“Three-zero-six,” my teacher called out, making me snap out of my thoughts. The kids all turned to see me, sitting in the back of the classroom holding a book. All the kids had names, except for me. I was a No Name, a kid whose parents couldn’t afford to buy a name.
Your name is a distinct mark of your social class, and status. There is the Bright Name class, whose parents can name their child whatever they want. Then there is the Name class, where parents can name their children simple names, like John or Jill. Then there is the No Name class; the poorest of people have that title. In place of their names, they are given numbers, my numbers being three-zero-six.
“Yes?” I asked shyly, my head low. I wasn’t supposed to look at the other kids; they were all in the Bright Name class, the richest, most elite group of people.
The teacher had made it her solemn duty that I never graduate high school. The teacher’s cold, green eyes met mine, making me cower like a little child. I wanted to go home and curl up in a little ball. Those green eyes had haunted me for many years. I pushed a strand of my long, dirty blonde hair behind my ear. I fixed my glasses over my bright green eyes. My pale skin got goosebumps from the long minutes of silence. She finally cleared her throat to speak. And then… the bell rang. I couldn’t have run out of that class any faster. I kept my head down low making sure not to look at anybody, but also not to bump into anyone.
As I was leaving the school, a boy about two years younger than me put his foot forward, making me trip, which knocked over his books. I knew it was on purpose to make it seem like I was harassing him. A teacher, who just happened to be nearby, came over. The boy put on his best-acting face to seem like he was mad at me, but there was a glint in his eyes that couldn’t hide the smile of me getting in trouble. It wasn’t just the one teacher who wanted me to not graduate. It was the whole entire school.
“Look what this filthy No Name did,” the boy declared as I still laid on the floor. I scowled at him.
“Listen, he tripped me on purpose!” I objected. The teacher gave me a look that made me want to disappear.
“I don’t want to hear any lies!” the teacher yelled making everyone in the hallway turn towards me.
“But…” I objected.
“No buts! Apologize to this young gentleman. Then pick up his books, and march yourself home! If this ever happens again you will lose your scholarship!” The teacher scowled. I apologized as I picked up his books, mumbling, and grumbling, and then ran home as fast as I could. I couldn’t lose my scholarship, not now. The only reason I was able to go to this school is that I got a scholarship. If I graduated, I would become a part of the Bright Name class and get my name back.
“Four-two-nine!” I called out as soon as I opened the metal door into the small house. Besides the metal door, the rest of the house was made out of wood. Rotting, mold-infested wood. Four-two-nine came out, a solemn look on her face. She looked sad as she often did. Five hundred years ago, Four-two-nine would be called “Mom.” But not now. She had dark brown hair that was cut above her shoulders, and she had blue eyes and tan skin. I looked nothing like four-two-nine because the No Names aren’t allowed to have children. The only way No Names can have a child is if the Bright Names don’t want their child. I came to four-two-nine when I was ten years old, a little later than other children have come to the No Names. I clearly remember that cold summer day when my mom came home from her long day of teaching.
* * *
I had suspected it for a long time. Yes, my mom was getting rid of me. Though I was the top of my class, and I was two years above everyone else in school, my mom was still getting rid of me. I crept into her study; she usually locked it, but not today. My mom was a teacher at a Bright Names high school, one I hoped that I would get into. I had never seen her office before; it had grey walls and a marble floor. I quickly went to her desk, creeping quietly. My mom had ears like a hawk- she could hear everything. I knew I only had a couple of minutes before she would find me. I went to her oak desk. There were many papers on her desk that made me think I would never find it. Then I saw it, in bright red letters on a paper that was right on the top. It read: Disown Your Child.
The door slammed open as my mother stormed into the room. I quickly grabbed the paper with bright red letters on it, tears in my eyes. I had suspected this, yes, but deep down in my heart, I had hoped that this was wrong.
“Give me that!” my mother shouted angrily.
“No!” I said anger festering and bubbling inside of me. My anger consumed me as I tore up the paper right in front of her. “How could you get rid of me? I’m your daughter!” Tears threatened to fall, but I stood my ground refusing to move.
My mom’s next words were words I would never forget. “I don’t have a daughter.”
The next hour was a blur. My mom grabbed my arm, her long nails digging into my skin. She dragged me all the way downstairs, out of the marble house and into her hovercar. She threw me into the backseat and quickly locked the hovercar door. Then she shot up into the air. There was no escape. Soon we were hovering above the ground where there was dirt and mold everywhere. In place of grass, there was garbage, all the garbage that the Bright Names didn’t want. All the houses were made out of old rotten wood. Some had metal doors, some had copper doors. The smell made me want to throw up. My mind couldn’t comprehend the fact that I would be living here.
