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Monday 17 August 2020

Tales From The Village

    It had been a long hike across the hills only to be met at the end of it by a stone wall. On the other side was a dense wood, he stood there for a few moments, his arms wide, his hands on the stone and wondered what to do. In the end he did the most sensible thing he could do, he sat down with his back to the wall, opened his haversack and ate his packed lunch.
    The stone wall was strong, well kept, and quite obviously a boundary wall to some estate. He climbed the wall and sat on it staring into the dense wood, then back over his shoulder before examining the ordinance survey map he carried. According to the map there were cliffs and the sea on the far side of the woods, which were shown on the map to be crisscrossed by a number of paths. He decided to chance it, gauging that the sea was closer than the cosy Inn that had afforded him shelter only the night before, meaning if he was to spend the night out of doors, he might find shelter under the trees. Throwing his haversack over the wall he climbed over, dropped to the ground, picked up the haversack and whistling a tune he began to make his way through the woods. The dense wood seemed to bring night on sooner than expected, and he searched for somewhere to spend a comfortable night. Ahead was a rocky outcrop, bushes at its base looked to make a cosy place to spend the night. He gathered some large stones; put them in a circle, filled them with twigs and dry moss and with the aid of his matches soon had a blazing campfire. He took out the remainder of his packed lunch and the now half filled flask from which he filled the tin cup with coffee, and heated up by the fire.
    It was about 5 in the morning. The fire had burned itself out, and he was just wondering what to do next whilst studying his ordinance survey map, when he noticed there was a cottage marked on the map. A cottage on the mouth of the estuary, he decided to make for that, perchance he might obtain food and a hot drink after a night in the woods. Slinging his haversack over one shoulder he set out with a firm tread and a merry heart to make his way through the woods. He followed a wide path in the general direction he wanted to go, a path which eventually led him out of the woods and onto a cliff top. He stood there for a moment looking out across a large expanse of sand, out across to the far side of the estuary. A gentle sea breeze wafted his hair, and salt air filled his nostrils, he took a deep breath and it filled his lungs. He turned and saw the small lighthouse; he didn’t recall a lighthouse being marked on the ordinance survey map, unfolded the map and studied it. He was right; no lighthouse was marked on the map, but then it really wasn’t that much of a lighthouse. On closer inspection it had no light, only a single bell hung inside the metal domed structure.
    Turning away from the lighthouse he clamoured down the rocks to the beach and strode out across the sand looking out towards the mouth of the estuary, then turned and walked in the opposite direction. A few yards on he came across a number of headstones in the sand, “a curious place for a graveyard” he thought, what’s more the head stones had no names, no inscriptions, only numbers! Walking on he saw ahead of him a white cottage, this was indicated on the survey map but there was no indication of the attached square squat tower. Apparently he had taken the wrong path through the woods but had only taken him a little out of his way…….And then he saw it, the village marked on the map that he had been looking for. He walked on, and saw there was a large dome and a tall tower what he took to be a bell tower. And there a sailing vessel, he could see its sail plain. Taking his telescope from the haversack he pulled out the four drawers and placed it to his eye. The sailing vessel was strange, unless his eye was deceiving him; it looked to be part of the quayside, but the black sail was set. There was a large building set some distance from the village itself, and yes the tower was a bell tower. He stood openly on the sand studying what other buildings he could make out. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the sun was bright, and there was a sudden bright glint off the glass of the telescope, just before he closed it.
    One of the Observers attracted the Supervisor’s attention.
    “Yes what is it?”
    “I’m not sure sir, just for a moment there was a dazzling light, as though the sun was reflecting off something for a second.”
    “Is it still there?”
    “No sir, it’s gone” the Observer reported.
    “Well perhaps it was a trick of the light…..but on the other hand. Put up camera 34 on the screen” ordered the Supervisor.
    The large wall screen came into life and displayed the expanse of sand.
    “Scan” ordered the Supervisor.
    The surveillance camera scanned the beach, and then as large as life a figure was walking along the beach towards the village.
    “Zoom in” the Supervisor ordered.
    The camera zoomed in on the subject.
    “Get him as close as you can” the supervisor said staring at the screen.
    “Who can he be?” asked one of the Observers.
    “He’s not wearing village clothing” observed another.
    The man was tall, lean, he wore hard wearing dark green trousers and a matching jacket and had a haversack slung over one shoulder.
    The Supervisor picked up the yellow ‘L’ shaped intercom “Get me Number 2 quickly.”
    In the Green Dome the grey ‘L’ shaped intercom bleeped, a man sat in a black globe chair leaned forward and picked up the intercom.
    “Yes what is it, what’s the matter?”
    “Supervisor here sir, I have to report an incident.”
    “What kind of incident?” No.2 asked.
    A white Mini-Moke with No.21 at the wheel and two guardians in the passenger seats sped down the slipway and onto the beach, making a beeline for the figure walking towards the village. The sight of the vehicle heading at speed towards him was somewhat alarming, but he felt sure that whoever was in the vehicle meant him no harm, perhaps they were merely curious, at worst they would no doubt warn him that he was trespassing.
    The Mini-Moke stopped and three men alighted and approached the solitary figure.
    “Who are you?” asked the dark haired figure of No.21.
    “I’m on a hiking holiday” the man replied.
    “Where did you come from?”
    “From the other side of the woods.”
    One of the guardians grabbed the haversack and tipped out its contents onto the sand,
    “Those are mine” the outsider protested.
