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Sunday, 21 April 2019

Our Diminutive Friend

   The thick blast roof doors leading into the domed chamber slid open, the Butler push the breakfast through and down the ramp, across the floor and stopped at a small round table that had risen up through a hole in the floor, at the touch of a button.
    “Ah breakfast. And how are we today my diminutive friend?”
    It was a genuine question, but the Butler wondered if his new master really cared, or merely asked out of politeness. A small round table appeared through a hole in the floor at the press of a button on the control panel of his desk, at the touch of a finger by Number 2. As he laid out the breakfast things on the table he could not help but wonder how long this latest incumbent would last?
    “How many I wonder, how many of my predecessors have sat in that chair?
   Answer there came none.
   “How many men have been broken by it I wonder?” Number 2 was trying to break the silence.
   Again answer there came none, the butler simply carried out his duty of laying out the breakfast things.
    “I expect you have kept a score.”
    Answer came there none.
    “Don’t you ever wonder what happened to them, your ex-masters?”
    Silence.
    “I wonder what you will think of me? I expect you will not mourn my passing. I should hate to be the cause of your grief.”
    The silence remained unbroken.
    “I expect they all fell foul of Number 6 at one time or another” Number 2 pressed a button and the figure of Number 6 in his cottage appeared on the wall screen “do you know how much that man has told us in all this time? Precisely nothing. Well that’s not quite true, he did give away the time of his birth, but we knew that anyway. I am not like any of my predecessors, however I do not intend to fail. What think you of that?”
     The Butler stood and looked at the man, then taking the coffee pot, poured out one hot cup of coffee.
    “Heard that before have we? Well you just wait and see. I have a very different approach to my predecessors. I’m going to bring Number 6 out of himself. So much so he’ll be beside himself! Tell me my diminutive friend, did they make you talk?”
    The Butler offered his new master that cup of coffee.
    Number 2 took the offered cup and saucer “Tell me, did they bring you here, or did you come voluntarily?”
    You could cut the silence with a knife.
    “What did you know to have yourself brought here? Oh this isn’t an answer and question session. I’m not interrogating you.”
    It seems like it to me, but this Number 2 was a number of years too late the Butler thought to himself.
    “You make good coffee I’ll give you that.”
    The Butler bowed at hearing the compliment. Then pushed the breakfast trolley across the floor towards the ramp.
    “Did I say you could go?”
    Oh, it’s going to be like that is it thought the Butler.
    “Oh alright you can go, but before you do, tell me one thing. Can you talk?”
    The Butler turned his head and stared at his master.
    “It’s been an interesting term in office, apart from the mundane administrative meetings about the day to day running of the village. Then there came Number 35.”
    “So these are the latest reports, how is our friend Number 12?”
    “I’m Number 12 sir, its Number 35 the reports concern themselves with.”
    “Yes I am well aware of that, I wasn’t asking about your own welfare.”
    “Oh I see sir. Well as the report states 35 is not responding to treatment.”
    “Why are you talking about this Number 35?”
    “Well that’s why you are here.”
    “I’m here to extract information from Number 6. First of all why did he resign? If he answers that one question all the rest will follow.”
    “It won’t, and with all due respect it’s not all about Number 6 you know.”
    “You mean I’m here to oversee the rehabilitation of this Number 35?”
    “Yes sir. Now If I can bring you up to speed.”
    Number 2 took a few minutes to read the medical report.
    “Yes well, it occurs to me the treatment is taking too long.”
    “That cannot be helped sir. The doctor says it’s best not to rush these things with the use of a cocktail of mind altering drugs. After all if something goes wrong…”
     “Is Number 35 of any importance?”
    “No sir.”
    “Does Number 35 contribute anything to the village and its community?”
    “Not that I am aware sir.”
    “Well then?”
    “He’s homeless,”
    “What?”
    “Number 35 is homeless. He exists outside the village.”
    “How does he manage to do that?”
    “He no longer fits in. His usefulness paid out. He was no longer co-operative. His credit card was all used up. He had torn up his health and welfare card, and his identity card and he gave up his cottage.”
    “Then how does he live?”
    “He has shelter in the woods, and he gets food from the back door of the café.”
    “Well carry on with the treatment.”
    “It was hard enough to get him to take a bath!”
    “This new process has to be perfected before it can be used on Number 9.”
    “Very well Number 2. I’ll inform the doctor.”
    “Good. Oh just one thing you can perhaps help me with.”
    “Yes Number 2.”
    “This identity card.”
    “What about it?”
    “No-one has yet asked to see mine.”
    “I shouldn’t worry Number 2, no-one has ever asked to see mine either. We go by the badge we each wear.”
    “Then why the identity card?”
    “I can’t say sir, I only work in administration.”
At the hospital.
    “As you can see Number 2, the patient has been put in restraints.” The doctor explained “He has already been given two doses of a cocktail of mind altering drugs, and has become more aggressive with each one.”
    “Just the opposite of what you are trying to achieve in fact.”
    “Yes.”
    “Not going well is it?”
    “No. we’ll have to put him in the padded cell for the drugs to wear off. No harm can come to him that way….not physically anyway.”
    The patient began to struggle violently against the restraints “You devils, you can’t damn well do this to me, aghhhhhhhhh. What have you done to me?”
    “You 35 are expendable.”
    “Expendable….me?
    “You contribute nothing to the village and its community. In fact you live outside it.”
    “In the woods where it’s safe. But I know something.”
    “You don’t.”
    “I do, I know aaaaagggggggghhhhhhhh.”
    “Tell us.”
    “I’ll tell you nothing aaggggghhhh.”
    Suddenly the patient collapses. The doctor rushes to the patient’s side.
    “How is he?”
    “Dead, his heart gave out. The final dose of the drug must have been too powerful.”
    “Now we’ll never know what it was he knew.”
    “If he knew anything at all Number 2, he was an outsider, what could he have known, what was there for him to know?”
    “Nothing, nothing at all I expect, but it has proved one thing.”
    “And that is?”
    “The good doctor’s drugs do not work!” Number 2 said, turning and leaving the room.

    “And that’s that. It looks as though I’ll be leaving a whole lot sooner rather than later. What think you of that?”
    The Butler had seen it all before several times over in fact, and would no doubt see it again.
    “I expect you’ll be sorry to see me go.”
    Answer came there none.
    “Well I just hope you make my successor as welcome and comfortable as you have made me feel.”
    The Butler’s stare was cold and unemotional.
    Number 2 moved away from his desk as the Butler stood behind it.
    “Well I don’t expect we’ll be seeing one another again.”
    The gloved hand of Butler passed over the control panel and a finger pressed a button. A round section of the floor dropped through a hole in the floor taking a screaming Number 2 with it. A second press of a button, and the hole closed.
    The Butler calmly cleared away the afternoon tea things, and pushed his trolley across the floor, up the ramp, and through the opening steel doors. Time to put the kettle on, in time for a new arrival.

Be seeing you

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