Palo Alto Weekly 35th Annual Short Story Contest
Adult Honorable Mention

A Storm of Color

by Juliette Kilgore

Author Bio

Juliette Kilgore is a recent graduate of Gunn High school and will attend Tufts University in the fall, where she plans to study mechanical engineering. She always has time for a good book, and has loved literature and creative writing from a young age.


Over the pandemic, I’ve been taking a lot of walks around my neighborhood in the evening. On one of these walks, the sunset was so vibrant and colorful that the gentle streaks of pink and orange reminded me of brushstrokes. The images stayed in my mind once I got home, and I began thinking: what if the sunset was an elaborate painting? Who would be the painter? I took pen to paper to figure it out.

The painter sits on a cloud. It is soft beneath his weathered hands, and small wisps curl gently around him, like an affectionate animal. The cloud itself is colorless, but scattered paints and dabs of color cover its surface. There are brushes of every size: some with tiny delicate bristles, and some that are almost as big as a broom.

He selects one of those oversized brushes now, and dips the bristles in a soft rosy pink. Despite the unwieldy size, he manages the brush with perfect dexterity. To watch him paint is to watch a ballerina leaping across the stage in a perfectly choreographed dance — effortlessly graceful.

He lifts the brush and touches it to the horizon, leaving the faint rosy streaks of dawn. He dips it in a golden orange, and the sky begins to lighten. Next is a vibrant yellow that illuminates the tops of the trees and houses below.

With a small, delicate brush he paints fluffy low hanging clouds that catch the vibrant colors of the sunrise. Hints of blue appear over the horizon as he continues to paint. The painter is working faster now, and there is a new sense of urgency in his strokes as if he is trying to meet an unknown deadline.

As he works, the sun emerges beneath his brush, a fiery orange sphere surrounded by a ring of golden light seeping into the surrounding blues of the sky.

To say the sky is blue would be a mistake. It has streaks of gray fog and white from the clouds. It has the yellows of the sun and the pale pink of the sunrise. It contains blue, yes, but it isn’t just pale baby blue. It is vibrant royal blue, interspersed with a little periwinkle here and a bit of indigo there.

The painter selects another brush and dips it in the paints behind him without stopping to look behind. He raises the brush to the sky, then stops. He pulls away his brush, but it is too late: a large splotch of coal black stains the clear cobalt blue of the sky.

The painter looks stunned. He moves the brush away hesitantly and then sets it down. He stares at the black mark for a long time. After the flurry of activity, his stillness looks almost unnatural. The black splatter on the sky seems to be looking back at him, as if the two are caught in a staring contest that both are determined to win.

Finally the painter picks up his brush, and raises it once more to his painting. He paints slowly, but with a fierce intensity in his gaze. His brush spreads the black further over the sky, blotting out the delicate white clouds he painstakingly created not an hour ago. He soon follows with a slate gray, daubing the dismal color around the edges of the black blotch. As the painter slowly picks up speed, he begins cycling through his colors at an alarming rate. Midnight blue. Velvet purple. Dove gray. Ice blue. Ghostly white. Mustard yellow.

Beneath his racing brush, a thundercloud takes form. Where the blue sky touches the black cloud, the darkness stains it a midnight indigo. It’s a massive thing, and growing quickly. The painter dips his brush in a bright lilac. In the center of the storm, violet lighting splits the darkness, arcing down to the soggy earth in brilliant flashes. It illuminates the center of the storm cloud with an electric glow. He coats his brush in a dark emerald green, and paints the tiny specks of trees, bent over by an invisible gale. The rain comes down in shimmering silver sheets, darkening the streets and ground below. The storm continues like this for some time as the painter works tirelessly, his arms in a flurry of motion.

Then the storm is over. The painter pauses, and selects a pale robin’s egg blue. He brushes it over the thunder, covering the angry storm cloud with a calm blue sky. With his steady strokes, the darkness disappears and sunlight returns. The painter dips his brush in a pale white, and small clouds once again dot the horizon.

If not for the iridescent drops of dew on the grass, it would be as if the storm had never happened.