“I have to escape!” I thought desperately. We stopped in front of an old house with one story. It was about the size of my bedroom. Then a lady in her mid-thirties came out, soot and dirt on her face.
“Mom you can’t be serious!” I protested furiously. All she did was unlock the hovercar.
“Get out!” were her final words to me. Tears still stained my eyes as I opened and slammed the hovercar door behind me. The hovercar sped away as it shot up into the air, leaving me alone in the darkness. The lady offered her hand but I shook it off. I hated it here. I hated the smell, I hated the houses, I hated everything. The only thing I wanted was my mom back.
Maybe I can run away! I thought anxiously, scanning my surroundings for somewhere to run. The lady then took my arm forcefully and put a microchip on it. The microchip slowly dissolved into my arm. It was hot, very hot. I felt like it was melting my arm off. Then, the pain slowly disappeared, leaving my arm a bright crimson. Suddenly, I didn’t hate this place anymore. I didn’t hate the smell, I didn’t hate the houses. It was home now. This was my new home.
“Three-zero-six,” the lady said.
“Yes,” I said. Yes, that was my new name: Three-zero-six.
“What is my name?” the lady inquired.
“Four-two-nine,” I replied. It was like I was now a robot. A robot who couldn’t control what she said or thought. Maybe there was still some part of me left. Yes, the part of me that still wanted my name back.
My beautiful name had been replaced by a number. A sickening number.
* * *
Graduation day came slowly. It seemed like, every day until then I was just an empty shell waiting to get my beloved name back. The minutes turned into hours, and the hours turned into days. I sat in my English class waiting for the bell to ring, signaling that the next day was my graduation day. I was about ready to spring out of my seat when the bell rang. All the kids rushed out bumping and pushing me. Then my teacher stopped me dead in my tracks.
“May I speak with you?” she asked her voice icy cold.
“Four-two-nine is waiting for me at home,” I said emphasizing the word home. “I have to go.”
Bye, mom, I thought in my head as I left the teacher. Then, realizing what I had just thought, I angrily pushed the thought aside. She wasn’t my mother; she was just the woman who abandoned me.
The narrow alleyway was only lit by a single street light. Listening to the gentle sound of my footsteps comforted me in a way that made everything seem peaceful. I listened to that for a while, letting my thoughts wander.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, there came three girls. One, whom I assumed was the leader, stepped towards me. She had bright blue eyes and red hair that ended on her shoulders. She wore an expensive looking white jacket. I had seen her before in the school, though she never talked to me.
“My name is Teresa. This is Janet”- she pointed to the girl on the right - “and this is Jane”- she pointed to the other girl. “What’s your name?” she asked in a condescending tone.
“Three-zero-six,” I tried to sound brave and proud of my name but my voice cracked, and quivered. The girls could sense my fear; they had a murderous look in their eyes. I knew I needed a way to escape, so I turned around, but much to my dismay there were three more girls behind me. I had fallen into a trap.
I tried to walk past Teresa, but she just shoved me so hard I hit the brick wall. My head slammed into it making everything spin. “Let’s just get it over with,” Teresa said. “The cops will never catch us.” Darkness began to close in on me. The only thing I could see was a faint silhouette of the girls.
Maybe the gunshot I heard was just a dream, but all I know is that after that gunshot, I would never wake up again. Somewhere deep down inside me I knew it was never my destiny to graduate and get my name, my beloved name back.
I have no regrets. I wish I did, but everything in my life just didn’t even seem like it was worth any regrets. Dying in high school never crossed my mind, but there I was surrounded, by doctors who didn’t care if I lived or died; they would never arrest those girls for killing me. As I slipped in and out of consciousness, I couldn’t help but wonder if my mom was there. Not Four-two-nine, but my real mom. I wondered if she even cared about what happened to me. Memories flashed through my mind as death approached; happy ones, and sad ones. They say you see a white light when you die, but all I saw was my mom and myself, smiling and laughing. Though I wished with all my might that this was a reality, I knew it was just a sickening dream.
Yes, I guess I had one regret from it all. My final last regret was I never had the courage to ask my mom, Why? Why couldn’t we be a family?
The last words I ever heard were, “I’m so sorry, Caroline.” I took Death’s hand and walked into an unknown abyss.