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Sunday 29 July 2012

Resign Oneself by David A. Stimpson {part 2}


    “Yes well that’s what I was afraid of, alright I’ll leave it in your capable hands” said Number 2, dismissing 100 with a wave of his glasses.
    At the old people’s home the now retired Number 2 sat quietly in a chair upon the lawn. He watched his fellow residents about him, the Admiral who constantly sat at his table, his chess set at the ready as he waited for an opponent.
    Then there was the eccentric artist who was painting some unfortunate citizens portrait, which more often than not would turn out as some abstract painting. And the elderly woman being pushed in her wheelchair, her whole face covered in a red tinted visor, how had he come to be amongst these people?
    A waiter dressed in a white coat and black trousers walked across the lawn in the direction of the retired number 2’s table carrying a tea tray.
    “No I don’t want any tea” he growled.
The waiter turned and began to walk away.
    “Oh I’m sorry, put it down if you must.”
   The waiter stopped and turning, placed the tray upon the table and then walked away.
    “You seem a little grumpy today” said Number 100 taking the vacant chair.
    “What do you want, can’t you people leave me in peace?’ grumbled the retired Number 2.
    “Shall I be mother?” asked 100 picking up the brown tea pot and pouring out its liquid into two equally brown cups.
The retired Number 2 closed his tired eyes against the man sitting opposite.
    “Milk and sugar?” asked 100.
    The retired Number 2 remained silent and Number 100 sat drinking his tea in patient silence. In the end the retired Number 2 relented “Why have you come here?”
    “To ask you a question” returned 100, placing his cup upon its saucer.
    “Only one, you surprise me.”
    “Yesterday” began number 100 “you held the means of your escape and subsequent freedom firmly in your own hands this of course was all thanks to Number 6. But then as you were being whisked away, the helicopter suddenly and quite inexplicably turned back to the Village. What we want to know is what happened aboard the helicopter? Who gave the order?”
    “You mean my successor the Number 2 wants to know, I bet that came something of a shock to him, yes I bet he wants to know. So he sent one of his lackeys to ask the all important questions did he?”
    Number 100 glared at this old man, resenting the phrase ‘lackey’ used against him. But biting his tongue reminded himself why he was here, after all he would be up for retirement one day!
    The retired Number 2 sat drinking his tea and paying his guest little or no attention. But it was plain that this emissary sent by Number 2 would not go away without that for which he came. Indeed if he didn’t, he would surely return tomorrow. A sudden wry smile came over his face and he placed his cup down, having decided to give this emissary what he wanted and it amused him to do so.
    “It was I who gave the pilot the order to return to the village.”
Number 100 couldn’t believe his ears, he hadn’t expected this old man to give in quite so easily. But then perhaps he was playing a game of his own here, he had to be sure.
    “You gave the order, I find that difficult to believe.”
    “You would. Perhaps you and my successor would prefer some kind of conspiracy against me or that perhaps some higher authority had intervened due to his failure. Sorry to have to disappoint you, but the fact of the matter is, as I have already told you, it was I who gave the order.”
    “Why, when you could have gone anywhere you chose?”
    “I would have thought that you…..  no perhaps under the circumstances you don’t, you see we never fail” returned the retired Number 2.
    “You still believe that, after the events of yesterday?” asked Number 100
    “That was not my failure. They would have got me eventually, they would have found me wherever I was. Now I have resigned myself to the fact that here is the safest place for me. Now that you have been told go away and don’t bother me” snapped the retired Number 2, closing his tired eyes.
    It was as Number 100 was walking up the hill from the old people’s home that he was accosted by Monique-Number 50, the Watchmaker’s daughter coming down the road towards him.
    “Where is he?”
    “Who?” retorted 100, taken aback by this sudden and unwarranted assault.
    “Number 6, I’ve been to his cottage and he’s not there, and he hasn’t been seen about the village since late this morning” Monique informed him sternly.
    “What’s that to do with me?”
    “You ask that after the events of yesterday?” retorted Monique sternly.
Number 100 smiled and stepped to one side to pass her, but Monique was made of sterner stuff and persisted with her intervention.
One or two passers by gave them a curious glance which made number 100 feel uncomfortable.
    “Look I don’t know exactly what it is you want, but I have a very important meeting to attend, so if you will excuse me” 100 again trying to pass.
    “What have you done with him?”
    “Honestly I haven’t done anything with your Number 6, you know what he’s like. Have you tried the gymnasium?” 100 suggested.
Monique could see that she was wasting her time and finally stepped to one side.
    “Be seeing you” 100 saluted going on his way.
