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Tuesday 10 May 2022

The Prisoner - An Exercise In Logistics Chapter 14


The Psychology of Fear

    Number 6 rose from his bed and donned his green striped dressing gown. Crossing through into the kitchen he switched on the kettle. In the bathroom he showered and shaved. Breakfast consisted of two cups of Earl Grey tea, a bowl of cornflakes, and two slices of toast. This then was the normal beginning of any day, if any day in The Village could be described as normal. Only this morning there was something which was not quite right even for The Village, it was too quiet, and then it struck him. There had been no early morning music coming through the black speaker sitting on the shelf, no fanfare which preceded a sudden announcement, no cheery female voice giving the daily weather forecast! Crossing the lounge he picked up the black radio speaker, and because there was no on/off switch, he shook it, the speaker remained eerily silent. Strange no matter how irritating something is, the moment it’s no longer there, you miss it! Obviously it had developed a fault, and he half expected someone from Electrics to turn up and affect a repair. Picking up the telephone receiver he found the instrument was dead! Having dressed Number 6 left the confines of his cottage for an early morning walk in the fresh air. The streets and paths were wet from the previous night’s rain and there was a fresh breeze blowing. Sea gulls screeched over head and a pair of black jackdaws fought over a scrap of food. And then there it was, it was the first time he had noticed it but none the less for that, there was no mistaking the fact that there was not a soul to be seen. He looked at his wrist watch, eight o’clock, he knew it was early but there was no one about, and the silence only broken by bird song. He strolled about The Village. The Café was still closed, the door firmly locked, on the patio the tables had not been cleared from the previous day’s trade. The General Store was also closed, its door too was firmly locked against him he banged on the door trying the rouse the shopkeeper. He was not there. Down at the Old People’s Home there was no one sitting at the tables upon the lawn, the doors and windows closed and locked. There were not the usual people clambering about the Stoneboat, along her deck, in and out of the cabins, climbing up and down the rigging. The Stoneboat stood abandoned at the quayside, only her single black sail and colourful bunting flapping in the breeze. Having walked back up the hill into The Village itself, Number 6 stood and listened to a red speaker of the public address system mounted on top of a black and white striped pole, beneath a candy striped canopy. It was as silent as the very grave!  He climbed the bell tower, and from that lofty position he surveyed the four corners of The Village. Above his head hung the four bells pulling on the bell


 rope, the hammer struck the bell, it rang out loudly across The Village. But this attracted no one’s attention, for there was no one’s attention to attract. The Village to all intents and purposes was completely and utterly deserted! Descending the bell tower his next port of call was the Green Dome, if anyone could tell him what was going on, it would be Number 2. Crossing the cobbled square his attention was immediately caught by something, the white Min-Moke parked bottom of the steps leading up to the Green Dome. He leaned in under the orange a white canopy, the key was in the ignition, he turned it and the engine fired into life. Switching off he removed the key and placed it in his blazer pocket, then made his way up the steps leading up to the Green Dome. The white door was closed, he pulled sharply upon the black wrought iron bell pull, but no bell sounded and the door remained closed. He pushed against it, forcing the door open, passing through the portal he stood in the foyer. Ahead of him the pair of French doors stood open, but the pair of steel doors beyond were firmly closed and remained so even when he approached them. It would take a little more force to open this pair of doors, he would need something to lever them open.
    It was twenty minutes before he returned with a long handled axe, which he obtained from the maintenance building in the woods. He used this to lever the pair of steel doors open. And when he finally walked down the ramp into the domed office he found no-one in, in fact the whole chamber was bare, even the grey curved desk had been removed! Number 6 did not take time to think and wonder, he dashed up the ramp, out through the open steel doors and foyer, out through the huge porch and onto the balcony, where he stood at its balustrade looking down onto the street below and at the taxi. He descended the stone steps, taking the ignition key from his blazer pocket he got into the taxi. The key in the ignition and with one turn the engine fired into life. First gear engaged the taxi moved forward through the first of two entrance arches which spanned the street. Once through the second arch the taxi sped off, out of The Village and up into the surrounding woods and along a narrow track way which wound its way between tall trees and through tall ferns until finally he reached the far side of the woods coming to an abrupt stop at reaching a dry stone wall. He climbed out of the taxi and climbed over the wall peering out across the open countryside beyond. There seemed nothing now between himself and freedom. The Village abandoned for whatever reason, meant there was no one to stop him, except perhaps the Guardian, but that was the chance he would have to take. Jumping down from the top of the wall he began to walk a few metres across the green pasture which spread out before him, and that is when it hit him, or rather when he walked straight into it!

