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Monday 30 July 2012

Resign Oneself by David A. Stimpson {part 3}


    At the hospital Monique had called to visit her father, but was shocked to hear that her father’s condition had not improved, in fact if anything it had worsened.
    “We do not expect him to last the night” the doctor told her.
   Monique sat quietly at her father’s bed side, gently holding his hand as tears streamed down her cheeks. Having already lost her mother a few years ago she now had to somehow prepare herself for the loss of her father, any thoughts of Number 6 washed away with her tears.
    At the old people’s home the retired Number 2 sat thinking in the comfort of the mirror room. His thoughts concerned the events of the previous day, of the actions of Number 2 together with the words spoken by Number 50 only that very afternoon.
    And so it was that the retired Number 2 looked at himself in one of the elaborately framed mirrors, what he saw was the reflection of a tired old man who was of no further possible use to anyone.
    It was as he looked upon his reflection in the mirror that the retired Number 2 considered a change of heart, so much so that he called for a telephone to be brought to him, this to the denial of the superintendent and to the argumentative powers of the retired Number 2.
    Being handed the ‘L’ shaped telephone, the retired Number 2 asked the operator to put him through to administration.
    “Administration….. I wish to speak with Number 22.”
    “What is your Number sir?” asked a female voice.
    “I am the recently retired Number 2, Number 22 was my one time assistant and I wish to speak with him on urgent business” he told her in an air of authority.
    “I’m sorry sir but…….”
    “I don’t want sorry, It is extremely important that I speak with Number 22 it is most important, in fact it is a matter of life or death. Now if you would connect me please” the retired Number 2 argued.
    “Whose life or death?” asked the female voice.
    “That is of no consequence to you, please permit me to speak with Number 22.”
    “I’m not sure I can sir, what official position do you hold, are you connected with administration sir?”
    The retired Number 2 was getting a little annoyed at this red tape, especially when he considered all the improvements he had made to the Village facilities.
    “I was Number 2 the chairman of the Village, I have worked for the good of the Village and it’s community, does that count for nothing?”
    “When did your term of office end sir?”
    “It was only yesterday, surely you remember the Appreciation Day ceremony?”
    “Please hold the line.”
   The retired Number 2 was left listening to some nondescript Musak!
    “Number 22 here, what can I do for you?”
    “Listen very carefully, you recognise my voice do you not?”
    “Yes sir, how are you enjoying your retirement?” asked Number 22 politely.
    “It could be worse I suppose, but I have resigned myself to it and so it must be endured. However I wish to do one more act of service. If you have any regard left for me from our time working together you will do one last thing for me.”
    “You shouldn’t be calling me here like this, it’s bound to cause trouble and someone is bound to be listening to our conversation” retorted Number 22 nervously.
    “You never struck me to be the nervous type, and if they are listening then both our fates are sealed and in so being you have absolutely nothing to lose” returned the retired Number 2, who could be most persuasive at times.
    There was silence from the other end of the line, the retired Number 2 continued.
    “I know that you did not approve of the plan to have me assassinated, executed or murdered, I am also aware that there was nothing you could do.”
    “Number 2 I……..”
    “There is no need to try and explain, besides there is no time. Where have they taken Number 6 and what are they doing to him?” asked the retired Number 2.
    “Number 6, why are you asking about him, he is nothing but trouble and he will still cause trouble for you if he can. Don’t get involved, Number 6 would bring the whole village down if he could” replied 22 sarcastically.
    “I owe him a debt, the whole Village owes him a debt for his actions yesterday, now do you know where he is?” asked the retired Number 2, who would not listen to the warning made by his former colleague.
    “Well a man in your position should find it a simple task to find out. Perhaps they have him at the hospital” suggested the retired Number 2.
    “I cannot, I am not in the position that I was yesterday, its impossible for me” Number 22 argued.
    “Do this for thing for me and you will not hear from me again” pleaded his former colleague.
    Number 22 finally relented “I shall do what I can.”
    In the domed chamber of the multiplex Number 6 was beginning to suffer from the increase in temperature, he had taken off his piped blazer and was now sitting crossed legged in the centre of the floor. But he did not sit there for very long as the floor was becoming just a little too hot to bear.
    “What’s the matter Number 6, getting too hot for you?” observed 100 “well I assure you that if you can’t sit down upon the floor now, in a very few minutes you wont be able to stand either!”
   The heated floor which was at first uncomfortable, was quickly becoming hot and unbearable, so much so that it was beginning to make standing difficult. Number 6 could feel the heat through the soles of his deck shoes and could only bear his feet upon the floor for only a short length of time, this making him hop on one foot and then the other.
