By Anastasia Gordeeva

This story is about an ultimately social nature of individuality; it develops only when people recognize it in each other – something that is hard to grasp and even harder to express. This story is about how even the smallest gestures and memories matter in making an individual.

Every morning here is the same. Sun lazily looks upon them through the heavy curtain of poisonous clouds, sharp howl of fabric horns tears apart the air. A3407 leaves her barracks and joins the other prisoners – a small drop in a gray, empty-eyed ocean slowly marching to the horizon. Android guards are roaming among them, with black metal of their bodies covered in dust, which blurs any difference between the watchmen and the watched. Robotic green eyes tirelessly scanning the moving human mass, looking for a smallest sign of anger or disobedience. A3407 – as many times before – doesn’t dare to look at them, bowing her head lowly and averting her gaze.

A3407 makes one step forward and holds her breath.

Just in an inch of her boot lies a flower – simple, boldly-yellow daffodil, a striking sign on this dusty, orange-grey rock of a planet. God-knows-how was it brought here, a tiny ambassador of something impossible – a hope, perhaps? She quickly bows and carefully picks a flower from the dirty earth, ignoring women quietly hissing at her clumsiness.

A3407 looks at the daffodil – it is soft and almost warm in her sweaty palm – and remembers: fields and flowers, her studio smelling like fresh-chopped wood, bonfires, dances and music – forgotten shadow of her life arises before her eyes as clearly as it was yesterday. Sweet memories buried so, so deep… Mindlessly, A3407 smiles and puts a flower in her hair.

Sharp flash of black – a robotic guard stands in front of the prisoner, its green eyes assessing her. A3407 looks at it and can almost hear the soft humming of its processor. Her heart beats hard and fast. One second. Two. Guard’s metallic brain is screeching – its’ databases full of quasi-logical, complicated map-codes, of  danger sensors, attacking positions and preventive moves. It is nothing there about flowers and smiles – a blank state, tabula rasa. Slowly, A3407 takes the daffodil out of her hair and places it between android’s chest plates. It looks down, puzzled, while the woman backs to the grey mass of workers standing in the curious half-circle around them and mixes with the crowd, disappearing in the dusty clouds. Robotic guard stands still even after all the prisoners have left their barracks, its green eyes intensely staring at the small splash of yellow on its chest.

The next day she sees the same guard, a fade flower on its chest. Its metallic hand carefully covers the daffodil from dusty wind. She looks straight at its face – and she is ready to swear for her life – there is something behind the indefinite emerald depth of its eyes.

This morning, she decides to give it a name. And remembers her own.

Illustration: Faye Chua

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