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These Years of Black and White

The World Outside Is An Unknowable Time

By Kevin J. FellowsPublished about a month ago 4 min read
Image by Patricio González from Pixabay

The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room.

Those words stare at me, scrawled in the frost of this bedroom window. I don’t know who wrote them, or when. I am alone. I’m quite far back now. Maybe 1960 or 1955. The window shows me black and white with none of the late sixties’ or early seventies’ sepia. Clearly I’m in a dream or dream-state. If this were real—if I were awake—everything would be in bright color and you would be with me. When I wake from this dream, I must remember to write it down. I think I can make a poem of this.

Time passes so realistically. The day drags.

Endless hours in each day. Not a normal dreaming where things happen all at once, or sped up like a Buster Keaton movie. Perhaps after tonight—after I ‘sleep’—I will truly awaken.

I’ve slept. And dreamt in black and white—normal. But the morning is full of pale shades and sharp contrasts under a white sun. Another dreamy day. Won’t you roll over and jar me awake? Place your freezing leg against mine? You always do that.

I walk the floors of a house unknown to me. Not ours. People pass by the window without noticing. The house has always been here.

A mail carrier stuffs something into the mailbox. He whistles a tune. Children return from school. They don’t wear backpacks. Boys carry books in curled wrists; girls carry them against their chests. Though they move, they are as a photo in my mother’s album. They don’t gaze at phones. They don’t wear jeans. Not even 1965, more like 1950.

The day moves slower than yesterday. Cheese and milk in the refrigerator. An ancient fridge from my father’s childhood. No expiration dates on the cheese. Incandescent white bulb in the back. You never eat anything beyond its best-by date. Milk in a glass bottle—a black smiling cow painted on the front. Black but it should be red. I check the kitchen window. Fresh milk bottles sit in an insulated metal box. I put the bottles in the fridge.

No TV, only a radio.

I listen to the news. Right? I know. Imagine me paying attention to the news! But this is a dream, after all. The weather tomorrow will be sunny and hot. The the last six surviving veterans of the Civil War are to meet this week in Indianapolis. What year did that happen? I don’t have my phone to look anything up. It sleeps on the table beside our bed. Next to you.

I sleep and dream again but don’t remember anything. Only a desperate certainty I’ve forgotten something important. The same urgent dread you must feel when you run back to check for the third time to ensure you locked our door.

I gaze out the wide living room window at the street. Fewer cars today than yesterday. Older models painted in shades of gray, shining new. A newspaper sits on the stoop against the milk box. Today, the box is wood. The paper’s headlines blare: Hitler Invades Poland.

The parents of yesterday’s children carry their books home, laughing, pestering each other. I can’t listen to the radio for the news. It’s too much.

I avoid sleep. Maybe if I stay awake I can remain in this year until I truly awaken? I dread this uncolored gray-black year. Why won’t you elbow me for a talk as you do most nights?

I jolt upright. Glaring white sun breaks through the window across my face. Of course, I’m not really awake. Stately oaks line the street. The street is dirt. No sidewalk, no street lights. I stumble to the kitchen where an unlit coal stove and silent icebox greet me.

For the first time in this dream, I chance a look in the hallway mirror. My reflection is a portrait in black and white. The same age as when we fell asleep. The same age I last saw color.

When will this dream end? How many more false awakenings into new, unremembered days? How long before the house becomes a log cabin? How many nights before there is no house at all?

Yet, I do not fear that.

What I fear is never waking. Never seeing color. Never seeing you and your colors. My only wish now, if I cannot wake, is to at least dream of you in color. The bedroom window is again frosted over. The original words melted days or years ago. I press my finger to the icy pane and feel the melting.

The outside world is unknown to me, but I glimpse years of black and white through this window in this room.

(C) 2023 Kevin J Fellows

HorrorShort StorySci FiFantasy

About the Creator

Kevin J. Fellows

I'm an author and poet. My debut novel is At the End of the World. My stories and poetry have been published in various speculative magazines. You can find out more at my website: You can follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

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