Excerpt of Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
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A Morning in Vermillion
126.96.36.199.021: Males are to wear dress code #6 during
inter-Collective travel. Hats are encouraged but not
It began with my father not wanting to see the Last Rabbit and ended
up with my being eaten by a carnivorous plant. It wasnt really what
Id planned for myself Id hoped to marry into the Oxbloods and
join their dynastic string empire. But that was four days ago, before I
met Jane, retrieved the Caravaggio and explored High Saffron. So instead
of enjoying aspirations of Chromatic advancement, I was wholly immersed within the digestive soup of a yateveo tree. It was all frightfully
But it wasnt all bad, for the following reasons: First, I was lucky to
have landed upside down. I would drown in under a minute, which was
far, far preferable to being dissolved alive over the space of a few weeks.
Second, and more important, I wasnt going to die ignorant. I had discovered
something that no amount of merits can buy you: the truth. Not
the whole truth, but a pretty big part of it. And that was why this was all
frightfully inconvenient. I wouldnt get to do anything with it. And this
truth was too big and too terrible to ignore. Still, at least Id held it in my
hands for a full hour and understood what it meant.
I didnt set out to discover a truth. I was actually sent to the Outer Fringes
to conduct a chair census and learn some humility. But the truth inevitably
found me, as important truths often do, like a lost thought in need of a mind. I found Jane, too, or perhaps she found me. It doesnt really matter. We found
each other. And although she was Grey and I was Red, we shared a common
thirst for justice that transcended Chromatic politics. I loved her, and whats
more, I was beginning to think that she loved me. After all, she did apologize
before she pushed me into the leafless expanse below the spread of the
yateveo, and she wouldnt have done that if shed felt nothing.
So thats why were back here, four days earlier, in the town of Vermillion,
the regional hub of Red Sector West. My father and I had arrived
by train the day before and overnighted at the Green Dragon. We had
attended Morning Chant and were now seated for breakfast, disheartened
but not surprised that the early Greys had already taken the bacon,
and it remained only in exquisite odor. We had a few hours before our
train and had decided to squeeze in some sightseeing.
We could always go and see the Last Rabbit, I suggested. Im told
But Dad was not to be easily swayed by the rabbits uniqueness. He
said wed never see the Badly Drawn Map, the Oz Memorial, the color
garden and the rabbit before our train departed. He also pointed out
that not only did Vermillions museum have the best collection of Vimto
bottles anywhere in the Collective, but on Mondays and Thursdays they
demonstrated a gramophone.
A fourteen- second clip of Something Got Me Started, he said, as if
something vaguely Red- related would swing it.
But I wasnt quite ready to concede my choice.
The rabbits getting pretty old, I persisted, having read the safety
briefing in the How Best to Enjoy Your Rabbit Experience leaflet, and
petting is no longer mandatory.
Its not the petting, said Dad with a shudder, its the ears. In any
event, he continued with an air of finality, I can have a productive and
fulfilling life having never seen a rabbit.
This was true, and so could I. It was just that Id promised my best
friend, Fenton, and five others that I would log the lonely buns Taxa
number on their behalf and thus allow them to note it as proxy seen
in their animal- spotter books. Id even charged them twenty- five cents
each for the privilege then blew the lot on licorice for Constance and
a new pair of synthetic red shoelaces for me.
Excerpted from Shades of Grey
by Jasper Fforde. Copyright © 2009 by Jasper Fforde.
Excerpted by permission of Viking. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.