The newspaper, which was called The Better Times, was a creamy colour, but the first thing I noticed was its weight and size. You still saw the occasional printed newspaper outside Factory 19, of course, but they were tabloids, pathetic little things of barely a few dozen pages, full of poorly written and unproofread stories generated for online audiences and printed as an afterthought.
I settled back against the feathered pillows Barney had plumped for me and read while enjoying the rest of my breakfast. I counted nine news stories on the front page alone, along with a grainy black-and-white photograph of D.F. cutting a ribbon at a midwifery centre, surrounded by smiling pregnant mothers. LET THE BABY BOOM BEGIN! ran the headline.
‘Come right to your home to help you give birth, those midwives do, sir,’ said Barney, looking over my shoulder. ‘Only the best for our mothers.’
I tried to open the broadsheet and fold it in half, but the thick, stiff paper wrinkled and pleated unevenly down the spine. Barney took it and, with a snap, doubled it over cleanly. ‘You’ll get used to it. These old newspapers, they sort of grow on you. First-class batting averages are on the back page every Monday, I’m told. But maybe try not to dawdle, sir. First day: best be punctual.’
I finished my breakfast and went to the bathroom. There was no shower, only a bath. Barney was dipping a thermometer into the water. ‘Just on 107 degrees, sir; should be just right.’
‘What? Are you trying to scald me?’
‘Fahrenheit, sir. Now remember, you’ve got just fifteen minutes to soak. I’ll put on the radio – it’s getting time for the bulletin.’ Barney had left a mirror by the tub so I could shave. The safety razor was already loaded with a fresh blade, and easier to use than I thought. I closed my eyes for five minutes and just relaxed, blissfully, in the warm, soapy water. This idea – of having a long, hot bath first thing in the morning – seemed so unusual and unproductive that I felt as if I was breaking some sort of unwritten law (one sure to be written down one day if certain people got their way).
The bulletin came on. A horn of some sort played an arrangement of the tune ‘Oranges and Lemons’ before the speaker announced, ‘This is Radio 19 calling. Here is the World Service News, with Francis Liddell reading it.’
By this stage it didn’t surprise me at all to hear the announcer’s deep-voiced BBC accent.
‘The world awoke today to a new experiment in human society. The gambling tycoon Mr Dundas Faussett’s long-closed Gallery of Future Art, which has been a source of speculation since mysterious building activity began there some two years ago, has reopened in dramatic style, as a factory. In a statement released to the press, the factory’s director, Mr Faussett, said the products of the plant would compete for the international public’s loyalty against the bland and uniform offerings that dominate the consumer markets today and would be manufactured by a well-respected, well-treated, permanently employed and unionised workforce. The new community, which he calls Factory 19, provides the people of the world with an option as to when they want to live. Until now, he stated, people have been able to choose between places to live, so why not between times? His ultimate aim, he said, was to replace the Fourth Industrial Revolution with the Second.
‘Reactions from around the world have been swift. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial called upon Congress to impose immediate economic sanctions. The founder of the Microsoft Corporation, Mr Bill Gates, speaking from Silicon Valley, denounced Factory 19 as a new form of Luddism that threatens the living standards of the entire world. The owner of Amazon, Mr Jeff Bezos, said he looked forward to selling Factory 19’s vintage products through his shopping website and would consider purchasing the factory should it prove a success. Tesla founder Mr Elon Musk tweeted that Mr Fawcett was, quote, “a total dick”.
‘In other news . . .’
Factory 19 is in stores on 3 November. Pre-order now.