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Saturday, 8 August 2020

Tales From The Village

    Citizens promenaded along the quayside on a warm afternoon, others clamoured about the Stone Boat, some climbed up the rigging while the ex-Admiral stood on the quarterdeck as the helmsman steered a course of north by northwest. But not No.21, who stood on the edge of the quayside gazing out across the wide expanse of sand between the village and the far side of the estuary. He noted the island which might afford a brief sanctuary and from where he might set out from the far side of that island unseen. No-one took the slightest interest in the young man who curiously had a number of suckers attached to his hands.
   No.21 bided his time; he was not ignorant of the fact that the Observers could be watching, he was aware that anyone passing by on the quayside could be a guardian. And so he stepped forward and descended the steps from the quayside down onto the sand. He stepped out casually across the sand, as though he was out for an afternoon stroll on the beach, taking in and enjoying the scenery about him. At first the going was good, the sand hard under his deck shoes. But further out into the estuary the sand was soft sinking up to his ankles, but he pressed on. It wasn’t until he was about halfway between the village and the island that he drew the attention of one of the Observers in the control room.    
   The supervisor was adding something to his report on a clipboard “Yes what is it?”
    “Number 21 is taking a long walk out across the estuary.”
    “Really, let’s have him on the screen, put up camera 34” the supervisor said.
    At the press of a button and the large wall screen showed the beach, and a figure walking towards the island in the middle of the estuary.
    “Closer” the supervisor ordered.
    The camera zoomed in on the subject.
    “Closer, get him as close as you can” supervisor said studying the screen “what’s he up to?”
    “He can’t possibly think he can simply walk away” No.60 suggested.
    “If he does he has another think coming. Despatch two guardians in a Mini-Moke to bring him back” ordered the supervisor.
    “If he carries on like that he’ll reach the island soon” No.6 told his supervisor.
    “Not if you get a move on and pass on that order!”
    “Yes sir” No.60 said picking up the ‘L’ shaped telephone.
    Within minutes a white Mini-Moke shot down the slipway and onto the sand speeding out across the beach towards the island, its two tone siren sending a loud and clear warning to the escaping prisoner. No.21 turned and saw the white vehicle behind him, turning again he hurried on although the going now was much softer, it would not be long before the guardians caught up with him.
   The Mini-Moke cannot be described as an ideal all terrain vehicle, and although the sand is solid enough inland close to the village, further out it was not long before the vehicle became stuck in the sand, right up to its axles! The driver revved the engine, engaging a low gear the wheels spun sending sand into the air, selecting reverse gear was no better.
    “Better get the shovels” No.256 said stepping out of the Mini-Moke.
   No.265 gave a queer look to his comrade “Shovels, where am I likely to get two shovels?”
    “You didn’t bring the shovels?”
    “No-one said anything about bringing shovels!”
    “Then we’d best be using shanks’s pony!”
    “Shank’s ponies there are two of us!” No.265 said following behind.
    “Oh come on or we’ll never catch him!”
    The supervisor, who had been watching the action on the wall screen, had come to the same conclusion as No.256. He picked up the grey ‘L’ shaped telephone.
    “Orange alert……orange alert. Number 21 heading across the estuary towards the island.”
    Somewhere on the seabed something stirred, a large mass of membrane from which a large piece is detached, distorted by the sea pressure, it slowly floats up to the surface. Breaking through the surface the white amorphous Guardian quickly skims across the waves towards the beach. Rolling and bounding across the sand, emitting a sound rather like the cross between a bicycle pump, someone breathing through an aqualung, and Gregorian chant, towards its intended victim.
   At hearing this No.21 stopped dead in his tracks, he could see the two guardians making heavy going in the soft sand, but the Guardian simply rolled across the soft sand getting closer with every passing second. He ran on as fast as the soft sand beneath his feet would allow, but it was not enough with one blood curdling roar the Guardian bounced and knocked No.21 to the ground. Getting to his feet the Guardian came at him again, but this time he had a trick of his own. He took a flying leap at the Guardian attaching himself to the membrane using the sucker cups attached to his hands, this allowed him to get a grip, climb on top, and ride the creature.
   In the control room the supervisor and his assistant stood watching the scene play out on the wall screen.
    “What does he think he’s doing?” The supervisor asked astonished by what he was seeing.
    “It’s certainly original” No.60 said “do you think he’ll get away with it?”
    “Number 21 has to release himself sooner or later, and when he does…..” the supervisor said picking up the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone.
     The white sphere began to quiver and tried to shake off this sudden appendage. But the suckers were well attached, and No.21 found he was able to control the Guardian with the force of his hands, turning it this way and that, then towards the island and the far side of the estuary. But the Guardian was still a dangerous creature, that would not allow itself to be controlled in such a way. It began to bounce violently; No.21 found he was forced to hang on like hanging onto a bucking bronco if he was to survive.
    “No, no, no, no, oh no, help me someone help me…..!” he screamed now struggling to pull his hands free!
   No.21 could do nothing but watch as his hands sank into the membrane that felt like soft wax, he feared at that moment that his entire body would be completely absorbed by the Guardian. But no, instead it began rolling across the sand with him now strongly attached to it, and as it rolled he was forced to roll headfirst with it, or even around it depending on the Guardian’s attitude. Then it took one, two, three bounces and bounced high into the sky, with him screaming at the strain now placed on his wrists. Oh how he wished his wrists would crack and break so he could fall to his death. He screamed, and screamed, but his screams were carried away on the wind.
    The Guardian eventually floated back down to the ground and on contact began rolling and bounding across the beach towards the sea. No.21 tried digging his heels into the sand so as to act as an anchor, to try at least to slow the Guardian’s progress. But to no avail, and he finally realised his mistake in attaching himself to the Guardian in the first place. Although bruised and battered, he found he could still move his hands within the membrane, and instead of a final desperate struggle to free himself, he slowly twisted his wrists this way and that to try and ease his hands free of the membrane that gripped him with the force of a vice. In his struggle he allowed himself a glance ahead; the sea was growing ever closer, as panic was growing inside him.
    “Someone, anyone, help mmmmmeeeee, for God’s sake, will no-one help me?”
    The two guardians who had been giving pursuit now stood on the sand transfixed by what they were seeing, as were the Supervisor and his assistant in the control room.
    The supervisor picked up the grey ‘L’ shaped telephone “Deactivate the Guardian…..I said deactivate it.”
    No.2 sat watching the action on the large wall screen; he picked up the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone.
    In the control room the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone began to bleep No.60 picked it up.
    “Number 2 here what the Devil’s going on? Deactivate the Guardian immediately”
    “We can’t sir” No.60 told his superior.
    No.21 strained to pull his hands free, then the cold water hit him, he was upside down, the Guardian was pressing him down in the water, drowning him. Struggling he kicked out with his legs but the Guardian offered no resistance it seemed it was his own weight that was holding him down in the shallow water. But worse was to come, his face was covered by the suffocating membrane, but then a sudden release, but not for long as the Guardian began to move away from the shore line and out to sea, then it submerge below the waves taking the unfortunate No.21 with it.

Be seeing you

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