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Sunday 25 July 2021

I Am Not A Number I Am Five!


    The Alouette helicopter approached the village from over the hills, and across the estuary. It circled the village once then having made its final approach landed on the lawn by the sea wall.

    The pair of steel doors opened and the tall lean figure of No.22 walked smartly down the ramp, the steel doors sliding shut behind him. He approached the desk.
    “You know who he is of course” No.22 said.
    “I wouldn’t be here otherwise.” No.2 replied.
    “He won’t be an easy customer to deal with.”
    “Are any of them?”
    No.2 pressed a button on the control panel of his desk switching on the large wall screen, it displayed the interior of a cottage. The maid was about to take the Prisoner’s breakfast tray away.
    Where are you going with that?” the prisoner shouted.
    “I’m taking your breakfast dirties away” the maid told him.
    But I haven’t had any breakfast!”
    No.2 turned off the screen “I think its time I paid him a call, look after the shop.”
    “Yes Number 2,”
    No.2 left the Green Dome, on foot, he had a call to make. Not that any No.2 was given to making house calls, only in such extreme cases were such calls made.
    The cottage was but a few steps away, down the steps, across the street, across the square, through a small gate up three steps and along to the cottage. The door opened and the stout figure of No.2 stood framed in the doorway.
    “May I come in?”
    “You’re asking? Well come in if you must, no-one is stopping you.”
    The interior of the cottage was that of a cell carved out of stone, and the occupant sat on a plain wooden chair, at a plain wooden table.
    “Welcome to my.....humble abode!”
    It was a one room cottage, nothing more than a cell really. Table, chair, bed with a mattress, and a bucket in the corner. Basic stuff.
    We tried to make you as comfortable as possible” No.2 told the prisoner.
    “You’ve put me in a cell!”
    “When people arrive here we try to lesson the impact by allowing them to wake up in what we call a home from home.”
    “You call this home from home?”
    “We create a replica of a room in their former home, yours just happened to have been a cell in a prison.”
    I’m no better here than I was there!” the prisoner shouted.
    “I know who you are Number.......
    “I am not a number.....I am Five” the prisoner said with good authority.
    “But five is a number, not a name” the warder said.
    “It is a name if I choose it to be.”
    “But why Five when you could choose any number?”
    It’s my name, my name!” the prisoner shouted.
    The warder bowed “But why that name?”
    “It’s as good as any.”
    “Yes, yes I suppose it is.”
    “Why are you here anyway, you were only here yesterday, have you come to torment me even more?”
    “I can assure you Mister Five, I’ve not been here before, you must be mistaken.”
     “, no.”
    “The maid’s almost as bad!” the prisoner said.
    “The maid, what’s wrong with her?”
    “She brought me my breakfast this morning” the prisoner said.
    “What’s wrong with that?”
    “She took it away before I had eaten it. Then she brought me lunch.”
    “What point are you trying to make?”
    “She is trying to disorientate me, I had only just had lunch. Then the next time she brought me lunch it wasn’t for two days!”
    “Are you sure about that?”
    Of course I’m sure! You are playing tricks with my mind!”
    “I’m not here to play tricks, I’m here to hear your......”
    “My confession?”
    “They do say confession is good for the soul” the warder told him.
    “Who are they, the priesthood? I would offer you a drink, only I’ve nothing in, and they won’t let me go to the shop.”
    “Who are they?”
    “The guardians.”

    The next day, or possibly the day after, they allowed 5 to go out into the village. It was not as he thought it to be, not like any prison he had known, more like a holiday resort, a mixture of architecture but basically Italianate of sorts. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, sitting around reading, listening to the brass band, or down on the beach, at the cafe or simply out for an afternoon stroll. He saw a newspaper vender selling copies of The Tally Ho, he took a copy.
    “That will be two units please” the vender told him.
    “Units, what are units?” 5 asked.
    “Credit units” the vender replied.
    “I haven’t got any credit units” 5 told him.
    “Well you can have the broadsheet, just make sure you pay me next time you see me.”
    5 walked off slowly examining the front page of the large broadsheet. The main headline read “No.5 To Face Further Inquisition!” and he began to read of his own case which had been brought to the attention of the Committee.
   “Committee, if that’s the worst they can do to me then let them” and he screwed the paper up and threw it into a litter bin.
    He heard music, what was it now? makes for a quiet mind and he crossed the lawn towards the bandstand where he sat in a deckchair and enjoyed an afternoon of music.
    “He’s calm” the supervisor observed watching the wall screen.
    “He is now” his assistant agreed “wait until he goes back to his cell....I mean cottage that should throw him.”
    It was late afternoon when 5 decided to return to his cottage, to his surprise there were windows, what’s more light shone through those windows! He rushed round to the door of the cottage and stood there for a moment hardly daring to open the door. Then the door opened automatically and he stood framed in the doorway looking in.
   His cold stone cell had gone, replaced by furniture, painted walls, pictures, books, statuettes, a leather chair, a comfortable recliner, table lights all the comforts of home. Stepping over the threshold the door closed behind him and for the first time he felt comfortable, almost at home.
    “It’s the comfy chair effect” No.2 told his assistant as they looked at the wall screen “we’ve taken away all the hardship and replaced it with comfort.
    “He’ll find that difficult to take to” 21 said.
    “Yes, that’s what I’m banking on, with any luck he’ll break down at the sight of it, realize he’s finally being treated with compassion.”
    The sudden realization of the situation kicked in “I know why you have done this” he shouted at the ceiling “I know you are listening, watching, it won’t work!”
    It was worth a try Number 2” 21 said watching the prisoner collapsed on the floor of his cottage on the wall screen.
    “I guess we will simply have to try something else” No.2 said dejectedly.
    “Shall we give him his stone cell back?”
    “No, let him keep the cottage as it is, but see to it he’s given fresh clothes.”
    “And what about you Number 2?”
    “I’ll suffer for my failure, that over-sized red curved telephone will begin to bleep any time now, and I’ll be on my way I expect.”
    No.21 walked across the floor and up the ramp, as the doors slid open he paused and looked back, that telephone was bleeping..........

Be seeing you

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