A shooting pain races across my left side jumps me awake. My eyes shoot open. I lay on the ground in my dorm room. The cold, hard, tile ground. I glance over at the clock resting on my bedstand. 3:49 am. I sigh, hauling myself up onto my bed. The rest of the girls in my dorm are asleep, except for one. I see a bright light flash underneath Girl 37's sheets, and I laugh.
"37." I hiss. She really doesn't have any other name, other than Girl 37 or 37. I am known as Girl 128, or 128. 37 sits up in her bed, turning off her reading device. She pulls out the tubes in her ears, which send voices from the reading device into her ear.
37 has lush, red hair that falls just below her shoulders. It is perfectly wavy, flowing in large curls along her chest. She has always been the kind of girl who was curious, which is anything from what we are supposed to be. She always talks about Choosing Day, and what possible names could be. We've never actually heard any 'names' before. Even Teacher is just called Teacher. 37 could get by being called 'pretty', I think. But no one actually knows what pretty is, or how it looks. History Teacher says pretty is something that attracts one's eye. 37's face does that.
"Hi. Why are you up?" She asks, sticking her reading device underneath her pillow.
"I fell off my bed." I giggle, looking away. I hear 37 laugh.
"I thought I heard a thump." She lays back down, staring up at the ceiling. Her rickety bed creaks as she moves.
"Today's Choosing Day." She whispers. I nod, even though she can't see me.
"Yeah. We get a new life." I clasp my hands together.
"Who do you want as a partner?" She pushes herself up, leaning against the backboard.
"I don't know. I've had my eye on Boy 54 or Boy 195." I shrug.
"I want Boy 92." 37 sighs, her eyes sparkling. "He's so kind and smart. He'd seem like a great partner."
Seven hours later it is close to eleven o'clock, and I am standing next to Girl 14 in line, waiting to take our seats. We're in the Choosing Room. It's the first time we've ever set foot in the building. You see, Choosing Day is where you choose three things: Your name, your partner, and your occupation.
Your name decides who you are. It identifies you as a person, not as a number.
Your partner is the person you will have children with in the future. Each pair of partners has 2 kids in their life. Each body is programmed to have a boy and a girl. Then you are unable to have any more kids.
You will not see your kids until after Choosing Day for them. That is another reason why Choosing Day is so important for me. I get to meet my Birth Humans. The people who gave birth to me, Girl 128.
You will also get assigned an occupation. This part you do not chose. Based on how you learned throughout the years, The Council will address you a job. You will spend half of Year 10 and Years 11 and 12 learning how to do this job. Then you will go off with your assigned partner from 2 years back and live in Town. That's where all the homes are. No kids Years 1-9 are allowed in Town. This is the year we get to go to Town.
I take my seat next to Girl 14, who is my childhood best friend. 14 has long black hair that she always fastens back into a braid. She is the only girl in our dorm room who knows how to do a braid. 14 has lots of energy, and tends to get into trouble a lot. She has lots of friends, but yet somehow she makes time for me.
"Are you excited?" She whispers, tapping my shoulder rapidly. I laugh, nodding.
"Yes, so excited." The corners of my mouth turn upward, and I think they will stay like that forever.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 86th Annual Choosing Day!" A guy with large brown hair struts up to the podium. He wears a large grin on his face, and his head is round, like a melon.
"I am Jacques Allton." A real name. Gasps and murmurs erupted from seats around us. 14 nudges me excitedly.
"I will call you up one by one to receive your name, partner, and meet your parents." Jacques smiles excitedly. Parents? What are those?
"Parents are your Birth Humans, as you know them." Jacques laughs. I nod, understanding.
"There are lists placed underneath your seats. They include the names you are able to chose, depending on your gender." I reach underneath my chair and pick up a packet. I look at the names on the front page:
I look up and down the list, struck by all these wonderful sounding words. I could be called any of these. Any I wanted to. But for some reason, the last one caught my attention.
I could be called Priscilla.
I touch my finger to the name, smiling.
"Girl 1." I hear Jacques' voice ring throughout the auditorium. My eyes shift away from the sheet, my finger still on the name.
"Girl 1, have you chosen your designated name?" She nods, her eyes sparkling. Girl 1 wasn't a close friend of mine, but she was in the name dorm room as I. Dorm P48.
"And your middle name? And your last name?" Jacques confirms with her. I look down at the paper. Middle name and last name? I flip through the pages, until I find the page that says 'Middle Names.' I choose Echo as my middle name. It sounded so beautiful. Priscilla Echo.
I flip to the page for the last names, and my fingers lands on the perfect one. I take a deep breath, tuning out Jacques' noisy chatter.
"Girl 14." I squeeze my best friends hand as she stands up to make her way to the front. She gives me one last glance before she steps up to the stage. Jacques greets her with a hearty smile.
"Girl 14, have you chosen your designated full name?"
"Yes." She straightens her back, her eyes fill with pride.
"Please write it down on this pad. The words you write will appear on the screen behind you." He points to the screen. 14 picks up the pad, carefully tapping in the letters.
C-A-R-T-E-R R-A-E D-U-N-C-A-N
Applause fills the auditorium, and I join, sending hoots and whistles.
"Carter." The chatter dies down, and Carter smiles, her eyes glowing. "Who is your designated partner?" Carter looks out into the audience. She already knew who she wanted. It was obvious to everyone.
"Boy 86." I look over to see Boy 86's eyes light up. He gives her a large smile. Her face beams as she turns back to face Jacques.
"Boy 86, do you approve?" Jacques shouts into the audience. Boy 86 stands up, clearing his throat.
"I do." Everyone claps, including me.
"Your parents will be waiting for you after the assembly. You may take your seat, Carter Rae Duncan." Carter makes her way down the steps, her floral dress flowing behind her. She sits beside me again.
"I did it." She whispers.
"Carter." I hug her, giggling.
Girl 34 chose the name Summer Athena Caid, while Girl 49 (another girl in my dorm room) chose the name Minnie Alice Augustus.
I'm half asleep when I hear my name mentioned.
"Girl 128, do you approve?" My eyes whip up to the podium. My heart starts to pound when I see the boy who stands before me.
Boy 99, otherwise as the guy who has teased me since Year 4. I stand up, my body shaking. My lips tremble as I struggle to get the words out.