Dissatisfied with his current life, our narrator, William Guest, goes to sleep one night in his London home, Old Hammersmith, completely unaware that his life is about to change. Come morning, Guest finds himself in a changed city—one he recognizes but has never seen before. It is now the year 2003—a far cry from his late-nineteenth century world—and he’s quick to discover that this new land is full of new ideas. No prisons, no currency, no disease to speak of, and no stress keep the beautiful population young for decades. It is an entire society based on the idea that, in the making of goods, quality presides over quantity, and the only things made are made out of desire not necessity. In this Utopian world, all work is pleasure, no person is forced into any job they have not asked for.
After his waking, the first person Guest meets is Dick, a young man who is quick to provide Guest with unconditional hospitality. He, in turn, becomes Guest’s guide through this new world, and it is decided that Guest ought to meet Dick’s great grandfather, Old Hammond, who is a historian of sorts and would know more than Dick could provide. They travel to the next city, and Dick temporarily abandons Guest with Old Hammond in order to spend time with his beautiful love interest, Clara. During this stay, Guest and Old Hammond maneuver through long conversations about the ways of the now-world and the changes that were necessary to bring about its creation.
After some time, Dick returns with Clara at his side, and the group decides to keep traveling up the river in order to take part in the harvest of hay—a popular, annual activity where many people in the community enjoy the physical labor of the job. All but Old Hammond set off, and along the way Guest meets perhaps the fairest face in all of this beautiful new world: Ellen. A creature of intellect and compassion, Ellen is the first and only person to unearth the secrets behind Guest’s true origin. Through this shared secrecy, they bond and talk of a future in sharing worlds. However, upon reaching the harvest and beginning the celebrations, it becomes clear to Ellen that Guest is not a permanent fixture in her world. True to this, before nightfall Guest begins to fade from this perfect new land, and even the lovely Ellen becomes blind to him.
Darkness becomes Guest’s only reality for some endless moments until he finally feels himself back in his old London bed, and he discounts his experience in that future Utopia as nothing more than a too-perfect dream; or, perhaps, a vision for others to fight toward. And so our Guest is again left years behind this beautiful world, living with the reality that he will never again step foot in Nowhere.