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Monday 27 December 2021

Chapter 13



    Escape, we all want to escape when our spirit’s broken.

    It was early one morning, when after taking a long stroll along the cliff top, No.4 sat himself down and gazed out at sea towards the far horizon. His attention was suddenly drawn by movement down in the cove below the cliffs. A man was dragging a raft across the beach towards the water. No, not a raft, it was a hollowed out tree trunk.
    It had taken No.62 several days to hollow out the old tree trunk he had found over grown in the woods. For the task he had managed to steal a hatchet, hammer, a large chisel, and a length of rope. He had worked in the woods, hollowing out his tree trunk which he then had roped up and dragged to the edge of the cliffs and tilted it over the edge, and lowered it down to the beach on the end of the rope. He scrambled down the cliff, and from his knapsack he took a bottle and drank deep of the water, before putting the rope around himself and began to pull the hollowed out tree trunk across the sand. He released the rope then launched the canoe into the water. The water was warm. He clambered aboard and taking up the roughly hewn paddle from a branch of a tree began to paddle his dugout boat.
    No.4 continued to keep said man under observation, he had watched the man launch it into the water, and saw him jump aboard and start paddling away from the shore. He could see he was making descent headway, then there it was, bursting out onto the surface of the sea, a white amorphous sphere that was skimming across the waves in the direction of the slow moving craft. He shouted from the top of the cliff “Below there, look out, look out below.”
    Whether the man in the dug out trunk had heard him or not he didn’t know, but suddenly the escaping prisoner saw the white amorphous sphere heading in his direction, and panic set in. He managed to steer his craft away, but it was much too late. The white sphere emanated a bloodcurdling roar, and was on its victim in an instant knocking him into the water. He tried to swim for it, but to no avail. The white sphere emitted a further blood curdling roar. It caught up with the man in the water, covering his face, hands clawed at the membrane his lungs burned for the lack of oxygen. Finally half suffocated, half drowned the man’s body went limp and was left floating in the water as the Guardian moved away.

    No.4 stood on the cliff stunned by what he had seen; there was a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. There was nothing he could do, nothing he could have done. And then he heard the sound of engines and a motor cruiser appeared from round the point of the cove. It came to a stop, and he could see two crewmen busy hauling the dead man’s body out of the sea. Was this an opportunity? He


shouted out from the cliff top as loud as he could, stood there waving his arms desperately trying to attract the crew’s attention. The body having been hauled aboard, one of the crewmen went into the wheelhouse and took the helm. The engines revved and the motor cruiser moved off. He stopped shouting, his arms became still and the opportunity was gone.

    Later that day No.4 attended the regular Brass Band concert, he was nicely relaxed in the comfort of a deckchair when a shadow crossed his face, blocking out the sun.
    “Oh it’s you!”
    “May I?” No.2 asked indicating the grass with the point of his shooting stick.
    “If I object?”
    “I’d sit down anyway.”
    “Then why bother to ask?”
    No.2 glanced about for a vacant seat. Not seeing one he opened the handles of his shooting stick, making himself a seat and pushed the steel spike into the ground and sat down.
    “You were on the cliffs this morning.”
    “You noticed.”
    “You were observed shouting and waving your arms in the air.”
    “You can’t stop a man from trying.”
    “It wouldn’t have done you any good had you succeeded in attracting the crew’s attention.”
    “Why not?”
    “The boat is ours!”
    “Is that you telling me that, or the machine?”
    “Just because you know what Number 1 is, don’t think for one moment it will do you any good.”

    “I wasn’t thanking of that” he said giving No.2 a quizzical look.
    “Why do you look at me like that?”

    “I’m trying to size you up.”
    “What for, my coffin!”
    “Something funny happened to me, in the Fun Palace.”
    “Really” No.2 said eagerly “do tell.”
    “You were in the Black Cat bar quietly getting drunk, something to do with a Burlesque singer.”
    “Really, doesn’t sound like me!”
    “Now mark this, you were shot by an assassin!”
    “Only it wasn’t you.”
    “I’m glad to hear it” No.2 said feigning relief.
    “It was an automaton that was shot.”
    “You don’t say.”
    “Are you playing some kind of game with me?”
    “Whatever do you mean……oh I see, you think I’m some kind of automaton!"


    “Or you could be Number 1 getting its hands dirty. Are you?”

    “Certainly not, I’m me, Number 2, always have been. Prick me do I not bleed?”
    No.4 removed the badge from the lapel of his piped blazer and offered it to No.2.
    “You want proof?”
    “If you wouldn’t mind” still holding out the badge.
    “Anything to oblige” No.2 said taking the offered badge and pricking his index finger “I take it that has put your mind to rest?”
    No.4 looked at the blood on the tip of No.2’s finger.
    “Can’t have you worrying, can we” he said with a smile, and handed back the badge.
    No.2 paused a moment or two, then stood up and pulled his shooting stick out of the ground, closed the handles “Well I can’t lounge about here all day like some people. I’ve things to do.”
    “Don’t let me stop you!” No.4 said sarcastically.
    “I’ll be seeing you” No.2 said saluting with thumb and forefinger.
    He watched No.2 walking away “Not if I see you first you won’t” 4 said under his breath.

    The Brass Band concert came to an end to the gentle applause of the audience. No.4 rose out of his deckchair and returned to his cottage where he found a housemaid busy dusting.
    “Having a good day?” she asked
    “What’s it to you?”
    “You’re in a bad mood.”
    “Can’t be happy all the time, its not healthy!”

    He made himself a cup of coffee went outside, the French door was open, he stepped out onto the balcony balancing himself on the railings.
    “What’s out there that you find so interesting?” the housemaid-No.32 asked.
    “The village, people promenading around the Piazza for no good reason, it makes you wonder why they do it” he said.
    “They promenade to be seen that’s all. Didn’t someone say there’s only one thing worse than being seen, and that is not being seen?”
    “It looks like people exercising in a prison exercise yard!”
    “Your trouble is you have no soul” she told him returning to her dusting.
    He finished his coffee and returned to the lounge.
    “Is that what’s wrong with me, I have no soul!”
    “What’s put you in this mood?”
    “How many people have tried to escape this place?”
    The housemaid stopped dusting the bust of Will Shakespeare “I know there are some people who have tried.”
    “Has anyone ever escaped?”


    “No as far as I know” came the reply “mostly they are brought back.”
    “Sometimes they are dead” she told him with a tinge of sadness in her voice.
    “Perhaps their plans had flaws, or they didn’t know who to trust!”
    “You realize the watch do see everything” the housemaid warned.
    “And in asking questions I naturally become suspect! Do they hear everything?”
    “You mean “The Listen!” Are you going to try and escape?”
    “I’m not telling you, I don’t know if I can trust you. And for those who are listening, I am not planning to try and escape. But even if I were, you can’t blame a chap for trying!”
    He made for the door.

    “Where are you going?” she asked.
    “Just out and about, I suddenly feel like promenading in the Piazza in order to be seen. Let yourself out seeing as you let yourself in, be seeing you” he saluted.

    A few minutes later in the control room, an Observer reported No.4 promenading around the free sea in the Piazza.
    “What’s so unusual about that?” asked the Supervisor.
    “It’s out of character, he’s never done it before, that makes it suspicious” the Observer replied.
    “Let’s have him on the screen” ordered the Supervisor.

    And there he was, promenading in the Piazza making himself known, making himself seen and making small talk with other citizens. The Supervisor picked up the receiver of the yellow telephone and called No.2.
    “Promenading in the Piazza, well what’s so unusual in that? He might just feel like a little exercise.”
    “Daily walks around the village is one thing” the Supervisor said “promenading in the Piazza is another, he thinks it’s a waste of time.”
    “You think he’s up to something?”   
    “Well he’s never done it before, it’s almost as though he deliberately wants to be seen.”

    “Keep a close surveillance eye on him, report any further unusual activity to me.”
    “Yes Number 2.”

    It was a bright sunny day, and quite a warm day perfect for promenading around the Piazza. Citizens all dressed for the summer in brightly coloured clothes, well everyone except the two men in black overcoats and Top Hats, administrators who were merely passing through on their way to the Town Hall. Some ladies wore colourful striped capes, and held aloft open umbrellas which acted as parasols against the brightness and warmth of the sun. Senior citizens were


pushed in wheelchairs by their personal maid. While gentlemen paraded about wearing piped or striped blazers and straw boaters, all enjoying the day, taking the air. And there was No.4 amongst their number acknowledging an elderly couple as they passed by.
    “Nice to be seeing you” they said as they passed by arm in arm.
   “And you” No.4 replied, and went on to pass the time with a young woman in a red trilby hat. He stepped to one side in order to get out of the way of a man who was pushing a Penny Farthing bicycle, as well as avoiding the odd taxi. There was No.66 the ex-Admiral and his first officer - number 1, both wearing British Naval caps, sailing plastic boats in the free sea. There was one chap sitting in a white dingy in the free sea, although he had a paddle, the dingy was being pulled along in the water at the end of a rope by another chap! No.4 promenaded for about ten minutes or so before eventually slipping quietly away, taking himself off into the woods, taking the first path he came to. He met no-one on his walk and that pleased him, for there were times when he much preferred his own company to that of others. Not that he was alone for long, not in the village; everyone was close far too close at times. Ahead of him he saw a row of plinths, and set upon each plinth was the bust of some famous person. It was the bust of Voltaire that attracted him, because as he walked passed, the bust rotated, a camera lens set in the stone bust’s left eye tracked No.4 who saluted the Observer with circled finger and thumb.
    “Supervisor, Number 4 is in the woods” the Observer reported.
    “What’s he up to?”
    “He doesn’t appear to be up to anything, he’s just walking.”
    The Supervisor picked up the receiver of the grey telephone and made his report to No.2.
    “In the woods you say, what’s he up to do you think?”
    “He’s just walking.”
    “And you are bothering me with this, why?”
    “He slipped away from the Piazza unseen, we lost him then picked him up in the woods” the Supervisor explained.