    When Number 6 finally came round he found himself lying on his back in the pasture and looking up at a clear blue sky. There was blood on his forehead and a pain in his head. He sat on the grass for several minutes, waiting for the pain to subside and at the same time wondering what he had managed to walk into. There was nothing that he could see, nothing but the open countryside and the hills beyond. Getting to his feet he slowly and carefully took a step or three forward and there it was, an invisible barrier between him and the freedom of the countryside ahead of him. But no, not an invisible barrier, nothing more simple than a huge painted back drop, yet it looked so real, lifelike. At the foot of the dry stone wall there was a broken branch from a tree, he picked it up and returned to the barrier. He walked along running the outstretched branch along the barrier as he went. This indicated the extent of this phenomenon which spanned the entire length of the pasture. As for its height, there was no discernable top edge. Having scaled back over the stone wall, Number 6 climbed into the taxi and drove back into The Village.


    “So what were they up to this time? And where was everybody? Surely The Village could not have been evacuated over night? And what was this barrier when it was at home?” were just four questions running through his mind as he drove through the deserted streets, taking the road towards the hospital. He parked on the gravel forecourt, stooping down he picked up several stones, one of which he threw in front of him, meeting with no obstacle he moved forward, throwing more stones as he went. The doors to the hospital were locked against him, and all of the ground floor windows barred and secured. He turned his attention to the road leading away from both the hospital and The Village throwing stones in front of him until a few yards on a stone rebounded off the elaborate camouflaged barrier which stretched put in both directions. Taking several steps back Number 6 threw his remaining three stones high up ahead of him in order to try and gauge the height of this painted eerie barrier, it was difficult to say, but it was high and as smooth as glass. Gazing up at the blue sky, he could not help but wonder if that was indeed the sky, or like the barrier itself a mere painted ceiling of an unseen dome. He had to admire their technical building skills, artistry and general ingenuity, for having created such an obstacle over night. Driving back through The Village, the taxi sped down the hill towards the Old People’s Home, turning left at the end of the wall and sharp right down the slipway and onto the beach, splashing through a shallow gully of water as it raced out across the open sand. He brought the taxi to a stop some distance out on the sand; it would have been stupid to crash into the barrier. He scanned the wide expanse all round him, he was sure the barrier would incorporate the ‘Outer Zone.’ Seagulls circled overhead, he watched to see if they encountered this unseen barrier and by this he might ascertain its height. But the seagulls were as free as birds, unencumbered by any such barrier. He drove on across the sand keeping a sharp look out for the Guardian. The taxi came to a stop in line with the lighthouse structure on top of the cliffs. Climbing out he took a shovel, which he had collected from the gardener’s shed at the edge of the woods, and began to feel for this painted barrier keeping him prisoner. It was a strange eerie sensation to see the landscape stretching out ahead of him, but yet to feel this barrier which the landscape itself was painted on. He ran his hands down the barrier, then at what he thought to be the base he took his shovel and began to dig the sand away. If he couldn’t go over it, then he would dig his way underneath it. He had been digging for a good twenty minutes, but finally gave it up as a bad job as he had failed to find the bottom of the barrier despite digging down five feet in the sand! In his frustration, in his anger, he threw the shovel away and climbed back into the taxi. Starting the engine he steered the vehicle towards the far side of the estuary. He put his foot down on the accelerator sending the taxi speeding ever faster across the flat sand, splashing through shallow gullies of water, then pulling sharply on the steering wheel to make the Mini Moke skid on the sand. And then the inevitable happened, one of the taxi’s front wheels hit something in the sand, causing Number 6 to lose control for a second, but that was enough as the Mini Moke taxi came crashing into the unseen barrier, it’s driver being violently thrown clear, to lie unconscious on the sand.  


