8 One, Two and Three

It was already dark, and she knew that she was in a ton of trouble. The crowd in the streets was getting thinner as slave children in dirty clothes busied back to their tiny rooms in the slum. Their clothes that once must have been impeccably white like her own were now looking rather brown or yellow. There were tears everywhere from the sleeves till the edge of the cloth that barely covered their knees. The realization that she'd be in the same state in a few days sent shivers down her spine.

Beth walked around for a while until she finally managed to find the building that she was looking for. She wanted to ask someone for direction, but every single person on the street looked too busy or too tired to talk to her. She stared at the huge single-storeyed building in front of her with uncertainty. Beth felt like she was walking right into the rail track and asking them to run over her.

"Are you new?" Someone asked, coming up from behind her.

Beth turned around to see a familiar face. It was the woman who had informed her of her death- the one in the purple robes who was with the rude man with similar attire.

"It's you!" She exclaimed, her eyes widening in surprise.

"Do we know each other?" The woman asked, a quizzical expression flashing on her face.

Of course. The woman wouldn't have remembered her. After all, she was only one among the many people who entered heaven on that day.

"We uhh.. met at the gate," Beth explained, scratching her head awkwardly.

"Ahh..you're the clueless girl." The woman said, laughing to herself.

"Well.."

Beth felt embarrassed to know that she was remembered as the clueless one. But it was not really her fault. Her death was sudden and she must have had least expected it. Waking up in a strange place in a ten-year-old girl's body would be a shock to anyone in her place. A few children who were passing by them glanced at her curiously. Their gaze stuck on her neat dress and well-kept hair. But they quickly averted their gaze and hurried away as the woman raised her brows at them.

"Are you here to get your duties?" She asked, putting on a faint smile.

Beth didn't know what to make of it. Was the woman being nice to her? Nonetheless, she had no plans of trusting anyone here. She planned to do what the system asked her to do as quickly as possible. That was the only way that she would be able to get out of the place. If someone knew of her plans, it could get her into trouble, Beth thought to herself.

"I don't know...umm that lady who showed me my room asked me to come here with this." She said, extending the sheet of paper with her information towards the woman.

The lady took the paper from her and glanced at it quickly. Shaking her head, she said, "I think you're a bit late. She must have already left for home by now."

"Should I come back again tomorrow?" Beth asked, feeling unsure.

What was a slave supposed to do anyway? Sit back and wait for people to order around? She wouldn't mind if the officials postponed her enrolment into the list of slaves forever as long as she didn't get into trouble. The woman in purple shook her head.

"It's fine. I can slide in the form for you." She said, waving at her. "Come in."

Beth followed the woman through the huge domineering pillars into what looked like a huge office. There were at least ten big tables and cushioned chairs kept adjacent to it scattered throughout the room. Two slaves walked back and forth the tables behind which were more people in purple robes. Beth wondered who or what these people were. But she didn't voice out her curiosity, keeping her thoughts to herself. Suddenly she spotted him. The rude man who had called her clueless. He was walking towards them.

"Aaah Three, you're here. I want-" The man paused, his eyes narrowing at her. "Why is she here?" He asked the woman who took her in.

Three? That was her name? So even these people didn't have names but numbers? She wondered what the cold woman's number was then. She got her answer in the next moment.

"One had asked her to come by to submit her form and take her duties. But she got late." The woman who she now knew was Three, answered.

The man shook his head in displeasure. "Then she should wait till tomorrow. Why did you bring her in? If One hears of this, then-"

"I hear of what?" A familiar voice spoke, coming from behind her.

Beth didn't have to turn around to know who it was. It was the cold woman who had shown her her room.

"One!" Both the man and the woman exclaimed at the same time.

Beth sighed, turning around hesitantly towards the woman.

"I see that you finally came around." One said, glaring at her.

"I uh..couldn't find the building," Beth replied, licking her lips nervously.

"An excuse on your first day." The woman sneered. Keeping her cold gaze concentrated on her, she said, "Three, take her form from her. She'll be cleaning all the streets tonight." She paused, and added, "Alone."

Beth gulped nervously. She had landed herself in trouble on her first day. Three looked at her with sympathy.

"But senior One-"

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One ignored her, turning towards the rude man. "Two, show her where the brooms are kept." She said, nodding towards the exit.

"Okay." The man said, walking towards the door without waiting for her.

Beth took a hesitant step towards the direction, keeping her eyes low but was stopped by a painful grip on her arm. She didn't dare utter a sound.

"Let this be a lesson for you, Twenty-three," One said, leaning towards her dangerously. "Never be late for your duties ever again."

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