Celine had to admit, it was brilliant. In the keep the guardians were limited to communication with just two other people, the guardian who woke you and the other whom you woke. One could not simply leave a note for another guardian. Paper would deteriorate or be misplaced or altered long before the recipient woke. A verbal message would become too distorted. Then the boy called wrote a message across his hand and pressed it against the wall of his glass obelisk before he went to sleep. “Hello, my name is Seventy-six. What’s your name?” The message was perfectly preserved, unalterable and impossible to lose.
Most everyone tried to respond. But every cycle the message on Seventy-six’s hand remained the same. Other guardians struck up their own conversations, one sentence at a time, every hundred years.
Eventually, everyone gave up on communicating with Seventy-six. He was forgotten largely, except by Celine who observed the boy’s unchanging message century after century. The thought that perhaps the lean, dark haired boy was waiting for her to respond intrigued her. She’d never written anyone, she didn’t know what to say. Besides, why would he want to know her name? .
Her shift ended. She used her key to wake Kane. As her own chamber prepared itself, she walked the boy through the regular transition period. On the third day she yielded her role as guardian and entered her glass obelisk, this time with a simple message scrawled across her palm.
Then she slept.
It would take just three years for Seventy-six to read her message but it would be another ninety-seven before she would get any response from him. The entire time she would sleep.
The years glided past in a gray haze of dreams and muffled half-heard sounds.
Mathias woke her and, in his proper time, went to sleep. Celine avoided the pillar hall at first, irrationally nervous that Seventy-six might not have written her back, that he had not been waiting for her at all. But eventually her duties brought her into the long curving hall. She counted off the pillars as she passed them. Seventy-one. Seventy-two. Seventy-three. Her heart beat faster. Her footsteps slowed.
“I’m glad you wrote. Your name is perfect,” read his hand.
Celine laughed and clapped in delight. It could have been to anyone but she knew it was for her.
The rest of the year, she could hardly focus. Every spare moment was filled with carefully planning her next message. She decided to take a cue from Seventy-six and make her message generic enough that it could be for anyone. She knew he would recognize it as being for him.
After a year she had determined the perfect response.
“Why did you write?”
She slept again and woke again. This time she fairly ran to the pillar hall once Mathias had gone to sleep. There were a dozen responses to her message but Seventy-six’s made time stop for her.
“I had to. I think I love you.”
Celine stared at the message for a long time, her hand pressed over her mouth, a riot of emotion swirling within her. It was absurd. They were separated by ninety-seven years and six inches of unbreakable crystal. They would never speak. Never touch. Never even make eye contact. It was sad, stupid and useless but Celine could not help but smile and blush.
She reached out her hand and touched it to the glass that separated his hand from hers. Her smile grew. She already knew what her next message would be.