    He woke with a sudden start, his whole body soaked in sweat from head to toe. Throwing back the sheets Number 6 swung his legs out and sat on the edge of bed and sat there with his head in his hands. A dream, is that all it had been, a dream? But the dream had seemed so real as though reality itself. Rising slowly from the bed he put on his dressing gown and was about to cross over to a window when there came a sudden fanfare through the black loudspeaker.

    “Good morning, good morning rise and shine, rise and shine. Before the start of our early morning music, here are two announcements. Today’s weather will be fine and dry, although a fresh breeze will pick up later in the day. Anyone wishing to enter the ‘landscape’ painting competition has just three days left. Entry forms can be obtained from the Exhibition and Recreation Hall. And now music” announced the cheery female voice.

    Music began to play through the loudspeaker ‘The Awkward Squad’, a lively tune, if somewhat dated.

    Number 6 instead of going to the window, crossed the lounge and opened the French window and stood on the small balcony. A middle aged woman dressed in a colourful striped cape, striped jersey and blue slacks came walking along the path.

    “A lovely morning Number Six” commented the woman with a smile.

    “Be seeing you” he saluted casually, standing at the door listening.

    In the distance he could hear the engine and two tone horn of a Village taxi. Below along the cobbled path a cyclist rode by on her canopied bicycle, ringing her bell to warn pedestrians of her approach, ting a ling a ling. An Allouete helicopter flew overhead in the pale blue sky, circling The Village twice before landing on the triangular lawn by the sea wall. Somehow this all went to reassure Number 6 of his surroundings, and so tired, but much relieved, he turned back inside his cottage the door closing behind him.


    Later that day an Observer in the Control Room watched Number 6 quietly stroll around The Village taking in the regular afternoon brass band concert on the way. After which he took a stroll up into the woods, under the ever watching surveillance eye of the Observers.

    “Supervisor, Number Six is in the Mangrove walk” reported an Observer.

    The young Supervisor-Number 33 dressed in plain black blazer, olive green polo neck sweater looked up from the computer slate he was carrying “Let’s have him on the screen.”

    The large wall screen came to life just in time to see Number 6 emerge from the far end of the Mangrove walk and head for the shore. The Supervisor and Observer continued to watch as Number 6 descended a path down onto the beach. He stooped down to collect a handful of stones then walked off a little way passed the lighthouse structure atop of the cliffs.

    “Number Six is approaching the Outer Zone” the Observer reported.

    “I can see that for myself” snapped the Supervisor.

    On the wall screen Number 6 stood throwing stones.

    “Why is he throwing stones?” asked the Observer.

    “I have absolutely no idea, he’ll be playing ‘ducks and drakes’ next. Keep him under close surveillance. If there is one thing I have learnt about Number Six, it is that he never does anything without a good reason!” ordered the Supervisor.

    “What good reason could he have for doing that?” queried the Observer.

    “For reasons of his own!” said the Supervisor, turning his attention away from the screen and back to his slate.

    Number 6 was making his way back through the woods when he found himself at the dry stone wall at the far side of the woods, the very same wall which he was so sure he had scaled before, and was doing so again when suddenly the white mass of the Guardian came bounding across the pasture towards him on the other side of the wall. Instantly he dropped down from the wall and onto his knees and made his way back into the woods, back to The Village.

    Along the sea wall situated some little distance from The Village itself was a white cottage. It’s white arches spanned the path between it and the rock face behind it, through which Number 6 now walked. Emerging through the arches there was the colourful statue of Admiral Lord Nelson, with the French tricolour flag draped about him. There was also a white square tower, with steps leading up to a plain wooden door of the Camera Obscura.
    An artist sat at his easel a few paces away “You’re standing right in the middle of my picture!”

