‘Remember this, Jazz,’ he said. ‘Remember this!’
Dad kept coughing, he couldn’t stop. Mum lay on the bed, her face red, breathing hard.
‘Go to your room, Jazz. Mum and I need to be alone.’
I went to the door.
‘Don’t close the door!’ he called, but I did.
One month The Saved were 54 people: 46 grown-ups and their children. The next month, they were just 8. All children, all under 14. And while Dad had told me about the door, none of the grown-ups had thought about something else even more important: the controls for the Hub.
It’s Mama Mandy. I’ve got to go.
The Big Room’s too big for us. It was meant for fifty grown-ups. We sit in one corner: just eight children. No, seven. Slob isn’t here, he’s even later than me. There are white benches made out of smooth, clean material—maybe not so clean now—and red and green patterns on bits of paper, stuck on the wall. Mandy has been teaching the little ones to draw and their first efforts are these wild, crazy patterns.
‘Pink or blue?’ I ask.
‘Blue,’ replies Mandy, and I scowl.
Blue goo, from the dispenser next to the Big Room. Food used to be more interesting. There was soup, custard, beans, biscuits… After the Collapse, something happened to the Hub. Geek tried again and again to order the food we remembered, but he always got the same message. PARENTAL CONTROL. YOU DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO THIS PROGRAMME. Parental control! It controlled our lives now. Some days the dispenser produced blue goo, some days pink goo, and that was it. That and water. Nothing else. I prefer pink goo: it has a soft, sweet taste that reminds me of something—strawberries, I think.
Slob comes in and sees three cartons of goo left. The dispenser always produces ten cartons.
‘Anyone wants those?’ he asks, but picks them up before there’s an answer.
‘Why don’t you stay and talk?’ asks Mama Mandy. ‘Tell us what you’ve been doing.’
‘As if anything ever happens here…’ mutters Slob as he walks back to his pod.