‘You can’t stop me!’
‘Yes, we can. Geek and me, we’ll make our beds here, in three days’ time, in front of the door.’
She’s serious. I feel like a little girl, being told what to do by my mum and dad.
‘Sorry, Shev, but we can’t let you.’
Back in my pod, I slump on my bed. They’ll stop me. I’d thought they might not want to go, but this! And now I’ve told them everything… If only I’d kept quiet. But—I didn’t tell them about the date.
The next day, I’m particularly good. I don’t spend too long looking at the monitor, I don’t read much. I help Mama Mandy with the little ones, I teach Box to read his name. I call Slob to come out of his room for meals. I help Mandy plan the celebrations for the 25th year of The Saved.
‘I’m sorry we argued, Shev,’ she says the next evening.
I wonder if she’s changed her mind.
‘I’m sorry,’ she continues. ‘But someone has to think about all of us and that someone seems to be me.’
I nod, but think: stop trying to sound like you’re my mum!
‘I know you like looking at the monitor,’ she says, ‘and I can see that it looks—well, pretty. I’d like to touch a tree and see the sky, I would.’
I nod again.
‘But you have to remember what Geek has found. Outside is dangerous. We can’t let you bring it back here.’
Who says I’d want to come back, I think.
‘So let’s just work at making things better here, okay? Not fill our heads with pretty pictures of Outside.’
‘Yes, Mandy,’ I say.
‘And let’s make sure that the twenty-fifth birthday party for The Saved is the best one ever!’
She sounds like she believes what she’s saying. I look at the grey walls and the straight white benches. I see the scratches on the floor, I see the goo marks on the wall, I see the flickering light in the ceiling and I think: it’s this place that’s not real. A pretend mother, pretend food, pretend birthdays for a pretend family…