Author : Lane Powell

Leah was born in April 2310; her grandmother gave her the nickname “Spring Dragon Lily.” Her skin was white and thin as paper, and her eyes, red.

She slipped painlessly from her mother’s womb, like a bar of soap. The family gaped as she emerged, though they had known for months of her condition. Her father cradled her in his arms and weeped over her. Her mother stared, speechless.

Leah’s family was brown-skinned, brown-eyed, black-haired, and almond-eyed; so was the world, she would soon learn.

“Young dragon,” her grandmother would call as Leah danced in the yard. “Do not be too playful. Your skin might break.” Leah’s skin broke easily, and the blood stained her like wine on linen.

The cameras didn’t scare her. Even as a baby they loved her, and she didn’t yet know why. Brown-skinned camera men would stare at her through big glass eyes, capturing her for the world to see. The brown-skinned reporters would croon and caress her in between the questions to her still-dumbfounded parents.

Soon she was old enough to attend school. The other children started in amazement at her skin and in awe at her all-too-blond hair, the color of the moon and flour. When she was outside the sun’s rays made her shine like the sun itself, but she would quickly grow red in agony. Nanites would fix that.

Once a small boy who could hardly walk saw her glow. His words were innocent: “Are you a god?”

Leah’s grandmother was there to answer. “Yes,” she said, “a mighty dragon flower god!”

Half of the things people said to Leah were whispers, and her grandmother’s death came like a whisper. Dust settled on her skin as she lay in bed and whispered to her beloved, “Keep safe, Dragon Lily child,” and died. Her husband hung his head and prayed over her. Then he gazed mournfully at his granddaughter. “You’re beautiful,” he said to her. “You’re what kept her alive for so long. You’re her reminder of the old days, when we were children, when there was more than one race and people spoke languages other than English.” And he fell to his knees before her and cried on the hem of her skirt. His wife had been one hundred and twenty.

The death made the news. The brown reporters took the opportunity to interview the young Leah about her grandmother, and to take many pictures. The pictures would be viewed by brown-skinned, brown-eyed, black-haired people in America, Russia, Africa, Australia, Europe, Mars.

Leah first saw her own picture on someone’s wall when she was thirteen. It was in a friend’s house, put up by the mother. Leah was unsurprised, for all the cameras.

On her walk home a black limousine pulled up beside her. A brown man in sunglasses stepped out, took her hand and pulled her into an alley. His cologne smell clashed with the rotten odor of the street; old plastic shopping bags crunched underfoot. The man led her deep into the alley and shoved her into a brick wall; her skin broke in twenty places. The man left the Spring Dragon Lily behind as the red wine leaked from minute holes and bruises. Weak as a kitten, Leah brought her arm to her mouth and tried to suck back her lost blood. It tasted sweet. Eventually her arm fell, and Leah fell asleep.

The man in the limousine lit a cigarette, bore nicotine-stained lungs, smoke rings obscuring brown eyes. Hundreds of years of genetic and social engineering had not been wasted.

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