Disclaimer: the names towards the end are made up by combining two names. Please do NOT consider any of these for a child or character. Calling a child one of these will ruin their life, and using one of them for a character is plain stealing unless you ask permission.
'Erica was terribly bored of her name. Erica Mary Smith. Could it get any worse?
'"Mom," she declared one day, marching out of her room. "I don't like my name. What do you think I should be called?" Her Mom was taken aback.
'"I love your name," she said. "I picked it myself. It's a very nice name."
'"I don't like it," said her Dad from his chair. Erica whirled around to face him.
'"What do you think I should be called?" She asked him.
'"I wanted to call you Lasenra," her Dad said. "It's the name of my favourite football team backwards." Her Dad was from Islington and loved his home team.
'"I like it!" Erica declared. "I'm going to try it out for a day."
'The next day, Erica went to school and told her friends her new name.' Kaiena sighed.
'This is boring,' she whined. Everyone else shushed her.
'"Lasenra's a very pretty name, but I don't think it suits you," said Mary Sue, whose name suited her very well. Erica frowned.
'"It doesn't fit me," she agreed. "But what will?" Her friends didn't know.
'"Lark is very pretty," said Ms. Lily, whose name was very pretty. "Why don't you try it?"
'"It is very pretty," Erica agreed. "But it doesn't fit me very well." Ms. Lily frowned.
'At home, Erica's older sister was reading in her room. Erica burst through her door and asked her:
'"What do you think I should be called?"' Everyone said together.
'Erica's sister thought and thought and thought. Erica's sister liked to think.
'"Evadne," she said finally.
'"I like it," Erica decided. "It's sophisticated-"
'What does that mean?' One of the little kids asked.
'Fancy, now shush," someone replied irritably.
'"But it doesn't fit me. I want something that fits me and is pretty and is sophisticated."
'Erica's sister thought some more.
'"Morgan," she said.
'Erica thought about it.
'"I like that very much," she said.
'THE END,' I finished finally.
The kids cheered.
'Can you read a different one?' Lowana asked. I sighed. The ashes swirled around me, getting into my lungs and irritating my throat. I coughed.
'There aren't anymore,' I replied. Some of the smaller kids began to cry, the salty tears leaving tracks of clean down their dirt-covered faces. A loud buzzer sounded and red lights flooded the room.
'Do you want me to read about Paris again?' I said quickly. The children weren't allowed to cry.
They stopped crying and their faces brightened up. I sighed.
'Yes please,' they all chorused.
'I'm too old for this,' Kaiena muttered. I responded by getting up and pulling her closer to me.
"Kaiena, if you're too old you have to work long hours and get fed even less,' I explained. 'Enjoy it while you can. You only have a month or so left in here.' She closed her mouth quickly, and sat back down on her threadbare cushion in the back.
'Paris is a beautiful city full or love and delicate things,' I began. 'But Paris is also a person.' I hated telling the children these stories. They were all the same, and barely tried to hide it.
'Paris never liked her name. Everyone noticed it. Paris Winslet Oceana Pearl Kohen.
'One day, she decided to change it. She ran into her sister's room, crying:
'"I don't like my name! I want a new one!" Her sister was surprised, but agreed to help Paris.
'"Sarah,” she suggested. “Mary. Susan.” Paris shook her head and stomped her foot.
‘“Those are my friends’ names,” she whined. “I want something different!”
‘Her sister sighed.
‘“Jessica,” she said. “Briar.”
‘Paris shook her head.
‘“That’s too normal,” she said. “I want something just a little bit special.”
‘“Autumn Paris Kohen,” she sighed. “Now get out of my room.”
‘What’s a room?’ Lowana asked.
‘It’s a special room for one person to sleep in,’ I explained. Lowana cocked her head.
‘“Paris?” The teacher asked the next day in school.
‘Paris - or rather, Autumn – got up and stood on her desk.
‘“That isn’t my name,” she declared. “My name is Autumn Paris Kohen. Paris isn’t my first name anymore.”
‘The teacher blinked in surprise.
‘“I’ll fix it on the attendance, then,” she said, crossing out Paris and putting Autumn. “Let’s try that again. Autumn?”
‘“Present,” Autumn said, sitting down proudly.
‘THE END,’ I announced. ‘Why don’t we come up for new names for each other?’
‘I want to be Morgan,” Rowenia announced.
“I want to be Morgan,” Emolette argued.
“So do I!’ Shouted Iphilanthe.
‘No need to bicker,’ I said. The siren hadn’t stopped.
‘Attention,’ came a voice from the speakers in the room. ‘197540, you will be retrieved now. There has been another death. You will be deployed to testing.’ Kaiena paled. She was number 197540.
‘Don’t struggle,’ I whispered, taking her arm and dragging her over to the only vacant corner of the small, low ceilinged room. It contained a small pad. I thrust her onto it, pressing the button next to it to close the door.
Kaiena screamed, throwing her body at the glass.
‘Where’s she going?” Tristeria asked.
‘She’s going somewhere,’ I said. ‘Would you like to hear about it?’
‘Yes,’ she replied.
‘Well,’ I said. ‘It’s a wonderful place. Do you know what this factory produces?’
‘Machine parts,’ Emolette said. I swallowed hard. She had gotten it right.
‘No. We produce candy!’ I said enthusiastically.
‘What’s that?’ Rowiena asked.
‘Remember that summer when everyone was given a plum?’ They nodded happily. ‘Imagine that, but a thousand bajillion times sweeter.’ Their eyes grew wide.
‘Wow,’ Tristeria muttered. I grinned.
‘Kaiena is very lucky because she gets to taste-test the candy. The one who died got ssooooo fat he fell down and couldn’t get up.’
‘What’s a he?’ Arawyn asked.
‘It’s like a she, but different,’ I said, remembering that the boys and girls were brought up separately. ‘Still like us, but a bit other.’
‘Will we ever meet a he?’ Winsla asked.
‘Probably,’ I said. ‘Most people meet a he.’ She nodded, satisfied.
‘Why is Kaiena sad if she’s going to eat plums forever?’ Briara asked.
‘She’s sad because she was mean before she left and thinks you might not forgive her,’ I answered, thinking quickly. Briara frowned.
‘We forgive you, Kaiena!’ Tristeria called. ‘There, now she won’t be sad anymore.’
A robotic arm dropped down from above and grabbed Kaiena by the back of her tattered shirt and lifted her, screaming, up to her fate.
‘Yes,’ I said unhappily. ‘She won’t ever be sad anymore.’ The job of the tester was to drink the petrol to make sure it was safe to be around long-term. Most died on the first week or so.