Shades of Grey

Jessica Morrow

Deakin University

Man, I hate skyscrapers. There are so many of them in Buckley. My fiancé Luke doesn’t mind, considering he barely gets to see them, as he works at a primary school. But, because I work for the Government, deep in the heart of Buckley’s CBD, I have to pass them everyday. Hell, I even work in one. That’s where I help the Government design advertisements for television. There are only two television stations; News-24/7 and Review, but people like to hear what has been happening in the other cities, and that means they have to watch the advertisements.

My company, Buckley’s Advertisements Incorporated (BAI), is run by the second in command of the Government, Michael Ivan, and he is responsible for the Guidelines. Usually, it is to do with selling traditional careers to school graduates or the Gray-Honda-Iv car, but today I got a call from Michael, requesting something strangely different.

‘Catherine,’ he told me, as I was eating my cornflakes and milk. ‘There’s a rebel group in Buckley, trying to introduce colour. Come to work as soon as possible. We desperately need to dissuade the public of these no-gooders.’

The word ‘colour’ was outlawed in Buckley and surrounding Suburbia. Colour, in the Oxford Dictionary, was defined as: (noun): inflicting evil and conflict into human nature. It had been borne into us that the only suitable colours were not in fact colours. They were the main shades, the primary shades of black, white and grey. It was a criminal offence in all of suburbia if an actual colour was used: Death Row. And it was not pretty. I felt an inclination towards the use of colour at a young age, so it was good I met Luke Angelico, Michael Ivan’s nephew, who appeared just as anti-colourist as my serious boss.

When I got off the mobile with Michael, I finished my cornflakes and placed the grey bowl into our dishwasher. The soft whirring of the bowl and spoon being cleaned helped me to concentrate on wondering how I could dissuade the people of Suburbia that colour was the cause of all ills.

‘I have to help BAI to steer Suburbia away from the use of colour,’ I said to Luke, who had been watching the review channel on television whilst eating his cornflakes.

‘Are the rebels back again?’ Luke replied, looking warily away from the television and the black-and-white of John Faulkner giving the six am bulletin on a mass profit that occurred at the Buckley Financial Building.

‘When have they ever left?’ I said with a question of my own, however mine was rhetoric. ‘Yes, Luke. The Vice-President wants the BAI to dissuade the public from the Forbidden.’

‘Yes, Uncle is a strong advocate for the anti-colourist movement,’ he sighed. ‘Well, you should get going. I’ll walk you to your car. There might be rebels around.’ He said this as if they were terrorists, which they might as well have been. Rebels, who were behind the colour movement in suburbia, were generalised with violence and immorality in their quest to search for the colours in the underground. Luke just showed how generally negative everybody felt in regards to them

As Luke walked me to my Gray-Honda-Iv car in the driveway, I looked up at the sky and felt my childhood colour joys dissipate. The sky was as grey as everything else around us; the houses, the cars, the clothing of everybody as far as the eye could see. Though I’d been raised well enough to fear the rebels, I just wished at least something would change, even if that something was as irritating as the skyscrapers. I mean, even the sky stayed grey. Though it meant conformity and calm for everybody in Suburbia, for me it just meant boredom. Nothing ever changed in Suburbia; that was certain.

‘Have a nice day,’ Luke said, with a strange undertone, as I got into the Gray-Honda-Iv, resting my backside against the plush grey front-seat, and placing my keys into the ignition.

But, before I could even move the gearbox into first gear to start up, I felt a sudden jolting movement. I was about to call out to Luke to ask what was happening, but then there was a flash of colour and I was staring up at those damn skyscrapers in the distance, and they were the only things I saw for a long time.


When I was about twelve years old, we were hunting for scientific clues to the Lazarus III meaning at my school, Buckley Primary School, Precinct 118. We were in the lab room, and our teacher, Mrs Smith, had hidden the clues around the classroom for us to find. I’d been searching underneath Chris North’s Bunsen burner for about a minute when I saw something as bright as the golden sun I rarely saw – a sun that even on those rare occasions was viewed by pure accident. It took me a few moments to notice it was a sun-coloured grey-lead, and I’d stared at it in shocked silence for a few moments before Mrs Smith noticed me. I’d gotten a suspension for finding the gold sun grey-lead and a few disgruntled words from my father, Mr Nolan, saying I was ‘very nasty for having such an unthinkable object in my possession.’ I would have gotten much worse a punishment had I mentioned the very name of the colour in my young hands; but luckily, it wasn’t until many years later, on a date with Luke, that I accidentally had revealed to me the coloured name of that big hidden life source   in the sky.

