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The Black – Jody Taylor

Colour. It was beautiful. It was light itself, reflecting to create endless wonders. Finished. The end. When the colour drained, everything was blamed, eyesight, the sun, us. Nothing can bring the colour back now. Now the world is just a spinning hole of darkness. Now the colour has gone forever. Colour was beauty and peace and love. Now it has been lost, wasted on those who didn’t appreciate it for what it was.

At first there was havoc. Then a new leader came through. He was cruel, only caring about his money and his comfort. Alistair, king of the world. He was young, and had only been two or three when the colour drained. He did not care why, or how, it was irreversible for all he cared. At first, he thought order could be maintained with a primitive system: Royals dressed in white, the most expensive shade. As you got closer to the dullest of greys, you got closer and closer to the homeless, the poor, the unemployed. There was no point spending money on nice shades that just went grey after being neglected. Soldiers are dark, almost black. They mix with their surroundings, no one sees them creeping around at night. I am a sooty, dusty grey; I go unnoticed in a world of shades.

My mother knew and understood colour. She described it to me as elegant, precious. Timeless. I think the loss of it killed her. She would be truly happy, talking about colour, but would always frown when brought back into the real world, where everything is just a shade of what it once was. She would suddenly become sad and lonely. It pained her to see such beauty lost. It drove her to depression; she simply lost the will, and ability to live.

Living in the streets is hard. No one notices a grey shirt sliding through the crowds staying low to avoid swinging arms and insults. I live off the occasional job, the occasional snatch, giving me enough to survive, no more.

My choice was not a difficult one. I have no family, no friends, and no possessions to treasure. Literally nothing except what is in my head, and that is light enough to carry with me, always. I shall leave this cursed place. I shall run. It shouldn’t be hard. No one is stupid enough to try and leave this city. There is no point patrolling into the slums. We are ignored as a general rule.

I know I will have to get over the wall. At first it was tall, like a giant beast watching over us, checking for disobedience. Now signs of age are showing. The top is crumbling with the weather. Vines are starting to creep up. I believe I can scale it. I get there in the very early morning, before the sun had risen, when the wall was in shadow. From the bottom I can see cracks and juts, allowing for hand and footholds to carry me up.

Placing a foot in a small crack and my hands in a higher one, I accepted the rough, gritty feel beneath my fingers and began to pull myself up. I felt my back and arms quivering, anticipating a bullet in my back. I was extremely surprised to find my fingers hooking over the edge of the wall. I used the last of my strength to pull myself up and lie down looking at the sky on the top of the wall. Feeling the sharp, spiky stones sticking into my back, I wriggled into a decent position and began to descend back down the wall.

Reaching the bottom, I collapsed. Lying on the parched ground, I swept my arms and legs around making arches on the ground. Finally, I decided to get up, and head away from the city that is no longer my prison. I bounced lightly up and down on my toes until I felt the burning in my arms and legs lessen slightly. Then I set off.

Running felt so good. Just listening to the constant drum beat of my feet pounding away on the dry earth. I was free. I was happy. I was alone. I was uncontrolled. I was… thirsty. I began to notice how dry my mouth was, how desperate for water I had become. I needed to find water; I couldn’t bear the thought of heading back.

I looked around, and with some sense of relief, I noticed a speck of dark on the pale ground. I slowly half jogged towards it and it began to take shape. A box. A black box. Stepping up to it, I cautiously picked it up. It made a sloshing sound, like water being shaken around. I pulled up the lid and stuck two fingers in. It felt like water, and my fingers weren’t burning off so I gently licked some of the water off my fingers. It was water!

As I was about to stick my fingers back in, I noticed something different. My fingers, a pale grey with dust and mud looked different. Colourful. I screamed and stepped back, almost dropping the box and splashing water everywhere. Where it hit the ground splotches of beauty spread out, and the box wasn’t getting any emptier. I experimentally poured some on my foot. My shoe became bright- wonderful, and the box definitely wasn’t emptying.

My thirst forgotten, I swung the box around and watched colour sprout around me. But as I watched the earth, I could see the colour shrinking, coming towards… me. It came up my legs, a silvery feeling until my whole body was ablaze with it. Everything but me was grey. I touched my fingers to the earth and as I watched colour spread outwards, I knew what I had to do.

Winner of the school short story challenge – Jody Taylor 4th Form Cranleigh School

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