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Saturday 10 July 2021

The Pr?s6ner

       “What are we going to do with him?"

    “I don’t know, the report was that Number 6 is dead, that Rover got him!”   

    “But he isn’t dead.”


    “One of us is going to have to tell Number 2.”

    “Well you have seniority.”

    “He isn’t going to like it.”

    “That Number 6 isn’t dead, what’s not to like?”

    “He’s not got a mole on his left wrist.”

    “What’s that got to do with the price of fish?”

    “Well nothing, but Number 6 did have a mole.”

    “Yes, but we surgically removed it, remember?”


    “So this guy is Number 6, and when you tell Number 2 he’ll be as pleased as Punch.”

    “Because he thinks Number 6 died.”

    “That Rover got him, yes.”

    “But “IT” didn‘t.”

    “Apparently not, and that‘s why he‘ll, be pleased.”

   Number 246 picked up the telephone “Get me Number 2.”

    “Number 2 here………yes I know Number 6 isn’t dead, he’s just been stopped from escaping……….What do you mean you have him there? He can’t be there, he’s in his cottage……….You have Number 6 sedated at the hospital. Oh no…..I thought that Number 6, I mean it was reported to me that Number 6, that Rover had got Number 6 and that he was dead!…………                                             

   “What are we going to do with him doctor?”

   “You’re asking me Number 2?”

   “You have him heavily sedated?”

   “Yes, but we cannot keep him in that state permanently.”

   “Why not doctor? It seems the easiest way out of this current predicament.”

   “Why not simply let him go. Return him to where he came from.”

   “That’s’ not possible, not with the knowledge he has about the Village, as well as his appearance.”

   “I would have thought that because of his appearance it would make it impossible for him to remain in the Village!”

   “How long can you keep him sedated?”

   “Another twelve hours, then he’ll wake up naturally.”

   “Thank you doctor. I have twelve hours to extricate myself from this predicament, I need to think! If you want me I’ll be in my office.”

   “Yes Number 2.”

   The pair of steel doors opened, and the Supervisor-No.106 walked into Number 2’s office.

   “I have a problem.”

   “Number 6 is dead, I know.”

   “No he isn’t.”

   “That’s your problem?”

   “Yes. It was reported to me by…well it doesn’t matter who by. But the fact of the matter is, it was reported to me that Number 6 was dead, that Rover had got him. It was on that information that I contacted you to de-activate Rover immediately pending further instructions.”

   “That’s right.”

   “But he isn’t dead, that’s the bad news.”

   “I would have thought that was good news. Number 1 will be pleased.”

   “He would be if he knew.”

   “So tell him.”

   “And what are we to do with the other Number 6?”

   “We have two Number 6’s?”

   “That’s the problem.”

   “Well just let one of them go.”

   “I can’t do that. One is Number 6, the other his impersonator Curtis. How can I possibly allow him to leave the village knowing what he knows, and especially with that face of his!”

   “That’s tricky” the Supervisor thought for a moment “the man in the iron mask.”

   He’s not here is he?”

   “No. Alexander Dumas, his novel ‘The Man In The Iron Mask.”

   “You want me to put Number 6 in an iron mask?”


   “Well I’m jolly pleased about that, he’d scream blue murder that he was getting unfair treatment.”

   “I suggest you do it to Number 12.”

   “Curtis? You want me to put Curtis in an Iron mask?”

   “Well no, not really. Just confine him.”

   “In the Bastille presumably.”

   “Well we do have a fortress, well a castle…..the hospital.”

   “You suggest we confine Number 12 to the hospital.”

   “It would solve the problem.”

   “And it might have been better if Rover had finished him off! No, the hospital is too public, and besides the extra security would attract attention. No, Number 12 must be confined on his own. In solitary confinement pending further instructions                                                        
    It was on a dark and stormy night that a doctor, accompanied by two male orderlies, entered Ward b of the hospital. In a bed at the far end of the ward, a patient with his head completely wrapped in bandages slept. The three medical men slowly approached the bed, the patient stirred in his sleep. Then swiftly the two orderlies took a firm grip of the patient as the doctor with a prepared syringe, injected the patient with a strong sedative. The patient was then put on a trolley and wheeled out of the ward along the corridor and towards the double doors of the hospital to where a waiting village taxi was waiting, with a Red Cross trailer in tow. The patient was transferred from the trolley into the trailer, while the doctor climbed aboard the taxi, accompanied by the two burly male orderlies. The ambulance driver started the engine, and drove the taxi away from the hospital, and into the night.

   It was a strange apartment that Number 12 woke up in the following morning. There were modest furnishings, a small kitchen, bathroom, and a lounge. All his private possessions were accountable, including the picture of his deceased wife Susan. Then he saw the telephone and picking up the red receiver attempted to put a call through to Number 2, except there was no tone. He asked for the Operator, but there was no reply. He tapped the receiver cradle several times, but the instrument was unconnected!

   Suddenly the door to his apartment opened and two people entered. The first was a tall lean gentleman carrying a furled shooting stick umbrella, and an old school scarf wound about his neck. The other was a young woman wearing a maid’s uniform, she carried a breakfast tray which she placed on the coffee table before turning and departing the apartment.

   “This is your meal for the day. Your meal will be brought to you daily at noon.”

   “Why does the maid not look at me?”

   “She will not speak to you either. Such are her instructions.”

