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Saturday 28 July 2012

Resign Oneself by David A. Stimpson

    The day after ‘Appreciation Day’, was for most citizens something of an anti climax, although it could so easily have been a day of retribution.
Number 2 was resigned, resigned to the fact that Number 6 was responsible for his failure of the previous day, Number 100 had not helped, allowing himself to be over powered the way he was.
    Number 100 a man in his mid thirties, of medium height and wearing a pink blazer with black piping now stood across from the desk of Number 2, a blond haired man also in his mid thirties wearing a plain black blazer, grey polo neck jersey and black thick rimmed glasses, who sat in his black spherical chair.
    “You have to agree that Appreciation Day was an unmitigated failure” began Number 2, removing his glasses.
    “If you had not been so adamant about Number 6’s involvement, I probably wouldn’t be standing here now, you would be busy carrying out acts of retribution against the citizens later to be covered in glory……….”
“…… yes but you are and I’m not!’ added Number 2 ‘the reason for Number 6’s selection was a matter of credibility, without which the plan might have backfired.”
    “Yes well it certainly did that alright” retorted 100.
Number 2 glared at his subordinate and put his glasses on.
    “Number 6 must be paid back for his interference, or you can resign yourself to the fact that you are not irreplaceable.”
    “Yes Number 2.”
    “Our only saving grace” Number 2 began “was the sudden and unexpected return of my predecessor. I want to know what happened in that helicopter and what or who made him return, further more regarding Number 6 I want to know why he resigned and you may use any and all means open to you.”
    “Yes Number 2.”
    “You will find my predecessor retired into the Old People’s Home, there isn’t any need to be too hard on him, save that for Number 6.”
    “Yes number 2” retorted 100 turning and walking away up the ramp to the already opening steel doors.
    It was a quiet morning in the village, there seemed few citizens out and about and there was a real autumnal feel in the air.
    Number 6 had risen early and since breakfast had been busy working in the woods, dressed in his usual village garb and blue and whit anorak. With his home made stone axe he had managed to chop down a number of young but stout tress, which he had cleared of their branches until he was left with a number of stout looking poles.
    Two poles some seven feet high had been dug firmly in the ground some ten feet apart and firmly secured with stout rope in the same manner. A parallel pole had been secured at both ends and to both of the poles. Number 6 had made the first piece of gymnasium equipment, a gymnastic high bar.
    The second piece of gymnasium equipment was a punch bag, suspended from a strong branch by stout rope. The punch bag itself had been made from odd pieces of hessian sacking and remnants of cloth, sewn together with stout twine then filed with sand collected from the beach.
This then was to be Number 6’s own private gymnasium, resigning himself to its use rather than that of the village gymnasium and to keep himself to himself as much as possible.
    Having worked all morning at his gymnasium in the woods, Number 6 slowly made his way back to the village his way taking him passed the old watchmaker’s shop where the sign hanging in the window read ‘Closed’. For a moment Number 6 paused and wondered, looked in the window and then went on his way.
    Through an archway Number 6 descended a set of steps onto the Central Piazza, he must have had the events of yesterday upon his mind, for he found himself standing in front of the Gloriette. Above him the balcony from which the retiring Number 2 and his heir presumptive made their speeches and in front of which the stone monument of ‘Achievement’ had been unveiled. Only now that stone monument was no longer in its place, it was as if it had never been there as citizens passed by without a glance.
    “Excuse me” asked Number 6, stopping a passer by “but do you know what yesterday was?”
    The man in a straw boater looked at him and thought for a moment “Thursday…. Yes Thursday.”
    “And what happened yesterday?” asked Number 6.
    Again the man in the straw boater thought for a moment.
    “It was Appreciation Day.”
    “Ah you remember” said Number 6 surprised.
    “Why shouldn’t I?” returned Number 32.
    “No reason, except the monument of Achievement is no longer in its rightful place.”
    “Perhaps it wasn’t” retorted Number 32.
    “Wasn’t what?”
    “In its rightful place, they must have moved it…. Be seeing you” saluted Number 32 going on his way.
    “They have moved it” announced a female voice behind him.
     Number 6 turned to see the youthful figure of Monique-Number 50 dressed in a waitress costume.
    “You look different” commented Number 6, who was quite pleased to see her.
    “What a difference a day makes eh?” retorted Monique.
