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Friday 3 April 2015

Second Chances!

    The black spherical chair rose up through the hole in the floor. To Number 2’s surprise it was just the same as he remembered it. The purple walls of the chamber, the wall screen, his curved desk, those ‘L’ shaped telephones. The pair of thick steel doors, and the Penny Farthing bicycle. Slowly the man leaned forward out of the chair and reached for the red telephone which he clutched to his bosom as he sat back in his chair, wondering if he was still up to the task. After all it had been so long ago. The years had not been kind to him, he was no longer quite the man he was. Older for a start, not so lean these days, having put on a little weight, and yet the double breasted blazer still fitted him. Well that’s what he told himself.
    Number 2 gripped the red ’L’ shaped telephone tightly in his hands, pausing a moment in quiet thought. But this was not the time for thinking, this was a time for doing. He asked himself where was the decisive, confident young man of long ago? When he stood looking in the shaving mirror that morning, he could no longer see that man. Instead of a lean face, a rounded face looked back at him. He pressed the small square chrome button on the telephone, and announced himself.
    “Number Two here……..well I was surprised to find myself back here sir, as you know its been a very long time……….well yes sir, thank you sir. But if you could just explain why………..Number Six, he’s still here, as a prisoner?……….After all these years you are no further forward with Number 6 now as you were then!…………..Am I the last then?…………….not quite, I see sir.”

    In the Control Room the Observers watched, as they were supervised by Supervisor-Number 106. A distinguished looking man of dark skin with white hair, now 97 years of age, and formerly of Haiti birth . Like Number 2 he was brought back to The Village because of his experience. Unlike Number 2, the Supervisor is the last of his kind.
    “I want to see the interior of Six Private” the Supervisor ordered.
    At the touch of a button the wall screen came to life displaying the interior of a cottage.
    “Why is he doing that?” asked one of the Observers.
    On the screen the figure of a man was slowly pacing the floor of his study, back and forth, this way and that, with a ham sandwich in the one hand and a cup of coffee or tea in the other.
    “It would seem that old habits die hard!” said the Supervisor quietly.
    “You know him?” Number 34 asked, assistant to the Supervisor.
    “You could say I’ve had previous experience of him” replied the Supervisor.
    “And you are up to this?” 34 asked.
    “Listen boy, ninety-seven I may be, but its experience that counts!” the Supervisor told him.

    The steel doors to Number 2’s office slid open and Number 6 walked slowly though the doorway and down the ramp. Behind him stood the tall bald-headed butler in black tails.
    “Number Six my dear fellow do come in, do come in. Can I get you some tea? Number 2 asked his visitor.
    “That would be nice” Number 6 replied looking for a chair.
    “Oh I am sorry, do take a chair” offered Number 2, at the same time pressing a button on the control panel of his desk.
    A round section in the floor dropped a few centimetres then slid to reveal a hole in the floor, through which rose a black leather chair. Number 6 sat down.
Butler turned to leave.
    “Just a minute” said Number 2 “Where is he?”
Butler stopped in the doorway and turned to face his new master “Where’s who sir?”
    Number 2 removed his black rimmed spectacles “the
Butler, where’s the Butler, we would like some tea.”
    “I’m the
Butler sir” said the Butler pulling in his stomach and sticking out his chin.
    “I mean the little short fellow who never said much, if anything” said Number 2.
    “He died sir” the
Butler informed him.
    “Oh! Well we would like some tea” Number 2 ordered.
    “Yes I know sir, I’ll away and make it” the butler said turning and passing through the doorway, the pair of steel doors closing behind him.
    “Well Number Six……..”
    “As well as can be expected. None of us are getting any younger.”
    “They haven’t moved you into the Old Peoples Home yet then?”
    “They tried” Number 6 told him “I resisted. When I die I said, it will be in my own bed in my own home!”
    “Well said Number Six, but you’re not planning on dying just yet I hope” said Number 2 taking off his glasses.
    “No, but as the years have passed by, I have become more and more aware of my own mortality. They haven’t pensioned you off then?”
    “I’m Village, just like you” Number 2 told him “otherwise you wouldn’t still be here after all these years, and I’d still be ……….”
    “What have they brought you back for? They must be scraping the bottom of the barrel!”
    Number 2 put his spectacles back on “Passed through the bottom of the barrel I’m afraid. They tell me I’m almost the last of my kind, you on the other hand remain unique.”
    The pair of steel doors slid open and the
Butler enters carrying a tea tray.
    “Ah tea” said Number 2 rising slowly out of his chair.
Butler places the tray down onto the desk. “Shall I pour sir?” he asked.
    “Please” said Number 2
    The Butler set about doing so, and during this time neither Number 2 nor Number 6 spoke a word. The
Butler poured the tea into two Crown Derby cups.
    “Milk gentlemen?”
    “Yes please” said Number 2
    “I’ll have mine with lemon” said Number 6 with a cheery smile.
Butler added a slice of lemon and passed the cup and saucer to the seated Number 6, while Number 2 picked up his cup, adding two lumps of sugar, and stirred it with a sliver spoon.
Butler turned, walked across the floor, up the ramp, and out through the opening steel doors, which closed behind him.
    “Well” said Number 6 “That’s the niceties out of the way, what do you want?”
    Number 2 retook his chair “Straight to the point as ever Number Six. I’ve been brought back here because of you!”
    Number 6 sipped his tea without once taking his eyes off this aged Number 2.
    “You have grown dependant of The Village. Every time you managed to escape, you came back. In fact no sooner had you escaped, then you couldn’t get back to The Village quick enough!”
    Number 6 put his cup down onto the saucer “What are you talking about?”
    “They want you out Number Six. People have grown tired of you. They thought that after the events of ‘Fall Out’ that would be the end of the matter. But oh no, back you came large as life.”
    Number 6 let the cup and saucer slip from his hand, they smashed to pieces, lying broken on the floor, amid the spilt tea.
    Number 2 took of his glasses “There you go again. We’ve noticed how you keep doing that.”
    “Doing what?” Number 6 asked.
    “Whenever you are about, more often than not, there is an upset teacup in a saucer, or else broken crockery!”
    “You said they want me out! Who, who wants me out?”
    “You are no longer important, you’re just an old man who is little more than a nuisance. And the information you hold, it’s obsolete. No-one is interested in it, or in you.”
    “I can tell you why I resigned.”
    “Don’t waste your time Number Six” Number 2 told him taking of his spectacles.
    “I resigned………….”
    “What, because it was a matter of conscience! That for a very long time” said Number 2 putting his glasses on “Oh no, you resigned for peace, for peace of mind, because too many people know too much!”
    “I became disillusioned with the kind of work I had to do. Often it was dirty work, but someone had got to do it, someone had to.”
    “You got your hands dirty once too often.”
    “Having to do other people’s dirty business, it takes its toll.”
    “So you walked out.”
    “I didn’t walk out, I resigned!”
    “See that” said the Supervisor to his assistant “that’s the mark of a real professional.”