    “Alright, keep me advised” No.2 said and hung up.

    It was all very well trying to keep an eye on No.4, but not all of the woods were covered by surveillance cameras! It wasn’t long before No.4 had completely lost himself in the depths of the woods totally unseen by the Observers. Eventually he stepped out of the trees and into a small clearing where many tree branches had been piled up, as though a bonfire was waiting to be lit. But it wasn’t a bonfire, as he looked more closely he could see tarpaulins under the branches, and it soon became clear something had been deliberately camouflaged. Clearing the tree branches, he pulled back the tarpaulin and uncovered a light blue American Willy Jeep with a grey canvas canopy. Jumping in behind the wheel he pulled out the hand throttle and choke, turned the ignition on, but there was no power.


Uncovering two other jeeps, the result was the same, both with flat batteries. However when he tried the fourth jeep, turning on the ignition there was power and the petrol gauge read half full, pressing the foot starter the engine coughed into life. Switching off the engine he sat there in the Jeep his mind turning over an idea, formulating an escape plan. The question is, how far would a half full petrol tank get him……quite a way he should think. He replaced the tarpaulins, and the tree branches, making the camouflage look as undisturbed as he could. Walking back the way he had come, No.4 eventually left the woods and finding himself back in the village, he took the short road to an outlying hamlet to the village yet appeared to be a small hamlet in its own right. He stood there in the square by a tree watching people going about their business, looking at the plain brick and stone walled buildings with their slate roofs and wooden verandas, there was even a domed tower, and even a stone horse trough in the square. And there was the imposing stone building of the Fun Palace, which now displayed a dark green sign with the words Recreation Hall.
    “Supervisor, Number 4 is in the hamlet community” an Observer reported.
    “Is he, what’s he doing?”
    “He’s standing by a tree looking at the Recreation Hall.”
    “Let’s have him on the screen” ordered the Supervisor.
    No.4 acknowledged the salute of a couple as they passed by, then went on his way reaching the far side of the hamlet, and stood looking at the open countryside beyond, while the Supervisor reported this activity to No.2.

    “He’s doing what?” asked No.2.
    “Now he’s on his way back to the village.”
    “Why did he go to the small hamlet do you think?”
    “I really couldn’t say sir. He seemed to be simply looking.”
    “Looking, looking for what?”
    “He seemed to be studying the lay of the land, the countryside.”
    “But he didn’t make a move to go further than that?”
    “No sir, he simply turned and walked away” the Supervisor said

watching the wall screen “he’s back in the village now; he appears to be returning to his cottage.”
    No.2 replaced the receiver of the yellow telephone “What’s he up to?”

    No.4 played the game for a couple of days as he worked out his plan for his escape. He joined in playing croquet on the village green. He spent time playing chess with the ex-Admiral-No.66, he went swimming in the local lido, attended a folk music concert, a garden party at the Manor House. And all the time he was formulating his plan.

    The more he thought about it the more it became clear that the route he intended to take was out of the question, as a jeep passing


through the hamlet would certainly attract the attention of the Observers. A more direct route had to be taken from the woods to the open ground of the countryside which he would have to traverse as quickly as possible if he was to disappear into the hills beyond.
    One morning he purchased a few extra provisions from the General Store.
    “Stocking up for the winter?” the portly shopkeeper asked.
    “Something like that.”
    “Right, four tins of baked beans, four of corned beef, tin of peaches, two loaves of bread, and 2 bars of chocolate” said the shopkeeper totting up the total.
    “Do you self flasks?” No.4 asked casually.
    “Flasks of what?”
    “Thermal flasks?”
    “Oh I see, no we don’t stock them.”
    “Bottles of lemonade perhaps?”
    “What about rucksacks?”
    The shopkeeper shook his head.
    “Duffle bags?”
    “Sorry sir.”
    “Never mind, I expect I’ll manage.”
    “I can put these things in a cardboard box if you like” the shopkeeper offered.
    “Thank you.”
    “Are you going on a picnic?” the shopkeeper asked.
    “What’s it to you if I am?”
    “It’s nothing to me what you do with your time, I was just being friendly.”
    No.4 looked at the contents of the village food cardboard box “Well that seems to be about all.”
    “That will be thirty-four work units in all” said the shopkeeper, and clipped the credit card handed to him.
    No.4 took back his credit card, picked up the cardboard box, while the shopkeeper came out from behind the counter and opened the shop door for him.
    “Well call again, always a pleasure of your custom…be seeing you” he saluted as No.4 went on his way.

    His customer gone, the shopkeeper-No.19 picked up the receiver of the black telephone and made a call to Control.
    “What’s so unusual in No.4 doing his weekly shop?” No.2 asked.
    “Nothing, it’s the quantity that’s in question” the Supervisor-No.28 replied.
    “What did he do with the provisions when he returned home?”
    “He put them in a corner of the kitchen and placed a tea towel over the box."


    “He hid it!”
    “Well I can’t say he hid it, he simply placed a tea towel over the box.”
    “But he must know he’s being observed.”
    “Yes sir, that means he’s being cleverer than we might think. He’s also been seen hanging about outside the admin building.”
    “Really, what could there be to interest No.4 there?”
    “I really don’t know, unless it’s someone in administration that’s suddenly attracted Number 4’s attention.”
    “I’m not sure that’s it at all. The works department building is behind the admin building isn’t it?”
    “Yes sir, works and maintenance” the supervisor confirmed.
    “That would be more likely to attract Number 4’s attention. He’s planning something, for which he requires a set of tools” No.2 said feeling pleased with himself.
    “Do we stop him?” asked the Supervisor.
    “No. Let’s see just how ingenious our friend Number 4 can be. We’ll keep him on a long leash for the time being!”

   That night just before curfew a maid in black dress, white lace apron, and white sailor’s cap was busy in the kitchen making No.4 his nightcap of hot chocolate as he paced the floor of the lounge. Having carried the cup and saucer into the bedroom the maid bid him goodnight, and he saw the middle aged woman to the door. That was something out of the usual because he had never done that before! And as he closed the door he slipped a piece of tinfoil between lock and latch as the electronic lock engaged. The lights dimmed and he simply went to bed biding his time until just a little before dawn.

   The Watch had just changed from night to day shift, the Observers settling themselves down at their monitors while the two Supervisors exchanged notes and discussed any special instructions. The Observers were making the usual scans of the village, which was yet to wake up, so early in the morning it was that no-one was out and about. One Observer making a scan of the interior of ‘4 Private’ revealed the occupier was no longer at home!
    “I can’t find Number 4” reported the Observer.
    This immediately attracted the attention of the Supervisor who couldn’t believe it so soon in the morning!
    “Look again, he must be there, he can’t get out.”
    The Observer did as ordered.
    “No sir, he’s not there.”
    “He’s not hiding in the wardrobe again is he?”
    “He could be sir…..sir look at that!”
    The Supervisor ordered camera 22 put up on the screen. The door to ‘4 Private’ was open, and on the floor was something shiny, the


camera zoomed on a strip of tin foil. The Supervisor hardly believing his eyes picked up the receiver of the yellow telephone.

    A little before dawn No.4, who was still fully dressed, had climbed out of bed and in the gloom of the cottage slowly and carefully made his way to the cottage door so as not to attract the attention of any Observer. He waited a moment, his heart pounding, his pulse racing, before he opened the door and letting himself out slipped quietly away across the gravel and into the woods, carrying his box of provisions. Skirting the fringe of the village moving stealthily through the trees, making good use of the undergrowth as quick and sudden movement attracts the eye of the Observer. He made his way to the clearing deep in the woods on the far side of the village. Picking up a green petrol filled jerry can along the way. This he had managed to purloin from the back of the works department, this being nothing more than a glorified shed, the previous day. As luck would have it, the works department was but a short walk across open gravel and through the woods from the back of his cottage.