    “Sorry” returned Number stepping to one side.

    The white beard matched the old man’s white curly hair. The high fore headed face of an elderly man peered out from behind his easel, paintbrush in hand. Light blue eyes peered out through a pair of tortoiseshell spectacles.


    “I take it you know what a Camera Obscura is?”

    “Of course, actually I can’t think of a more apt place to have one” Number 6 replied.

    The bearded old man stood up and emerged from behind his easel putting his paintbrush down.

    “Please don’t let me disturb you” Number 6 said about to walk on his way.

    “You’re not” returned the old man.

    “It uses mirrors you know, from inside you can see all round The Village. But they keep it locked” the old man told him.

    “Really, do they? What are you painting?”

    “It’s an architectural study. How do you like it here?”

    “I can think of better places to be.”

    “And better people to be with no doubt.”

    “Are you new here, only I haven’t seen you at the Old People’s Home before.”

    “I’m not one of its residents” returned the old man.

    “How long have you been here?”

    “Oh a long time, it’s been over fifty years since I first found myself in this place, it’s haunted me ever since. You could say that I am a prisoner of my own creation!” the old man told him.

    “What’s your number, I see that you don’t wear a badge” Number 6 observed.

    “For that matter neither do you. Besides I am not a number, I am a person” coughed the old man “what’s your number?”

    “They call me Number Six.”

    “Ah, so you are the new Number 6. I suppose it had to be sooner or later!” returned the old man sadly.

    New Number Six……you’re not trying to tell me that you….”

    “That I am your predecessor of over fifty years….Number Six… yes. You look tired”

    “I didn’t sleep well last night, or perhaps too well” returned Number 6.

    “Well make up your mind, which was it?”

    “I had a dream, it was so clear and vivid as though reality itself.”

    “Then how do you know that you are not dreaming now?” asked the old man.

    “I suppose I don’t” returned Number 6, now standing by the side of the old man.

    “They do that. They get into your dreams, manipulate them. They tried to do that with me once. They would have succeeded too if it hadn’t been for the laxity of a doctor-Number Fourteen. So Number Two is still up to his old tricks is he. Why are you here?” enquired the old man.

    “Why are you?’ retorted Number 6.

    ‘Yes I used to be like that, but old age has mellowed me, smoothed off the rough edges you might say. Why did you resign?’ smiled the old man.

    Number 6 looked at the old man in startled surprise “I didn’t.”


    “That’s good, don’t give them what they want… I didn’t!” the old man said continuing with his painting.

    “Yes and that is why you are still here, but just between you and me, why did you resign?”

    The old man stopped painting and gazed out over the low sea wall to the far side of the estuary “I resigned because for a very long time…….. never give up do you, not even after all this time.”
    “Never mind, it’s not important.”

    The old man returned to his painting without uttering another word. Number 6 left him to it, and yet as he walked along the path towards the Old People’s Home he paused, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. Clasping the back of his neck he spun round to see the artist no longer busy at his easel, instead, but for a moment or two only, he saw a tall man with light brown hair in his late thirties, dressed in a charcoal grey two piece suit who stood on the spot where the old artist had been, but with those same light blue eyes staring back at him, and then the figure had gone. Number 6 spun round to see a bald headed gardener in brown overalls pushing a green wheelbarrow.

    “Didn’t you see him?” Number 6 asked the gardener.

    “See who?” returned the gardener.
    There came a sudden breeze and the air turned cold.

    The gardener shivered “Deceptively chilly for the time of year, don’t you think sir?”

    “Perhaps someone has walked over your grave” offered Number 6.

     “They’ll have a job to do that sir, the tides in!” the gardener said pushing his wheelbarrow over the spot where the figure had stood.

     Steel doors opened and Number 6 marched down the ramp into Number 2’s office, giving the butler no time to announce him.

