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Where Monotony Rules, Never Stand Out

Living In a World Where Dreaming Is a Crime

Walk steadily. Do not stand out by looking rushed.

She repeats her mantra in silence. Her dilemma is as ridiculous as dangerous. She can neither hurry down the halls nor arrive too late for work. How could she have overslept? She never did before. Was it because of the dream?

She uses a simple breathing technique to calm herself. Looking excited was inappropriate at the workplace; blushing equaled a sin. She cannot afford the reddened skin or a sweaty look. The guards always watch.

The elevator is close, and there is no line for once. The new regulation to prevent crowding and socialising at the office seems to work. Thanks to some clerk’s obsession with spacing arrival times, she will catch the next lift, arrive on time, and prevent the worst.

Two women and a man wait with her. Pleased, she recognises the man dressed according to regulation. He chose a standard-issued suit in dark grey. In combination with his choice for a haircut, “male standard №4”, it is an excellent choice to please superiors.

Still, she frowns upon some shortcomings. The man has not thoroughly covered his five o’clock shadow with makeup. His shirt is too tight and inappropriately pronounces his muscles—minor offences to the Annexe of the Equalisation Act, but still offences.

Both women wear the trouser suit combination most favoured for female processing resources. They had smoothed and cut their hair at the chin—female standard №3.

The smaller of the two women, however, looks outstanding. Her hair has a slightly curly touch making her look cute and feminine. Her badly ironed trousers seem to complement the curly look. The woman is either powerfully connected or will meet a correction officer soon. She would wager for the latter if such things were allowed.

When the elevator arrives, she pushes past the other passengers to the back of the elevator. A reasonable distance from the woman decreases the risk of false association.

Mirrors and polished metal dominate the lift’s interior. These are not elements of style but allow passengers to inspect each other — openly or secretly — from all angles. Unable to detect further transgressions, she checks herself in the nearest mirror. Bland. Grey. Pale. Anything but outstanding. She is satisfied.

Shortly before arriving on her level, she recognises the woman looking at her through one of the mirrors anxiously. To repel the woman’s gaze, she mouths the word “outstanding” and watches her flinch with a hint of satisfaction. Was that a tear running down her cheek?

A small drop of water runs down an extended, veined green leaf. It hangs down from the tip as if unsure dropping was a bad idea. Exotic, weirdly sensational smells hang in the air that feels so much fresher and lighter than the refined office air.

Then the drop falls, and a loud “Bing!” pulls her out of her daydream.

While the lift doors slide open, she sees the carelessly styled woman’s reflection again. Was that compassion in her eyes? She manages to look at the woman’s designation. It reads XW-29887-IIV. Then, the doors fully open, and her reflection disappears with them.

She steps out of the cabin, slightly confused. What was going on with her?

“Oh, hello, Liv!” a familiar mocking voice greets her. SD-55612-II leans against a copy machine. Her posture seems relaxed at first, but she looks more like a snake, ready to strike. The colleague looks like her own mirror image, except for the shaved down hair and those fierce eyes.

She is like my evil twin. They should have locked her away long ago for those outstanding eyes.

“It is LL-00000-IV, to be correct. You should know that we only live by our designation.”

“Did you just say “Liv“?” the other woman replies, showing a shark grin for just a second. She is masterful at this, as if a sixth sense tells her when nobody is looking. “Skip all that nothingness in the middle, and only Liv remains. By the way, they are waiting for you in the review office.”

Liv freezes for a second but quickly finds her composure again.

“Most likely, they have questions about your outstanding grinning.”

She turns on her heels and faces the seemingly endless dark grey tables. They are neatly aligned, ten tables wide and 100 long. A thousand clerks work here surrounded by mirrors and reflective floors to keep each other in check. At the very end looms the door to the review office.

Liv passes by her bent over co-workers. It is hard to tell them apart, dressed in shades of grey and styled to look androgynous. Straitening her back, she walks toward the review office with her head held high. She is unwilling to show her worries, although she knows a visit to the review office could mean trouble.

“Unusual for you to be too late,” her supervisor says when she enters. He is accompanied by a man and a woman she had never seen before. Their zealous adherence to appearance standards outperforms even her own. Corrections officers, she was sure.

This situation was anything but good. To make things worse, SD-55612-II had distracted her long enough to be late. Was that her plan to get Liv out of the way?

“We asked you here because of your work review,” the supervisor continues.

“It is rather … outstanding,” the man to her supervisor’s left says. He speaks slowly and uses a dramatic pause in an attempt to create tension. “You outperform your average co-worker by at least 32,5%.”

“What do you have to say to your defence?” Her supervisor seems eager to show off in front of the corrections officers. A bad idea as he is going to find out.

“You are needed outside. Go now.” The male corrections officer interjects.

Her boss scurries away hurriedly. That demeanour might end him in his own review session. The woman that had not spoken yet watches him suspiciously in his pathetic attempt to get away. She raises one eyebrow before writing a note on a piece of paper.

“You make others look bad, LL-00000-IV. Are you so eager to swim above the current?” The man seems unmoved by her supervisor’s behaviour.

“My destiny is to serve society at my best capacity,” she repeats the mantra she had learned since childhood.

“Is it true that you carry a name?”

The man shovels slowly through a pile of notes. He wants to stretch the moment to make her anxious. If not for her training, he would be successful. Finally, he draws a slip of paper out of the pile.

“Liv?”

“It is a mean prank SD-55612-II plays on me. Maybe you should question her?”

“Are you trying to tell us how to do our work?” The female corrections officer’s retort comes as sudden as a whiplash. “Do you believe you can outperform us too?”

“Not at all; I am saying that I did not pick this name and do not carry it either.”

“Do you like the sound of it?”

The green blades of grass tickle her feet while she baths in bright, warm light. She listens to a weird but wonderful chirping sound.

“I asked if you like the sound of it?” The woman snapped.

She is momentarily confused; the sensations of the daydream seem to still linger in the sterile review office. Does the chirping continue, or is she hallucinating?

“No. I am LL-00000-IV. My destiny is to serve society at my best capacity.”

The man takes another paper from his pile. This time he seems to know exactly where to find it, even without looking. He puts the printout on the table in front of her.

She gasps at the beauty. Never had she seen such vivid colours. Bright red petals form tiny round blossoms surrounded by striking green branches. She feels speechless.

The man places another picture next to it. It shows a smiling woman in a white gown embroidered with those tiny red blossoms. Her hair is abnormally long, nearly reaching her hips. Most striking is her resemblance with Liv.

No. That is me: Liv. Like in my dream.

All she can do is gasp at the pictures, trapped between excitement and fear.

“Do you dream?” The female corrections officer asks as if she had read her mind.

It is a simple question that a simple lie could answer. Instead, Liv sheds a tear at the thought.

“I think you better come with us.”

********

This story was originally published and inspired by a writing prompt by Chelsea Marie on Medium.   

Recommended1 Simily SnapPublished in All Stories, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Mystery/Thriller

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