    “I went by your fathers shop a few moments ago, it was closed.”
    “It’s no longer my fathers shop’ Monique answered sadly.
    “And your father?”
    “He is in hospital, his heart or so the doctor informed me. I have an idea it’s something else, something they have done but what can I do?”
    “You have seen him?” asked Number 6.
    “Yes they let me see him but he didn’t know I was there, its too late for him now. They are going to find me somewhere new to live. I have to leave what was my fathers shop in a day or so. They have found a new
watchmaker and so need the shop.”
    “Punishment!” said Number 6.
    “Does it matter now?”
    “It did to you, you came looking for my help remember?”
    Monique looked sad and simply nodded.
    “And you’ve found yourself a job, a waitress.”
     “At the Café, they found me a job at the Labour Exchange. Look at those people walking passed it’s as if the events of yesterday never happened. If only they knew.”
    “But they don’t know and perhaps ignorance is bliss after all’ retorted Number6 “I am resigned to the fact that that I am more likely to receive a bullet rather than recognition for the gallant deed, a bullet which I am expecting to land at almost any moment!”
    “But the entire village owes you a great debt” Monique insisted.
    “I must remember to collect one day!” quipped Number 6.
    “Have you seen Number 2?”
    “No I’m keeping a low profile, but I have no doubt that he has seen me’.
    Monique smiled “I must go, I’ll be seeing you later on?”
    “Call at my home, I’ll cook us both an omelette” Number 6 smiled gently as he watched Monique go on her way through and archway in the direction of the Café, while he walked to the Piazza, across the chess lawn through a large portico and up the cobbled path back to his cottage.
But just as Number 6 turned through an archway to enter his cottage, he walked into a vapour cloud of nerve gas, this almost instantly reducing number 6 to a state of unconsciousness.
    Two burly men dressed in black and red stripped jerseys removed their gas masks and picking up the unconscious body of Number 6 off the ground carried him to a now waiting ambulance and laid him out in the canopied Red Cross trailer watched by two bystanders. The two burly men then climbed aboard the taxi behind the steering wheel of which sat the waiting figure of Number 100. The engine started and the taxi was driven off at speed, its siren blaring out as it passed through both of the archways, along the road and out of the village.
    That had been some of the events of late morning and it was mid afternoon when Monique-Number 50 came calling at ‘6 Private’, no longer dressed in her waitress uniform, but that of orange and white stripped jersey and deck shoes, her long light blonde shoulder length hair hanging down from beneath her white cap.
    The door to ‘6 Private’ opened automatically for her and she entered only to find the cottage utterly and totally deserted. Having thought number 6 to have gone out for a moment Monique decided to wait, he would probably be back in a moment or two. However after half an hour and number 6 having failed to return, Monique decided to leave herself, but left him a note saying that she had called and would do so later when he could cook her that omelette he had promised her.
    Number 6 however was elsewhere and he was in no condition to cook anyone an omelette or anything else for that matter. He lay quite unconscious upon the circular floor of a domed chamber which was quite empty, save for its most singular occupant.
    It was quite a while before the Prisoner showed any signs of stirring, but they had plenty of time and patience, those who were watching.
    Number 6 opened his eyes, his head was thumping, his mouth dry and he felt physically sick inside. Slowly he began to sit up but this made his head thump harder, he felt dizzy as his blurry eyesight began to focus upon unfamiliar yet somehow strangely familiar surroundings.
Gaining his feet Number 6 looked about the circular domed chamber that was now to be his home for the foreseeable future, or until he gave them that which they wanted.
The chamber reminded Number 6 of Number 2’s office and that of the Council Chamber, but realised that he was in neither. The light blue walls, no the orange walls, no purple it was difficult to tell, the colours they kept changing!
    One other thing Number 6 noticed and that was there was no ramp, but then that hardly mattered because
when it came to it, there were no steel doors either!
    “I expect you’re wondering what you are doing here?” asked a seemingly familiar voice.
Number 6 spun round in all directions, half expecting to see someone standing behind him, but the voice was disembodied. He looked for a sign, a camera or speaker anything, but the chamber walls, floor and domed ceiling were perfectly smooth. There were no cameras or speakers that he could detect and he was perfectly alone. 
    “It had crossed my mind’ barked Number 6 up at the domed ceiling “But why don’t you tell me, no doubt you already have all the answers!”
