When Lily Bauer was born a few seconds after midnight on that historic day, her doctor and the nurses in the room gasped. All limbs accounted for, button nose and rosebud lips, a cap of blonde fuzz—and skin a pale shade of green. All manner of tests were run, and as the doctor was waiting for results, news came from his obstetric colleague; a child had been born in the second delivery suite who was blue from head to toe.
It didn’t take long for news to spread citywide, statewide, and beyond, for soon it was obvious that every child born on this day—from Albania to Zimbabwe, 203,144 children in all—was born with skin of a surprising and unpredictable shade. The news media captured it all: the Icelandic mother nursing her orange infant, the Nigerian family gazing in astonishment at their yellow newborn, the Japanese parents proudly cradling orchid and turquoise twins.
In the days to come, the world held its breath—was this a short-lived phenomenon, or would babies continue to come in rainbow colors? The answer was readily apparent in delivery rooms worldwide. No one could ever again know what color their child would be at birth.
These astonishing babies proved to be suffering from nothing more than a mysterious gene defect which became known as GPM, for Genetic Pigment Mutation. The birth color neither faded nor intensified as the children grew. And so the GPM generation matured, peopling the world with every imaginable hue and shade: garnet, salmon, tangerine, goldenrod, olive, cobalt, magenta.
Studies showed that there were no predicting factors for baby color. Neither diet nor ethnicity, neither education nor wealth, nor any other factor could be shown to contribute to the child’s shade.
GPM changed the world.
No longer could judgments be made based on skin color. The child of the most fervent Klansman might be the same shade of lilac as the child of his hated neighbor. People quickly realized that it made no sense to hate, for example, the Oranges, when their own offspring could easily be born orange. In every country where racial differences had caused oppression and hatred, GPM children in rainbow shades filled classrooms in harmony.
For a brief while, it seemed as if children in the less beautiful colors (maroon, umber, puce) would form a new lower class. It was more difficult to dress them in colors that wouldn’t clash with their skin, and next to their more whimsically colored siblings of lavender and peach, they seemed drab and uninteresting. But a backlash occurred when parents of Drabs made an extra effort to favor them—especially those from groups who’d never before experienced discrimination. The song “Me and You in Every Hue” became the theme song of the GPM generation.
As the GPMs grew, sociologists watched closely—not only for color-related traits, but also to see how the GPM children formed groups—would Blues choose only Blue companions? Would Oranges avoid Purples? What they discovered was truly remarkable: these children, having grown up in a world where color was truly insignificant, totally disregarded it in all human interactions.
The next milestone for scientists occurred several years later, as the GPM generation reached puberty. How would the mutation play out in the second generation? Would the child of a Red and a Yellow be born orange—and what of the more complex color combinations? What color would the offspring of a Copper and an Aquamarine be?
They had their answer soon enough, when a Magenta boy and an Indigo girl gave birth to a child in a lovely shade of emerald. Subsequent births over the next months and years confirmed it—even in the second generation, nothing could predict a baby’s color. GPM had become the status quo.
Until eighty years later, when Micah Wexler was born. His eager parents (a Crimson and an Lilac) had been speculating about their child’s hue—but they never expected what they got: a perfect little boy in a pale pinkish tan. In fact, he was precisely one of the skin colors often seen in photos and movies from four generations in the past.
Every child born after Micah—from Afghanistan to Zambia—was one of those “throwback” colors: mostly shades of brown, from light to dark, reddish to yellowish. No more rainbow colors, no more GPM. The mutation had disappeared.
And the world waited—how would this new generation, the Shades of Brown, deal with the Problem of Color?
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