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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.


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