Sharif Gemie is a happily retired history lecturer who lives in south Wales, United Kingdom. Fourteen of his short stories and two of his flash fictions have been published. His first novel, The Displaced, will be published later in 2022. It’s about a middle-class British couple who volunteer to work with refugees in Germany at the end of the Second World War.
I wonder what sunlight feels like. I can see it through the monitor: a warm, yellow light. But what would it feel like on my skin? Like putting my arm too close to a lamp? Can’t it burn? I remember a word in an old book: sunburn.
And rain? Wind? I think a lot about things like this. All I’ve got is pictures from the monitor. I used to be able to move the camera, but now it’s stuck. In summer, leaves grow on the tree in front of it and I can’t see the hill opposite. In spring and autumn I see the hills and one little white house opposite. In the evenings its lights come on, tiny gleaming spots. What sort of people live there? In winter it rains and I don’t see much.
I want to go Outside—at least, I think I do… I’ve got to make up my mind. In three days, I’ll have my chance.
‘Shev!’ Someone calls me from the Big Room. I don’t move.
My mum and dad called me Jasmine, or Jazz. But after they went… After that, I started reading. Shevek was a man in a book my mum liked. I didn’t understand all of it, but I loved this story about a man who travelled between two places. I talked and talked and talked about it to the other children, but most of them don’t read books. To tease me, they called me Shevek.
After the grown-ups went, most of us got new names. There’s Mama Mandy, who’s 19 and isn’t a mother, but she treats us like children. There’s Geek, who says he knows how the programs on the Hub work and there’s Slob… I guess his name is obvious.
My parents were teachers. There used to be two teachers, two nurses, two engineers and a biologist and a technician, and eight families of executives. My dad explained it all to me. 48 people moved here, before I was born. I’ve checked the date on the Hub: 20 April 2025. There was a disease, people died and there were food riots… My dad told me this many times, but I always had questions. If everyone was dying, why did 48 people move here? Who decided who would be saved? Dad would smile and say: