Motley & Mono

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In a world where only those in love can see colour, local news reporter, Annie, was thankful to finally be seeing grey again. She preferred life as a Mono, experiencing the world through a greyscale lense. Being a Motley, those who could see colour, was far too much hard work. Yet when a curious drug trial begins, promising colour vision to all, she can't help but find herself intrigued by test subject 613, a man who claims to have never seen colour before. And when she starts seeing blue again, she knows she's in trouble.

Romance / Scifi
Noelle Bishop
Age Rating:

Crimson | Annie

“You’ve gone Mono again," Chloe, my editor-in-chief, said with a knowing smile.

She greeted me with raised brows, unsurprised by my all-black attire as I walked through the door to our cramped office space.

Her grin was radiant, pearly white teeth against dark grey skin and even darker lips. A tangle of curls piled on top of her head, with a silk bandana keeping loose strands from tickling her defined brows. She was one of the lucky few who still managed to captivate, even when looked at through a pair of Mono eyes.

Her comment, I assumed, was about my typically blonde hair, which had been toned during my shower that morning. A creature of habit, I changed my hair on a weekly basis when I went Mono. There was comfort to be found in an old routine; reassurance that I could still be colourful even when my world was black and white.

“Am I that obvious?” I smirked, slinking down into my work chair, taking in the office around me.

It wasn’t the first time I’d seen it achromatically, but it didn’t make it any less drab. Void of all and every colour, my eyes had stopped being receptive to anything other than muted tones months ago.

The desk, which had been my home since graduation last year, was pale grey through my eyes, but I knew that Clo would see it for what it really was: light yellow ash, with slightly darker beige knots and rings scattered on its surface.

“You’re not obvious... but that hair?” Her brows raised, as she pointed to her own dark hair. “Do you even know what colour you did?!”

She knew the answer to this already: I had absolutely no clue.

“Luck of the draw,” I shrugged, pressing down the cool metal button on my computer monitor, loading it up. With a flick of a switch, I changed the display into mono-mode, making things easier for my eyes to distinguish. “I lost purple last night,” I lamented, reclining back and turning to face her. “Which means I’m officially Mono.”

It was the last muted tone to eclipse from my vision; a sign that I was well and truly out of love. Finally.

“Shit,” Chloe sighed sympathetically, thick brows furrowing. It had been a long time coming. We both knew it was on its way, but it didn’t make it any less heavy on my heart. “Why do you think it changed?”

I paused for a second, colourful recollections clouding my subconscious.

“Purple!” I had squealed excitedly, as the handsome man in front of me pulled skittles from the bag he was holding. His smile was broad, teeth perfectly white, revelling in the way my eyes would spark up with each new colour he revealed.

“Red,” he declared, exposing the tiny crimson sweet in his palm, before tossing it into his mouth. We had nearly made it through the entire packet, simply for the pleasure of confirming that both of us could see the same thing; evidence we felt the same. We’d fallen in love.

Velvet brown eyes drank me in, the rosy blush on his cheeks and pink of his tongue only serving to make me fall even more enamoured with him. It was hard to believe that I had ever seen colour before I met him.

He’d got me thinking that I’d be living in colour vision for the rest of my life.

It was ironic, I supposed, that the pink of his skin that I adored so much was the first colour to go.

It had happened during yet another fight about whether or not I was ready to move in with him. Then, over dinner, the green of my salad faded into grey. Slowly, but surely, I was left with nothing but mauve.

Unsaturated, the dull shade of purple had haunted me for months since our breakup. No matter how many times I told myself that I was done with it, done with him, the colour just wouldn’t budge.

“Not sure,” I lied, knowing exactly what had happened.

A late-night social media stalk had let me know, rather unkindly, that he had started seeing colours again; the ‘Motley’ banner attached to his LinkedIn profile, allowing the world to know that he was one of the elite.

I couldn’t blame him - everyone knew that Motley's were more desirable job candidates. They were happier, usually, and when it came to web design, his speciality, it was one of the most sought-after ‘skills’ you could have.

To see colours meant only one thing:

It meant he was in love, again.

And that acknowledgement severed my ties to him, whether I was ready to cut them or not.

“Anyways, what’s on the agenda for today?” I guided the conversation onto less personal things, vigorously tapping away at my keyboard, responding to emails that had come into my inbox overnight.

“Nath is out reporting on the baseball match today,” Chloe began to reel off the stories that our officemates would be working on. “And George is downtown speaking to a politician about the rise in homelessness amongst the Mono population.”

