Sherlock decided that, as he was branded unmutual, he'd live up to that name. The day the tannoy speaker, that robotically cheery voice, had said as much, he'd smiled. He was well used to being alone, no one to care for him (except the annoyingly overbearing Mycroft), no friends, few willing acquaintances, so this was by no means a stretch. He almost preferred it to the perpetual hello how are yous and the you're looking good todays!
So today, instead of picking up his black blazer with its white piping and the blue turtleneck, he picked up a bedsheet.
He wore it—and nothing else—because he was bored, primarily. Bored and stubborn and rebellious and angry. He was certainly turning heads—away from him. He walked down the Village lawn, sat in the Stone Boat, observed a human chess match, and even attended an orchestra concert (he'd been banned from playing.) It amused him to see their reactions. Confusion, terror, shame, and even laughter from several of the elderly Villagers.
"Number 16," a voice warned. It was one of the wardens from the hospital. Not John, of course, he hadn't seen John in weeks, but someone he recognized all the same.
"I don't answer to that."
"If you don't stop this nonsense, you'll be taken for Social Conversion. No one wants that."
"Then why threaten me with it?" Two rather burly men stepped forward. "Dull," was all the notion he gave it until he felt a sticky membrane on his hair and heard an alien roar. The Village guardian, Rover, stood(?) behind him. No way out. "I suppose it wouldn't do to convince you that I lost a bet?"
"Come with us, Number 16, we don't want this to get ugly."
"Afraid you'll break a nail?" Sherlock abandoned his sheet and sprinted off across the perfectly-manicured lawn. If he was going out, he was giving them all one last shock.
He made it ten yards before Rover swallowed him.
58 caught sight of his ex-friend in a hospital gown on a gurney, being wheeled into the operating theatre. "What's going on?" He tried to follow, but the larger men stepped in his way.
"You're not meant to have contact with him, remember?"
58 saw where they were taking Sherlock. Social Conversion. He felt weak.
Eyes opening. Head hurts. The room feels wobbly.
What used to be Sherlock sat up and looked around his hospital room. Wasn't thinking a lot easier than this? He noticed things. Simple things. Man. Woman. Green. Blue. Sad.
"How are you, Number 16?"
"16," he repeated. "That's me."
"Yes, it is you. How are you?"
16 reached to his temple, where a bandage was stuck, and he pressed it, feeling a soft squish. "Sleepy. I want the sunlight. Salt air." The hospital personnel gave him some clothing and he slowly dressed himself. He turned and saw a man who looked familiar, though he couldn't place him. His head tilted. "I know you," he said, prompting the other man to burst into silent tears and walk away. "Wait, come back…I know you…"
16 had only vague memories. Memories of being lonely, of being angry, of being bored. But why? The Village was perfect. Everything he ever wanted was here. Even if he never saw the man who'd started crying again, he had other friends, friends from the hospital where he now lived half of the time. 78 and 22 and 107, mostly. They played together and read together. They painted. They drew. They were happy.
58 couldn't bear to go near Sherlock again. He'd known of other people who'd been Converted, but they'd never been his friend. They'd never been so brilliant. They'd never been so…alive. And even when 58 met the woman in his dream, he never told her about his name or his lessons, or anything else about Sherlock—about 16. He just wanted to fight the monsters who'd taken that genius and torn him to shreds.
He went to the beach.
16 always, even in his happy moments, felt like there was a hole in him. He never told anyone (well, except 292) that he wanted to leave. To want to leave meant he was broken, unhappy. In his dreams, sometimes, he was a different man. Someone strong, someone proud, someone clever. Everything that 16 wasn't. He just wanted to escape the limits of his feeble mind, to have his brain fly free.
He went to the beach.
Then there was only the ocean and the sky and the figure of a man, born with a number, given a name, yearning to sprout wings so as to attack this monstrous city from above.
Then there was only the ocean and the sky and the figure of a man, born with a name, given a number, yearning to sprout wings so as to fly into the clouds and never return to Earth.