Faded.

I click my fingers, and the world freezes.

It’s the same every time- a tableau of emotion, frozen in time. The only thing that changes is the patches of colourlessness, as our world becomes more and more Faded. It almost hurts, seeing the world change for the worse, day by day. But there’s nothing I can do about it. And so I look away, turning to the nest above me. It sits on a high branch in a partly Faded blue gum. Colourless branches interweave in a messy tangle which holds two baby magpies, their squawking momentarily paused. And halfway to the ground, a third chick dangles mid-air, beak open in a frozen plea for help.

Nowadays, everyone is used to our world glitching; to random objects Fading, occasional flashes of bright colour. No one spares a second thought when things appear and disappear. With that thought, I push a pile of dead leaves under the chick, hoping it will be enough to soften its fall. My job done, I’m about to click and unfreeze when I hear something.

My heart immediately begins to pound, hard and fast against my ribcage. Someone must have found out, I’m sure of it. Someone with powers. Bracing for the worst, I silently spin around. But all I see is a girl, kneeling on the grass, her back to me. A strange sense of calm washes over me. There’s something about her which draws me in- she almost seems to be in a world of own, surrounded by a cloud of bliss.

And then I realise: the colour is seeping back into the world around her. My breath catches as I watch the flowerbeds blossom with vibrant reds, sunny yellows, deep purples. I can’t help it; I walk towards her- until a sudden crunch stops me mid-step. I silently curse the autumn leaves.

She freezes abruptly, turning towards me with eyes filled with a churning mixture of fear and suspicion.
I’m about to attack her, when something makes me pause. A distant memory of a world filled with colour and light, joy and laughter- so different to our modern reality. Deep down, I know she’s the solution to the Fadings. And so, ignoring the stubborn pride tugging at my thoughts, I put my hands down in a gesture of peace.

I know what I need to do. I’ve never told anyone about my power, but somehow, something about her feels so right. As I talk, her posture begins to relax, her hostility fading. To my surprise, she starts to talk, telling me her story. I learn that she can bring the colour back around her, but only when time is frozen.

And suddenly, everything makes sense. The final cog clicks into place, the realisation knocking the breath from my lungs. I glance at her, and I know she understands.

“Ready?” I ask.

“Ready.”

I take a deep breath in and take her hand. Together, we click our fingers. And the world explodes with colour.

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