   With the camouflage removed he put the provisions into the back of the Jeep, and topped up the petrol tank from the jerry can. Then climbing behind the wheel he sat and listened for a few moments. The morning was still, the silence only broken by bird song. He pulled out the hand throttle and the choke, turned on the ignition and pressed the foot starter firing up the engine. Reversing the jeep out of the clearing he pulled hard on the steering wheel turning the Jeep onto the track leading though the trees and out into open countryside. The Jeep stopped, its engine idling as the driver took his bearings. Ahead of him was the outlying hamlet, it was clear that he would have to drive through if he was to continue on his way. Depressing the clutch he engaged first gear releasing the clutch he pressed gently on the accelerator, the Jeep moved slowly forward along a well rutted country track and into the small Hamlet. It was quiet at that time of the morning, no-one was about, and yet he knew that somewhere someone would be watching. It was now or never and he pressed gently on the accelerator, the Jeep moved forward through the hamlet, through the square, passed the Recreation Hall and then hard down on the accelerator taking the hedge lined track out into the wide open countryside. He stopped at an old wooden gate and studied the terrain ahead. The track continued now lined on the right by a wooden fence, to his left a row of oak trees, and on both sides open pasture. He drove on.

    The red telephone on No.2’s desk began to bleep somewhat impatiently, leaning forward in his black globe chair he picked up the receiver.

    “Number 2 here………no sir there’s no sign yet. The Observers are attempting to find him, and two security teams are searching the


woods for Number 4 as I speak………..yes sir I am perfectly aware of that……..yes I will sir, I shall keep in the closest touch.”
   No.2 replaced the receiver, and pressed a button on the control panel of his desk. The image of the bald-headed bespectacled Supervisor in the control room appeared on the wall screen.

    The Supervisor turned and looked at the wall screen.

    “What progress has been made in the search for Number 4?”
    “We have established he is nowhere to be found in the village. He’s obviously made good his escape sometime during the early hours” which was a clever move as it deflected any blame away from him.
    We know that!”
    “Yes but now we know how.”
    “Go on.”
    “One of the search teams in the woods came across the three old Jeeps we had dumped there.”
    “Three Jeeps, there were four!”
    “Precisely!” the Supervisor said smiling.
    “There is also a further report. A citizen living in the outlying hamlet says he heard a loud engine a little after dawn.”
    “That way we know roughly the direction Number 4 has taken. Put all Posts along the southern perimeter on yellow alert.”
    “Already done sir.”
    “Good, I’ll join you in the control room directly, Number 4 must not be allowed to escape!”
    “Yes I know that sir” and had the Supervisor not put the grey receiver down No.2 would have understood the sarcasm with which he said it!

    There was one point about the grassy track he travelled, it had been well used, judging by the two ruts on either side of a grassy bed! The further he travelled the more the track had become enclosed on both sides by thick hedge row, coupled with various trees. The Jeep carried along the track for another quarter of a mile then No.4 pressed on hard on the brake, as the track suddenly ran out at the edge of a steep incline. Climbing out of the Jeep and stepped out, it appeared the only way forward it seemed, was down! But the incline was far too steep for even the Jeep. There was only one thing for it, to retrace his wheel tracks, and try another way.
   About a mile and a half back along the track there appeared a small gap in the hedgerow. Stopping the vehicle No.4 clambered out and stepped off the trail and through the gap in the hedge. Ahead of him was an open field but with hedges and ditches on all sides, except in the far corner there was a closed wooden gate. He climbed back into the jeep and started out across the field. The ground was good to soft and easy going for the jeep. But even at this distance he was still on his guard, he was not far enough away from the village to drop his


guard just yet. There had been no sign of anyone, no sign of occupation, farm, or cottage. Then there it was! The long arm of the village reached even this far, as the white amorphous sphere crossed the field towards the jeep. He kept the Jeep heading straight towards  the gate which he fully intended crashing through and carrying on his way. He calculated that as long as he remained inside the vehicle he was safe from that membranic thing! He was surprised that it could maintain the same speed as the Jeep, but was unable to get aboard the moving vehicle.
   In his camouflaged hide Post 10 put down his binoculars and picked up his high powered rifle, pulled back the bolt putting a 44 calibre bullet into the breech, then balancing the barrel on a sandbag the rifle butt pressing into his shoulder, he put an eye to the telescopic sights and took aim at the approaching Jeep. The amorphous Guardian moved away, there came a loud crack of a rifle, the ricochet of a bullet as it hit the front grill of the Jeep. No.4 pulled hard right on the steering wheel veering the vehicle away. Anther crack of the rifle and a shattered windscreen, a third shot and a tyre burst. He fought to control the Jeep pressing on and away from the gate he had been aiming for. But there is only so far even a Jeep will travel with a flat nearside tyre, and finally the vehicle came to a top at the same gap in the hedge he went through only a few minutes earlier. Stepping out of the vehicle and through the said gap in the hedge, he found three snowdrop policemen, dressed in grey overalls, white helmets, gloves and boots, each brandishing a white truncheon waiting for him. 

    “Now Number 4, are you coming quietly, or do we have to use force?” said one of the security guards.
    No.4 was quick to weigh up the situation, and only a fool offers resistance when the cards are stacked against him, but he was no fool. He kicked out at one guard his deck shoed foot catching him hard between his legs sending him to the ground clutching his groin

. A second guard came at him his truncheon raised above his head. Grabbing the arm he twisted it, broke it, the truncheon falling to the ground, the guard incapacitated. The snowdrop who asked him to “Come quietly” moved swiftly towards No.4 who stooped picking up the truncheon off the ground. The two came quickly to blows as they duelled with truncheons hard and fast, No.4 getting the better of the snowdrop hitting him the midriff, and about the helmeted head. But in an unguarded moment one decisive blow to No.4’s head sent him off balance and staggering backwards. There came the sound of clanking, whirring, the World suddenly spun, the truncheon dropped from his hand and No.4 fell to the ground.

    A day or two later, No.4 was summoned to the Green Dome. Greeted at the door by the diminutive butler he was shown through into the office, the steel doors slamming shut behind him as he walked down the ramp and across the floor. No.2 from his chair


pressed a button on the control panel; a round disc dropped and a hole in the floor appeared, through which a black leather chair rose.
    “Do sit down my dear fellow” No.2 offered.
    No.4 looked at the chair “I prefer to stand.”
    “Suit yourself. I came to see you at the hospital you know.”
    “No I didn’t know.”
    “Well yes, you were well out of it at the time. I doubt you noticed much at all really. But you are feeling much better now I take it?”
    “The doctor pronounced me as being fully fit for any contingency, whatever he meant by that!”

    “Well that’s good. Can I offer you tea, or perhaps you would care for coffee?” No.2 offered in kindly way.
    “I’m sure neither of us wishes to prolong this interview!” No.4 said in less than kindly way.
    “That was audacious of you, if not a little rash.”
    “It is the pre-requisite of any prisoner to try and escape.”
    “And just when I thought you were finally settling into our way of life here.”
   “That’s what you were meant to think!”
    “I realize that now.”
    “What you want me to become a model citizen?”
    “Now what is wrong with that?”
    “Running like clockwork!”
    “There are worse things!”
    “Do you really think so?”
    “People don’t usually try to escape until their spirit is broken. Your spirit isn’t broken is it Number 4?”
    No.4 said nothing.
    “I have to say you handle yourself well in a fight, they were three of my best men.”
    “They could do with better training.”
    “Is that you volunteering for the job…, I thought not! You would never have got away of course.”
    “My standing here is evidence of that fact” he said surlily.
    “Don’t be like that. If you expect to be able to try and escape, we must at least be allowed to stop you. I know what you are, you’re a permanent test of our efficiencies.”
    “Is that what I am?” No.4 asked.
    He stepped away from the desk and stood staring at the Lava lamp effect on the large wall screen, then turned back to face the man sat in the black global chair.
    “I’ve been remembering.”
    “A noise.”
    “A noise?”
    “A noise in my head.”
    “Really, what sort of noise?”


    “Of clanking and whirring just before the world spun and I fell to the ground.”
    “A clanking, whirring sound?”
    “Something mechanical” No.4 added.
    “Perhaps it was a combine harvester!” No.2 offered.
    “A combine harvester?”
    “Well a farmer working in the field spreading muck or whatever it is they do.”
    “Perhaps his tractor broke down!”
    No.2 smiled “There you are you see, the answer was a simple one. Now if you wouldn’t mind, I’m terribly busy this morning, and I’ve an interview with Number 9 in ten minutes.”

    No.4 turned on his heels, stormed across the floor, up the ramp and out through the opening steel doors. No.2’s hand hovered over the yellow telephone on his desk, as the steel doors closed he picked up the receiver.
   “Laboratory” No.2 asked the operator.
    In the laboratory technician No.253, a man in a white coat, of medium height, his hair combed back, with a slightly receding hairline, picked up the receiver of the bleeping grey telephone.
    “Yes sir?”
    “He remembers!” No.2 said with indignation.

    “Who remembers what sir?”
    “Number 4.”
    “Oh I see, that should not have happened. But it was difficult to isolate and remove that one brief memory.”
    “You realise how important this is?”
    “Yes sir.”
    “I cannot afford any slip ups, you can’t afford any slip ups, do you understand?”
    “Yes sir.”
    “Well just see you get it right that’s all!” No.2 said slamming down the receiver.
    No.253 slowly replaced the receiver thoughtfully.
    “Anything wrong?” No.243 asked.
    “He’s in one of his moods that’s all. It’s time for elevenses!” 253 suddenly announced.
    “What at half-past nine!”
    “After that ear ache on the phone, any time is time for elevenses!”


