I shouldn’t be writing this.
I could get caught…
But I have to. I have to do this.
My name is Harper. I’m sixteen years old. And I live in a world of black and white.
When I was born, They decided they didn’t like the way I was. Unruly red hair, blue eyes. Too brash, too bright They concluded. So They made my parents dye it black, like everyone else’s. When I was five, They deemed me old enough for contact lenses. To make my eyes brown, like everybody else’s. It was better after that. No one stared at me for having different eyes.
The walls in every building in the city are white. The carpets are sludge colour. We eat an equally sludge coloured breakfast, lunch and dinner. We read what we’re told. We speak only in designated time periods, and we keep conversation simple. Polite.
Our schedule is the same each day. Wake up at seven. Shower, breakfast, dress, clean teeth, school, home, dinner, bed. In that order with no exceptions.
Unless you break the rules.
I horded paper from the school. Slipped stubs of pencil into my pocket unnoticed. I don’t know why I did it. I’ve had no use for it. Drawing is banned. And writing. And music. Any art form is. Self expression is not what They want.
Here, we are all one. One body, one movement. One mind.
And the mind sure isn’t our own.
I watch the sky every day. I have to be careful. If the teacher catches my eyes going astray, I’ll be punished. But I can’t force myself to care. The sky at day is a break from the black and white. It stretches over us, infinite. If only I could touch it. Touch the colour. Let it seep into my skin and my soul.
If only it weren’t so far away.
I saw something strange as we marched home in formation one day. I walked next to Pierce, like I did every day. He wore black pants, a white shirt, grey tie. Double bows on his shoes. His hair was dyed black, like everyone’s. I think he might have had yellow hair once.
Each road in the city is perfectly straight. Three hundred metres in length, ten metres wide for walking space. Thirty houses along each side of the road. All made of dull grey brick. There’s very little grass. They don’t like the vibrancy of the green. Too lively, They think. So most of the ground is made of smooth, grey concrete. But that day, something was disrupting the grey. Something oddly prophetic.
I’d only seen red a few times. But that day it was scrawled across a wall. So bright it hurt my eyes. I squinted to see the words written, though three men were furiously scrubbing it away.
Individuality is freedom.
Whoever wrote it must be desperate. And stupid. I wondered if they’d caught the person.
“Stop staring,” someone hissed. I tripped over my own feet in surprise. Pierce’s face was expressionless, but I knew it was him, though I’d barely heard him speak before. For a second he glared back over at me.
“Do you want to be killed?” he snarled. Then he turned into his house and knocked on the door.
It’s night. I should be in bed.
But I’m not.
I stood beneath the wall. The immense grey fence that pens us in. I stared up, my neck hurting from leaning back too far. They don’t have any guards there, or even on the streets. They have cameras, but I mapped out where they are, so They would never see me make the trip there. But they know the wall doesn’t need guarding. Only a fool would try to scale it.
I am a fool.
There is a ladder. My legs wobbled as I placed my foot on the first rung. Then, before I could change my mind, I started climbing.
The wind was against me. It lashed at my face and hair as I climbed, trying to cut me down. But I was determined. My heart was on fire. I breathed heavily and swung my arm up to the next rung, forcing myself to ignore the fear amongst the exhilaration. Half way up, I looked down to the ground and out to the city of grey. At first, I felt fear. And then I realised how strange it was to actually feel. And then all I could feel was alive.
The feelings hit me hard with each rung that I took. Excitement. Daring. Fear. The feelings were colours. Deep reds and blinding yellows, overwhelming purple and blue like the sky, wild oranges to match my hair and slivers of silver in my veins, like shooting stars. I kept going. I am ready for the colours.
When I reached the top, I looked out at everything hidden behind the wall. A city of colour, vibrancy, life. Nothing seemed real, though I knew somewhere deep down, it was more real than anywhere I’d seen before. I could see red brick houses with green patches of grass for gardens. If I looked harder, I could make out the flowers that grew there. I could see the lights of the city, giving it an iridescent glow.