    “Ah I see that you now know how a cat on a hot tin roof feels like number 6, a living hell isn’t it?’ said the voice of Number 100.
    Suddenly the walls burned with fire, the orange and red flames licking up towards the blazing domed ceiling. Within minutes the heat became so intense and the floor so unbearable to stand upon, thus causing Number 6 hop ever faster from one foot to the other giving the impression that he was carrying out some frantic dance or other but all the time he scanned the chamber, this look for some kind of foot or hand hold somewhere so that he could get his feet clear of the floor.
    But there was nowhere to get a hand or foot hold along any of the flame burning wall, and even if there was the wall would only prove to be as hot as the floor.
    Number 6 hopped and hopped ever more frantically from one foot to the other whilst at the same time picking up his blazer and then after folding it, placing it upon the floor for added insulation, but it was not enough, not by any means.
    “You’re looking a little tired Number 6, I just wonder how much longer you can keep up that strange dance routine of yours, you look rather comical from where I’m sitting” chuckled 100’s voice “you do know of course that sooner or later you are bound to get so tired that you will just collapse from either sheer exhaustion if of course heat exhaustion doesn’t get you first. Now let me end this torment for you, just tell me what I want to know and it will all be over for you.”
    That’s what I am afraid of!” barked Number 6.
    “Don’t tell me that your secret is worth dying for, no secret is worth that much Number 6. Look at the base of the wall just to your left” said 100’s voice.
    Number 6 looked down at the floor and there at the base of the wall was a tall glass of water. Hopping over Number 6 placed both feet on the floor and picked up the glass and instantly dropped it, the glass smashing on the floor the water spilling everywhere.
    “Ouch, I bet that was hot almost at boiling point I would say. Just think what will happen when your blood does begin to boil, that time cannot be far off, you had better tell me quickly number 6 before its too late” Number 100 urged his prisoner.
    “If anything happens to me it will be all over for you!” yelled Number 6, hopping continually around the floor beneath the flames of the domed ceiling, and surrounded by the flames of the burning wall. If this is hell, then he had arrived!
    Then instantly the flames were extinguished leaving Number 6 in complete and total darkness. The floor beneath his feet began to cool until at last the exhausted Number 6 could finally sit down a rest perhaps even to sleep, if his thirst would let him. And that is when he felt the object next to him, sitting up he reached out into the pitch blackness, feeling for the object which he had kicked with his foot.
    The floor was wet….. water, water! In the darkness Number 6 felt the steel rim of a tray and upon the tray a jug of water and a plastic cup. Ignoring the cup Number 6 drank deeply from the jug and poured the remainder over his head, he had never once felt anything so good. He had been in many scrapes but from this one he could see no escape, at least he knew from his bluff that no permanent harm must come to him, that would probably be his one and only saving grace, unless of course he abandoned his principles and gave them what they wanted. But surely it hadn’t come to that just yet, had it?
    Elsewhere in the village, citizens were settling themselves down for the night.
At her home of the Watchmaker’s shop a maid was busy in the kitchen preparing Monique’s nightly cup of hot chocolate. For possibly the first time during her life in the village she would be glad of the brew to help her sleep, for her father’s death had hit her hard and she had been in perpetual tears from that moment, she wept not only for her father but also for herself, for now Monique was all alone in the village and there was no way of knowing what would become of her.
    Having retired herself to bed the maid carried her cup of hot chocolate through into the bedroom and stood watching as Monique drank her night cap.
    “Goodnight miss” said the maid “sleep well.”
    “Goodnight” Monique replied, in the full knowledge that she would.
    Number 2 was working late in his office reading the report given to him by Number 100, this in regard to his progress made so far and the subject of Number 6.
    To the very astute Number 2, he couldn’t see where any such progress had been made and put this to Number 100 in no uncertain terms.
    “You are completely sure that the methods you are employing will produce the required result, because so far you have failed to make any progress of any kind!” said Number 2 looking up from the open file on his lap and removing his glasses.
    “I’ve never had a failure yet, and I won’t with Number 6” 100 returned with confidence.
    Number 2 put on his glasses and leaned forward out of his chair.
    “Yes well you will forgive my natural scepticism, but the events in which you were involved with yesterday were hardly a blistering success were they and I have to say that I do not share your own self belief and confidence” returned Number 2.
    “You can hardly blame me for yesterday’s failure. My indoctrination of the watchmaker was one hundred percent effective. If anything the blame should rest with you, or whoever it was who made the selection of Number 6. Because from the moment the choice was made to use number 6, the whole plan division Q was doomed to failure!” barked “Number 100 in his own defence.
