A World Drained of Color by Al McDermid

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The road through the city’s largest cemetery is lined with ancient flowering cherry trees and for a few days in spring, the canopy is a riot of pink. The petals fall like snow, forming drifts in the curbs. Although I would have sworn they were still leaved when I walked through here only last week, the trees are now bare and skeletal against the anvil gray sky. In the predawn light, the world looks to have been drained of color.

A crow squawks at me from its perch atop a pitted and moss-covered Celtic cross before flying off. I follow its flight, gazing across the expanse of stone monoliths and sundry statuary. I see too the other crows, hundreds of them perched on the grave markers. As the first crow passes, they launch themselves en masse, a storm of black that floods the sky.

No cars pass me along the way, nor do I see any as I exit the cemetery. Nothing is open, not even the 24-hour convenience store where I usually stop for coffee. I see no other people.

Because I can, I stand at the center of a usually busy intersection, marveling at the austerity of the cold, silent buildings towering above the empty streets. A slight breeze echoes down this steel and glass canyon, blowing a single sheet of an old newspaper against my legs. It’s faded and dirty, and the news stories are unremarkable, but the date catches my eye: December 20, 2012.

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “A World Drained of Color by Al McDermid

  1. Randal Houle

    2012? really, Al? lol

    Liked this story, especially the language which transported quite well.

  2. guy

    Aoyama Bochi? There’s something very Tokyo about this, and of course i love that.

  3. This was brilliantly done and raised so many questions for me! At first I thought he was dead, then I thought the world had died, then I thought maybe it’s just a normal guy walking very early in the morning so stores aren’t open and there’s no traffic yet…

    Wonderfully told.

  4. Thank you. I hadn’t thought of him dead. A great idea, walking around dead, not understanding why there are no other people. May I’ll do something with that.

    I was thinking you’re 2nd option, while he was clearly on option 3. :)

  5. Brrrr…. wonderful, cold, eerie story with beautiful descriptive prose. You grabbed me at the end, I didn’t anticipate…

  6. Thank you, Susan. Wasn’t sure how to end it and come up with that. Now I see I could have ended it with him simply standing in the intersection, but I’m glad this worked for you.

  7. The counting of the crows, crows, crows…….
    I don’t know what that means, it just sounds cool, like your story Al. Thanks for sharing.

    • Always thought crows would make a good horror motif. The Crows, the crows! Perhaps a vague reaction to seeing ‘The Birds’ at an early age. Still one of the scariest films I can think of.

  8. Wow–just so well done throughout! I like the nearness of 2012; it makes it all the more frightening.

  9. This story, on a quick read, could just be about those strange silent moments in a big city; I can never decide if they’re more frightening or beautiful, but adding the date–even taking away the associations of 2012, why is it being noticed? Suggests something else has happened. Not knowing quite what moves this story into the realm of the uncanny for sure.

    • Al McDermid

      Thanks for commenting. Tokyo, for all its bustle, has moments like that, both frightening and beautiful, as you say. The 2012 reference is to the end of the world scenario when the current cycle of the Mayan calendar ends, but I wish now I had left that off.

  10. Gorgeous prose, Al. Love the anvil sky, the crows (they seem like a funeral when they stream across the sky, no?). The ending sent shivers up my spine. peace…

    • Al McDermid

      Thank you, Linda. Now that you mention it, that is why crows look so sinister, the resemble a funeral procession, especially here, where EVERYONE wears all black.

  11. Oh I like this story a lot – so simple, really, the language is uncomplicated and the story unravels so easily, it is refreshing to read. Yeah, simple is usually better … and certainly is in this case.

    • Al McDermid

      Thank you, Matt. I really appreciate it. And perhaps a good thing simple is usually better; not sure I could do otherwise. :)

  12. Pingback: Week #24 – Tombstones « 52|250 A Year of Flash

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