A TRANSCENDENT Excerpt: “You Can’t Even Call It A Rainbow” by Jefferson Retallack


The visual rules of our world exist due to the way your optic nerve receives electromagnetic waves. Ninety percent of the population. Most of you think you are normal, well, you don’t actually ever think about it.

You don’t have any trouble coordinating an outfit, no accidentally leaving the house looking like a rodeo clown for you. What a treat.

You can be a pilot, an electrician, a painter, even a baggage handler if you actually want to. There’s only a one-in-ten chance that someone can’t legally do these jobs. So, why bother replacing red/green dashboard lights with literally any other binary display. Why bother printing letters on the wires, heaven forbid printing instructions like earth, live, or neutral on them. Even just danger or a lightning bolt for those with less language.

If there’s a one-in-ten chance that a human being can’t understand your ROYGBIV colour coding, maybe it’s time to introduce a symbol here or there. Cinema won’t actually miss the wire dilemma trope.

I wish that you paid more attention to your minorities, both lower and higher. There is so much you can learn from them, so much you need to see. The key lies in your differences. Use them.


My mother is a four.

You know something is unique about you, but you don’t quite have the words to describe it, and even if you did, the chances of them reaching another four are astronomical.

You see a tree, a bird, a lake—a symphony. Nobody does it like nature. You say something like, “Wow…that lorikeet, it looks amazing. Like the sunset made love to a healing crystal and grew wings.”

The two threes and the two that you walk with all use different words to say the same thing.

“I guess.”

“I want what she’s having.”

“What in the actual fu—”

You quell the need to share the experience further. You shrug it off with a goofy smile. You bury it. You remember your first art class argument.

“Excuse me, miss. I need more colours to get this right.” You grab at her dress. You are only five. You ask as politely as you can, “Where do you keep the other crayons?”

“What do you mean? All the colours are on your table.” The teacher slides her hands past her temples to smooth down the stray hairs of a long day.

“No, they’re not. There’s no greenge, purplue, breen, or pinple. I need them to finish my drawing.”

“What are you talking about?” She snaps the crayon that she took from you. “Stop talking rubbish. No nonsense.”

“It’s not nonsense.” You hate the word.

Why don’t they believe me?

“I need more colours.” You raise your voice as you don’t know what else to do.

Children snigger. The teacher wants to hit you, she will not and never can, but you notice rivulets of her iris flush with stress.

The classroom’s mass disbelief is a personal attack. You experience this many more times throughout your life. You use the names you invent for your extra colours less and less each year as they only bring ridicule. You argue about the oversimplification of the seven colour rainbow. No one ever believes that each band of the real thing contains a mosaic of hundreds. They just say you’re off with the fairies, isolated in a spectral prison.

With the right materials and enough time, you can paint your exceptional rainbow, but I will notice the same jarring lack of variety you see in the original. In every one of the bands, I can see thousands.



Transcendent - Amazon KindleJefferson Retallack is an Australian writer of speculative fiction. He is based in Adelaide. His work draws influence from linguistic science fiction, the new weird and Australia’s “big things”. Outside of the literary world, he skateboards on the weekends and spends afternoons on the beach with his partner and their Pomeranian, Tofu.


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