    At that point the steel doors opened and the dwarf butler stood at the top of the ramp.
    “That will be all for tonight, Number 100 is just leaving” said Number 2.
   Number 100 turned in his annoyance and marched up the ramp and out through the open steel doors, the butler bowed and followed suit, the steel doors slamming shut behind him.
    The following day would be both sad and painful for both Monique and Number 6. Sad for Monique, painful for Number 6.
    As for Number 100 he would return to his work with both renewed vigour and zeal, while Number 22 a tall young man with light brown hair, dressed in a grey blazer with black piping, grey trousers and olive green polo neck jersey was beginning his discreet enquiries in official circles regarding Number 6.
    In Administration he could find nothing in recent documentation and his visit to the hospital had proved fruitless. Then just as Number 22 was making his way along the street to the Town Hall, he saw the pink blazered figure of Number 100 a few yards ahead. So having no other lead to follow at this time, number 22 decided to follow, at a very discreet distance.
    Number 100 was looking forward to the day’s work which laid ahead of him, so he did not notice the grey blazered figure of number 22 following him along the street and then along the path leading deep into the woods.
    Number 22 kept his distance but with Number 100 within his sights all the time, well for most of it anyway. The path they took lead through the Mangrove walk and deeper into the woods than Number 22 had been before. Then down passed tall bamboo and down the path into a sub tropical part of the woods and to an outcrop of rocks behind which Number 100 disappeared.
    Hurrying Number 22 followed in 100’s footsteps, and behind the rocks found a steel door set into the rock face. There was no apparent way to open the door, no concealed handle or button with which to operate the door and it would not give way to his trying to push it this way and that.
    Walking through the undergrowth and bushes Number 22 found the large wooden structure of the top of an air conditioning vent. Removing the wire mesh grill Number 22 climbed up onto the wooden structure and first looked down into the deep metal shaft of the air conditioning duct, before lowering himself down into and which he slowly descended, thereby gaining entry to the well camouflaged ‘Multiplex’.
    Inside the pitch black chamber, Number 6 was sat crossed legged upon the floor unable to see his hand in front of him, yet his eyes had become used to the pitch blackness, as he had the isolation and the absolute deafening silence ringing in his ears he had become accustomed to it all and still managed to sleep a little, he had the darkness to thank for that. But there was something else, during his time in the domed chamber he had become accustomed to its dimensions and so felt quite safe and strangely at ease with his surroundings, even when sat here in the pitch blackness as it closed about him as though keeping him prisoner to the very place where he sat.
    But one can remain in any one position for only so long and so it was with Number 6, as he began to grow stiff, his legs getting cramp.
    So Number 6 began to stir, outstretching his arms at first and then his legs and rubbing them to try and alleviate the cramp. He stood up and stretched his whole body, he bent down touching his toes, he performed a couple of simple exercises. And then took four paces forward and walked straight into the wall!
    Number 6 could not make this out because when the flames had been extinguished he had been standing in the very centre of the floor and had sat down there, the circumference of the wall was a good twenty five feet in all directions. So how was it that he walked into the wall after taking only four paces? Surely he couldn’t have made such a simple mistake as that, but it was enough, enough to rattle his confidence and for him to take greater care.
    So it was that as Number 6 stood with his back to the wall he decided to pace it out across the floor of the dome, this to restore his rattled confidence, after all he knew that it was fifty feet between himself and the far wall, this much he did know and more, between himself and the far wall there was a floor of complete emptiness, save for the tray and jug.
    So number 6 boldly began to count out aloud his paces “1 2 3 4 5 6...... argh!”
    Number 6 had taken but half a dozen steps when he let out a scream of surprise as the floor beneath his feet suddenly opened up and he began to plummet downwards feet first into the black abyss below.
    The blackness of the abyss somehow absorbed his screams as Number 6 fell further into it, and then plummeting through a hole in the dome ceiling, his fall broken by the sudden impact with the floor, where Number 6 lay prostrate for how long he did not know. But he was unable to move and it proved too painful for him when he tried.
    Suddenly there was light, bright light from the domed ceiling, the wall had reverted back to their ever changing colours of orange, purple and blue.
    Number 6 still lay there upon the floor, still too painful to try and move.

To be Continued………………….

©  David A. Stimpson

{Part One Posted on July 28th - part Two posted on July 29th.}

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