I am living on a ship of my father’s creation. I live with five hundred people whom my father has chosen. We have everything we could ever need – endless freezers full of food, access to music, art, films. Games, craft materials, time to learn, to share, to try. Everything is clean, everyone has work and a purpose. We have an infirmary supplied with medicines and equipment and a doctor who knows how to use them (although he couldn’t save my mother).
My father has banished time. He has abolished the days of the week. There are no longer any dates – as he says, we no longer need them. Everyone is so grateful for what we have and so afraid of what we left behind that there is no need for my father to enforce his one rule – that we do not look back. Who wants to remember starvation, homelessness, disease? Governments killing their own people? The petrolheads on the street, the bodies of the dispossessed?
But I remember London. I remember our walls dancing orange when the street dwellers lit oildrums in the square. I remember the foul smells of the outside, the hunger and the fear, my mother and I leaving food for the people hiding in the British Museum, where she taught me. I have made friends; I think I might have fallen in love. But Patience in the laundry, Helen in the school, Gerhardt in the kitchen, even Tom, can’t stop me wondering whether I will ever see a fresh egg, or eat an apple. Or why are there twelve cots and a wedding dress in the stores, or why the sun now rises and set on the same side of the ship.
My mother is dead and there is no one I can ask. Everyone else was chosen, and they are too grateful to ask questions. But I am my father’s daughter. He did not choose me. Everything I know, I learned at the British Museum. And now I must decide what I am to do next.
The Ship will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in February 2015.
“mind-blowing….a dystopian novel with a utopian heart that will appeal across genres and age-ranges”
Arzu Tahsin, Weidenfeld & Nicolson deputy publishing director.