Friday 24 December 2021

Chapter 12


The Mirror Cracked

    The Fun Palace……. No.4 was feeling at something of a loose end, quite frankly he was feeling bored with having nothing to do. So putting on his grey and burgundy piped blazer he went out into the village looking for something to divert and entertain him. There was always the regular brass band concert of course, but he wasn’t in the mood for Vivaldi. He found himself studying the billboard map of the Village. Hs eyes scanning the map, fell upon a building marked Fun Palace, and the map indicated the building was but a few short steps away. In reality the building didn’t exist! Where the Fun Palace was marked on the map he now stood looking at a vacant space and the woodland beyond! He stopped a passer-by.
    “Excuse me, can you tell me where the Fun Palace is?”
    “The Fun Palace, now let me think……..I know it’s not that way, and it’s not along that street…..the Fun Palace……no be seeing you” the man said and went on his way.
    He stopped a man riding a tricycle.
    “Perhaps you can help me. Can you direct me to the Fun Palace?”
    “The Fun Palace…don’t mention that place to me…it’s the cause of all my problems, the Fun Palace………a terrible place I shouldn’t go there if I were you!” and the man peddled off on his way.
    A taxi came towards him and he flagged it down.
    “Where to sir?” the driver asked.
    No.4 climbed into the front passenger seat “Take me to the Fun Place.”
    “Where sir?”
    “Now don’t you start!” he said looking at the female driver.
    “The Fun Palace……..oh you mean the Palace of Fun.”
   The taxi moved off along the main road, passed the Green Dome and the cobbled square, under the first of two arches, and the second arch, taking the road out of the village.
    “Where are we going?” he asked.
    “I’m taking you to the Palace of Fun” the driver said.
    There was a map in the glove compartment, unfolding the map he began to study it, and there marked on the map was the Palace of Fun, and not the Fun Palace as on the billboard map. It wasn’t long before they were off the map, travelling along a narrow track taking them into the countryside. Soon the taxi arrived at a populated area, the driver parking the taxi next to a tree. Village citizens went about their daily business, cyclists rode by and a Mini-Moke with a dark blue and white canopy drove passed.
    No.4 sat looking out of the taxi at the surrounding buildings, grey or red bricked structures which made up the sides of a muddy square


and no resemblance to those Italianate structures in the village itself. The buildings reminded him of somewhere else, but he couldn’t remember where.

    “What is this place?” he asked peering out of the Mini-Moke.
    “The village of course” the driver replied switching off the engine.
    “This is part of the village. People actually live here?”
    “Architecturally it’s nothing like the village; it isn’t even on the map. What’s that building?”
    There was a large imposing twin towered stone building resembling a church. Stone steps led up to a paved patio and a very impressive archway, but a far from impressive doorway!
   “That’s the Palace of Fun” the driver told him.
   He paid the taxi driver and stepped out of the Moke, the driver starting the engine saluted her passenger bid him “Be seeing you” and drove off leaving No.4 standing in the square. Standing there he looked about him, wondering why he had not been to this outlying hamlet of the village before. Then he turned his attention back to the Fun Palace, and walked slowly towards it and mounted the steps and stood on the patio. To his left was a public notice board, pinned to which were two posters. One advertised a village fete, the other a music concert.
    “Coming in?” a voice asked.
    No.4 turned to see a stout, jolly looking man in a green waistcoat and brown bowler hat and wearing a broad grin on his face.
    “Who are you?”
    “Me? I’m the proprietor of the Fun Palace.”
    “I was warned off this place.”
    “Really, can’t imagine why.”
    “What goes on” No.4 asked approaching the man.
    “Fun of course, nothing more plain and simple than that. If you can’t enjoy yourself here, you can’t enjoy yourself anywhere” the man said still wearing his grin.
    “Innocent fun?”
    The man laughed jocularly.
    “What’s so funny?”
    “Free from moral wrong” the man said “without sin, clean and pure, now where’s the fun in that?” with stretched out an arm indicating the entrance.
    No.4 paused and considered for a moment gazing up at the medieval looking archway, before stepping forward and through the entrance and into the Fun Palace. It was then that the man’s facial expression changed to one of malevolence and menace.

    Beyond the entrance was a foyer, there were two double doors to his right, a staircase to his left, and a long corridor straight ahead.
    “What’s your pleasure sir?” a voice asked.


    No.4 turned around to see a young attractive Asian woman dressed in a feathered headdress and a sparkly revealing costume. 
    “What’s through there?” he said indicating the double doors.
    “The casino” she told him.
    “I’m not a gambling man.”

    “That’s lucky for you.”
    “Where does the staircase lead to?”
    “The room in the tower.”
    “The room in the tower, what’s in the room in the tower?”
    “I don’t know, no-one has ever come out to say!”
    “You mean there are people in the room in the tower?”
    “Why don’t they come out?”
    An old woman dressed head to foot in purple and black appeared from the first door in the corridor.

    “Perhaps they are enjoying themselves too much; perhaps they cannot find the door. Sometimes if you listen quietly outside the door you can hear their cries of pain.”
    “Pain, they are in pain?”
    “Pleasure can be derived from pain, perhaps pain is their pleasure” she said and was about to go on her way along the corridor.
    “Who’s that?”
    A tall woman in a blue and gold turban, and flowing robes emerged from a room a little way along the corridor and swept passed.
    “Madam Zena, the medium in residence” the young woman told him “she’ll tell you of your future for a silver coin. But perhaps the

burlesque is more your thing, perhaps you are a theatre goer, the amateur dramatic society is performing Charley’s Aunt.”
    “No” he said.
    “Well perhaps more simple pleasures are your fun, we have side stalls, a hall of mirrors, a ghost train” she suggested.
    “Perhaps you could simply go away and allow me to explore on my own!”
    “That might not be a wise course of action” she warned “but as you wish.”
    There appeared a coiled rope on the floor, the young woman picked the end of the rope and throwing it into the air the rope became as rigged as a steel pole. The young woman gave him a smile and began to climb the rope towards the high ceiling. Then reaching the top the rope became limp, falling to the floor in a heap, the girl had gone! No.4 picked up the end of the rope, he looked up at the ceiling, coiling a length of the rope he threw it upwards but it fell back on him.
   No.4 stood at the end of the corridor, the first door on the left, the one Madam Zena had emerged from had no doorknob. The door to his right was ajar, he stepped towards it and was about to push it open when a claw emerged from the darkness within, instantly he drew


back and the door was slammed shut in his face!
   Moving slowly moving on he saw a door marked 101 and the word which sprang to No.4’s mind was torture! His hand moved towards the door knob, twisting it he pulled the door open and stepped into the room.
   It was a square room, carpet on the floor, a grey filing cabinet in a corner, a couple of paintings decorated the walls. On the far wall were two word maps, the one to the right had small lights illuminating parts of the world. Behind a large oak desk sat a bad-headed man who apparently had failed to notice No.4 enter the room, or if he had he made no reaction. He simply sat there filling in The Daily Telegraph crossword. It must have been just after 3 in the afternoon, because there was no tea plate accompanying the cup and saucer on the desk. No.4 slowly approached the desk.
    “Anyone at home?” he asked.
    The bald-headed man looked up through his spectacles but said nothing.
    “Who are you then?”
    The man behind the desk remained silent.
    “Are you the chief inquisitor?”
    The man simply sat there toying with his ballpoint pen.
    “I expect you want me to talk, what do you want me to say?”
    The man remained silent.
    No.4 leaned over the desk “What…do…you…want…me…to…say?”
    The man said nothing, showed no reaction, wouldn’t be drawn into speaking.
    “What’s this, the silent treatment” No.4 looked about the room “don’t I even get a chair to sit on? You know I’m not at all sure what you are, perhaps you’re no more than a pen pushing bureaucrat.”
    “He is” said a voice with a Scottish accent “but I’m not.”
   A gaunt looking man wearing a white coat had entered the room, in his right hand a syringe.
    “Now just relax, this won’t hurt, well not immediately anyway” the doctor said slowly approaching his patient.
    “What have you there?”
    “The first dose of Scopolamine” the doctor said.  
    “The first dose?”
    “If you refuse to talk, there will be a second and even a third dose, then you will talk whether you want to or not. You won’t be able to stop yourself.”
    “If you imagine for one minute that I’m just going to stand here and let you fill me with that muck you’ve another think coming!” and he made for the door.
    But there was no door, where the door had been was now a smooth wall!
    “Now laddie, don’t struggle” the doctor said making a grab for his patient.


    No.4 managed to dodge the doctor, but now the bald-headed man was about to get involved. He moved from behind his desk and grabbed No.4 from behind, locking his arms. No.4 struggled, but the more he struggled the tighter the grip on him became. Then as the doctor moved forward again brandishing the syringe No.4 leaned back against the man holding him, and kicked out his legs sending the doctor reeling backwards and the bald-headed man back against his desk. For a moment the hold on No.4 was released, he picked up the heavy table lamp and bashed the bald-headed man’s face in with it. There was no blood, only broken spectacles and torn latex, and a dented metal face. Arms and legs flared about awkwardly, he dropped the lamp and tore open the white shirt to reveal a chest of whirring cogs, gears making up the workings of the automaton. Dropping the lamp No.4 stood back as the doctor dashed forward to examine his new patient.
    “Look at what have you’ve done laddie!”
    “He doesn’t need you doctor, he needs a clock repairer!”
   No.4 turned away and saw the door in the wall, it opened automatically and he stepped out of the room and into the corridor.

   A little way along the passageway was an ornate arch, and instead of a door hung a decorative draped above the arch a sign which read “Hall of Mirrors.” Pushing the drape to one side No.4 entered the hall. It was a dimly lit, and he stood before the first mirror it made him look short and squat. He moved about to see the effect in the mirror, and he smiled to himself. The second mirror made him look tall and thin, again he moved about changing the image in the mirror. In the third he wasn’t there at all, there was no image of him in the mirror. He raised an arm, but there was no corresponding arm, he put his face to the mirror, but no face stared back at him. Then he put a hand to the mirror and to his alarm it went into the mirror as though it were liquid, he quickly drew his hand back. Feeling in his pockets his hand felt the cigarette lighter; he took it out of the pocket and threw it at the mirror, the mirror cracked from side to side, and the lighter dropped to the floor. He stooped and picked it up putting the lighter back in his jacket pocket and watched as the molten glass repaired itself.
    “Metal cannot go through” a voice said.
    No.4 spun round and looked about him, there was no-one.
    “Only flesh is allowed through” the voice said.
    “Who are you, show yourself” No.4 said.
    “Now why should I do that, after all anonymity the best disguise” the voice said.
    “People who hide are afraid.”
    “Afraid of what?” the voice asked.

    “Of being revealed for what they are!”
    “And what am I?”


    “You, you are a coward, afraid to show your face!” 4 said accusingly, trying to draw the man out.
    No.4 changed tack “Why can only flesh go through?”
    “I don’t know it’s just the way it is.”
    “Where does the flesh go?”
    “Through the mirror to the other side” the voice said.
    “How do you know this?”
    “Because I’ve been there” the voice told him.
    “And you came back.”
    “It’s possible to come back, for the unfortunate ones. Now I am a poor reflection of my former self, as you can see.”
    From out of the darkness a figure of a man emerged, but he was smooth as glass. As the figure drew closer it turned slightly, and then shock, for the figure was merely the thickness of glass, his back was plain wood…… No.4 turned and ran out of the Hall of Mirrors and into the passageway his back against the far wall as he half expected the reflection to pursue him, it did not. He stood there remembering the words of advice offered to him earlier that day “The Fun Palace…a terrible place I shouldn’t go there if I were you!”

   No.4 had two options, he could either go back and leave, or go on, perhaps being a glutton for punishment he went on, perhaps there was another way out. There was, as though to read his mind, at the farther end of the passageway was a pair of doors displaying the words “Way Out.” He pushed the pair of doors open, there was a sudden rush of noise, the sound of traffic. He stood in a street with cars rushing towards him and car horns sounded. Suddenly a green bus almost ran him down, but he managed to dodge out of its way only to narrowly miss being hit by a black taxi. He threw himself to the ground and rolled to the side of the road. Slowly he picked himself up, he still stood in the road, traffic passed him on both sides the sound of car horns filling his ears. The noise stopped, and the busy city traffic merely cinema film back projected onto the walls of the long room. Despite this fakery, his reactions had been as though real. There had been a burst of adrenaline. His heart pounded in his chest, beads of sweat upon his brow as a number 37 bus ran through him. He allowed himself a few moments to recover from the shock before leaving the room the pair of “way out” doors swinging closed behind him.
  “Having fun?” a voice asked.
    He turned to see the figure of an attractive blonde hired woman, dressed in a black laced up corset, fishnet stockings, high heel shoes, and a white fur wrap.
    “You look as though you need a drink” she said to him.
    “Can you get a drink in this place?”
    “Go inside and they’ll serve you with whatever you want.”
    “Alcoholic drinks?”
    “Anything you want, just go inside” the woman told him pointing to the neon sign.


    “Fancy a drink?” he asked her.
    “I’m in the Burlesque show, I’m due to sing in a couple of minutes” she told him, then turned and sashayed along the corridor, knowing full well that the man’s eyes were watching her, she was not wrong.
    He turned his attention to the neon sign “Black Cat bar,” and went inside.
    “What’ll it be?” asked the barman.
    “Bourbon” he said “a large one.”
    “Been a hard day?” the barman asked reaching for a bottle and glass.
    No.4 watched the barman pour out a double measure and paid with his credit card, then downed the liquid in one, indicating to the barman to refill his glass. Perching himself on a stool, he sat sipping the bourbon as he looked about the room. At one table four men sat playing poker, in side booths couples sat together talking and laughing. Sat at a far table was a lone figure nursing an empty glass, which he refilled from a bottle on the table. An usherette passed by carrying a tray, she offered him cigarettes, and he took a pack of Lucky Strike. He got off his stool and crossed the room to the far table. The man looked up at him through blurry eyes.
    “Oh no not you go away!”
    No.4 drew out a chair from under the table and sat down “You, of all people in a place like this.”
    “We all need some fun in our lives; and I’m no different to anyone else!”
    “You don’t look to be having a great deal of fun to me.”
    “Have you got a drink?” No.2 asked.
    No.4 finished his drink and showed him his glass.
    “It’s empty, have another” and he refilled the glass from his bottle.
    “You’re drowning your sorrows!”
    “Wouldn’t you in my position?”
    “What positions that, surely you’re not tiring of being the Chairman of the village.”
    “It’s not all what it’s cracked up to be you know” 2 told him draining his glass.
    “Then why don’t you resign and give someone else a chance?” 4 suggested refilling 2’s glass for him.
    “What about them?”
    “She was here a few minutes ago.”
    “Wearing a fur wrap and very little else?”
    “You know her, Yvonne” No.2 beckoned No.4 to draw near “never get involved with a burlesque singer, that’s my advice.”
    “Meaning you have?”
    “Beware the pleasures of the flesh!” No.2 told him.
    “I never thought to see you of all people in this state!”


    “I could lose my position because of her.”
    “How so?”
    “She wants me to get her out.”
    “Out of where?”
    “The Fun Palace?”
    “Don’t be daft, the village!”
    “And are you?”
    “Am I what?”
    “Going to get her out?”
    “Of course not, what do you think I am….stupid?”
    “Then there’s no problem” 4 said draining the bottle into No.2’s glass.
    “You haven’t read the latest part 2 order!” he said picking up the glass and draining it, he glanced over his shoulder “See him?”
    “Who the monk?”
    At another table sat a figure in a white robe, his face obscured by a cowl.
    “What would a monk be doing in a place like this?”
    “He’s an assassin!”
    “An assassin, here…in the village?”
    It was then the monk looking figure rose to his feet, moving towards the table he pulled a gun from beneath his robe. Aiming the semi-automatic at a startled No.2, and to the horror of everyone in the bar, the assassin fired the gun. No.2 saw the assassin make his move, he stood up and tried to make a run for it, but it was too late. The robed figure rose to his feet, moving towards the table as in a scene of repetition as though in a film, he pulled a gun from beneath his robe. Aiming the gun at a startled No.2, and to the horror of everyone in the bar, the assassin fired the gun. No.4 saw No.2 stand up, then he saw the cowled figure, he too stood up kicking his chair away he made a move towards the monk as he again pulled the gun from beneath his robe. Aiming the semi-automatic at a startled No.2, and to the horror of everyone in the bar, the assassin fired the gun. No.2 fell backwards as the bullet entered his chest. The assassin dashed from the bar, 4 was divided, to pursue the robed figure, or help 2. He chose the latter. Tearing open No.2’s grey jersey he looked down at a set of cogs and gears of an automaton! It stood up.
   “Time we had another little drink!” it said.


Monday 20 December 2021

Chapter 11


The Watch

    The Watch! In the Control Room a shift change-over was about to take place, as the officer of the Watch No.28, was completing his notes in time for the night shift.
   The pair of steel doors slid open and members of the nightshift entered the control room led by a female officer of the watch No.22, a middle aged woman with brunette hair, wearing an olive green polo neck jersey and back slacks. The change over was as smooth as ever. The day time staff gave up their seats in front of their monitors and were instantly replaced by night-time watchers. The steel see-saw device was stopped and the two watchers stepped off as their night-time counterparts took their places, and the see-saw was given a nudge and began revolving up and down as the two watchers on either end of the see-saw stared into their monitors. Plus operators took their places at the consuls of radar, and sonar.
    The two officers of the watch put their heads together as No.28 advised No.22 on anything of importance.
    “There is to be a delivery of provisions during the night by M. S. Polotska, estimated time of arrival two in the morning. Have a couple of Mini-Mokes standing by at the quayside. Other than that everything as normal. Oh yes, put up camera twenty-four.”
   The wall screen came to life and No.4 was seen sitting in a chair in the lounge of his cottage. Then getting up he drew back the blind and looked out into the night. “He’s been pacing the floor for the past ten minutes. He’s tried both doors twice, and the windows.”

