I walked out the front door of my home that morning to the exact sight I saw every morning-the same sight that could be seen from any direction-row after row after row of homes all the exact same design and all exactly the same color-beige. I lived in a beige community.
Every house looked exactly the same right down to the lawns and everything in them. The beige community allowed only the one color for houses and allowed only one decoration in the yard-a concrete birdbath-all placed in exactly the same place. There were shrubs beside each home, all in the same number and placement-but no flowers were permitted.
Every house had a one car garage attached to the right of the front door. No automobiles were to be parked outside that garage. NOTHING was permitted to take away from the uniformity of this sight. It was beige in every way.
As I stood there, I watched several automobiles back out of their garages. Every car was dark grey and the same make and model. I found myself imagining someone sitting somewhere with a controller guiding everyone’s movements. I found I didn’t like the thought. That was the moment I made my decision. I was going to escape the beige community.
I spent the next few weeks thinking and making preliminary plans for my escape. At first, the plan was to simply move away, but I soon came to a realization. No matter where I moved, I would have to conform to someone else’s plan. I was not prepared to conform. The answer was simple. I would form my own community and make my own rules.
While I quietly searched for the perfect site, my rules began to take shape. The first rule was simple:
1. NO BEIGE.
The rest fell into place as I thought of what I wanted to accomplish.
2. Colors are required.
3. Individuality is required.
4. No two consecutive homes could be the same color.
5. Automobiles must be a personal statement.
Then, I began to consider the people who might live in my community. I wanted those with personality. I didn’t want people who would follow the crowd like a herd of sheep. I was certain the ideal residents would be the artistic types. That brought the next rules.
6. Every citizen must create.
7. Every citizen must practice an artistic pursuit .
8. Each week, there will be an artist’s display on the town square where each citizen will display that which they have created.
I felt I was now developing the perfect community but I knew, of course, that people had a tendency to be, at times, hurtful and judgemental so more rules were needed.
9. No citizen will ever judge or criticize another citizen’s art, work, actions or personality.
10. If any citizen has a problem with another citizen, they will QUIETLY bring that concern to The Committee.
After all, there had to be a governing committee since people could never be trusted to govern themselves. So that subject had to be addressed.
11. There will be a committee of three to oversee the community and deal with all issues.
12. All decisions made by The Committee will be final. There will be no arguments and no appeals.
I looked at this last rule and smiled. I decided that should any decision go against a citizen and that citizen was not happy with said decusion, they would receive one final order:
One last rule for my list.
13. Should any citizen disagree with any rule, with any committee decision, or create any drama, they will be required to leave the community permanently.
It was perfectly simple. I would allow no nonsense, no drama and no negative behavior. I smiled believing my plans were perfect.
Some weeks later, I found the perfect site for my community. I laid claim to a small island off the eastern coast of our republic. I immediately built my own home precisely the way I chose. When completed, my home was painted sky blue. I painted the front door bright red and I planted an array of flowers…all types and colors. I placed bird houses in the trees-all painted bright happy colors. Finally, I looked around my wild and colorful yard and I knew contentment.
I then spread the word where I could inviting like minded individuals to my island, which I named Shambala, after my favorite song. In only a few weeks, there were dozens of people inquiring about moving to Shambala. I knew I could not simply open the gates, as it were, and allow just anyone in, so I prepared an extensive application for each person to complete.
The applications soon began to arrive. I went carefully through each one to choose only those who seemed appropriate for my community. Within a couple of months, I had chosen 10 people for acceptance. I soon greeted these people at the dock-my new neighbors. I liked most of them on sight and immediately knew who I would choose to sit the two open committee positions.
All the new residents were given the list of rules and required to sign an affirmation of agreement with those rules. All signed and were anxious and excited to be started.
My choices for committee members were a young woman named Arturia, who was a weaver. Arturua was in her 30s and of a tranquil, quiet nature. The other committee member was a man in his 60s named Bastian. Bastian was a woodworker. He carved and also built unique furniture. I felt they both would be a great asset to our society.
In the weeks that followed, the new residents completed their homes. None were large or elaborate, but were definitely distinctive. Each one proclaimed the resident’s individuality, just as the rules required. I was pleased, also, to see that no two homes were the same color.
Each resident had chosen a site for their home without regard for order. There were no streets on Shambala. A resident was free to choose where they would live while always being considerate of the other residents.
Life on Shambala settled into a quiet, tranquil and creative existence. The Committee had only to deal with making sure supplies arrived from the mainland and created items were shipped back for selling. I was thrilled at my creation. Until I had to deal with Pater, the leather worker.
Pater had built his home farthest from other residents and rarely associated with anyone. At the weekly art shows, Pater set up his creations but had little or no interaction with anyone else. That was fine since the idea for my community was for all residents to be oeaceful and comfortable. All were encouraged to be themselves. Parer certainly followed that rule.
But Pater had a secret.
If I had known about his secret, he would, of course, bever have been accepted. But Pater lied on his application. In my excitement and naivete, I hadn’t considered being lied to…it was completely against the purpose of Shambala. I thought all my residents shared my vision and my dream. That dream was soon to become a nightmare.
On a particularly grey morning, the residents were gathering for the art showing. I was wandering through the tables looking at the various offerings when I came to a blank space. I asked around and discovered the space should have been occupied by a lady named Grinjil. Grinjil was in her 50s and did remarkable things with yarn. She crocheted and knitted and every resident was amazed at her creations. Grinjil was also an exceptionalky kind person, loved by us all. It was also very unlike her to miss an art showing. I was concerned so I made my way to Grinjil’s bright yellow home. I walked up the stone walkway admiring the abundance of flowers and grasses she had planted.
At the door, I called out to her but there was no answer. On Shambala we didn’t have locks on our doors, we simply respected everyone’s privacy so I knocked twice to no response. I then opened the door. Grinjil lay on the floor with a length if yarn wrapped around her throat. She was dead.
I called the committee to her home where we tried to find any sign of who might have done such a thing. There were no clues.
All residents gathered a couple of days later to honor Grinjil and to mourn. Everyone was there. I found myself searching faces trying to see something which would give away the killer. Because we had a killer among us. The Committee met repeatedly to try and find a solution but there was no solution. Finally, we decided we must have a meeting of residents to try and make things right.
All the remaining residents gathered in the community center that evening. I addressed them, explaining we had no clues to the identity of the beast who had killed Grinjil. I explained we must have everyone’s help to solve this horrible situation. I looked at each face. One after the other looked at me with sorrow and fear in their eyes..until I looked at Pater. I couldn’t really explain the look on his face, only that it was wrong somehow.
I asked Pater to stand and tell us where he had been before the art showing. His response was that he had been home gathering his things for the showing. I then decided to bluff. I asked if he had ever been to Grinjil’s home to which he said a quick “no”. Clenching my fist behind me, I asked why, then, did we find one of his gloves next to her when we found her. Pater quickly reached a hand into the pocket where he had tucked his gloves. He then glanced around the room, his face white.
Pater jumped to his feet and started to run but was tackled by Bastian. Two of the other men assisted in restraining Pater. He didn’t resist, but looked around with a smirk. I was about to state he would be taken to the mainland for punishment when one of the women stood.
Kalara cleared her throat before reciting rule #13. Several others rose and all escorted Pater to the dock where they tied his hands and feet. Bastian attached a large block of metal to the restaints on Pater’s hands. As a group, the resident’s of Shambala shoved Pater off the dock. They all stood silently as the bubbles slowed and, finally, stopped. Then, one by one, each resident turned, each going to their respective homes without a sound. All I could think as I saw my dream die was…