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Sunday 15 December 2019


    “Where to sir?”
    “Take me to the nearest town.”
    “Oh we’re only the local service.”
    “Well take me as far as you can.”
    The taxi went down the road, round the cobbled square, through an arch and left along a cobbled path only just wide enough for the taxi. Ahead there was a statue of a man with the world on his shoulders set on a large square plinth.
     “That’s Hercules” the driver said.
    “Don’t you mean Atlas?” the passenger said.
    “No, Atlas had gone off to do something else, so Hercules had to take the world on his shoulders for a while.”
    “How can you tell?” I asked.
    “You can see the lion skin draped over his shoulder.”
    The taxi drove on, turning left along a short narrow cobbled path before joining the main street, then down the hill taking a hair pin bend I noticed people sat at tables on a lawn, old people. Then down an incline, on the right a slipway where two mechanics were busy working on a speed boat. There was a triangular lawn by a sea wall, a blue grey Alouette helicopter was landing, a number of people stood watching. The taxi driver stopped the Mini-Moke, turned the vehicle round and drove back up the slope.
    “What’s with the helicopter, someone leaving?”
    The taxi driver glanced at his passenger “Arriving more like, no-one leaves the village!”
    The white Mini-Moke drove back round the hairpin bend and back up the hill into the village and passed an impressive building.
    “What’s that building?”
    “The Town Hall, that’s one place you don’t want to find yourself in.”
    “Well I don’t know which is worse really, that or the hospital. Do you want to go to the hospital?”
   “No, I’m feeling pretty well.”
    “Lucky you!”
    The Mini-Moke turned right, passed the café then followed the road passed the cobbled square, through one archway, then a second and just as it seemed we were about to leave the village the taxi driver turned left and we followed the meandering road through trees and over a bridge before speeding through a white and yellow triumphal arch, the driver sounding the two tone horn as we went. Along the road, passed the Town Hall and down the hill once more. Round the hairpin bend, down the slope, passed the slipway, the two motor mechanics still working on the speed boat, then turning round back up the slope, round the bend, and back up the hill. The Town Hall left way behind, the taxi driver speeded up, the two tone horn sounding as we shot thorough the Triumphal arch, and winding our way along a road through the trees then out of the village……..There was a large imposing building on the left, a castle. The taxi slowed, there was a sign it read Hospital, there was a large gravel forecourt, a taxi towing a Red Cross trailer stood outside the building. The taxi drove on taking a sharp right hand turn, and before long we were driving under one arch, then a second and back into the village. Then suddenly the taxi came to a stop and the passenger alighted.
    “The taxi is two units.”
    “Units, what’s units?”
    “Credit units, oh well pay me next time…….”
    “Paying, you want paying? After taking me by way of the “scenic route” just to get me back where I started!”
    “I did tell you we’re the local service… seeing you.”
    With that the white Mini-Moke sped off down the road, the oriental driver looking for her next fare.
    The Prisoner stood looking about him, then he saw the sign, General Store.
    “Good morning sir, and what can I do for you?”
    “Good morning shopkeeper, I’d like a map please.”
    “A map, what do you want a map for?”
    “So I can get an overall picture of where I am.”
    “A map, black and white or colour?”
    “Just a map.”
    “Black and white” the stout shopkeeper pondered to himself as he turned his attention to the cabinet behind him.
    The shopkeeper opened the cabinet and ferreted about inside, then finding a map he turned back to his customer and casually dropped the map on the counter.
    The Prisoner stood looking at the Map of Your Village, then he unfolded the map and studied it. The mountains, the sea, the woods, caves, the Tower, Old People’s Home.
    “This isn’t what I meant, I meant a larger map.”
    “Only in colour sir, much more expensive.”
    “That’s fine.”
    The shopkeeper returned to the cabinet, ferreted about once more and produced a brown leather effect Map of Your Village and dropped it onto the counter.
    The Prisoner looked at the map with suspicion before unfolding it, only to find it was identical to the black and white map, only in colour and much larger.
    “No, this isn’t what I meant, I meant a larger area.”
    “Larger area? Oh there’s no call for those sir.”
    “Where can I get a car, self drive?”
    “No cars, only taxis.”
    “I’ve tried those.”
    “You’re new here aren’t you?”
    “Never mind me, that badge you’re wearing.”
    “What about it?”
    “When I came in it had the number 56.”
    “Well what about it?”
