A two story construction of three yellow-orange walls surrounded a mini plaza with a fountain at the center. Doors were spaced evenly on each level and it was still disorienting for me to see an apartment complex designed so spaciously.
I walked up the left hand stairs, carrying a giant cloth bag on each arm. Three doors down from the top of the stairs, Leslie emerged wearing a long red skirt beneath a white blouse.
“Looks like you’re adjusting to Illagwen life well,” Leslie commented once they saw me.
“Yeah,” I replied with a broad grin, “I never liked shopping before. Then again, I never had this kind of selection.” I waved to my bright yellow shirt and pants – I was wearing pants! The System would’ve never let me do something so bold.
“Gdoisakdger. Nekwjethedsyggmweje, I’m off to work.”
I looked at Leslie in confusion. “Just now? It’s the middle of the day.”
Leslie paused, then smirked as they walked past me to the stairs. “Finding a job is your next step, you know,” they called back to me as I stared after them.
“Finding a job,” I muttered. Another thing that was still disorienting to me. Outcasts in Illagu were not assigned to work, they sought it out, making decisions for themselves about what they wanted to do. I was not going to be handed a job.
With a sigh, I walked into Ramona’s apartment, four doors down from the top of the stairs. And there she was, reading a book while lounging on an armchair…upside down.
“Had fun shopping?” she asked, turning a page.
I set my bags down onto the kitchen table. “Yes, actually. …What kind of work does Leslie do that h-they don’t need to leave until now?”
“Well, beigndhtedjksriedsmgjheriewtwkdmshgjemdfekte weird. And, thmewthgeydhfnmsghewjtkelfdmgeiow, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t doing work in their apartment.”
I stifled a groan as I settled into a chair at the table. Of course my condition would act up exactly when I’m getting an answer to my question. What else did I expect?
“And why are you home?” I asked.
“I am at the start of a much needed week long vacation.” She turned another page. How could she talk and read at the same time? I’d already given up trying to figure out why she liked being upside down.
“How do I find a job, Ramona?” I asked.
She snapped her book shut. “What would you like to do?”
“That’s part of the problem,” I replied with a sigh. “I don’t know what I’d like because I’m used to being assigned. The System always decided everything. I’m used to doing what I’m told more than anything else.”
“Then join the military.”
Ramona shrugged in her upside down position. “If you want to be told what to do, that’s kind of the perfect place. And since yeodijksjuhtjfklmewdsuhitjekmfdl. Idoienthedhjkmlshfieolmfhitjem. Though I hear they train you pretty viciously.”
“The military,” I repeated beneath my breath. It would be like being a city guard in the System, but it was a job I’d only ever seen men do.
“What if I fail?” I whispered.
“Then, you’ll jusfjoewmty something else. Andjwamsklfiheilmtwkfhijlnhieioetdo. It’s really up to you.”
Ramona paused, staring off into the distance. “Though I’d suggest shortening your number before joining. 112628 is a bit of a mouthful.”
And with that, she returned to reading her book.
I frowned at hearing my number out loud after so long. No one else had numbers outside of the System. My number was the only thing left that tied me back to where I’d come from. And I didn’t like it.
To be continued…