    “Why are we observing them?” asked Number 72.
    “Haven’t you learned anything? In The Village everybody watched everyone else” explained the Supervisor.
    “Are we being observed?” Number 72 asked.
    The Supervisor turned his eyes towards the stainless steel electronic eye orbiting the Control Room.

    Number 2 took his glasses off once more “Tell me Number Six, what kind of man resigns his job, yet remains loyal to his former employer?” and slipped his spectacles on again.
   “Do you have to keep doing that?” Number 6 asked.
    “Do what?” asked Number 2 taking his spectacles off again.
    “That, taking off and putting on those spectacles it really is irritating.”
    “There is a helicopter leaving The Village at
two o’clock, you will be on it” Number 2 informed him.
    There was a sad, almost lost expression came over Number 6’s face “Where shall I go?” he asked.
    “Back to where you came from, where do you expect?” Number 2 replied, who was about to take off his spectacles, but then thought better of it.
    “There’s nothing there for me, not after all this time…………..the Village is my home” Number 6 told him “I am Village!”
    “Good day Number Six” said Number 2 quietly.
    “I’ll die!” Number 6 told him.
    “We all do that sooner or later. Now if you don’t mind I’ve an awful lot of work to be getting on with” Number 2 explained.

    In the Control room the Supervisor gave orders for the helicopter to be refuelled and made ready for departure at two o’clock.
    “He’s not why this Number 2 has been brought back then?” 72 asked.
    “No” replied the Supervisor.
    “And you?”
    “Because I’m the last of my kind, and at some point in our lives we all deserve a second chance. Wouldn’t you agree Number Two-four-zero?”
    An old, yet still attractive woman looked up from her monitor “I used to be their best Observer” she said with a smile.
    “You still are” remarked the Supervisor with a smile.

Two o’clock arrived, and Number 6 stood waiting on the triangular lawn by the helicopter, and Number 2 arrived in a taxi just in time to see him off.
    “Well Number Six, this is it then.”
    “If you say so” Number 6 replied with suspicion.
    “Ah here’s the helicopter pilot” Number 2 observed.
    The pilot climbed into the cabin of the Alouette helicopter after having made his safety checks.
    Number 2 held out an open hand to Number 6, who eyed it with suspicion “If this is another of your games……”
    “Its isn’t Number 6, believe me. This is goodbye” Number 2 told him.
    Number 6 refused the open hand and having placed his single suitcase into the helicopter, he climbed into the cabin after it.
    The pilot pressed the starter and the engine powered up. The rotor blades began to turn, slowly at first, but then faster and faster until the helicopter lifted off the ground, and taking to the air flew high into the sky across the estuary.
    Number 2 about to take off his spectacles, turned his eyes up to the sky, shocked and surprised to see the helicopter had not turned back towards The Village!

Be seeing you
Copyright     David A. Stimpson

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