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Naming Day

On the morning of the Naming Day, I am up early. It's also my birthday, but I've seen six of them and will see at least another hundred. The Naming Day is different, special. I am excited. My parents are still asleep. Al, the home computer, will wake them up in an hour with wind chime sounds and the smell of brewing coffee.

I put on a T-shirt, shorts, sandals and slip out. Where to go? The forest? The lake? But even before my Naming Ceremony I am very grown-up and responsible. I will not go far; I will not be late for the big event. The garden, then.

The dew is sparkling on the long grass in the garden. I cross it and climb the old apple tree, and sit where its limbs fork. I can see other trees' glossy beginning-of-summer leaves rippling like a green sea. I am the captain, leading my ship to unknown lands.

A bee drone lands on the branch, waits until its wings' solar panels are charged, then lifts off. I've seen a real bee once, but they mostly died off and were replaced by the drones. A caravan of live ants stream up the tree trunk, and for a while I interfere with their work by putting twigs and saliva blobs in their path.

And then my wristpad beeps. My mum is up and waiting for me to have breakfast. I slide from the tree, run to the house, and wash my hands. Then I have breakfast, porridge with honey and a glass of milk.

My mum asks, "Are you nervous about the ceremony? Did you change your mind?"

"I made my decision a long time ago. I am not nervous at all." But I don't finish my porridge or even my milk, as my stomach is the size of a nut.

I wash my plate and glass. Of course, we have Al, the domestic robot to do chores, but my parents think that using my hands is character building and good for my motor skills. I'd rather use my hands to build another bot, instead of living in the Dark Ages.

After breakfast, I go into our immer room full of hologram-projecting, SD sound and smell machines, where I studygame and game. My friend AKM from Barcelona told me about this game just last week, so I am still on level 3. I login through the iris scan. None of my friends are online because it's nighttime in Europe, and I don't want to chat with new people today while I am still ArZiAi (RZI33, but I don't know any other RZI, so 33 is silent). I game in single mode and spend some time solving puzzles and constructing my House with earned gold. I am a smashing puzzle solver.

To think that only twenty years ago children used to go to 'school'. It was a building where they sat in groups of fifty on the floor and recited The Bible, and the Periodic table and such from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. An adult called teacher' beat the children with a stick for not remembering stuff. It would've been horrible to live then. Maybe that's why my parents act so weird sometimes.

My father calls me on the wristpad. It's time to prepare for the ceremony. I go into the shower and wash my bark-stained feet and scratched knees. The White Robe is hanging from the door. I put it on, comb my hair, wince when it gets caught in the comb. Maybe I should shave it off.

The house smells of cakes baking in the stove. The kitchen is now full of food trays. Some of the food made by local cafes, some by my parents. No robot cooking.

The guests, mostly our family, like great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers arrive and pile up presents on a table. My friends say hello and keep away from me in my White Robe. There will be time for games later.

They have all gathered here: people who came from all over the continent just standing around drinking wine, puffing on e-joints, and eating snacks. I notice a couple of avatars, remotely controlled drones projecting a hologram, but they are my parent's contacts. It would be really rude for anybody I know not to come in person. You wouldn't send your avatar to a wedding or a funeral, would you?

At last it's time for the ceremony. My heart beats like a hummingbird - I studygamed about those. They're extinct now - and my hands shake. Everybody stops what they're doing. Guests part into two sections, leaving a path for me. I walk toward an old lady in a Blue Robe and a laurel wreath on her head, standing at the gate. I stand in front of her and bow my head.

I need a drink, and my heart is close to exploding.

Then there is some chanting, some sprinkling of water and scattering of grains to the spirits. I don't believe in spirits, and I don't think many of the people here do, but that's what we always do at a Naming Ceremony.

After that, the priest lady puts a drop of some good smelling oil on my head. Everyone goes quiet, everything - silent, even the birds. It's the moment everybody came here to witness, which makes me even more nervous.

I say, almost shout, "My name will be Sky, and I will be a girl".

They all applaud and cheer.