was a fine day for a walk along the cliff’s, although the sun was shining there
was a slight breeze to stop the day from becoming too hot. And as No.42 walked
away from the village long the cliff path he could see out across the open
expanse of sand, and some days it was hard to see where the beach ended and the
sky began. And what was there to stop him from just setting out walking on the
beach, to simply walk away?
No.42 reached the lighthouse, well people call it a lighthouse but it doesn’t have a light, and as lighthouses go it wasn’t very tall, but it did have a bell. But why, as a navigation device to warn shipping, why when no boats ever came along the estuary. There was a walkway around the lighthouse which he climbed up onto via the stone steps round the back. It did afford him a little higher perspective, but not that he could see any further out towards sea. Not that No.42 could see any ships, what he needed was a telescope, if he had two different sized lenses he would make himself one.
Leaving the lighthouse he walked over the smooth rocks onto the beach. 42 did wonder if he had kept to the cliff path how much further he would have been allowed to walk before the guardians, or guardian were sent to take him back. He had seen no surveillance cameras on his walk, so walk on he did, round to the cove where 42 knew there to be a small cave. Well not really a cave, more a large slit in the cliff, and it didn’t go that far into the cliff either. But it was a place of peace, a place with no surveillance, a place to be alone, a sanctuary of sorts, until the tide came in at least.
He spent part of the afternoon there, just messing about, and ate his two ham sandwiches which he brought with him, and slowly walked back towards the village. No.42 wasn’t in any particular hurry, he poked about the rock pools a little and then in the crevice between two large rocks he found a square black leather pouch, unzipping it he discovered it contained a small square transistor radio. He switched it on and tried to tune it into a radio station but all he could hear was static. He replaced the radio in the pouch, zipped it up and placed it in his pocket muttering “Finders keepers, losers weepers” to himself.
Slowly walking back towards the village, he passed a man walking in the opposite direction and when he looked back he saw the man ferreting about the rocks as though looking for something. 42 turned his attention back towards the village, and as he strode out across the sand towards it, he allowed himself a glance over his shoulder.....the man was no longer ferreting about the rocks, but stood staring at No.42, who turned and walked on gripping the pouch in his pocket with his hand.
Having returned to the village No.42 felt
panicky, nervous, he felt sure that what he had found amongst those rocks
belonged to that man, whoever he was. Perhaps it would have been better had he
returned it, but it was too late now. He kept to public places, the cafe, he
even attended the regular brass band concert, then sat in the Piazza watching
citizens promenading. All the time he was dogged by this man, and there he was
now, the same man he had seen on the beach, he was staring at him from across
the Piazza. No.42 stood up from the bench and walked away, up the steps,
through an arch, and hurried along the road not once daring to look back.
Passing the cobbled square and through the arch which covered the road,
stepping to one side to avoid an approaching taxi, he took a path to the right,
then through an arch in the wall and onto the outlook on top of the cliff. Only
he went round the structure and into the grotto beneath. He sat down and taking
the black pouch from his pocket he removed the radio, switched it on and began
to turn the tuning button. To begin with all there was, was a good deal of
static, then some foreign language which he didn’t understand. He turned the
tuning button again this time he picked up an English voice.
“And that ends the lesson for today. Tomorrow for our mathematics students we shall concentrate on logarithms” the radio announcer said.
Then retuning the radio..... “Nowhere is there more beauty than here. Tonight when the moon rises the whole world will turn to silver. Do you understand, it is important that you understand. I have a message for you, you must listen. The appointment cannot be fulfilled. Other things must be done tonight. If our torment is to end, if liberty is to be restored, we must grasp the nettle even though it makes our hands bleed. Only through pain can tomorrow be assured.”
Switching the transistor radio off it was clearly a message of some kind, but from where the message had been transmitted, or for whom the message was meant, clearly there was no way for No.42 to know. But there was something about that message, not the message itself, but the voice reading it, it was a voice that was familiar to him. A voice he had heard before here in the village!
“Now isn’t this nice” a voice said.
42 spun round to see that man who had been dogging his footsteps since down on the beach. The man held a strange looking gun in his hand.
“Nerve gas, five yard range, one squirt you’re paralyzed, two squirts your dead” the man said, holding out an empty hand.
“This is yours?” 42 asked nervously.
The man nodded still with an outstretched hand “Luckily for you I managed to hear the radio message, unluckily for you however!”
“You could kill me and simply take the radio” 42 said, hardly believing what he heard himself say.
“I had considered that” the man said.
“If I hand over the radio you’ll kill me anyway.”
“That is always possible” the man said.
“You, you err do not wear a number.”
“That’s because I do not exist, not officially anyway” the man told him.
“The.....the message was meant for you?”
“Hand it over.”
“I...I recognized the voice” 42 said.
“Voice, what voice would that be?”
“The voice which read that radio message” the woman said.
No.2, a woman in her early forties stood at one end of the grotto with a strong arm guardian at her back. At the other end her assistant also with a guardian at his back.
“Give my assistant, Number 14, the transistor radio then go home 42 and forget all about his.”
“But the voice Number 2, I recognise the voice” No.42 said, sounding in a bit of a panic.
“I know you did, but do not worry he is being taken care of as we speak.”
“It’s always difficult to discover the village is being betrayed by a former friend. But in every barrel of apples there is at least one which is rotten. Take this.... person away.
“You forget ma’am I have a gas gun.”
“That had not passed me by, if you have not already taken the antidote you will not only gas us, but yourself included.”
The man dropped the gas gun, No.14 dashed forward and picked it up. They left the grotto in a body, and gathered on the lookout.
“You cannot win all the time” No.109 said “there are many unhappy people here dissidents ready to act at a moment’s notice.”
No.2 looked about her “Where are they then, where are they to come to your aid? You see I heard the message as well, it would seem you have been hung out to dry, left high and dry!”
At that moment No.109 broke free of 14’s hold upon him, and hurled himself from the outlook down onto the rocks below.
“Pity” was all No.14 said.
“You see Number 42, what comes of listening to propaganda.”
“But the voice, it was of a former Number 2!”
“Yes, a former predecessor who is, as we speak, being questioned about his motivations. Go home 42, all is well, how could it not be otherwise?”
Village life goes on as it must, but always on guard against those who would spoil that village life for others.
Be seeing you