    “Ah Number Six come in, take a seat’ offered Number 2, pressing a button on the control panel of his desk. A circular disc in the grey floor slid back and a leather chair rose up through the hole in the floor “Can I offer you anything? Would you like some tea or black coffee perhaps?” offered this gentlemanly Number 2, who sported a full head of black hair, and was clean shaven. The man was dressed in the usual attire attributed to Number 2, and the monocle he wore over his right eye glistened, when caught in a beam of light from overhead illumination.

    “No thank you, I have a report to make, something of a supernatural nature” said Number 6, leaning across the desk.

    “Something supernatural eh, I wondered what had got you rattled I’m intrigued, go on, I’m anxious to hear what you have to tell me” said Number 2, from the comfort of his black globe chair.

    “First let me inform you that whatever it is you’re up to, it’s not going to work” stated Number 6 defiantly.

    “I can assure you that we are up to nothing. Really Number Six you shouldn’t be so suspicious of us all the time.”


    You’ve given me plenty of cause to be in the past” barked Number 6.

    “Yes of course if you say so, but when are you going to come to the supernatural bit?” smiled Number 2.

    “It is rumoured that your Observers see and hear everything.”

    “They do indeed.”

    “Well have they reported any strange behaviour or unexplained sightings?”

    Number 2 thought for a moment “Only yours, but don’t tell me you have seen a ghost. Tell me Number 6, was it the robed figure of a monk, or a woman dressed in black?” asked Number 2, a broad grin crossing his face.

    “Last night I had a nightmare…”

    “Too many toasted cheese suppers I suspect!’ quipped Number 2 sarcastically.

    Number 6 ignored Number 2’s sarcasm “I am not prone to having nightmares.”

    “Not so, I have a report here which states that you do.”

    “And a short while ago I saw a man who The Village once held as its prize prisoner, a man who was brought here some decades ago, simply because he resigned. But he defied the Village and claimed not to be a number but a free man.”

    Number 2 went pale and sat back in his chair “I am not a number I am a free man” he muttered under his breath.

    Number 6 feeling that he now had the upper hand, began to pace the floor “This man is six feet two and a half inches tall, with light brown hair and light blue eyes. Not dressed in regular Village costume, he wore a charcoal grey suit, black polo shirt.

    Number 2 looked at his visitor in amazement “No such person has been reported, did you say anything to this spectre?”
    “No, but I did talk to an artist, an old white haired man who was busy painting a picture of the Camera Obscura.”
     “Ah him.”
    “He resigned his job and ended up here. He resisted, attempted to escape, he was once considered to have a future here.”
    “Did you ascertain his number?”
    “Six, Number Six.”
    Number 2 fell into a stunned silence “But Six is your number.”

    “Yes, but he said he was my predecessor” snapped Number 6.

    “He err, he, he, told you this did he?” stammered Number 2.

    “The artist did, but then appeared to me as his much younger self.”

    “You actually saw him, this spectre?”

    “As clearly as I am seeing you now.”
    “Tell me” Number 2 said.

    “I saw him as I’m seeing you now, as clear as day. The old man disappeared and then the young man stood there looking at me as I looked at him. Then a gardener turned up...... are you sure your Observers haven’t reported any unusual sightings?”


    “They would have reported it if they had, perhaps you imagined it” was Number 2’s suggestion.

    “Will you investigate what I have told you?”

    “I’ll ask my observers to keep an eye open if that is what you mean” said Number 2 trying to sound unconcerned.

    “Thanks very much!”
    “Where are you going?”
    Number 6 had turned and was crossing the floor towards the pair of steel doors, he turned and casually saluted Number 2.
    “To find the old man, the artist, be seeing you!” the pair of steel doors slid open and he passed the butler and Number 100 as he was leaving.

    “He looks a bit rough” commented Number 100 walking down the ramp.

    “Number One-hundred to see you” announced the butler from the open doorway “Perhaps you would both like some tea.”

    “How will that help?” snapped Number 2.

    “Well it can’t do any harm” returned the butler.
    “I’d like some tea” said Number 100 smiling at the prospect.

    “Indian or China?” the butler asked.

    “What’s the difference?” 100 asked.

