Written to alatefeline‘s prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.
The world had been very black and white for a very long time… mostly grey, if the truth was to be told. 973-25-025 was very good at engineering. She designed very good buildings, working fifty or 60 hour weeks, and then she came home and exercised for an hour before eating a sensible dinner and going to sleep.
She knew most of her co-workers, her former classmates, her neighbors in her building, lived similar lives. They had skill, and they exerted it. They had bodies, so they fed them and kept them working. THey needed sleep, so they slept.
Her parents had, like most other people’s parents, not bothered with a name for her, and nothing struck her as interesting, so she was 973-25-025. The engineer she worked most commonly with was 753-29-29. He was very good at his job, and together they made very efficient buildings. Sometimes they worked with Allarannie, who had chosen a name a year ago. Her designs were very fanciful, and she would complain about how little fun 9er and sevens — as she called them — were, but her work was good enough, and she did not complain when they made her designs more efficient.
973’s salary was more than she needed, so she put much of it in savings. If she took a day off, she ran in the park instead of on the treadmill, because Vitamin D was healthy for you in moderation. She went to the art museum quarterly to study other designs in buildings, and read at the library once a week. It was a good life. She was not happy, but she had not ever been anything but efficient and skilled.
She worked fifty-five hours, finishing a building that would house one thousand people. The population was declining, she had read in a news feed. Still, people commissioned new buildings, bigger and bigger buildings.
She drank a nutritionally balanced shake for dinner, and then went for a run. The sun was high in the sky still, and she wanted to feel sun on her face. She thought she might be coming down with a cold; she had been moving slower and working with less than her full efficiency lately.
Her jogging took her around a blind corner to a spot by the reservoir where the sun came in through the trees. There, leaning against a treetrunk with his notebook balanced on his knees, a man was painting with watercolors.
Niner paused. She thought he might be a landscape artist or an engineer from a rival firm, sketching the terrain. Maybe he was a water-safety engineer, studying the possible contamination sources.
She had a perfect view over her shoulder as she turned. He was painting a dragon made of leaves, the colors perfect, the image nearly leaping off the page.
She skidded to a halt and fell to her knees, still staring at the painting. It was… it was… it was beautiful. “Teach me,” she gasped. “I’m… my name is… call me Nina.”
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