   “The windows……”

   “What about the windows?”

   “They are shuttered! Is that so I may not look out upon the village?”

   “No. It is so that people cannot look in!”

   “Tell me why the maid did not look at me?”

   “Your breakfast will be getting cold.”

   “It’s probably already cold if it travelled here on one of those tractor things!”

   “How perceptive of you.”

   “Well it’s the kitchens you see, they are so very far away……”

   “The maid, she would not look at me!”

   “I should think it was the mask. She may have found it rather off putting, disturbing even.”

   “Mask, what mask?”

   “Do not try and remove it. It is sealed to your skin! Bon appetite.”

   Number 2 left the small apartment, leaving the Prisoner to his cold meal, in the privacy of his own confinement.

   The Prisoner crossed the room to the mirror hanging over the mantelpiece. He could hardly believe the image which was reflected back at him. For over his face was a half black and white mask. He put his hands to the mask in a vain attempt to remove it. But there was no place for his fingers to gain a purchase in order to tear the mask from his face. The mask was indeed sealed to his skin!

   The Prisoner backed away from the mirror. He felt the statuette in his hand and the mirror smashed into a thousand splinters of glass. He sat down in a chair, buried his head in his hands and wept, then cried out for deliverance from this nightmare.                                       

   And so it was that the Prisoner remained confined within the walls of his apartment for days, weeks, months on end. He was left with warmth, nourishment, and music. Music that could not be switched off, music that played all day, and half through the night!

   The Prisoner saw no-one save for his personal maid, and the burly guardian who accompanied her, bringing his daily meal at 12 noon. They neither looked nor spoke to him for the short time they were in his apartment. He did one time make a dash for the door only seconds behind the burly man, who turned suddenly and pushed the Prisoner back into the room, the cottage door of his cell closing and locking automatically. Another time the Prisoner set a trap, but on that occasion the maid and burly guardian didn’t turn up that day with his meal.

   “I suppose you think that’s clever!” the Prisoner shouted out at the ceiling “You mean you’re still watching me! Isn’t that a waste of someone’s time? Am I not to eat today?”

   The Prisoner turned his attention to the two shuttered windows. He found them securely locked and there was no forcing them open. The shutters allowing daylight through, but not the Prisoner to look out. 

   It became difficult for the Prisoner to keep himself amused and entertained. The television had been taken away, and he was not permitted the daily broadsheet. He set aside part of a wall for the keeping of a calendar. But soon became tired of the novelty aspect of this. He made one-way conversation with his two person warders. And would sit for hours visualising the Village in his mind’s eye. First the scene just outside the front door, then all around the apartment building. Finally further afield in the village. He sat listening to the regular Brass Band Concert. He sat playing chess with the Ex-Admiral on many occasions. Then took up a square on the human chessboard as the black King’s Bishop. He worked out in the gymnasium, took a daily walk around the Village. Collected a newspaper from The Tally Ho vender, had tea and toast at the café, and called into the General Store on the way home. Such was the strength of his mental powers that the Prisoner’s imaginings seemed so real to him. He could even stand on the cliff top and feel the wind in his hair, the rain on his cheek……… Suddenly the door opened and his personal maid entered carrying his meal on a tray and set it down noisily onto the coffee table. This had the effect of bringing the Prisoner back from the windswept cliff tops to the confinement of his apartment.

  The Prisoner stood up, he made a rush for the maid who scurried towards the door where the burly Guardian stood. The Prisoner picked up the tray and hurled it at the departing maid. “God damn you all to hell!” he cried out in his torment.                                                     

   And then one day………They came for the Prisoner. He was removed from his apartment, a black hood had been placed over his head. It was only a short taxi ride, before descending beneath the village, to where, the Prisoner did not know. He could only judge by the motion he felt, a sudden downwards motion.

   “He’s reported to have become very unstable” said the President “do you think he will co-operate?”

   “I’d have been surprised had he not become so after his extreme solitary confinement” said a Delegate “As for his co-operation, he’s played the role once before, so why not again. After all he has nothing to lose.”

   “And his instability may add something to the role” added another Delegate.

   The reader of this will, I’m sure, be only too familiar with the proceedings of ‘Fall Out, so there is no need for me to make a description of them here. Save for the fact that the former No.6, who had been offered the prize of Ultimate Power, then presented himself to No.1. No.1 handed “sir” a crystal ball in which “sir” was shown his future. It was a future which “sir” rejected by allowing the crystal ball to slip between his fingers and smash on the floor into a thousand splinters. He then turned his attention to the robed figure of No.1. He tore away the black and white mask, then the ape mask, and stared into a face he knew very well. It was like looking into a mirror!

   No.1 gave a demented laugh, and continued to laugh maniacally as “sir” chased him around the Control Room of the rocket.

   It was their final chance you see, their final manipulation of the former Prisoner known as Number 6. And it didn’t work. The plan had failed like so many before it. It’s reliance on a man who was forced to play the role of Number 6 a second time, as if the first had not been enough. The treatment of Curtis, his enforced solitary confinement, forced to wear a mask, unable to even look out of a window upon the Village, had sent him schizoid. At the very least had left Curtis/12/1 maladjusted, at the worst psychotic. And like all criminals, he had the deep seated desire to climb upwards. In Curtis’ case, upwards into the nose cone of the rocket. And with one final maniacal laugh the fate of the man in the black and white mask was sealed.

Be seeing you

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