    “What’s up with him? No.22 asked.
    “He’s restless because he didn’t drink his nightcap!” No.28 replied “We have tried to quieten him, and put him to sleep while he sat on the sofa, but he refused to listen to the sultry seductive voice.”
    “We shall keep a close eye on him” 22 confirmed.

    “Just couple of more things, we are still to be known as the watch, but individual watchers are now to be called Observers, and you and officers of the watch are now promoted to the position of Supervisor.”

    “Whose idea was that?” asked 22.
    “The order came down in part 2 orders, also the watchmen are now to be referred to as guardians. Right, its all yours, be seeing you in the morning.” No.28 said taking his leave of the Control Room.
    The pair of steel doors closed.
    The night-time Supervisor put the clipboard of notes down “Right its time we had a brew. Number 141 if you will do the honours and put the kettle on.”

   A Watcher  an Observer left his monitor and went to make the tea.



    The nightshift soon settled down to the regular routine in the control room. The nightshift was generally the quietest of times, nothing much happened at all. However tonight there was a delivery due, a delivery of tinned village food, crockery, pots and pans, and medical supplies.
    “Sonar keep a sharp lookout for M. S. Polotska, we’re due a delivery tonight” said the Supervisor.
    “Nothing on sonar as yet” came the report.
    “Radar clear” No.212 reported.
    The Supervisor gave the radar operator one of her looks “Why, is M. S. Polotska a flying boat?”
    “No Supervisor.”
    “Well then?”
    “Just a routine report ma’am.”
    “What about Number 4, lets have him on the screen” the Supervisor ordered.
    The wall screen came into life showing the lounge in ‘4 Private,’ No.4 was not to be seen.
    “Scan the cottage” the Supervisor ordered.
    “Camera 10, nothing.”
    “Camera 12 nothing.”
    “Camera 13 nothing” reported an Observer turning away from his monitor looking at the Supervisor “There’s no sign of Number 4 in his cottage.”
    The Supervisor, who had been following the cameras on the wall screen was shocked!
    “Look again” she ordered.
    The Observer scanned ‘4 Private’ a second time “Nothing Ma’am.”
    A two man security team was despatched into the night to report on the situation at the cottage. They found both the back door and the French door leading onto the small balcony locked and secured, also the windows.
   One of the security guards picked up the radio mike in the Mini-Moke “Security to control, security to control, situation at 4 Private normal, all locked and secure. No sign of a break out.”
    The Supervisor paced the floor “Where is he, where can be….hiding?.........No.4 hasn’t broken out, he’s in hiding, he’s joshing us!”
    Security was stood down, in the control room they waited, waited, and waited. It was a couple of hours later when it happened.
    “Supervisor, Number 4 is emerging from the wardrobe!” an Observer reported.
    The Supervisor picked up the receiver of the yellow telephone “Number 4 please.”
     In 4 private the telephone began to bleep he picked up the receiver and put it to his ear.


    “I trust you’re enjoying yourself” said the female voice.
    “Who is this? You’re not Number 2!”
    “He’s asleep

    “Well shouldn’t you wake him up and advise him of my current activity?”
    “I don’t think that will be necessary Number 4. Just go to bed” the voice told him.
    “I’m not a bit sleepy” he told the voice.
    “That’s because you didn’t drink your nightcap of hot chocolate. Do you want someone to make fresh hot chocolate for you?”
    “I shouldn’t drink it if they did!”
    “Well do try to sleep, you’ll only wake up in the morning all tired and grumpy.”

    “How can I wake up in the morning if I don’t go to sleep?”

    “Don’t get smart with me Number 4, you’ll only regret it.”
    “That sounds like a threat.”
    “It is” the Supervisor told him, and put the receiver down.

    The Control Room returned to normal operations, but a few minutes later……
    “Supervisor, sonar contact. There’s a small vessel heading towards the mouth of the estuary.”
    “That must be M S Polotska” said the Supervisor walking over to the sonar consul.
    “Speed of the vessel is fourteen knots” sonar reported.

    M S Polotska a motor ship powered by two twin 100 h.p. six cylinder diesel engines. Twin screw, 52 feet in length, although not fast, as an express cruiser, she is essentially of a fast displacement type. Her beam is 12 feet 6 inches, her modest draft 2 feet 9 inches helps towards high speeds. Her planking is of pitched pine, all trimmings are of teak, and decks are pine on English oak. She has all modern amenities, on the port side a fully equipped galley aft. Accommodation forward consists of a chain locker, crew’s cabin quarters complete with two cot berths. Starboard side is the pantry, with lead lined sink, and stowage space for provisions. The dining saloon, fitted with settees and boards is situated further aft. With further berths on the portside and starboard side, along with cupboards, after the saloon is the engine room. The deckhouse is constructed from teak, with sliding doors both port and starboard sides. Going aft is the head {toilet}. On the portside is the entrance to the engine room. Still further aft is a large deck with fuel tanks having the capacity of 300 gallons.
   The motor ship made her way to the quayside where a group of men dressed in overalls stood waiting. As M. S. Polotska drew alongside Ernst slowed the engines and as the vessel drew along the quay Gunter threw a mooring line, one man caught the line and secured the vessel to the quay. Then the unloading of a large number boxes 
and crates was carried out, and loaded into a trailers behind a Mini-


Mokes. This unloading and re-loading was carried out in quiet efficiency.
    “Ow! You damned fool, you dropped that box on my foot!”
    “Sorry mate, what’s in it?”
    The label read aspirins.
    “Quiet you two, and be about it” a voice ordered.
    “Quiet he says, all the old folk will be sound asleep. We could make enough noise to wake the dead, and still not disturb the slumbering old people!”
    And yet nevertheless, there was a face at the window quietly watching the men in the dark down on the quayside, but concentrating on the boat moored to the quay.

    “Supervisor, the vessel has been unloaded” an Observer reported.
    “Good” said the Supervisor picking up the receiver of the grey telephone “control room to Polotska, control room to Polotska……resume normal operations, patrolling offshore.”
   The mooring line and cast off, and with Ernst at the wheel M. S. Polotska moved slowly off into mid estuary, turned and headed out towards the sea with the face at the window watching the navigation lights of the boat for as long as he could. 

    “Will there be a cup of tea on its way to help clear my eyesight?” asked one Observer.
    “In a bit” said the Supervisor “keep a sharp look out.”
    The Observer turned to the Observer to his right “Keep a sharp look out, for what? No-one’s out there to watch, everyone is tucked up in bed!”

    “Yeah, everyone but us” the man said turning from his screen.
    “What are you two talking about?”
    “Nothing ma’am” one said and they returned to their monitors.
    “Good, keep it that way.”

    The night shift settled down once more. There was nothing on the

radar screen, and sonar reported that nothing was coming through. Observers kept a night watch, but nothing moved in the darkness, and yet the village administration does not operate a total blackout. A few lights are left switched on in order to illuminate roads and paths, for safety more than aesthetic reasons. But all the lights in buildings and cottages were switched off, well all but one.
    “Supervisor, the lights of 4 Private are still switched on” an Observer reported.
   “I thought we switched those off?”
   “We did ma’am” was the response of the Observer.
   “How did that happen? Can’t you switch the lights off?”
   “No ma’am, it seems No.4 has somehow managed to by-pass the

electrical circuits!”


    “Put up camera 12 sound and vision” the Supervisor ordered.
   The wall screen came to life and there were the illuminated rooms of ‘4 Private,’ and No.4 stretched out on the sofa listening to an LP record, Purcell’s Sacred Music.
    The telephone in ‘4 Private’ began to bleep he was annoyed at the interruption as he was feeling quite comfortable. However he climbed off the sofa and picked up the receiver of the telephone.

    “I expect you think this is funny!” a female voice said.
    “No, it’s not a bit funny when you can’t sleep!” he said.
    “How did you do it?”
    “Do what?”
    “By-pass the electric circuits?”
    “Oh, that was a mistake” he said.
    “A mistake?”
    “I was attempting to by-pass the electronic lock on the door, and thereby ease my escape into the night. However it’s not a complete failure, my house is acting like a beacon shining out in the night.”
    “And you think it will attract someone’s attention?”
    “It might, and you don’t know until you try” he said with a broad grin on his face.
    “Who do you think it will attract?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “Name me three people it will attract?”
    “Someone in an aeroplane, a ship perhaps, a poacher maybe!”
    “There are no aeroplanes in the sky, no ships at sea, and most definitely no poachers operating in the woods” the voice told him.
    Suddenly the door of ‘4 Private’ opened and a stout man in yellow overalls carrying a tool box, entered the cottage.
    “Who are you?” No.4 asked.
    “Electrics” said 211 announcing himself.
    “He’s there to put your lights out” the voice on the telephone told him.
    “Just a minute, who the hell are you?”
    Two men in grey overalls, white helmets and gloves stood in the doorway.
   “That will be security” the voice on the telephone said “they are there to punch your lights out if you resist!"
    The Supervisor put the receiver down muttering “It had to be him” under her breath “Let’s have another brew, do the honours Number 98.”

