Monday 4 December 2017

Water & Glass by Abi Curtis @AbiCurtisWriter @midaspr #BlogTour @CLBPressUK

In the lower depths of a massive submarine, ship's zoologist Nerissa Crane takes an ultrasound of a heavily pregnant Asian elephant.  The elephant conceived off-ship but, it transpires, was forced on board - along with Nerissa and a hastily assembled collection of humans and animals - by an apocalyptic environmental disaster that has flooded the earth. Nerissa is calm and solitary in her work and in navigating the trauma of her husband's presumed death in the floods; but when one of her animal charges escapes, she is reluctantly forced to enter the ship's thrown-together communal world where she uncovers a shocking conspiracy that causes her to question who and what she is.    Water & Glass is a thrilling dystopian tale about human nature - and the animal world - under great pressure and in enclosed spaces.

Water And Glass by Abi Curtis was published on 30 November by Cloud Lodge Books. I'm delighted to share an extract from the book as part of the Blog Tour arranged by Midas PR.

The Baleen

Nerissa watches the monitor. 
A wraith hangs there in the grey-green static, mournful face closed, giving up no secrets. She looks at the feet, noting their development. The heartbeatpips steadily, turned down low. This life is just beginning. Nerissa doesn’t know how it will fare here, aboard the Baleen, below decks in the dark blue light.   
Reva shuffles as the transducer rolls over the rough, grey skin of her abdomen. Her legs move like classical columns slowly shifting against the wooden boards. 
Shhh,” Nerissa soothes, running a hand down Reva’s trunk. Reva plants her wet mouth against her arm. Seven months to go. Reva has been carrying this baby for fifteen months already, twelve months before they boarded the Baleen. So patient. Nerissa wonders if she knows instinctively what is forming inside her. She eyes the sonogram a little longer, the short trunk, the ghostly, hollow eyes. She tries not to dwell on the day when Reva will finally give birth, hoping it will not be here on the wooden deck, the other creatures curious and afraid around her, listening to her deep moans. They had only managed to bring two
elephants with them, both female, one African, one Asian. The African died a month ago. 
Nerissa could not determine the cause, partly because she did not have all of the equipment she needed for an autopsy. She wondered if the elephant knew she shouldn’t be here, below the ocean, that she recognised the plains of her homeland were submerged and felt herself to be drowning. They had to heave the silver body into the ocean. She thinks of it resting on the sea-bed now, like a beautiful fallen oak. The largest creature aboard the Baleen now gone. 
Perhaps one day, they could do something with the DNA sample Nerissa keeps safely labelled in the freezer. Perhaps not; such science no longer exists, and many backward steps have already been taken. She pats Reva, who gives a low rumble and settles back into her pen. 

Nerissa hoists herself up the creaking steps, and back into her workroom. The place is something between a veterinary surgery and a makeshift laboratory, entered through a low, oval door. The floors are rough wooden boards, hastily pushed together and varnished. Along one wall is a white, polished countertop, with two steel sinks set into it, and Formica cupboards underneath. A steel table is in the centre, with leather straps for restraining larger animals, or keeping them steady if the waves are rough. Nerissa has a variety of monitors, some salvaged from hospitals, others from an old consulting room. There are two computers, one for admin work, another larger one for displaying x-rays, sonograms, cardiographs. She’s grateful for the taps that filter the seawater, and the hot tap that works intermittently. 
Nerissa connects her portable transducer to the large screen, watches the images load. She notes each measurement, thinking about what to name the calf. "Shem” for a boy, “Ruth” for a girl? 

Nerissa works mostly alone, her clients the animals themselves, shifting on the deck beneath. Her past life is only a few months behind her, but it feels like a decade ago. It seems an age since the bungles and triumphs of her training: poring over textbooks with images of organs and veins, blue and red and labelled in an unfamiliar language. She remembers the first animal she worked on, with its tiny beating heart, how it died in a quiver on the table; the
first that came back to life, stitched up and wagging. She gained experience whilst she studied by volunteering at a clinic not far from the college. She cycled to work each day with the sea breeze salting her face, never knowing quite what the hours might bring: a deer snagged on a fence, panicky and beautiful; a parakeet, stubbornly flapping in the corner of the consulting room; a thin, knowing stray, submitting to her touch. She had never got used to
putting an animal down, to the owner burying their hands and face into its furry neck and weeping their goodbye. But she had loved bringing the rag-tag queue passing through the surgery back to health, back to being with their owners who more often than not loved them as they would love a child. 
She found herself drawn more and more to stranger animals: sly salamanders, rolled up hedgehogs, leverets with their long, alien limbs. Whilst many of her clients thought of their pets as human, she fell in love with creatures for their difference from humans. The way an owl sees the edges of the world, and lives for the darkness, or the way a dog can smell the invisible guilt on a person. The opportunities came for exploration, volunteering. 
Her work took her to Asia where she encountered canny orang-utans in the forests of Borneo. Then she had met Greg and learned to dive. Greg with his clever eyes, with his way of touching her lightly on the back on the neck, to ease her fears before she dove in. It was Greg who had introduced her to the hump-backed whales. They were ancient, like slow-moving cities from past centuries. She had to overcome her phobia of water to dive with them, her legs trembling
in the grey-blue shadows. One had passed close by, a dark eye swivelling; she felt the suck of the current as it went. She saw barnacles freckling its skin. She felt great joy in its total dismissal of her, as if for a moment she were without body or soul and did not have to fear again. 
That was before her time at the Institute, and before the floods had truly come. Before she had made her choice.

Abi Curtis is Professor of Creative Writing at York St. John University and is an award-winning poet. 
In 2004, she received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. Her first poetry collection Unexpected Weather was published after winning the Crashaw Poetry Prize in 2008, and in 2013 Curtis received a Somerset Maugham Award for her second poetry collection The Glass Delusion. 
Water & Glass is her first novel.

Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @AbiCurtisWriter 

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