    “The number’s changed, its 19 now.”
    “Really sir, I wonder how that happened?
    “Well sir I look forward to the pleasure of your custom….be seeing you. Yes madam and what can I do for you today?”
    The Prisoner left the General Store, and stood in the cobbled square wondering what to do next when he glanced up at the Green Dome. There was a set of steps leading up to said Green Dome, the Prisoner crossed the street and climbed up the steps. He stood at the balustrade of the balcony and looked down on the cobbled square, and out towards the Piazza where people in brightly coloured clothes were promenading around a pool and fountain. He saw the Bell Tower, the highest point in this village, he saw a man leaning out at the top of the Tower he waved, but the figure did not wave back.
    “Excuse me sir” a voice said.
    “The Prisoner turned to see a tall man, over six feet in height, dressed in a black jacket and grey trousers.
    “Are you talking to me?”
    “I don’t see anyone else on the balcony, do you sir?”
    The Prisoner looked about him “As matter of fact I don’t. What do you want with me?”
    “Number 2 is expecting you. She telephoned your cottage several times, but there was no answer.”
    “Number 2?”
    “If you would be good enough to step this way” said the Butler leading the way through one of the pair of arches.
    The front door to No.2 the Green Dome opened automatically as they approached, the Prisoner followed the Butler into the foyer.
    “This way sir.”
    There was a round quarter table in the centre of the foyer, paintings of sailing ships decorated the walls. There was a fire place and a brown leather armchair. Ahead a pair of French doors and a ramp which lead up to a pair of steel doors. The doors slid open and the Butler stepped through followed by the Prisoner. They both stood framed in the open doorway beyond which was a large spacious domed chamber in the middle of which was a grey curved desk behind which the figure of a woman sat in a black spherical chair. She was middle aged, wearing a John Lennon cap, and wound about her shoulders the old school or college scarf.
    “Well come in there’s nothing to be afraid of” the woman said from the relative comfort of her chair.
    “Will madam require tea?” the Butler asked.
    “Almost immediately” she said.
    “And breakfast for the gentleman?”
    “Do you want breakfast?”
    “No, just a few answers!”
    “Oh dear, it’s going to be like that is it!”
    The Butler withdrew and the steel doors closed, the Prisoner walked down the ramp, taking in the surroundings.
    “Minimalist isn’t it.”
    “It’s an office, what do you expect?”
    “There’s nothing personal, unless the pair of Lava Lamps are yours.”
    “Purely decoration I assure. Do sit down.”
    At the touch of a button a round panel slid away leaving a black gaping hole in the floor though which a black leather chair appeared.
    “Did that surprise you?”
    “I’m surprised that you didn’t have me thrown into the pit!”
    “I might yet, after we have had our little chat.”
    The pair of blast proof steel doors opened and the Butler wheeled a breakfast trolley through the open doorway, down the ramp and across the floor. Number 2 pressed a button on the control panel of her desk and a small round topped table rose up through the hole in the floor, upon which the Butler began to set out the breakfast things.
    “Shall I pour madam?” the Butler asked.
    “Of course” came the reply “and please help yourself to breakfast.”
    “Thank you madam, but I ate earlier.”
    “I’m not talking to you.”
    “No madam” the Butler replied having poured out two cups of tea.
    “You warmed the pot first?”
    “Yes madam.”
    “How many teaspoonfuls of tea?”
    “One for thee, one for your guest, one for the post, and one for luck. I also showed it to the pictures.”
    “You did what?”
    “I showed the teapot to the pictures madam.”
    “Why did you do that?”
    “To get a stronger brew of course” and with that the Butler wheeled his trolley across the floor, up the ramp and out through the open doors.
    Number 2 picked up a cup and saucer “You know sometimes I think I’m in charge of a bunch of idiots. Please help yourself to breakfast.”
    The Prisoner walked over to the table and picked up the silver dish cover, on the plate eggs, bacon, and mushrooms, he replaced the cover.
    “What’s all this about?”
    “I ask the questions here.”
    “And you are?”
    “Number 2.”
    “What about Number 1?”
    “As far as you are concerned I’m in charge. Now what we want to know is this………..”
    It was late afternoon when No. 17 was finally allowed to leave the Green Dome. There was nowhere else he could go, so he returned to his cottage. There was now a signpost outside the door to his cottage, where there had not been one earlier. A black and white striped pole set in a steel base, topped by a candy striped canopy beneath which was suspended two signs the one above the other ’17 Private.’ The door to his cottage was closed, he half expected it to open automatically, it didn’t. He had to open the door manually.
