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Sunday, 19 April 2015

Before The War – Since The war – Which War?

    Apparently The Village has been going for a very long time, since the war it would seem. The only question, which war? Well I arrived here a few days ago. They asked me all kinds of questions, wanting to know all about me. I said they can’t do this to me, that I have rights. Number 2 asked me who I thought I was, Number 6? I looked at the badge pinned to the lapel of my blazer, and said “No, apparently my number is Seven.” Number 2 said there’s no such number in the Village. “Not my fault” I told her “It’s the number given to me,” she made a note in a book on her desk. “Just how much do you know” I was asked. I told them I knew hardly anything at all. “So you’re one of them!” One of whom? “One of those who are brought here because they know too little!” I hadn’t a clue as to what Number 2 was going on about, but agreed to tell them all that I knew. Well I’ve never been keen on drugs, and I’ve a very low pain threshold.
    So I began to settle down to a quiet life here in The Village. They gave me a credit card, card of identity, a Health and welfare card, and employment card. I set myself a daily regime, a walk around The Village twice a day, morning and afternoon. I would have lunch at the café, and buy a copy of the daily newspaper The Tally Ho. Being a smoker I asked the chap at the kiosk for twenty Number Six, he said “Are you trying to be funny?” Alright I told him, twenty Number 10. He just scowled at me, and served me with 20 Village Woodbines and a box of Village matches!
    Somedays I would play chess, or go for long walks along the beach and play ‘ducks and drakes,’ or swim in the open lido. And then there was the occasional Village activity, such as a concert of folk music, or demonstration of mime in the Recreation Hall. I never considered escape, well there are only so many ways of attempting escape. I mean take Number 82. He carved himself a dug-out canoe out of a tree trunk. He paddled out into the middle of the estuary at night, attempting to escape under the cover of darkness. But the searchlight crew in the Tower spotted him, The Village Guardian was despatched……there was no funeral, as you need a body! Well I’m no good at woodwork. I cannot navigate, or make a homemade compass. I could try for the mountains, but I’m no mountaineer. I can swim, but not so far. Nor can I pilot a helicopter, but I can drive, perhaps away along the beach to somewhere. But really I haven’t got escape in me. I like a quiet life you see, and life here is really preferable to what it is elsewhere. I was a journalist working on a two-bit rag of a newspaper and going nowhere. The wife had left me for another woman, and that’s when life for me hit rock bottom, so I resigned, I went home, woke up, I was here!
   Next week there is the Exhibition of Arts and Crafts. I’ve seen some of the entries, they’re not very original, mostly paintings, drawings, and sculptures of Number 2. Me, I’ve painted a landscape of The Village, and entitled it “View From A Villa.”
    Eventually I got a job working on the local newspaper. At least it’s work with which I’m familiar, even if I am told what to write! But now and again I’m free to write articles like this one. There’s no harm in it, no propaganda, no rebelliousness. Well I wouldn’t want to seem unmutual would I now. Not like that Number 6. It was suggested that I write an article about Number 6, citizens might find him interesting the editor said. I tried getting an interview with Number 6, but he just slammed the door in my face. So how am I to write such an article about a man I know absolutely nothing about I asked the editor? “You’re a journalist aren’t you? Just make it up as you go along!”
   “So there’s this chap by the name Number Six. He goes about shouting “I am not a number, I am free man.” He tries to escape at any given opportunity, pokes his nose in where he can. Usually he wears a dark blazer with off-white piping. But one time something curious happened, he started going about The Village wearing a cream blazer with black piping, what’s more he was seen to be wearing his Number 6 Penny Farthing badge. Well I tell you readers, when have you ever seen Number 6 wearing his numbered badge? Just about never I’d say. Then one day, just as I was passing the Recreation Hall, I saw not one Number 6, but two! They were having a fight, and the one in the dark blazer was knocked to the ground. Then The Village Guardian appeared and herded the both of them away. I told the editor, he said I must be seeing double, and what was I making up this rubbish for? I told the editor that I hadn’t made it up at all. “What two Six’s in the Village” he barked “Next thing you know you’ll be seeing Lord Lucan here!” Well he has to be some place, and if not here, then elsewhere!     
                                     
Be seeing you                                          

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