   As Number 100 made his way up the hill, the disheartened Monique made her way slowly down to the old people’s home where she took a seat at a vacant table and ordered a cup of coffee from one of the waiters.
    As Monique sat glancing about the lawn a familiar face appeared amongst the residents. There sat at a nearby table only a few feet away was the familiar figure of Number 2, a silvered haired man dressed in a plain black blazer, grey polo neck sweater and grey flannel trousers.
Seeing him seemed to raise Monique’s spirits. Here was a man who really owed a debt to Number 6 after all he had done for him only yesterday, surely he would not fail him, but having been retired would he be in a position to help?
    Rising from her seat Monique walked over to Number 2’s table and sat down in the vacant seat opposite him.
    ‘Excuse me’ said Monique nervously.
    “Did I say you could sit down, why don’t you people just leave me in peace?” growled the retired Number 2.
    “I think you are the only person to whom I can turn to” Monique replied.
    The retired Number 2 slowly opened his eyes to see the young woman sitting opposite him.   
    She had a sad looking face, she looked as if she had been crying, but he wasn’t certain.
    “Why am I the only person which you seem to think you can turn to?”
    “Because of who you were, you are probably the only person who can help me” retorted Monique quietly.
    “As you see I am no longer that person and am no longer in a position to help anyone. I have been gracefully retired and will spend the remainder of my days here…. amongst the residents of the old people’s home!” returned the sad toned voice of the retired Number 2.
    The waiter then came over to the table carrying a tray, Monique smiled gently at him as he placed the cup of hot coffee before her. Then bowing slightly he turned to attend another table. 
Monique added milk and sugar to her coffee.
    “You mean you will not help someone who only yesterday saved you from certain death!”
    “You are talking about Number 6, I can assure you that he did not put himself out for the good of my health. As long as what was going to happen to me, didn’t happen here in the village, then he couldn’t care less’ he growled.
    “He saved innocent people from being punished for something with which they had nothing to do, but for which they were going to be blamed. The citizens owe Number 6 a debt, but they have no idea of what was going to happen to them. If you will not help, then perhaps someone should tell them what their beloved leaders had in store for them.”
    “Keep your voice down, someone will over hear” urged the retired Number 2.
    “You’re afraid?” asked Monique.
    “Yes for you, because no one will believe you, they will not be allowed to believe you and you will cause trouble only for yourself. As for Number 6 I am sure that wherever he is, he is beyond help. Now please go away and leave me alone” the retired Number 2 pleaded, putting a tired hand to his troubled brow.
    Monique rose from her chair and looked at the sad and pathetic figure still sat at the table.
    “A man once in a position of power, but who is now without a friend in the world how sad.     
    Number 6 gave you a chance and you threw it away, I don’t know why he bothered!’
The retired Number 2 watched as Monique walked across the lawn towards the road leading back up into the village, before closing his eyes and settling himself down for a quiet sleep.
    In the office of the Green Dome Number 100 stood before his superior the Number 2 as he gave him his latest report on his retired predecessor.
    “He didn’t give you any trouble?”
    “No he offered the answer quite freely then told me to go away and not bother him” returned 100.
    “And you say it was on the order of my predecessor that the pilot turned helicopter back to the village?”
    “Yes Number 2, he firmly believes that we never fail and that they would got him eventually, that they would have found him wherever he was.”
    “Yes, well we would” retorted Number 2.
    “And he now believes that here is the safest place for him to be” Number 100 added.
    “Yes well he would.”
    “There’s something else Number 2.”
    “Concerning my predecessor?” asked Number 2 taking off his glasses.
    “No, the Watchmakers daughter” returned 100.
    “What about her?”
    “I was returning from my interview with the retired Number 2, when Number 50 accosted me in the street and questioned me about our friend.”
    “Friend……. oh you mean Number 6’ returned Number 2 putting on his glasses “how is he by the way?”
    “Quite uncomfortable the last time I saw him Number 2.”
    Number 2 sat back in his chair with a contented look upon his face “Good.”
    “What about the “Watchmaker’s daughter, she could cause trouble.”
    “Don’t worry about Number 50, the doctors tell me that her father will not recover. That should give his daughter something other to worry about than Number 6!”
    The temperature within the domed chamber had dropped considerably, in fact its wall, floor and ceiling twinkled with frost.
    Number 6 huddled and shivered at the base of the wall, his piped blazer drawn about him in a desperate bid to keep warm in the sub zero conditions.
