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Wednesday 8 September 2021

An Interim No.2


    The new interim No.2 crossed the threshold of the Green Dome, in the foyer a diminutive butler in black tails greeted me and showed him through a pair of French doors. Up a small ramp a large pair of steel doors slid open and he was shown into a purple walled chamber. He stepped forward then spun round as the steel doors closed behind him.

    “Don’t worry, a man said, you’ll soon get used to things.”

    It was then he realized the man was dressed identically to himself. A dark double breasted plain blazer, grey polo neck jersey, grey flannel trousers, and deck shoes. Oh yes, and a Penny Farthing badge pinned to the right left lapel of his blazer, which he removed and pinned onto the newcomer’s lapel.

    “Well” he said “I must be going” and made his way up the ramp to the opening steel doors.

    “Aren’t you going to stop and show me the ropes?” he asked.

    “There’s no time, the helicopter leaves in ten minutes” he said from the doorway “if you want to know anything....just press a button. Be seeing you.”

    And with that he was gone, and the doors closed, and the new interim No.2 was alone. The doors slid open again and the diminutive Butler wheeled a tea trolley into the chamber. He leaned across the desk and pressed a button on the control panel. Here he thought to himself, was a man who knew his way about things.

    A round section of the floor slid away, and up through the hole rose a round topped table upon which the butler laid out the afternoon tea things. He poured him a cup and indicated to sit in a black global chair, then he turned and pushed the tea trolley across the floor, up the ramp and through the opening doors.

   He sat sipping his tea wondering what would happen next, well no-one had briefed him. He glanced at the control panel, “What was it the departing Number 2 said.......if you want to know anything just press a button,” So he did. But nothing appeared to happen, then one button must have turned the wall screen on, and a series of other buttons brought up different images on the screen. What looked to be a control room, the Piazza where people were taking their daily constitutional, the café. The Old People’s Home, the beach, swimming pool, the council chamber where a number of people wearing Top Hats and striped jerseys stood at podiums. Then the steel doors opened again and a man wearing a dark blazer with blue piping walked in and approached the desk.

    “Who are you?” he asked.

    “I’m Number 12” the middle aged man said “I’m your assistant.”

    “Really!” he said already feeling much more comfortable in his position “well perhaps we should get down to business.”

    “Right away Number 2” 12 said eagerly.

    “So what are you standing there for?”

    “Waiting your instructions Number 2.”

    “My instructions, I thought you were to assist me?”

    “Usually interim Number 2’s arrive here having been given some assignment to carry out, and as your assistant I then help you with it.”

    “I haven’t been given any such assignment” No.2 admitted.

    “No elaborate plan concerning Number 6 for example?”

    “Number 6, who is Number 6?”

    “It doesn’t matter. Well I think for the moment you should finish your tea, and I’ll brief you a little on the administrative workings of the village.”

    “How long would you define interim?” No.2 asked.

    “An interim period can be any time up to a year, although it means you will not be here in the village for a full year’s business. Generally a term in office doesn’t last much longer that 3 days, a week if you’re lucky.”

    Within the week this interim No.2 was gone, and a new none appointed!

     The pair of steel doors opened and No.22 stepped onto the steel gantry, standing at the railings he looked down upon the Supervisor-No.28 and the Observers who worked under him.

    The Supervisor looked up “What can I do for you?”

    “I need the assistance of one of your Observers” 22 said descending the steel steps.

    “What for?”

    “I rather think that’s my business” 22 said sternly.

    “Which Observer?”

    “The one with the goatee beard...Number 246.”

    No.22 took the Observer to the Green Dome, where in the foyer 6 people were gathered waiting. 22 took 246 straight into No.2’s office.

    “Right, change into these clothes” 22 ordered.

    “Why sir?”

    “Don’t ask questions, just obey orders.”

    The Observer changed out of his own clothes and into grey flannel trousers, a grey roll neck jersey, a single breasted blazer, and an old college scarf was wound about his neck and shoulders. He was given an umbrella shooting stick and seated in the black global chair.

    “Now” No.22 said “For the next few moments you’re an interim Number 2. And I want you to say these few words, and should look shocked when you say them, we can go through it a few times to practice.”

    No.22 then picked up the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone “Camera one are you ready?”

    “Camera one ready sir.”


    “Audio ready sir.

    “Right, in your own time Number 2.”

    “They’re going to what?”

    “Cut” 22 said “Did you get that camera one?”

    “Perfect sir.”


    “Loud and clear sir.”

    The Observer was then instructed to change back into his own clothes and return to the control room, and to say nothing as he passed through the foyer. And so it went on. Each person sat in the black globe chair, told to say one line of dialogue and then told to leave.

    A middle aged woman sat in the chair wearing a light blue roll neck jersey, slacks, a white hat, with the old college scarf about her neck and shoulders.

    “What did you say?” this interim No.2 said somewhat sternly.

    But it wasn’t always like that, some managed to leave the village, some were brought back, while others are unlucky enough to be co-opted onto the local town council! One interim No.2, a blonde haired chap he was, formally of the Gestapo I should imagine, was made up to No.2. I never really truly realized the distinction, but then all No.2’s are interim no matter how long the term. But this No.2, who actually failed in his task, was actually made up to the new No.2, became the permanent No.2. He replaced the former permanent No.2 on the day of his retirement! And now he can look forward to the day of his own retirement!

    It’s not always usual to hold such a ceremony as Appreciation Day in order to hand over power to a new No.2, most times the two never meet, but once a new interim No.2 was voted in by the electorate, but he didn’t last 5 minutes. I believe there was once such occasion when the out-going interim No.2 and the new No.2 passed each other on the way out and in.....

   The butler brought in the tea, No.2 was pressing buttons on the control panel watching briefly the images projected onto the wall screen, one image made me stop. He stood watching a man on the wall screen talking into the red ‘L’ shaped telephone, he could only see from the back elevation, and yet when he turned to face the was then that the red ‘L’ shaped telephone on the desk began to bleep, he picked it up and realised it was him he had been watching.

    “Number 2 here.....” I said still watching the screen.

Be seeing you

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