Graylight by Danielle Dreger

Dressed in their yellow flight jumpsuit, Koob was camouflaged as they rode the matching escalator to the tenth floor.  Gray daylight (graylight as The Scientists now called it) filtered in the large windows of this historical whale of a monument called LIBRARY. The sun had not broken free from the clouds for the last seventy-nine years, not since bookbots replaced the dusty tomes Koob’s great-grandmother had once shelved in this building. A place she said everyone lingered.

There was no lingering now.

Koob had spent fifteen minutes earlier transferring all the data they could from the bookbots in section 979.9777. Their plan was to deploy historical facts to impress Marvis on their first date as they gazed out the windows at the barren landscape of what used to be downtown Seattle. After the Great Quake of 2028, LIBRARY was all that remained downtown. The rest of the city building rubble had been used by Boeing to build environmental friendly travel ships to Mars.

Marvis was waiting for Koob next to an empty steel table. The way the graylight captured Marvis transferring data from a bookbot into their brain via USB was the most beautiful thing Koob had ever seen.

“Hi, Marvis,”Koob said clutching a bouquet of kale leaves. According to the Secret Language of Vegetables (bookbot in section 635), kale leaves said, “I would brave the winter for you,” making them the number one selling romance vegetable of all time. Also, kale flourished in graylight and was one of the few foods The Scientists sanctioned.

“Hi,” Marvis said. “Just a nanosecond while I finish uploading.”

Koob glanced around the nearly empty room while Marvis finished with their bookbot. They couldn’t help smiling to themselves at having encountered someone else who consumed information like they did. Koob had known the minute they’d seen Marvis in bookbot section 523.8875, that they had stumbled upon their own soulmate. Far too few people devoted time to uploading information anymore, unless of course, The Scientists ruled it mandatory.

“Download complete,” Marvis said. When they smiled at Koob, that same genuine smile as before, travel ships soared in Koob’s heart. Koob handed Marvis the kale leaves. Marvis sniffed them before taking a small bite. “Delicious,” they said. Marvis’s tongue skirted around their mouth before they asked, “Is their kale in my teeth?”

No.” Koob leaned over and took a bite of their own from the leaves.  “Is there any in mine?” Marvis smiled and time froze.

Together they looked out the windows at the Sound, nearly the same gray as the sky. “Ferries used to sail across to Bainbridge Island,” Koob said, reciting from bookbot section 979.776. “When Vashon Island couldn’t house all the polio patients anymore, Bainbridge took them on. The Scientists quarantined all the Smallpox patients to the San Juan Island.”

“I like it when you talk nerdy to me,” Marvis said and reached for Koob’s hand. The wandered to another bay of windows. “That’s where the Seahawks played football before football was banned on Earth by The Scientists. Such a shame that they never managed to win another Super Bowl until they started playing on Mars. Some of The Scientists believe it was Beast Mode that started the Great Quake of 2028.” Marvis pointed the bouquet of kale at their head. “I confess I just uploaded that to impress you.”

“I know that bookbot,” Koob said. “Section 551.22. I’m flattered that you wanted to impress me.” Koob leaned into kiss Marvis, their heart pounding like the Great Quake of 2028. Marvis kissed Koob back, the kale leaves scattering to the floor just like in the bookbot section Historical Romance. They kissed for seconds or maybe centuries, it was hard to tell. Koob had Marvis pressed against a window when a voice belonging to The Keeper of the bookbots said, “There is no food allowed in LIBRARY.”

Author’s note: Marvis and Koob are genderqueer. The appropriate genderqueer pronouns are they/them rather than him/her. In my version of the future, we are all genderqueer and equal.

# # #

Danielle Dreger is a librarian and writer in Seattle. Her flash fiction has appeared in Driftless Review, Stratus, Fiction Fix and 200 cc’s. She formerly was the Seattle Book Examiner for and is a current contributor to Preemie Babies 101 (Hand to Hold’s official blog). She is at work on a YA novel and is repped by Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary.

Photo credit: Matt Tran


Leave a Comment