    “You won’t be needing them” said one of the guardians.
    The two of them bundled the outsider into the Mini-Moke while No.21 got in behind the wheel and drove the vehicle back into the village, coming to a stop at the steps of the Green Dome. The pair of steel doors slid open and the outsider was manhandled into the purple walled office, and unceremoniously dumped into a black leather chair. The two guardians withdrew through the opening steel doors, there came a pregnant pause in the proceedings, then…….. 
    “How did you come to be here?” No.2 asked from the comfort of a black spherical chair.
    “It’s like I told those men, I hiked across the hills, climbed over a stone boundary wall, and through the woods and there was the village” the man said.
    “Yes it would be” No.2 said considering the situation.
    “Well it’s on my old ordinance survey map.”
    “Map?” No.2 asked.
    “He had this on him sir” 21 said handing No.2 the said map.
    “Let me see this map” No.2 said, and unfolding it he made a close examination “I don’t believe it!” he exclaimed.
     “I had some other things, they were tipped out onto the sand, if there is somewhere I could replenish my supplies, perhaps have something to eat I would gladly get on my way” the man said.
     No.2 and No.21 simply looked at their guest.
     “If it’s a question of trespass I assure you……”
     No.2 put the map down on the desk “I’m afraid it’s a little more serious than a question of trespass. Outsiders do not simply walk here and stumble across the village by accident. You claim you came here from over the hills that you climbed over a boundary wall, and walked through the woods. You didn’t find your way here by sea?”
    “By sea…”
    “You don’t have a boat then?”
    “A boat, why should I have a boat, I don’t have a boat. I told you…….”
    “Yes you told us” No.2 said “you were not sent here?”
    “No-one sent me here, why should anyone send me here, what should I do here?” the outsider protested.
    “What are we to do with you now, that is the questions, isn’t it?”
    “Do with me, what do you mean do with me?”
    “And there’s another problem you see, we are an isolated village, people do not just walk here.”
    “I did” the man said.
    “So you say” No.2 said again considering the seriousness of the situation.
    “You know what this means don’t you Number 2” 21 said quietly in his ear.
    “Yes I do, this man, this outsider simply strolled in here right through the outer zone security precautions!”
    “Precisely sir.”
    “You are head of security Number 21, tell me how he managed to do that?”
    “I can’t sir.”
    “Someone was sleeping on the job; I’ll have his head for this. Find out who it was 21 and bring him to me” No.2 ordered.
    “Yes sir, but in the meantime sir, we can’t simply let this outsider go” 21 suggested.
    “I realize that.”
    “There’s nothing for it sir, we’ll have to keep him here!”
    “You can’t keep me here” the outsider protested.
    “Be quiet” No.2 said sharply “I haven’t made my mind up about you yet. You could be telling the truth, or you could have been sent here in order to infiltrate the village. Did he have a radio on him, 21?”
    “No sir, we didn’t find a radio.”
    “What are your names?” the outsider asked.
    “I am Number 2, this is Number 21.”
    “We do not use names here in the village” 21 said “But while we are on the subject we do not know your name.”
    “My name is Black, John Black” the outsider told them.
    “Well Mister Black, we’ll need to know slightly more about you than that” No.2 told him “perhaps we should leave him to consider his position in the peaceful atmosphere of the village, what say you 21?”
    “Or we could simply hand him over to the doctor, you know how he loves to experiment” was 21’s suggestion.
    “I don’t think we have to be so extreme just yet, what say you Mister Black?”
    “I work as a cartographer, and I study old maps in my spare time.”
    “Well what of it?”
    “I found a German World war two map of this area used by the Luftwaffe, it had this village marked on it” Black began to explain.
    “Why, why should a German World war two map used by the Luftwaffe have this village marked on it?” No.2 asked.
    “I don’t know, it raised my curiosity and I compared that map to earlier maps of this area, and no such village was marked.”
    No.2 and 21 looked at each other “And you expect us to believe that?”
    “It’s the truth. So I took a fortnights holiday to come hiking in this area.”
    “In order to find this village?”
    “Have this man put through administration, give him a new suit of clothes, issue him with the usual papers of identity and the like, and give him the number……6d.”
    “6d sir is such a number available?”
    “I neither know nor care, that is to be his number” No.2 said insistently.
    “Very good sir.”
    “A cottage will have to be prepared for our….new arrival to the village. And you 21………..”
    “Yes sir?”
    “Can attend to your security details.”
    “Yes sir.”
    “You mean you intend to keep me here?” the outsider said.
    “You can’t do that!”
    “I think you’ll find we can” No.2 informed the outsider.
    “And what’s all this about a number?”
    “For official purposes everyone has a number, yours is 6d.”
    “6d, that’s sixpence” 21 said smiling to himself “that makes him not quite the full shilling!”
       6d sat in the chair mulling over his situation, not wanting to remain a prisoner in this village, or even to have some doctor carry out experiments on him, he decided there was only one option open to him. As No.2 was conferring with No.21 he got out of the chair and dashed across the floor, up the ramp, through the opening steel doors, brushing passed the diminutive butler in the foyer with No.21 giving chase. He didn’t pause on the balcony, but dashed down the steps from the Green Dome and into the road. The driver of the taxi sounded the horn but for 6d it was too late to avoid the collision.
    A crowd of onlookers had gathered, and No.21 arrived on the scene to be greeted by a very apologetic taxi driver.
    “He just ran out into the road, there was no time to avoid him. I did sound the horn…….”
    No.21 knelt by the body lying in the road, he felt for a pulse, he could not find one “Perhaps it’s for the best” he said quietly to himself, and stood up.
    “Who was he?” a voice asked.
    No.21 turned to the man standing next to him “He was an outsider, like you were once upon a time Number 6, he would never have settled down to life here!”

Be seeing you

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