Myth is littered with cities that appear periodically, cities that may or may not have existed and cities that cast strange spells on those who live in or happen upon them. Only one city is ever rumoured to have stripped ever bit of colour from its occupants – Chroma.
Chroma was a tiny city, so small as to barely be a city at all. Cities were much smaller in those days and Chroma was little even by past standards. Most people lived in a few streets surrounding the church or on farms outlying the city. There were 2,000 people living there at the height of Chroma’s success. Numbers dwindled quickly in the years after the outside world heard.
Inside the city, life was no different from anywhere else. People worked the land and those who didn’t or couldn’t, would struggle in winter time. Few had a trade, fewer still were fortunate enough to apprentice to those who did. Families shared single room dwellings between generations. Mothers taught their daughters how best to curl their hair and redden their cheeks, to bring in precious extra pennies that might be the difference between surviving and not surviving. Life held little happiness for most.
At first nobody noticed how drab their clothing had become. It was usually browns or creams or rusty reds, but colours bled into each other until everything was the colour of wattle and daub. That faded further to a wash of daub, then no colour at all matching a paupers’ skin tone.
Those lucky enough to keep their hair past 20 found it fading to mouse, then straw and finally it looked no different than their skin. People’s eyes paled then found they could see less well too. Shapes and definition remained as before but colour bled from the land and the home and the family. Everyone saw light and shade but no tone or tint or hue.
The people of Chroma believed their poor diets must be to blame and that it must be the same for people in other villages. They rarely left Chroma and if they did, other places looked just the same. It was only when a merchant travelled to Chroma looking to trade linens and silks that the real story became known. As he rode towards the city edge, he noticed trees and grass fading. His horse, whilst trotting as well as ever, became fawn then dappled then grey. His blue velvet coat washed out more with each step. When he arrived in the main city streets, he was as colourless as the others.
The merchant unveiled his goods but the jewel colours of the silk and delicate hues of the linens were gone and nobody would pay his asking price for such ordinary items. So he hurried off, keen to be out of the odd place and back into the bright shades of the outside world.
But when he arrived at the next village, he and his horse were still colourless, his silks and linens still pallid. He never regained his original looks.
Over the months other visitors to the city arrived normal and left devoid of any colour. Word spread across the land and Chroma became known as somewhere to avoid. Eventually all trade with the city ceased and soldiers sent to patrol the perimeter, just the right side of the vivid greenery.
In time, the older residents of Chroma died and with dwindling food and no trade, the younger ones began to die too. Within 10 years there was nobody left. Within 15 years the buildings had all rotted and fallen down. Within a generation nobody knew the real Chroma story.
Within a century the myth had more colour than the city ever did during those years.
Inspired by "The City That Loves to Grumble"