    “They say that revenge is a dish best served cold, no doubt you wouldn’t agree with that, oh well can’t blame you I suppose. No doubt I should feel the same if I were in your shoes” returned the voice of Number 100 to the chamber.
    Number 6 struggled to his feet, the collar of his blazer turned up and his hands plunged deep into his pockets as he began to walk the circumference of the floor.
    “What nothing to say for yourself Number 6, that’s not like you at all.”
    “You’ve got me here’ shivered Number 6 ‘now what do you want, if it’s simple revenge why don’t you just go ahead and get it over with, instead of making a great meal of it. Or are you like so many before you, who always take great pleasure in drawing things out?” he bellowed.
    “I think I much preferred you when you had nothing to say for yourself. I say are you cold, you look cold I’ll see what I can do about that for you. In the meantime seeing that you are here, and many would say that was reason enough, perhaps you would condescend to answer me one simple question……. Why did you resign?”
    “Not that old one again. Many have sought the answer to that one and failed. Why doesn’t Number 2 come here and ask for himself, or has he left you to do his dirty work?” yelled Number 6, his voice echoing and re echoing around the chamber.
    “Number 2 has left the matter of the so far unanswered question entirely in my hands” returned Number 100’s voice.
    “Then more fool him, I would have thought he would have known better by now” barked Number 6, still pacing the floor.
    Slowly the chamber began to warm, the frost melted off the walls, ceiling and floor. The wall came alive with the smiling face of Number 100 and for Number 6 there was no place to hide, no place to look away to except at the floor or ceiling.
    “I have your file here and according to that you resigned because for a very long time……..,why for a very long time Number 6, why, why, why did you resign? Because for a very long time……… what were you going to say before the chimes struck ? Why because for a very long time……..what were you going to say before the chimes struck eight o’clock, what were you going to tell the Colonel? Why, why did you resign?” boomed 100’s voice.
    The face of Number 6 was set in a grimaced look of determination as he continued to pace the floor. It was getting warmer in fact it was getting pretty hot indeed.
    “Has the thermostat become stuck, or is it getting warm in here? Perhaps you should call electrics” quipped Number 6 to the face all around the chamber wall.
    “No I don’t think so, it’s quite comfortable where we are, but thank you for your concern” retorted Number 100, who knew perfectly well the temperature within the domed chamber.
    “Alright, let me out of here, you’ve had you fun, played your little game. You can’t hold me here!” barked Number 6 sternly.
    “Funny, I thought that was precisely what we were doing. Unless of course you know a way out of here that we don’t. Oh please feel free to try and find the door, the last inmate sent himself clear round the bend trying to do just that. We didn’t have to do anything, he did it all himself. Go on Number 6, we could do with some entertainment. Oh by the way I do hope you are feeling a little warmer, I’m having the heat turned up just for you.”
    Get Number 2!’ Number 6 bellowed.
    There came a moment’s silence, then….. “You wanted to see “Number 2, very well” announced Number 100.
    And suddenly the image on the chamber wall changed to that of a well dressed man in a double breasted black blazer, he being the first Number 2 he encountered here in the Village.
    “The information inside your head is priceless, I don’t think you realise what a valuable property you have become. You had a brilliant career, your record is impeccable, they want to know why you suddenly left.”
    Then the image on the wall changed again, this to another Number 2 wearing a piped blazer and sitting in his black spherical chair.
    “The subject shows great enthusiasm for his work, he is utterly loyal. Is this a man who suddenly walks out?”
    “I didn’t walk out….. I resigned!” barked Number 6 loudly from the chamber floor at the image on the wall.
    “Another change of image, this time to a Number 2 who at first seemed to sympathise with Number 6. “Now all this nonsense about why you resigned, if people can’t chuck up a job things have come to a pretty pass.”
    But then…..“I believe he was going to sell out, I want to know what he had to sell and to whom he was going to sell it!”
     Yet another change came upon the wall, to a stern looking woman dressed in a maid’s uniform, to which was pinned a white rosette with the black numeral 2.
    “Will you never learn, this is only the beginning, we have many ways and means but we do not wish to damage you permanently, are you ready to talk?”
    The wall reverted back to the face of Number 100
    “Well are you ready to talk?”
    The Prisoner remained as stubborn, defiant and resolute as ever he was, sitting crossed legged and staring down at the floor.
    “I’ll leave you for a while, so that you may reconsider your position. Not getting too warm for you in there is it? After all as Number 2 said……. “this is only the beginning!”

To be continued…………..

© David A. Stimpson

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