Every hundred years, for one year, Seventy-six did the same thing every day. He woke with the gentle glow of the lamps. He bathed, dressed, swallowed his supplements and then made his rounds through the stone halls. He walked past the green eyes that never turned red (though he was prepared should they ever change), through the garden with its neatly arranged beds of fruits and vegetables, across the crystal stream and through the vast supply house filled with its towers of crates, spires of casks and dunes of bags. When he came to the workshop he worked diligently on the handful of projects that required tending: a piece of machinery that had given out, a crystal drained of power. Once he'd made his repairs he continuing on to check the gates and locks. After that came log entries and failure reports to write, protocols to review, exercise, weapon practice, dinner and a sliver of free time. He usually spent it reading
Then before the lights dimmed for the night cycle, he allowed himself to walk down the rows of crystal obelisks were the others slept.
There were ninety-nine of them, young like himself, scarcely more than kids. They were fair skinned, and dark, boys and girls. And they were asleep, waiting to take their turns as Guardians. He had given them names long before—though oddly he thought of himself only as Seventy-six. He greeted each in turn as he walked down the long spiraling hall counting each glass pillar as he went.
"Twenty-two—Hello, Thomas. Twenty-three—Evening, Eveline," he would say cheerily, continuing on until he reached Seventy-two. "Good to see you Arthur. Sleep well, I'm keeping the watch."
His heart beat faster and his steps slowed. There, just three slots to the left of his own empty obelisk waited the Girl.
She was pale and golden, the bridge of her nose sprayed perfectly with freckles. Her hair was wavy and blonde save for one lock that was bright red. He had not named her. That seemed somehow too presumptuous with her. He often tried to imagine what her name might be. Once he had thought it something exotic, infinitely unique, and then for a season it had become a flower name, beautiful in its simplicity. Eventually though, she became simply the Girl.
He lingered before her glass tower, studying her carefree face and form. He loved the times just after he came on duty for the year, when he could see how she had changed during her time awake. Little things: her clothes, the position of her body, her expression. Once he had woken to find she had cut her hair very short which saddened him for a time, but her face was always the same.
"Hello," he whispered. His hand grazed the crystal coffin. He didn't dare actually touch it. "How are you today?"
She didn't answer.
She never did. Never would. She lay to the left of his glass obelisk in the seventy-three position and his key could only open the right-adjacent number seventy-seven pillar which held a girl called Meg.
Meg was nice enough. They spent three days every year together, between when she woke to replace him and when his pillar was prepared to receive him again. Seventy-six relished their brief time together but she was not the same as the Girl.
The Girl… She was special he knew. And she would remain forever locked away from him.
The Girl in the glass.