   And so the nightshift settled down once more to its usual routine.

    The Supervisor stopped the see-saw device from rotating round and round, up and down, and sat down on the dais sipping her tea, then picking up the clipboard and pencil turned her mind to writing up her notes for the shift report so far. Noting incidents, details of incidents, and times when incidents took place. She looked at her watch, half past two."


    “Supervisor, the lights of ‘4 Private’ have gone out” an Observer reported.
    “At last!” she said, and made a note in her report.
    The Observer sat at her monitor watching the lights of the electrics truck weave its way through the darkness of the village, making its way back to Electrics Control, when suddenly the lights came to a stop. The electrician got off his Massey Ferguson garden tractor, then taking his large torch from the trailer he shone it at a corner light set at the foot of a wall which wasn’t working. He took a radio headset from the trailer.
    “Calling Electrics Control……..reporting a broken light at the top of the steps leading down to the Piazza, I’m affecting a repair.”
    From the trailer he took a screwdriver and new light bulb. He unscrewed one screw and opened the glass cover; he was just about to replace the old bulb when he heard a rustle in the bushes on the opposite side of the road. He shone his torch onto the bushes, and the steps leading up to the pink and white Georgian house, then back over the bushes. The pair of turquoise gates stood open, but other than that he didn’t see anything, it must have been an animal rustling about, and he returned to replace the light bulb.
   The Observer alerted the Supervisor to the occurrence of the shining light. Telling her that the Electrician, on his way back to Electrics Control, stopped to change a light bulb, when he began shining his torch about.
   “It seems he heard something in the bushes opposite” the Observer reported.
    “Let’s have it on the screen, camera 18 infra red” the Supervisor ordered.
   On the wall screen the electrician appeared in the bright colours of red, blue, yellow, and green as did surrounding area.
   “Change to night vision.”
   The attitude of the wall screen changed to a clear green, the electrics truck in plain vision as it carried on its way through the village.
   “Scan the immediate area of the Georgian house” the Supervisor ordered.

    On the wall screen something was seen to move in the bushes, then two shadowy figures were seen walking along the road.
    “Who are they?” an Observer asked.
    “Security” said the Supervisor.
    “What are they doing?”
    “Supervisor, Number 4 has got passed security, and escaped his cottage” an Observer reported.
    “So they’re looking for an escaped Prisoner the fools! Never mind, it will test our efficiency………Orange alert.”
    Somewhere on the seabed a segment of the village Guardian was released from the containment area, and floated to the surface


Skimming across the waves in the dark the white amorphous mass of the Guardian made its way to the village. Up the slipway across the lawn, floating up high over the waterfall and up the steps, the pink pavilion on the right, and Hercules in front of it. Then across the lawn and onto the Piazza where a figure moved passed the fountain in the darkness. The two security guards stood in an archway at the top of the steps which lead down to the Piazza. They saw the white of the Guardian in the darkness, then the shadowy figure stop, then make a dash a sudden for it. But the Guardian was on the figure in an instant, knocking the person to the ground before subduing it. The figure tried laying into the thing with his fists, but the Guardian offered no resistance. He clawed at the white membrane as it covered his face suffocating the figure into unconsciousness. As the Guardian moved away, the two security guards moved in, and carried the unconscious figure of No.4 back to his cottage.
   The rest of the nightshift was uneventful, and during those hours time dragged by. However this allowed plenty of time for the Supervisor to write up her log, in which she recommended action taken against No.4 for attempting to escape, and for the two security guards 106 and 137 to be heavily reprimanded for dereliction of duty in allowing a prisoner to escape in the first place!

    The morning brought about another shift changeover. The pair of steel doors opened and the daytime Observers were led into the control room by the Supervisor No.28 who relived the night time Supervisor, as the day watch took over from the night watch.
    “Have a quiet night?” No.28 asked
    “M S Polotska arrived, the cargo unloaded I sent her crew on routine night patrol.”
    “Good” 28 said reading through No.22’s log “I see Number 4 gave you some trouble.”
    “He started off by playing hide and seek with the Observers” 22 said.
    No.28 smiled quietly to himself.
    “Then there was his act of deliberate sabotage of official property, and attempting to escape” 22 added.
    “He cannot be allowed to get away with it. I had to call out electrics to put it right.”
    The Supervisor took off his spectacles “These work you know” and returned to reading the reports in the log.
    “I see you recommend the two security guards to be heavily reprimanded.”
    “If it wasn’t for those two fools Number 4 would never have escaped his cottage in the first place!”
    The Supervisor smiled “Well leave it with me, I’ll see that your report is passed onto Number 2.”


   “Good. Be seeing you tonight” 22 said leaving the control room for her quarters.
   The Supervisor was a most capable man, his ability was unquestionable. No.2 may be the Chief administrator for the village, but the control room is the Supervisor’s domain where his word is law. The Observers watched the village wake up and slowly come to life, via their monitors. The waitress opening the café as a gardener hosed down the patio. Another gardener was driving an orange Nuffield garden tractor down a cobbled path heading towards the lawn to cut the grass. The flower seller wheeling her barrow along the street, as No.126 was setting up the kiosk, as the general store was opened for business. A painter in dove grey overalls was busy preparing a paint brush before he returned to painting the wall he started on the day before. And the milkman on his round, and eventually citizens began emerging from their cottages all going about their daily business.
   And so the day shift began.
    “Keep a sharp watch” the Supervisor told his Observers, as he was joined by his assistant No.60.
    Not that No.28 required an assistant; he felt No.60 had been foisted upon him. But at least it left someone in command of the control room when he was called away to see No.2 in his office of the Green Dome.
   The yellow telephone began to bleep, the Supervisor picked up the receiver “Yes Number 2, at once.”

   Usually when called to see No.2 in his office the Supervisor would take the more direct route via the underground passageways. However seeing the sun shining and hearing the Brass Band performing their regular concert via the wall screen, he decided to take the more scenic route via the Town Hall, and through the village. After all he was a citizen like any other, and why shouldn’t he enjoy the village from time to time. However he did not linger at the Brass Band concert, as No.2 did not like to be kept waiting for too long.

   The pair of steel doors opened and the Supervisor walked smartly down the ramp and approached the desk. No.2 sat in his black spherical chair behind that desk.
    “I’ve been marking your progress Number 28.”
    “Thank you sir, I always strive to give of my best in running the control room efficiently” the Supervisor said with pride.
    “I’m not talking about your ability to run the control room, I mean the time it took you to get here.”
    “I’m sorry?”
    “You are usually punctual when I call, but this morning you took yourself off on a walk through the village before arriving at the Green Dome, that’s not like you at all. How do you explain yourself?”
    “Well…..well I saw what a beautiful morning it is, and thought the

walk through the village would do me an awful lot of good” the Supervisor explained.



    “That’s not like you at all; you’re usually cold and calculating with a ruthless efficiency not to bother yourself by it being a beautiful morning.”
    “Why did you want to see me Number 2?”
    “Yes, I was reading the report from the night watch, and see that Number 4 caused quite a commotion.”
    “Yes Number 2, he didn’t drink his nightcap, and consequently he was restless, kept trying the doors and windows, then at one point he hid himself in the wardrobe.”
    “Why did he do that do you think?”
    “He was jamming I suppose.”

    “Trying to fool the Observers into thinking he had managed to get out of his cottage.”
    “Which he eventually did.”
    “Yes sir” the Supervisor replied nervously.
    “Oh don’t worry, that’s no reflection on you. The two fools of security guards will be reprimanded, they should never have let a prisoner get passed them.”
    “What about Number 4? He did sabotage official property.”
    “Yes, that was rather ingenious of him, especially when he was working in the dark.”
    “I expect he lit a candle” the Supervisor offered.
    No.2 looked at No.28 quizzically from the comfort of his chair “Yes, yes I expect he did. Keep a special watch on our friend Number 4, he could have a future with us.”
    “He’ll take some persuading of that” the Supervisor said sarcastically.
    “The man is in danger of discovering our secrets. Look at that time he managed to get into the Town Hall and none of the watch, including you, saw him do it!”
    “There was a broken latch on the toilet window at the back of the Town Hall sir.”

    “Which only goes to demonstrate how thorough Number 4 is to have discovered that!”
    “Perhaps you should promote Number 4 to head of security!”
    “To sort out your inefficiencies, that’s a good idea. I thought the watch was supposed to see and hear everything?”
    “Observers as they are now called, and that is a misconception Number 2. How 7 Observers are supposed to see and hear everything that takes place in the village is beyond me!”
    “Excuses….from you, a man of your ability? Go back to your control room, and keep a special watch on No.4. I want to know what he does before he does it!”
    “Yes Number 2.”


