The Governor Bans Rainbows

The governor was furious. Out of mind, out of temper furious. His law, though passed by the legislature, had been disobeyed. His orders, meant to be carried out to the letter, had failed of enforcement.

What was the law? The banning of rainbows. To the righteous governor, the colors—pink-red-orange-yellow-green-turquoise-indigo-violet—lying side by side with no white space dividing them, were a symbol of depravity, a constant reminder of the unspeakable iniquity of those who embraced them. 

Multi-colored displays had been forbidden in photos, paintings, posters, as logos on T-shirts, and on flags of any sort. Any display of a rainbow design constituted an obstinate defiance not only of propriety but of the state and all it stood for.

The governor’s state police had enforced the law assiduously, arresting citizens who dared to defy the injunction. And the governor’s courts had speedily convicted and jailed them.

But here was the final insult: after a rain—not a typhoon or hurricane as were frequent in this part of the world, but a gentle rain with the sun shining above it—a rainbow appeared in the sky, for all to see.

The governor demanded it be removed immediately.

His lead scientist said, “There’s no need for that. Rainbows are insubstantial, fleeting phenomena caused by light from the sun reflecting off the inside of water droplets, separating them into their component wavelengths—or colors. You see, the electromagnetic spectrum is made up of light as many different wavelengths, and each is reflected—"

“Don’t tell me all that. I don’t care about all that,” the governor said, “I want it gone.”

“I was only trying to explain that it will soon dissipate of its own accord. As soon as the sun goes down, if not before,” the scientist replied.

And it was true. When night fell, the rainbow disappeared, invisible in the night sky. However, there was a sunlight filled rain the next day and the next and the next after that, each with its own rainbow.

The governor was enraged at having his will thwarted in such a fashion.

He again summoned his lead scientist, along with the chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court and the general of the state’s militia, demanding that they fashion a quick plan of action.

The chief justice said, “Well…we must be able to state a basis for claiming jurisdiction.”

“It’s in our air space,” the governor replied.

The chief justice stroked his chin thoughtfully. “True,” he said. “Some of it is. But it is not clear that the rainbow’s entirety lies within the boundaries of the sky above our state. Some of it may expand past that to the airspace of neighboring states, and—”

Interrupting, the governor turned to the general of the state’s militia. “Call out the air force. Send our planes into the sky.”


The general objected. “You know that state forces are at your disposal, governor. We have vigorously enforced the law on land and within our jurisdictional waters. But we do not have the ability to remove a rainbow from the sky.”

Exasperated, the governor turned to the scientist.

“Tell me,” he said, “Tell mewithout the scientific gibberish—how this can be done. And that it will be done. No excuses.”

The scientist shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “There is nothing substantial that can be attacked and destroyed. A rainbow is energy. It has no distance, no size, nor indeed any material existence. It is a collection of reflected rays from waterdrops that travel to our eyes. You might as well order clouds to assemble or try to blot out the sun as force a rainbow to disperse before its time.

However, the very next day, the governor found something tangible against which he could enforce his will. 

A rainbow was again in the sky, unassailable.  But a small, lone airplane had ascended to that airspace. It was a skywriter, flying just below the offensive natural phenomenon. The plane was writing a message below the rainbow:

I have set my bow in the cloud. It will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. And I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.

The governor shook his fist at the sky. This was not to be tolerated.

Within minutes, the state’s planes were in the air. They shot the skywriter out of the sky. It fell to earth in flames.

But the words the plane had written in white smoke remained in the sky for some time after. And as the smoke dissipated, its words seemed to descend through the air for all the state’s citizens below to inhale.



Jessie Seigel

Jessie Seigel ( is a former lawyer, a political columnist and a fiction editor at the Potomac Review. Her fiction, which generally has sociopolitical themes, has appeared in Ontario Review; The Pen Woman; Gargoyle; Daily Science Fiction, The London Reader, and the anthologies Electric Grace and Furious Gravity, among others. Seigel has twice received Artist’s Fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Her work has been a finalist for a Speculative Literature Foundation grant and for the 47th New Millennium Award as well as a semi-finalist for the William Faulkner Creative Writing Award for the Novel and for the Eludia Award. Jessie recommends Southern Poverty Law Center.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, August 21, 2023 - 11:14