first, as I know you too are now scoffing, but bear with me on this.

     " I started to sense that something was odd when I took yet another order from the National Basketball Association. My phone rang and it was Roger Hill---yeah, you've probably read about him in the newspapers."

     'Ed, send me over a couple more humans, will you,' said Roger.

     "We're overstocked on yellow models, and I can give you a good price," I told him.

     "He yelled at me and said, 'No, no, no. I only want black ones. How may times I gotta tell you that, Ed?' "I told him that there's no difference. It's just paint. They all start out as white blanks and then they're painted. There's no other differences.

     "Roger then said, that the black ones run faster and jump higher than the others, and he only wanted black ones.

     "At first I chocked this up to some sort of color bias or maybe a superstition thing on the part of Roger, but then I started noticing that the engineering colleges were ordering more yellow ones than any other colors. I was starting to question my sanity on this. I had always been told by my bosses that the humans were all identical except for the paint, and I just couldn't figure out how paint could change the performance of the humans. Suddenly, I decided I'd see if I could take a visit of the factory where the humans were made.

     "I called Mr. Andrews, who was in charge of manufacturing and asked if I could tour his facility. He told me that that wasn't possible and mumbled something about hazardous chemicals. When I pressed him and then told him about my observations about the ordering bias I had noticed, there was a silence for a few minutes and then in a rehearsed sounding voice, Mr. Andrews replied, 'Yes, Ed. All model humans are exactly the same except for the paint jobs. Ed, this is not an area of discussion that is welcome at the Human Factory, and you should control your curiosity. Management wouldn't be pleased if they heard about this. Do you understand?'

     " I suddenly went cold". 'Sure, Mr. Andrews, I understand. Sorry. I didn't mean to break any company rules.'"

     "No big deal, Ed. Just forget it okay?"


     " Well, of course this just increased my curiosity, so that night I put a flashlight in my pocket and I went to the manufacturing plant. I quickly went over the chain link fence and entered the plant through a first floor window. The first door I came to said Paint Department, and I entered. What I found didn't really surprise me, and just reinforced my suspicions. The place was empty. There wasn't any paint, nor any smell of paint. It was just a big empty room.

     " I left the bogus paint department and went to engineering. I opened up some file drawers and saw series of folders containing blueprints of humans. I had expected to find those. After all, there had to be different prints for big ones, small ones, male ones, female ones and so on.

     "But then I stumbled across what the factory has been hiding. There were different blueprints for different color humans and the blueprints for various parts of these humans were all different from each other. Do you hear what I'm telling you? Different color humans weren't the result of different paint jobs over identical white blanks, they each had their own blueprints. The humans we were selling were different from the blueprint on up. That explained why they performed differently and why different colors were being ordered for different functions in society.

the manufacturing floor     I wanted to confirm this, so I went down to the manufacturing floor. It was all automated, so I was pretty sure that no one would observe me. What I saw was a series of conveyor belts coming out from a door on a wall. On one conveyor belt were white humans, on another were black and on the others were brown, red and yellow humans. Each color human came out on its own conveyor belt. That was proof enough for me. We had been lied to for years. All humans weren't really just white with different paint jobs, they all started off the way they were."

     Just then I noticed a cop come into the bar and he was obviously listening to what Ed was saying. I tried to tip Ed off, but I was too late."

     "Sir, can I have a word with you outside please, said the cop to Ed."

     "Sure, officer, what's the problem?'

     "I just needed to talk to you privately, sir, replied the cop." Ed and the cop walked outside.

     That was the last time I saw Ed. I know that we're not supposed to notice that different color humans seem to be bunched up in different activities with others of the same color, and that this isn't the result of any meaningful differences between the colors---I mean, what the hell does paint have to do with anything? Still, I keep thinking of my conversation with Ed who claims to have seen different blueprints for different color humans.

     Could Ed have been right, and could different humans be of this or that color because of basic differences and not just because of paint?

     I know it sounds crazy, but I can't get my conversation with Ed out of my mind.

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