It was a day in late autumn when Number 13 found himself in something of a quandary. He wasn’t sure what to do, because he had come into possession of certain information, and he didn’t know what to do with it. So the best thing he thought he could do was to go to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, as they would surely know what to do.
The Citizens Advice Bureau is situated to the right, and
slightly behind the Green Dome as you look at it, and Number 13 found himself
crossing the square, crossing the street, going up the steps, passing the Green
Dome on the way to the Citizens Advice Bureau. It was closed! There was a sign
in the window it said closed. A notice gave the opening times, and seeing as
that was in five minutes, Number 13 decided to wait that five minutes as it was
hardly worth going away only to come back five minutes later.
Number 13 waited, he paced up and down outside
the Citizens Advice Bureau. He paced this way and that, and back again. He acknowledged
passers by, he said good morning to Number 36, a little old lady who peered
into the window of the Citizens Advice Bureau.
“They’re not open yet, another three
minutes” he said looking at his watch. Number 36 smiled “My weekly credit allowance
has been all used up, and I don’t know what to do” she said and walked away
saying to herself “I’ll have to come back later.”
Another minute passed, the next minute passed even more slowly.
five……ten……fifteen, one minute passed, then two, three, four and one half
minutes. Click, the sound of a key being turned in the lock, and the door
opened. A little man in a grey suit stood in the open doorway.
“You’re late” said Number 13 looking at his watch.
“I am, might not you be early?” asked the man in the suit.
“I’m punctual. The notice in the window says you open at
nine-thirty. It is now Nine-thirty five and one half minute” Number 13 informed
the little man.
“Well you had better step inside” said the man in the grey
suit “Before we waste another minute.”
Number 13 followed the man inside the Citizens Advice
“If you’ll just take a seat sir, I’ll be with you in a
minute” the manager said stepping into another office.
So Number 13 sat waiting, and he waited. On the opposite
wall was a metal machine with the sign above it ‘Ask and it will be given.’ And
on the machine itself the word “press” above a button. He stood up and crossed
the room and pressed the button with my thumb.
“Please take a seat and wait” said a disembodied voice from
Number 13 took a seat and he waited. And while he waited
other citizens came in and took seats, and they waited. Finally Number 13 felt
he could wait no more. He stood up out of his seat and approached the machine
on the wall and pressed the button again.
“Please take a seat and wait” the disembodied voice
“I have taken a seat, and I have been waiting!”
“Please take a seat and wait” the voice instructed.
Number 13 turned to leave.
The office door opened and the man in the grey suit was
attaching a numbered badge to the lapel of his jacket.
“Not going I hope” said Number 5.
“Well I’ve been waiting for some time……..”
“Then I shall keep you no longer Thirteen, please if you
would step into my office and take a seat” Number 5 said showing 13 the way.
The office was spartan of any ornamental decoration, save
for one pot plant on top of a grey filing cabinet. The room was purely
functional. Number 13 took a seat at the desk opposite Number 5.
“Well now, how can I be of help? Number 5 asked, taking a
sheaf of blank papers from his desk.
“I’d like some information” Number 13 said anxiously.
“Information, no we don’t have anything like that here.
We’ve advice, I can give you plenty of advice” Number 5 replied smiling.
“How can you give advice without any information?”
“We just do. We know people’s rights here, they just don’t have
“What if I came to you with information” 13 suggested.
Number 5 sat forward in his chair “What kind of
“I can’t tell you that.”
“Not without advice, that’s why I’ve come to see you.”
Number 5 sat back in his chair, opening a desk drawer he
took a box of unsharpened pencils and removed two, then replaced the box and
closed the drawer. He then took a pencil sharpener and proceeded to sharpen
“Do you have an appointment?” Number 5 asked setting the two
pencils down upon the desk together.
“Yes an appointment to see me” aid Number 5 looking at his new
“No, do I need one?”
“I don’t see anyone without an appointment” he said opening his
diary “now when would best suit you? Next Thursday week is best for me, shall I
pencil you in?” he said picking up a pencil and licking the lead point.
“But I’m here now!” Number 13 said anxiously.
“Without an appointment.”
“Yes, but if we hadn’t been………….look we could have settled
this five minutes ago. All I ask is for two minutes more of your time” Number
13 said hopefully.
Number 5 thought for a moment “It’s highly irregular.”
“Is it against the rules?”
“No……I don’t think it’s against the rules.”
“Well?” said Number 13 even more hopefully.
“Look number Thirteen, my advice to you, and please remember
you came here looking for advice…..”
“I did” Number 13 eagerly.
“This information, is it of a sensitive nature?”
“Yes. Someone is being brought here to the Village……..”
“What’s so sensitive about that, people are brought here all
“Yes but he is………”
“Yes Number Thirteen, yes but he is ………what?” asked Number 2
from the open doorway.
“Nothing Number Two.”
“He’s on his way, that’s what he is, for your information.
And seeing as you’re here, I’d ask Number Five here for advice on unemployment
pay entitlements. You’re finished Thirteen.”
“You over heard something that was not for your ears. As a
Top Hat of Administration you can no longer be trusted.”
“My number, do I retain it?”
Number 2 thought for a moment “It would seem that Thirteen
has been unlucky enough for you. Let’s add a one in front of it shall we.”
“Just be grateful we didn’t
add a letter b!”
“I was in 2b at school!”
“Always second best eh Number One one three!” smiled Number
2 as he turned to leave.
“You said he is on his way.”
Number Two looked at his wristwatch “Yes, he should be
hitting the runway about now if all has gone to plan.”
“Yes, we have someone meeting him.”
The sound of thunder filled the air over a long deserted
runway. Dark clouds gathered, a storm was brewing, and out of the distance…………………..
Be seeing you