CHROMA CITY

Fairy Queens Team Members:
Lisa Cheung, Jasmine Syed, Vi Nguyen

Narrative’s Blurb:

“Once upon a time, architecture was at the forefront of social innovation, addressing issues that the entire society felt were worth finding creative solutions for. A curse was then cast on architecture. The evil witch of banality tricked the architects into believing that their ideas were worthless, that society didn't care about them.”

Our story is set post-witch era, where creativity and imagination is expressed through colour in the world. The battle had been lost and the city is stuck in a monochrome state. The boy works in a factory, an allusion to the architectural practice. He is young, naïve, and different from everyone else. He meets an elderly man who introduces him to his suitcase containing the last weapon against banality: light against darkness. Creativity against unoriginality. By setting free what people have been deprived of, the boy inspires a revolution of colour that can bring happiness and warmth back into the city.

Scene I: Chroma City

The boy had lived all his years in black and white. The walls, the earth, the sky — they were all drawn in strokes of grey. He wasn't colour-blind, but the city had been drained of every drop of colour since anyone could remember. Now they only dreamt in monochrome.

Scene II: The Mundane Factory

The Factory was cold and stark. It couldn't have been more forbidding, with harsh ceiling lights flickering ominously into darkness as workers marched through the corridors to their individual stations.

It was sterile.

Dull.

Yet also habit, for the rows and rows of empty faces and colourless souls, slaving away the hours; day after day, night after night.

Every day at dawn and dusk, the boy made his journey to the Factory. He took the monorail through the bustling metropolis; a concrete jungle of skyscrapers, apartments and office towers all composed of the same forms and features. But every time he was whisked silently through the air on metal tracks, one thing always caught his attention: the old clock tower.

It was a forgotten monolith; worn down by time but still over-shadowing the north side of the cityscape with unacknowledged splendour. He’d heard murmurs of a hermit residing within the clock face — rumours of a runaway; a ghost; a maniac. People thought it all to be a myth until one day, in the dusky twilight, he saw something twinkling in the distance, dancing around the ancient tower. He’d never seen anything like it before; lights like stars, but more dazzling — tiny buds of lustrous brightness blooming in the dark, reflecting in his eyes. The weathered clock face shimmered; neither black, nor grey, nor white. It was spectacular. It became the highlight of his existence; the only thing to anticipate in his banal world. As his awe grew, so did his curiosity. The boy resolved to discover the secrets behind the mysterious lights.

Scene III: The Old Clock Tower

In the musty darkness of the clock tower, a soft knock sounded. The floorboards groaned as the old man shuffled to the suitcase and firmly shut the lid. He’d always hated visitors, and waited patiently for the intruder to leave. The hesitant knocking grew louder; more insistent, until the old man finally opened the door.

“Has nobody told you what happens at the witching hour, you foolish boy? When monsters roam, phantoms haunt, and demons play in the dark? Go home!” snapped the old man, his reedy voice bitter.

“I-I apologize, s-sir. But every night I saw the…the lights, from your clock and…” The boy stuttered, unable to describe what he’d seen.

The wrinkled face of the old man lifted into a knowing smile for the first time in countless years. “Tell me, what do you know of colour, boy?” There was something serendipitous in this child’s arrival. He was not ordinary. Not yet, at least.

“Colour?”

“Have you ever noticed something lacking in this world? Something important, missing in our lives? What you see now, every day, is nothing like what it appears to be — let me show you the truth of everything.”

Before the old man and the boy was a bruised but beautiful late-19th century suitcase. The casing was terribly scratched and torn along the steel bound edges; encasing leather that had faded like a vintage photograph dipped in sepia. The brass caps were worn and dull but the delicate detailing and ornate patterning engraved into its rusty surface was still exquisite. There was something different about this weathered, tattered box. It was the old man’s memento, his most precious thing.

He unwrapped a small parcel, no bigger than his leathery palm. Inside laid a small, silver key which the man carefully inserted into the keyhole of the suitcase. The room began to fill with ticking; the soft rumble of old, heavy clockwork. Clouds of dust puffed into the air and fell like snowflakes. The boy stood bewildered; the man listened with wistful rapture. There was a spark in his wrinkly eyes that had not glimmered in many, many years.

The rumbling ground to a halt when the top of the case came ajar. Carefully, the old man lifted it. Inside a seemingly bottomless abyss shone brightly; its warm glow bathing the stunned face of the boy. He immediately covered his eyes. Disorientated by the whirlwind of colours and its vividness, it was like looking into the eye of the sun. The shock gradually dissipated until the boy could at last see the glints of tiny particles that powdered the room and glittered like stardust.

“What on earth is this?” he cried, for the boy had never witnessed anything as fantastical in all his days. The man never replied. He stepped into the suitcase and fell into the enchanted chasm below. The boy’s insistence to find the truth lead him to follow suit, unknowing if he’d ever return to his ordinary world.

Scene IV: The World of Light

In the darkness they were surrounded by an infinity of specks, radiating iridescent lights that glowed like neon against the night. They felt warm, delicate, and weightless against the boy’s fingertips, flickering at the slightest touch. They were drawn to him like a moth to a flame, shrouding him in a brilliant spectrum of light. The old man chuckled at the sight and gave the boy a melancholic smile. He had noticed his own lights start to quiver and fade.

“How is it that no one has ever seen this before?” The boy shook with laughter as sparks danced and glistened against his skin. “In all our lives, we are nothing compared to this.”

“Because, dear boy, everyone is too blind to see. Living in a grey world has drained them of every glimpse of hope. But the lights are drawn to you, they feel something in you that no one else possess. It is up to you to share this gift with the world. Give them colour. Let them feel again.”

Clasped in the boy’s hands was a ball of straining light; it gleamed like a fiery, golden orb rising above the horizon. It reminded him of his childhood days playing in blissful summer sunlight.

He felt a slight tickle against his ankle as a cluster of fluorescent-green brushed passed. He pictured himself lying amongst a forest full of sycamores; skin dappled in sunbeam through the rich tapestry of foliage and flowers.

Fluttering passed his ear was a swarm of electric-blue. The boy felt nostalgic of his youth, sailing under a painted, cobalt sky streaked with milky whites.

The old man cradled his own single spark tightly to his chest. It flickered softly, like a candle burning to the end of its wick. He reached to his breast pocket and took out the dainty key.

“Take it. The suitcase is yours now.”

The boy timidly stretched his arm to the man, unsure by his words and implications. And at the slightest, silvery touch he had felt a forceful gush of wind surrounding him. The sea of pearly lights dispersed violently behind as though he had being sucked into a massive vacuum. The old man drifted further and further away until the boy could barely see the outlines of his face and the glow of his light. It shone once more, for the final time, and faded.

Scene V: Breaking the curse of Banality

The clock tower chimed its morning call — a poorly tuned carillon bell hymn that echoed to the entire city. The boy winced and blinked, sunlight glaring into his eyes. He looked to the wall. Brimstone-red and umber-brown. He ran his fingers over the brick and inspected the russet grains of earthiness that rested on the pads of his fingertips. It wasn't a dream. He ran to the window and looked to the sky — a canvas of blue hues stretched over the cityscape. He stared down to the Mondrian arrangement of buildings below — a vibrant city of potential beauty.

Colours flushed back into the city like a gentle wave seeping through the side walks and alleyways. The air was speckled with shimmering lights that flooded the streets with an intense luminosity. The walls, the earth, the sky and even the people’s faces felt warmer and brighter like never before. Amongst the sameness of skyscrapers and towers, the boy looked up and smiled to himself, the suitcase clenched tightly in his small hands.

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