   Music was playing through a black loudspeaker it was a military march of some kind, he stared at it and noticed there was no volume control, no tuner, more importantly there was no on/off switch! It wasn’t the music so much that began to annoy him, but the fact he couldn’t switch it off. So he went out, there was a brass band playing somewhere, and playing the same piece of music which was playing through the loudspeaker just a few moments ago. He sat down in a chair on the lawn, there was a woman, middle aged, wearing a blue trilby hat and a colourfully striped cape.
    “You look lost” she said, a warm smile crossed her lips.
    “Don’t you start!”
    “Me, what should I start?”
    “Don’t tell me you’re just as much a prisoner here as I am.”
    “Well yes, and what I’ve learned is that you only have so much time to give them what they want before they take it!”
    “I’m not going to be around long enough. I’ll find a way out of here if it kills me!”
    “It probably will, the village has a guardian and there’s no getting passed it.”
    “Has anyone ever escaped?”
    “Some have tried, none of them ever succeeded.”
    “How do you know?”
    “They were brought back, not always alive. Can you fly a helicopter?”
    “No, can you?
    “No, I was hoping you could. How are you on sailing and navigation?”
    “I worked in Intelligence, they didn’t teach us sailing and navigation.”
    “What did you do?”
    “Generally I made cocoa and thought in broad concepts.”
    “You were an ideas man.”
    “Working in intelligence.”
    “Well perhaps you can think of a way to get out of here, while I find someone who can implement your plan.”
    The music came to an end and everyone at the Brass Band concert applauded. The bandleader turned and bowed at the audience, then taking up his baton the band began to play again.
    “We must talk again.”
    “When?” he asked.
   “Tomorrow at ten in the morning, at the lighthouse along the cliffs” and with that No.8 stood up and calmly walked away.
    After a moment or two No.17 stood up and carefully followed No.8, and watched as she made her way up to the Green Dome, he presumed she had gone inside to make her report.

    The next day No.17 woke up to find his own clothes had been replaced by a brown and white striped jersey, light blue flannels, and a pair of blue deck shoes. He did not keep that rendezvous with No.8. He was not looking for trouble, although trouble eventually found him in the burly shape of No.68, who picking a fight with 17 in the Piazza threw him into the pool and waded in after him! They carried on for several minutes, at one point he thought this burly set man would drown him. But as luck would have it two guardians arrived on the scene and pulled the two men out of that water and were frogmarched away.
    “What do you think you were doing?” No.2 asked.
    “I wasn’t doing anything, I was minding my own business when this chap the size of granny’s outhouse suddenly came at me for no better reason that beating me to a pulp, and half drowning me in the process!”
    “I know” No.2 said rising out of her chair.
    “You, it was you who set your dog on me!”
    “I wanted to see how you would react.”
    “You saw.”
    The pair of steel doors slid open and two medical orderlies stood framed in the doorway.
    “These two men have come to take you to the hospital, I think it would be a good idea if you saw a doctor and had a medical.”
    “Really, and if I refuse?”
    “You can refuse of course, but it is for your own good.”
    “Very well then, after all what harm can it do?” he remembered what the taxi driver had told him about the hospital, and it gave him an uneasy feeling but he decided to brave it out “right, we had better be on our way, best not keep the good doctor waiting!”
    “Well laddie” said the gaunt looking doctor “you seem pretty fit to me, I’ll just have a wee listen to the old ticker. Nothing wrong there, and you’ve a good strong pulse”
    The doctor busied himself preparing a hypodermic syringe.
    “What’s that?”
    “This” said the doctor “nothing, nothing at all” and he pressed the plunger and yellow liquid spurted from the needle.
    A nurse rolled up 17’s left sleeve, the doctor stepped forward brandishing the syringe.
    “Now” said the doctor his hand hovering over a switch “we can begin” and he administered the drug into 17’s upper arm.
   No.17 sat in the chair, the doctor and nurse backed away and stood watching the patient. Suddenly No.17 didn’t feel so good, he began to perspire, his body began to shake then writhe, he was physically sick.
   “How are you laddie? Feeling rough but alive, nurse the second dose if you please. Drugs, physical pain, and if that’s not enough there’s the physiological fear factor. You see every man has his breaking point, and we have barely begun!”

Be seeing you

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