Worlds Away is all about perspectives: what may appear like a wonderful situation to one person is often the living nightmare of another. The novel is written in the third person, but the chapters alternate between different characters in terms of viewpoint. I’ve always found it important that an author does not spoon-feed their reader thoughts. I show you the characters as they are, and you, with your unique world view, make your own decisions about them.
Last week’s chapter was Charlotte, and her perspective is immediately followed by Martin’s, a Supplementary Human whose “world” differs to hers enormously. Branded a Supplementary at eleven, Martin’s view of the Cause is cynical at best. In this extract, he meets Dr. Richard Dawns, a Panel representative and head of Dawns’ Laboratories.
Make of both men what you will.
“Come in.” Doctor Richard Dawns barely looked up from his work as Sup Martin entered the room. Martin took in the vast opulence of the office and felt a shudder of revulsion that he no longer had to think to suppress. Doctor Dawns rested on a vast leather armchair, surrounded by expensive bronze statues and potted plants – almost certainly stolen. Martin glanced at the pile of pre-packed dried food in the corner – out of date but valuable nevertheless, and felt a familiar pang of hunger. He was sure that Doctor Dawns kept that food there to torment the Supplementaries that he called into his lair, to remind them of his power and his full stomach.
“Ah, so it’s you they have sent me.” The word “you” was accompanied with a little spit, barely noticeable but certainly there. “Martin…Huthwater is it?”
“Martin Huthwaite, Sir, Supplementary Species 81873, at your service.”
“Oh, of course. You’re the one whose family…” Richard Dawns offered a cursory wave of his hand as he organised several stacks of paper in front of him.
“All gone. Yes, Sir.”
“Very good. Well, we thought you an ideal choice for our next endeavour, Sup Martin.” Doctor Dawns finally placed his papers on the desk and looked at the man across from him. The doctor’s thick black-rimmed glasses seemed wedged to his thin head, and matched the colour of his jet-black hair. Martin noted that his hair had been styled with gel, and wondered where on earth he could have gotten that. He noted also that, in classic terms, Richard Dawns might be described as handsome, sporting high cheek bones and dark mahogany eyes, which he wore quite well on his sixty-five-year-old face. His black suit was classic and tailored, and, Martin noticed with a start, seemed new. That said, he seemed so artificial, and Martin imagined how, under the hair gel and the streamlined clothes, he would be flabby and wrinkled. The thought gave him a rush akin to a blasphemous thought in church.
“You see, Sup Martin, we are finally in a position to travel somewhere else. Not a great deal is known about it yet, and I shan’t bore you with the details, as you wouldn’t understand anyway, of course.” A snort of derision to which Martin didn’t react. “But the fact of the matter is, you’re going. Congratulations. The sterilisation procedure will be reversed and you will help settle on a new planet.”
Despite the lurching in his stomach, Martin’s well-rehearsed composure remained. “Thank you, Sir.”
“Damn and blast, man! Is that all you can say? I’d have thought you’d be a little more grateful.”
Martin did his best to ignore the large painted copy of Oscar 70, proudly displayed behind Richard Dawns’ desk. Whoever had painted it had added a glowing red star in the corner, which served to illuminate the planet in what Martin thought was an overly flattering way. The efforts did not serve to improve an impression of what he felt was really quite a barren and dull landscape, overwhelmed with brown and grey. He had very little desire to go there – he assumed that this was the “somewhere else” the doctor had referred to – but he didn’t really care to stay here either. “I’m sorry, Sir. I truly am grateful, of course.”