It was this recollection of the gold sun grey-lead that brought me back to reality. The unacceptable colour that had surprised me was not exactly the gold sun colour, but a tad darker. I couldn’t describe it, as I’d never seen such a colour before, not even in my dreams.

And, back in reality, I opened my eyes and realised I was still in the Gray-Honda-Iv, but, there was somebody next to me. And they were wearing what is the oddest concoction I had ever seen. There were no shades in their clothing or hair for that matter, at all. Colour!

‘There is no need to be afraid, Miss Nolan,’ the coloured being, a rebel most likely, said, using a friendly tone. ‘We’re only here to help you.’

I tried to get out of the car, away from the rebel, but the seat belt was stuck. I was stuck – with a rebel, one of the ill-famed colourists. I was doomed.

‘We’re not here to hurt you,’ the rebel continued in those nurturing tones. ‘We’re only here to say that colour is not truly that evil. The only truly nasty, crazy thing is the restrictions in Suburbia placed by Michael Ivan, President of the Anti-Colour Committee.’

I stared at the man as if he were speaking in a foreign tongue. He was trying to make Michael out as the villain of the story, when everybody in Suburbia knew that wasn’t true. Michael was a hero. He’d helped President Jones bestow peace upon Suburbia for the first time since colour had rattled the world into major conflict.

‘If you don’t believe us,’ the Rebel said, speaking for all rebels. ‘Then you just have to watch this tape.’ He handed me a small, coloured disc with black writing, Birds of the Amazonian Forest. I had no idea what an Amazonian Forest was, so I looked away from the rebel.

‘Fine then,’ the Rebel said, losing patience. He found the tape player in the Gray-Honda-Iv, and placed the tape inside, pressing the ‘Play’ button.

I tried to look away from the screen that materialised in front of me, but it was impossible. Colour, colour, colour. I was bombarded.

There were many exotic types of birds (not the magpies who flourished in Buckley) fluttering around shrubbery that would take me years to put names to. They were even singing to each other. Singing! That was like a secondary punishment after colour in Suburbia guidelines.

Out of nowhere, the birds were replaced by two rebels appearing on screen. One had very vibrant hair that reminded me of anger and embarrassment, and the other had hair down to her ankles. They were both laughing.

Two words appeared at the bottom of the holographic screen: Adam, Eve. Then the word Adam was crossed out and replaced with Vice-President Ivan. The same happened with the word Eve, but it was replaced with President Jones. That was when I took a sharp intake of breath and realised it was the truth: the two colourists were President Jones and Michael! But, it had to be a joke? Michael was always telling the BAI the Colour was the root of all evil, and here he was, completely standing against his values.

Finally, the astounding tape ended with a simple statement, which was said aloud by the Colourists Michael and President Jones. ‘If you want to be happy again, join us now.’ Then their colourist images faded and were replaced with two current-day images of the leaders-in-charge with the words Join Us Now.

Then it was black.

And the colourist next to me said, ‘Ready to change the world, Catherine Nolan?’


Tapes can change the world. Just look at the sex scandals of your world. All thanks to the tape that changed my life, any generic ideas in regards to colour and Michael are irrelevant now. What does matter is; am I truly ready to change the world? Am I willing to risk betraying those closest to me to find justice in a colourless world?

As I headed into the BAI skyscraper, handing Michael the same tape with the title of Anti-Colour Propaganda, the only thought on my mind was: ‘Yes, I am ready to change the world.’


Jessica Morrow is an emerging writer who is currently undertaking the Bachelor of Arts (Professional and Creative Writing) at Deakin University. Her writing style is influenced by the works of authors such as Suzanne Collins and George Orwell. She has a fairly large collection of Russian dolls, and hopes one day to be immortalised into Russian doll form after publication of a hugely successful novel.