    The Supervisor passed through the open steel doors as No.14, No.2’s new assistant, entered the office.
   “Ah 14 there you are. Tell me, is it possible to predict what No.4 might do on any given day?”
    No.14 thought for a moment “You mean a daily activity prognosis sort of thing.”
    “What’s that when it’s at home?”
    “A daily prognosis report” No.14 began “basically you need to programme everything you know about a subject’s daily activities into the computer, which then computes all that information using quantum physics, and eventually arrives at a prognosis of what the subject is likely to do on any given day.”
    “In other words, the computer’s prognosis report will tell us what we already know, or what any Observer could tell us!”
    “If you want to put it that way….yes.”

    Having returned to the control room the Supervior-No.28 ordered the watch to keep a special lookout on No.4, who at that precise moment was taking a quiet stroll through the village. Not in any particular direction, not talking to anyone in particular.
    “Hello” said a voice behind him.
    No.4 turned to see a man making notes in a black notebook.
    “Do you stroll through the village everyday?” the man asked.
    “Yes” No.4 replied “it’s unavoidable if you want to go anywhere.”
    The man smiled “I walk through the village at least twice day. I’m trying to set a village record.”
    “A village record, what for?”
    “I’m trying to work out how may different routes you can take to stroll around the village, without taking the same way twice” the man explained.
    “And you note the routes down in your notebook?”
    “What’s Number 4 doing now?” asked the Supervisor.
    An Observer turned from his monitor “He’s talking to the eccentric Number 111, who is now showing Number 4 his black notebook.”
    “Isn’t that the chap who’s trying to walk around the village using as many different routes as possible?” No.20 asked.
    “Yes, he’s been at it for weeks. So far he’s not taken the same route twice!
    No.4 looked at the man’s open notebook, the words read;

I have put

the Observers

to sleep.

Later today I shall
simply walk out of

this place and shake

 it’s dust from my feet.


   “Are you sure about this? If they catch you……”

    “Don’t do that!” 111 said glancing about him.
    “Don’t do what?”
    “Show concern, it will attract the attention of the watchmen and of the watch” the man closed the notebook and went on his way.
    “Did you see that notebook?” the Supervisor asked an Observer.
    “Yes, a black notebook” replied the Observer.
    “Could you read what was in it?”
    “No sir, it was obscured from the camera” the Observer reported.
    “Very well, maintain a close watch on No.4 “meanwhile I think we’re all more than ready…….Number 60 put the kettle on.”
    The day carried on, the sun was shining, the ice cream flavour of the day being raspberry, and citizens were enjoying themselves on the beach.
    “Supervisor I cannot find Number 111!” an Observer suddenly reported.
    “What do you mean you can’t find him, he must be there somewhere, there’s no other place he can be. You’ll find him.”
    “I was tracking him through the village on another of his walks, then suddenly he changed direction, I had to switch cameras and I lost him.”
    “Well find him again” was the Supervisor’s order.
    No.111 had bided his time, having completed a couple of circuits of the village by two varying routes. Then he did something completely  out of character, he was on his way to the Bandstand along a narrow stone path, when he stopped, turned, and took a straight line down a sloping lawn, stumbling through Rhododendrons bushes set between palm trees, crossing the Piazza, and wading through the free sea as he went. Then across a lawn turning a sharp right, up steps, then left making for a path up into the woods. His sudden deviation had thrown the Observer, and by the time he had been picked up by one of the cameras it would be too late, he hoped.
    “Scan the village for 111” the Supervisor ordered “where’s Number 4?”
    “He bought a copy of The Tally Ho at the kiosk a few moments ago, he went to the café, ordered a cup of coffee, and he’s been sat there reading the broadsheet for the last ten minutes” said an Observer glancing away from his screen for a second.
    “Any sign of Number 111?”
    “No sign yet sir” said No.60
    “I’ve located him sir” said an Observer “on a track in the woods.”
    “Let’s have him on the big screen” the Supervisor ordered “where do you think he’s going?”
    “He could be heading for either the cliffs, or the mangrove walk perhaps” No.60 said watching the screen.

    “If he is he’s certainly taking the long way round” the Supervisor said picking up the receiver of the yellow telephone “Yellow alert all


posts, all units, yellow alert.”
    Within minutes a white open topped Mini-Moke was speeding through the village its high-pitched squeaky siren blaring out warning pedestrians and cyclists of its approach. A big man with a full beard in a red and black striped jersey was behind the wheel. In the passenger seat a thinner man wearing a beige Lennon style cap, and light blue jersey

    “We have to go into the woods, are you sure we won’t get bogged down?” ask the guardian in the passengers seat.
    “This is an all terrain vehicle, of course we won’t get bogged down” said the driver as he steered the Mini-Moke along a wide track leading into the woods.
   The ground was still wet from the night’s rain, droplets of rain water still dripped from the leaves and branches of trees. The back end of the Moke swerved left then right as the rear wheels failed at times to get a grip on the wet soil. The driver thinking that speed would get them through, but the ground became softer as the Moke was driven deeper into the woods. And then the wheels lost grip altogether slowing the vehicle until it was up to its axles in mud. No.265 revved the engine, pressing down hard on the accelerator in second gear. The wheels spun throwing up mud all over the place.
   “Try to back our way out” No.167 suggested.
   The driver looked at the passenger and engaged reverse gear, but it was no good the Mini-Moke was completely bogged down!
   “All terrain vehicle” 167 said stepping out of the Moke “now it Shank’s pony for us!”
   “Stop moaning, and come on we’ve still got an escaping prisoner to catch!”
    No.111 finally having reached the far side of the woods, crouched down and stared at the low dry stone wall a few feet ahead of him. On his way through the woods he collected the haversack he had managed to hide the day before. He poured a cup of water from the flask, and ate a piece of bread and cheese. A few moments later he emerged from the tree line and approached the wall, over which was a wide expanse of open ground, and beyond were the hills and mountains. He climbed over the wall and began to cross the open ground.
   In the control room the yellow telephone began to bleep, the Supervisor picked up the receiver “Supervisor, Post 7 reports a figure emerged from the far side of the woods and now making its way towards the hills across open ground.”
    “Notify security.”
    “The two guardians are not in radio communication” No.60 reported “surveillance shows they had to abandon the Mini-Moke and are now in pursuit on foot. If they go much further they will be out of range of our cameras.”
    “Orange alert!”


    The Guardian, already on a patrol of the village, was quickly diverted into the woods. Meanwhile Post 7 was keeping the figure crossing the open ground under surveillance through his binoculars. Then over the wall came the white amorphous sphere of the Guardian rolling and bounding across the field emitting its blood curdling roar, which instantly made the fleeing figure of 111 look over his shoulder. He instantly dropped the bag he was carrying and ran for his life. But then he stumbled and fell to the ground, and the Guardian was on him in a moment. The man screamed and screamed as he clawed at the membrane that was covering his face, cutting off the oxygen suffocating its victim into unconsciousness or to death. But more than this, the white amorphous sphere began to smother its victim until it engulfed than man’s whole body. To his surprise 111 found he was not dead, in a strange kind of way he felt it must be like being back in the womb, he found he could breath, and it was warm, its funny but he felt a kind of comfort, he felt safe. That was until a mixture of digestive acids began breaking his body and he screamed, oh how he screamed, his blood giving the white membrane a pinkish hue. Before long all that remained of No.111 were regurgitated blood soaked rags lying on the ground.
   Eventually the two guardians emerged from the wood, clamboured over the wall in time only to witness the pink looking sphere moving away. They crossed the field but of the escaping prisoner there was no sign. They looked towards the far off pinkish sphere, even though it was a warm day a chill ran down their spines. Two medics also arrived on the scene carrying a stretcher, but they too were too late to be of any help to No.111. The rags of clothing were laid on the stretcher and the two medics carried them back to the ambulance, then on to the hospital for forensic analysis.

   As for the two guardians it was a long trudge back to the village to pick up two spades and planks of wood from the maintenance building. It was an even longer trudge back to dig out Mini-Moke! While in the control room the supervisor picked up the telephone in order to make his report to No.2, and routine operations were restored for the rest of the day. The only other exiting event was the imminent arrival of the Alouette helicopter, which was reported to No.2 as a matter of routine. An ambulance had been despatched as the helicopter landed on the lawn by the sea wall. It had brought a new arrival to the village, a woman in her early 30’s with dark hair. The unconscious woman was carefully carried from the helicopter by two medical orderlies, placed on a stretcher, carried over to the ambulance, and placed in the Red Cross trailer, then driven up the hill into the village and taken to her cottage where she would eventually wake up disorientated and confused!

    The pair of steel doors slid open and members of the nightshift of the watch entered the control room led by the female Supervisor-


No.22. The change over was a smooth as ever. The day time Observers gave up their seats in front of their monitors and were instantly replaced by night-time counterparts. The steel see-saw device was stopped and the two watchers stepped off, as two of the night-time watch replaced them, and the see-saw was given a nudge and began revolving up and down as the two Observers on either end of the see-saw stared into their monitors. Plus operators took their place at the consuls of radar, and sonar. While the two Supervisors put their heads together, No.28 advising her of the day’s activities, and hoped she and the watch would enjoy a quite night………