    ‘Ah that is where you are wrong to assume such a thing Number 6, we don’t have all the answers yet, but we will, and that in turn answers your question as to why you have been brought here. You see, you have been most stubborn as to the reason for your resignation ever since the day of your arrival here in the village, but all that is going to change I can promise you that. Further I will promise you that by the time I am finished with you, you will  beg for the ordeal which is yet to come, to end, so that you can tell it to me’ returned the strangely familiar voice.
    “Nice of you to tell me, but its nothing I haven’t heard before” quipped Number 6 “I seem to recognise your voice, why don’t you come in here and show yourself?”
    “Me come in there, you must be joking!”
    “If I have learned anything, it is that people who hide either are afraid or they themselves have something to hide” barked Number 6, his voice echoing around the chamber “which is it?”
    “Who I am is not important, but you are perfectly correct, we have met before and quite recently. What is
important is where you are at this moment in time, let me explain…….” continued the disembodied voice.
    “I do wish you would” quipped Number 6, pacing the floor.
    “….. This delightful residence is known as ‘The Multiplex’, so named for its complex and diverse elements. For example here I am speaking to you in quite the normal tone of voice, but I can change to one of a deep booming voice which booms louder and deeper by the second. Hear how my booming voice bounces off the walls and how the dome makes my voice echo and re echo, boom, boom, boom.”
    Number 6 dropped to his knees and covered his ears with the palms of his hands, desperately trying to defend his ears against the booming voice of his captor.
    “I bet those ears of yours are ringing, shaking your head wont help. Perhaps you prefer something set on a much higher pitched level, like this” the voice spoke in a high pitched tone which soon became a high pitch screech.
    Number 6 rolled on the floor, his ears still covered by the palms of his hands, his face contorted in pain and
    “Please feel free to scream, there is no shame” said the high pitch voice.
    Suddenly there was silence and slowly Number 6 uncovered his ears which were still ringing from the sound of his captor’s voice.
    After a few moments silence the disembodied voice of Number 100 spoke again.
    “I do hope you can hear me, of course that was my voice I used for an example but of there are thousands of different sounds we can use and to great effect. But I can see that you would much prefer to be left in peace and quiet, this perhaps for quiet reflection upon your current situation.”
    Number 100’s voice cut off abruptly, thereby leaving Number 6 sitting crossed legged upon the floor in silence.
    And so there he sat, crossed legged upon the chamber floor, Number 6 listening, listening for the slightest sound. But the silence was absolute, so much so that as time wore on and the more number 6 listened, the more deafening the absolute silence became to his ears!
    Steel doors opened and the pink blazered figure of Number 100 marched down the ramp into Number 2’s office.
    “I understand that Number 6 was abducted earlier today, I take it that he is in your care?” asked Number 2,
leaning forward in his chair and removing his glasses.
    ‘He is number 2, I am following your instructions and I am confident of a positive result” returned Number
100 approaching the desk.
    “I have been reminded from a certain quarter that no permanent harm must come to Number 6, and should it do so I will hold you fully accountable, you are perfectly aware of that are you?”
    “Yes Number 2, I’m sure you will.”
    “Yes well I will” retorted Number 2, sitting back in his chair and putting on his glasses.
    “What of my predecessor, what has he to say for himself?”
    “I am due to pay him a visit later today Number 2.”
    “I would suggest a little subtlety in his case, he is after all an old man but stubborn with it. If he thinks for one moment…. anyway I suppose he has been a good servant to the village in the past. He was prepared to die after all, now he is condemned to spend his remaining life in the confines of the old people’s home, I almost feel sorry for him” smirked Number 2.
    “I shall be subtlety itself Number 2’ retorted Number 100 with a wry smile.

    ‘Yes well that’s what I was afraid of, alright I’ll leave it 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 it you must.”
The waiter stopped and turned the 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, cant 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 question 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 which he came for, 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 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?”

To be continued…………………..
Copyright David A. Stimpson

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