Thank you to everyone who has bought my book so far.
For those of you who haven’t (yet), here is an extract from Chapter Two. We rejoin Dan at home and meet the rest of his colleagues:
First light caught him awake as it seeped through the blinds. He often woke early. The nights were dark in the Shropshire countryside of his childhood. From his flat on the third floor he could make out the constellations of Orion and the Plough on clear nights, but he had yet to adjust to the dull brown haze that encircled the city after the sun went down. Outside it looked to be the sort of grey skies that came every other day in spring.
“The Prime Minister is in Rochester today as the election campaign begins,” announced the radio presenter.
Dan sat up on the edge of his bed. He was just starting to get his flat the way he wanted it. He liked the exposed brickwork that ran down two sides of his flat. He liked the wooden floorboards with innumerable scratches that felt cool underneath his feet. On the brickwork hung prints of industrial Manchester and Salford. A desk stood in one corner by a window. Above it was a motorbike calendar and a picture of an American desert scene. It showed enormous rocks that towered over cacti that stood like thorny scarecrows in dusty red-brown fields. One day, he had long promised himself, he would ride a motorbike along one of those roads that runs in a straight line to the horizon. His mountain bike lay awkwardly in the corner: he felt uncomfortable leaving it locked up outside.
“With the election weeks away, the other party leaders are on the campaign trail. Tara Wilkinson is visiting a factory in Lancaster, while Oliver Shore is visiting a care home in Leicester.”
Dan wiped the mist off his bathroom mirror after his shower and ran hot water in the sink. His brown eyes stared back at him. Crow’s feet were sinking more deeply into the tight skin around his eyes. They were a reminder that he was getting older. He had recently turned twenty-seven years old. He had probably less than twelve months of mileage from the term ‘mid-twenties’. The small chicken pox scar above his left eyebrow had been with him as long as he could remember. His face was supported by a strong jaw with a beard a shade darker of brown than his hair. He removed the stubble from his cheeks and chin and hurriedly threw on a red T-shirt, jeans, faded trainers and his hoodie that he retrieved from the floor. The streets were quiet outside. The graffitied shutters of the cafés and shops were still pulled down. The early buses had the roads to themselves. After a brisk ten minute walk the handsome building that housed the Dust offices came into view. The former warehouse was built in that self-confident Victorian style that assumed the building was going to stand forever. The frames of the rows of arched windows were painted dark green. They were ringed by darkened yellow bricks, standing out from the red that had once built the entire city. The name of the original occupant was emblazoned in the middle of an oval plaque – J. T. Archer & Son, 1895. The Archers had long since left: the only other company in the building was a trendy architectural firm on the third floor. Dan pressed the code to get in and took the ancient lift with its iron grille to floor above. The stale air in the Dust corridor did no favours to his lungs. His feet echoed on the tiles as he crossed to the door.
“Sorry I’m late,” said Dan, finding the rest of the team already working.
“Sit down Dan, don’t worry about it,” replied Hadi.
It sounded as though his boss was in a good mood. Hadi Ghazzali was not an easy man to read. His accent, distinct as it was, had a way of disguising feeling, and he was not a man prone to swings of emotion.
“We are close to one hundred thousand users,” said his boss. Hadi was a stocky, muscular man. He wore his tight-fitting T-shirt, black jeans and boots like a military uniform. He appeared to live his life according to a similar sort of discipline. That at least was Dan’s impression – his boss rarely disclosed details of his life beyond work. Hadi was older than him, older than the rest of the team in fact, but he had the enthusiasm and drive of a much younger man. His age only showed in the flecks of grey that were beginning to collect above his ears. His eyes remained jet-black, soulful and pensive.
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