And suddenly, I could see a face.
I slipped away from the ladder with a cry, but the person on the other side of the wall grabbed me and pulled me back. We stared at each other, face to face. She had hair like a rainbow; streaks of yellow, pink, blue and purple covering her head. She had a small nose and lips the colour of roses. Her eyes were blue like mine. And that’s what made me decide I could trust her.
Silently, she put something into my hand. Then she touched my face. Gently. Almost lovingly “If you want to be free,” she whispered “This is your chance.”
She gave me a sock. Knee high and striped in half the colours of the rainbow. I didn’t understand at first. How could a sock give me freedom? If anything, it would get me killed.
But then I found the note inside the sock. It read Pass on the message. 22/08/2056. The day everything changes. Wear something colourful. And remember. You’re not alone.
And then suddenly everything began to make sense. The red writing on the wall. The girl with the rainbow hair. And perhaps, I thought, it could be fate that I decided to go to the wall that night.
The next day, Pierce and I were marching home. But something was different. I knew I had to tell him. I slipped the piece of paper the girl had given me into his hand. A frown flickered across his face.
“If you want to be free,” I whispered “This is your chance.”
Today is the 22nd of August, 2056.
My mother has a green scarf around her head. My dad is wearing a purple tie. And I’m wearing my striped sock with my pleated school skirt.
No time has been arranged for us, so we’re sticking to routine. I look out the window. It’s sunny today. I take it as a good sign. And I hope everyone else will wear something colourful.
It’s seven thirty. Time to go.
My mother squeezes my hand. My father kisses my forehead.
We step out the house.
And then the miracle happens.
Everyone else is wearing colours too.
I see orange headbands. I see blue dresses. I see boots the colour of shooting stars. And over the walls, the rebels from the other side emerge. They have ropes woven of all the colours in the world, to help them get to the ground. They shuffle down the ropes to the floor. They’ve come to save us.
We’re not alone.
I see Pierce with his family. They’re all wearing colours too. And he’s smiling. I’ve never seen him smile before.
They won’t be happy. I guess They thought they could never be defied.
But there’s nothing they can do.
The sky rains colour. Helicopters drop coloured powder from inside that coats our bodies and the ground like sherbet on a lollipop. Not an inch of the world is left uncoloured.
As one, we march. Those from the other side of the wall and those who were stuck within. We sing and chant and relish the colours as we march to the City Hall. And there, someone rips the black and white flag from its pole. And we know that the torture has come to an end. Years of building, destroyed in a day.
I feel so alive.
I search for her. The parties are finishing, and They have fled. People have begun hacking down the wall that separates our city from the rebels. And I know I need to find the girl who saved me from this. The girl who handed me the sock. I know that really, unknowingly, I’ve been looking for her all my life.
I see her. She’s stood by the wall, a hammer at hand. She’s laughing as she hacks at the wall, the brick slowly crumbling before her eyes. Those blue eyes.
I go to her, and she looks up as I approach her. We meet in the middle, and suddenly, I don’t know what to say.
“You remember me?” she asks.
“Of course I do,” I whisper “You saved me. Saved us.”
“I remember you,” she says back. She touches my face “I couldn’t stop thinking of you. You were the first one I met. There were others who scaled the walls before you, but you were the first one I met myself. So strong. So brave…”
My hand covered hers, pressing it closer to my face. Her other hand touches my waist tentatively. And I realise we have a connection. She did something amazing for me. And that has rooted deep. I want to be closer to her. I want her to stay “Do you believe in fate?” I ask.
“Right now, I do,” she says “For you, I do.”
The kiss we share is full of colour. I’m a firework. I’m leaving the shades of black and white behind. Because I don’t even know her name, but I don’t need to. Because love is made of colour, not of words. Colour is new beginnings. Colour is life. Colour is love. And love is all I want.