It was a modest workplace environment; just the four of us spending our days exploring the world around us. As an off-branch of a National broadsheet newspaper, we covered the Southern region, reporting everything from politics to pop culture.

“I’ll give you a choice,” she toyed, looking at the stories left to cover. “Do you want to investigate the new litter cleaning initiative that they’re running down on the beach, or the clinical trials for a new drug which is said to bridge the gap between Monos and Motleys?”

“Bridge the gap?” My brow raised, seeking clarification from her. Monos and Motleys weren’t all that dissimilar - we all had the potential to be either. “If you don’t become a Motley naturally, then how will you know if you’re in love or not?” My nose crinkled, considering the logic behind such a drug.

Becoming a Motley for the first time was a rite of passage.

It was what every girl dreamed of as a child; walking down the aisle in her white dress, only for it the be adorned with vibrant pigment powder once she reached the altar. Guests would throw colour bombs like confetti, celebrating the permanence of the newlyweds’ eternal colour vision.

To see colour was to love. It was just how humans worked. Tampering with it seemed like a dangerous idea to me.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Clo shrugged, nonchalance coming as second nature to her. “You wanna find out?”

I frowned slightly, scrolling through my inbox; rejected interview offers, dead ends to stories I had been working hard on, and countless unread press releases. It was, at least, something a little bit more exciting than the typical slog I had to go through.

“We got an ‘in’?” I questioned, opening up my notebook, ready to map out of a plan of action. Pressing down onto the crisp white pad, the ink was a dark grey, but not quite black.

Chloe nodded, sipping on the coffee that was still steaming in its mug. “Nath's housemate is dating one of the medical officers. They can’t give us direct access, but they’ve said they’ll be happy to partake in interviews and offer some of the test subjects the chance to opt into interviews if they wish.”

“Interview...if...they...wish,” I mumbled, hurrying down the scribbles on my pad. “How long are the trials for?”

“Six months. 800 on the drug, 200 on a placebo,” Chloe recited, scrolling through the email Nathan had sent her regarding it. He would have taken the story had it not been for the local baseball team absolutely storming through the league. As our resident sports buff, there was no one better on the team to handle it - plus he’d never complain about going to matches for free.

“How his spectrum?” I asked mindlessly, scrawling ink onto the pad. “Nath, I mean. He still a Motley?”

Though he’d only been on a few dates with his new female friend, he had begun seeing blue for the first time in years almost instantly. I had never seen him so excited, bounding into the office with a slush puppy that looked just as bland to me as the rest of the room did.

To him and Chloe, however, it was brilliant royal cerulean, rivalling the ocean. He’d almost choked on the first sip, too distracted by the colour travelling up his straw. George and I sat, bemused, both horribly accustomed to the unsaturated shades of grey that plagued our own vision.

Private and reserved, George chose not to disclose just how many times he had been a Motley, instead just letting us draw our own assumptions. He dated a lot, but rarely ever with the same person twice. Though I’d have never raised the subject with him, part of me wondered if perhaps he was scared of letting colour into his life, instead choosing to keep it black and white as a matter of principle.

Clo, on the other hand, was the Motley poster girl. She lept from relationship to relationship, never letting the colours truly fade from her vision. The idea of ever living in Mono terrified her - she was far too fashion conscious to subject herself to a life of black and white outfits. She’d been with Joshua, her current squeeze, for about six months now. Like her, he was exuberantly colourful in his nature, and the pair of them suited each other well.

“He’s seeing green now too, so he’s absolutely buzzing,” Chloe laughed.

“God, I bet the pitch must look incredible for him today,” I smiled fondly, imagining his eyes light up as he entered the stadium.

Though the colours had faded from my vision, I could still remember the vibrant green grasses and lush emerald tones of foliage. I knew it was one of Nath’s favourite elements of being a Motley again, getting to see nature as the universe intended.

“He’s already Instagrammed it,” Chloe chuckled in response. Typical. Her mention of social media reminded me to flick the settings on my phone back to Mono, just another painful reminder of what I’d lost. A loading wheel span slowly on my screen, altering the vibrancy and contrast of the pixels. Instagram was replaced by its sister app, Monogram, and a colour identification camera extension had been added to my home screen. It felt like I was admitting defeat by allowing these changes.

“You can head to the clinic after lunch,” she asserted, getting her ducks in a row. “Until then, would you mind having a look over a few articles for me?”

“Sure thing,” I sang harmoniously, settling into my typical daily grind.

“Oh, by the way, Annie,” Chloe interjected, just before I could get to grips with the word document I had open. “Your hair is baby pink.”

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