Alba did a challenge

Alba here, wrote a thing and decided to put it here. This isn’t actually related to Bianca or Graham or Cassidy at all, nor is it set in their universe. This is a tiny dystopia that I wrote for a challenge, with a limit of a thousand words. Nitpickers will tell mine is a little too long, but here it is.

Many people made their way through the city, as they did every day. Nothing had changed. Nothing ever changed. That man in the grey suit had carried his drab grey briefcase across the piazza so many times before, in exactly the same way, that he seemed part of the landscape. That woman with the pale bob-cut wiped down the same perfectly clean café table, the boy with the dread locks sat on the curb and ate his breakfast before school, the tiny grey dog sniffed around the same grey drain grate in the gutter. Nothing ever changed.

Nik took the same bridge across the Tiber, his jacket pulled close against the wind, his bag full of supplies clutched tight. The river below was green-grey and gross, like a stream of puss rather than water. He began to breathe through his mouth.

On the other side, a young girl skipped to the bollard line that cut off the wide footbridge, blonde pigtails bobbing. She looked about high-school age, like Nik’s sister. He watched, apprehensive, as she beamed, clutching a small doll.

It was then he noticed her ribbons. Bright, pink, happy ribbons. The girl was wearing colours. Even the cloth doll had on a pretty blue and yellow dress. Nik’s heart caught in his throat, and he froze. He could hear the uniform footsteps of the Carabinieri making for the bridge.

The girl caught his eye, just for a moment, and met his expression. The goofy grin fell from her face and she clutched the doll to her chest. She turned, hearing the boots on the pavement. Several others had paused to watch.

Nik didn’t wait for the Carabinieri to reach her, their black batons in hand and grim expressions on their pale faces. He darted forward and snatched the girl’s hand. “If you don’t want to be arrested, come with me.”

The streets of Rome had once been beautiful and bright, lined with colourful vines and blossoms and paved in many styles and hues. Now they were uniform grey and white, almost clinical-looking. Depressing. Nik pulled the girl down a side alley and out onto a wide road. They darted between uniform white cars, no scooters or Vespers anymore, and across to the side that led onto what used to be a public park, but was now an ‘oxygen facility’, where trees were safely grown away from prying eyes, tended by robotic gardeners.

The Colosseum stood broken and crumbling at the bottom of the hill, surrounded by a gigantic roundabout, and shining bright in the afternoon sunlight. There were no scarf vendors peddling their wares to young tourists, no volunteers dressed up as Centurions or Gladiators. Just stark whiteness, and a tall, covered fence proclaiming that demolition was due for mid-October.

Nik pulled the girl under the fence, and around to the old tourist entrance of the national landmark.

“We aren’t supposed to be here…” she whispered, staring up at the sandy-coloured stone.

You aren’t supposed to be wearing pink ribbons, either, but you did that anyway. Where’d you get that doll? Toys are illegal.” He continued toward the stairs, taking them down under the building two at a time.

“Where are we going?” Her voice quavered nervously. “Why don’t I just remove the ribbons and go home?”

Nik ignored her. They had reached an archway that led into one of the old Gladiator holding pens under the stadium. The girl gasped.

Blankets covered the floor, brightly coloured and comfortable, and banners and paint splattered the grey walls. A long table had been set up in the centre, covered with flyers and spray cans and a few colour cameras, though the most amazing thing was the beautifully carved violin lying on its side, rather bruised and battered.

“Where did you get that?” The girl’s voice was a reverent whisper, “I thought they were all destroyed…”

A woman with bright bubble-gum pink streaks in her dark hair spotted them and dashed over, picking her way around variously coloured people sitting on the ground and illustrating each-other’s arms and faces with fluoro paints and chalks.

“Isabella, what’s all this?” Nik swept his arm, indicating the group. It seemed as if a rainbow had exploded on the room, leaving multi-coloured smears and glitter everywhere.

The woman with the pink hair, Isabella, took his hand, pecked his cheek, and pulled him toward the table. “The Germans got word through. The radio stations are up in Munich and Berlin, they say that the London gatherings are ready, and the Parisians have been champing at the bit for their ‘Vive la Revolution’ for hours now.”

Nik could barely believe it. After all their work, it was finally happening. “That’s amazing! When do we go up?” He dropped his supply pack and moved to the box of illegal make-up and face-paints.

“We have an hour. Do you think you’re ready to play?” Isabella asked.

It was the pink-ribboned girl who spoke next. “Will somebody tell me what’s going on here?”

Isabella paused for a moment, deliberating, “The rebel movements across Europe are ready, we’re going up to the surface to colour the city and give the people music. We want to feel.” She beamed and waved her arms widely, more confident now. “Ever since the decrees against colour and song and stories and entertainment, the laws that now prohibit love, we’ve lived a horrible existence. They say we’ll be free of pain if we have nothing, if we cannot be hurt by what we love. We’re going to give that back to the people. We need pain, just as much as we need joy.”

“Nice speech,” Nik grumbled.

“Thank you, I’ve been practising.”

The sun was nearing the western horizon when they surfaced, painting the city a beautiful bright orange. Nik could think of no more appropriate setting for their uprising.

Isabella led the artists and poets and the beribboned girl toward the Spanish steps, Nik took the musicians toward the Piazza del Popolo. Someone had hacked into the governmental speaker systems with just enough time for them to broadcast a single song to the entire city.

Nik drew his hidden violin, and the rebels lowered their hoods and removed their coats, displaying their colours for all to see. He brought the bow down in one, long, sweet note, and the song began.

It was slow and suspenseful at first, but grew as the others lifted their own contraband instruments and took up the music.

That was when the Carabinieri rounded the corner and marched past the Santa Maria and into the Piazza, rifles drawn. Nobody stopped playing.

People turned and watched. The man with his grey briefcase, the kid with the dreads, the woman at the café. Even the little grey dog raised its nose to the air.

The gunshots rang through the square, loud and explosive. Several musicians dropped like stones, their instruments clanging to the cobbles with a horrible cacophony.

Nik looked down, his violin silent. Blood bubbled from his chest, bright red. People were screaming, but a few were cheering. That was all he needed to hear before his knees hit the stones, and he fell forward onto his broken violin with a clang.

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