Sevastopol was a novel which I wrote for a contest to write a children’s book. Needless to say victory was not mine. The novel was written quickly, as I only had two months in which to come up with the idea, write the novel, and send it off. At least coming up with ideas is not something which I have had a problem with, before. But this was my first and only attempt at writing any kind of a book which was suitable for children.
Despite being a children’s novel, this is quite a dark book, about a boy who escapes into our reality from a world where Britain is still run by Puritans, and the head of state is a Lord Protector. That world diverged from our reality hundreds of years ago, with the English language going off in a different direction: the dialect spoken by Sevastopol, the boy, is very different to the English of our world, despite still obviously being the same tongue (there is a very short glossary at the back of the novel).
Extract from Sevastopol
The police came and took the nine-year old boy away, intending to take him back to his school, and then inform his parents that he had been discovered trespassing on the railway lines. But he would not speak to the nice, young WPC who talked to him. Nor would he talk to the woman from social services who came to see him. He said not a single word.
There was no identification on him, only the school uniform that he wore with the symbol of a silver unicorn rampant. And nobody knew what school it represented. There was no name on the clothing, no writing anywhere on the items that he wore.
As it appeared that he was unable or unwilling to speak, he was taken to see a psychiatrist, to see if there was something wrong with his mind. Perhaps the experience of seeing a train thundering towards him had caused him to go into shock. But the psychiatrist, a young Indian doctor by the name of Sarwal, could not say one way or the other, as the boy would not communicate. Dr Sarwal suggested that the boy stayed in for observation, until the police were able to find out who he was. And the police were happy to get the boy off their hands. So he was handed from railwayman, to railwayman, to police, to health and social care, a mere thing to be bandied about.
The police rand around the schools in the area, but they could not find any whose uniform matched what the boy had been found in. It was almost as though he had appeared out of thin air.
Dr Sarwal had one of his staff bring some food and water for the boy, as he had not yet been fed. The fare was simple, only a cheese sandwich. The boy sniffed it, as though suspicious that he was about to be poisoned. He pulled the sandwich apart, and examined the cheese inside. Perhaps it was not the best cheese in the world, being processed cheddar bought from a cheapo supermarket. But it surely should not have been inspected by the boy as though it were some totally alien foodstuff.
He picked all of the cheese out of the sandwich, and put it on the side of the plastic plate that he’d been given. He then ate, slowly at first, but with increasing speed, the bread and margarine that remained. It was as though he had not eaten for days, and the staff nurse who watched him eat feared that he might choke.
A bed was made up for this boy by the staff. The police had not been in contact, and it looked as though he would have to stay the night, as there was nobody and nowhere to return him to. It was only when the staff nurse – Derek, he who had watched him almost choke on his cheeseless bread – undressed the boy for bed that the true horror of the boy’s situation was discovered.
The boy’s back was covered with old wounds, scars from whip marks that had formed raised, white scars. It was clear that the boy had been abused. Derek called Dr Sarwal. And Dr Sarwal rang the police. This was the clearest case of child abuse that the good doctor had ever seen. Perhaps this was the reason for the silence – the boy was afraid of adults.
The boy was interviewed by a Detective Chief Inspector this time, one by the name of Crabtree. A matronly woman from social services was present, as was Dr Sarwal himself. But how can you interview somebody who does not speak?
The DCI took photographs of the scars, on an old style camera. He explained that courts did not like digital cameras, as the images could be too easily altered on computers. It was only when the flash went off that the boy covered his eyes and said his first word:
Sevastopol is available as an e-book on the Amazon Kindle store.