    “Not a lot. But it’s usual to offer a choice” the butler said with a cheery smile.

   “Bring us some coffee!” Number 2 ordered.
    The butler looked at 100 “Coffee! He’s already too excited for coffee. Perhaps camomile tea would be preferable, it might help relax his nibs there.”

    Number 100 looked disappointed.

    “I hate camomile tea” said Number 2 “bring a pot of strong coffee and two cups” Number 2 ordered.

    “You’ll be bouncing off the wall if I do that!”

    “A pot of strong coffee if you please” ordered Number 2.

    “Alright, you seem to know best” returned the Butler with an annoying glance, as he strode up the ramp, but by the time he reached the opening steel doors.............

    Yes I do……. No wait. Bring me a pot of camomile tea” Number 2 asked.

    “As you say, you know best” said the butler the steel doors closing behind him

    Number 100, a man in his late twenties, folded his arms and perched himself on the curve of Number 2’s desk, he was dressed in a cream blazer with black piping, a dark blue turtle neck sweater and fawn trousers “I see he takes good care of you” he smirked.

    “Yes, he seems to be under the impression that he knows what is best for me and in every way possible. Now about Number Six” said Number 2 rubbing his hands together with glee “he had a nightmare last night, which was of course bad enough for him, but just a few moments ago he came here to see me in order to report that he had seen a ghost. A ghost I tell you, and in broad daylight, marvellous.


You and your team are to be congratulated; however I do question your judgement when it comes to the sort of spectre you used.”

    Number 100 sat on the edge of the desk with a bemused look on his face.

    “What’s the matter with you?”

    “The hologram projector wasn’t working this morning Number Two. A fault developed with the software. In fact the technicians are still working on it, and unless they can rectify the problem, the hologram projector probably will not be ready until the day after tomorrow.”

    The steel doors opened and the butler walked down the ramp carrying a tray. He placed it down upon the desk, and laid out the silver tea pot, along with two cups and saucers with a glance towards his master. Number 2 on the other hand shot him a glance of dismissal as he tried to take in what Number 100 had just told him.

    “But the hologram projector was working perfectly.”

    “Yes Number Two, until the software problem” returned Number 100.

    The butler poured out two cups of camomile tea.

    Number 2 looked at him “What have you got to smile about?”
    “A good servant is never seen, you don’t even know he’s there. All you see is a pair of hands pouring out the tea.”
    “But not in your case it would seem!” said Number 2.

    “Don’t be like that. I’m only doing my job, and always with a cheery smile” the butler told him.

    “Well go and do your job somewhere else. We have important business to conduct” Number 2 instructed.

    “Alright, but I live here as well you know, and I can’t help but notice things.”

    “Well what have you noticed this morning?” Number 2 asked picking up his cup and saucer.

    “You’re having a spot of bother” the butler told him “and I bet it

concerns that Number Six.”
    “How do you work that out?” Number 2 asked sipping his tea and grimacing.

    “When doesn’t it concern Number Six? And if you don’t like the tea, you don’t have to drink it!”

    The butler turned, walked up the ramp and departed the office through the opening steel doors. Number 2 leaned forward and pressed a button on the control panel of his desk. The wall screen came to life displaying the interior of the laboratory where two technicians dressed in white coats were busy working at a computer consul. Number 100 picked up his cup, took one sip, pulled a face, and placed the cup and saucer back on the tray.

    Why was the hologram projector not working this morning?” barked Number 2 at the wall screen.

    A short bespectacled man looked up from his work and back from the screen.

    I asked why was the hologram projector not working?” barked Number 2, repeating his question.


    “We are still working to resolve the problems” reported Number 254.

    Number 2 switched off the wall screen “Idiot!”

    Number 100 put his cup of camomile tea on the desk “I was just thinking.”

    “What were you thinking? How you can dodge out of this mess you’ve created I suppose” returned Number 2 taking his chair.

    “Not really, I was thinking about this failure which isn’t!” retorted Number 100, a wry smile beginning to cross his lips.

    “Not a failure? How do you work that out? With the hologram projector not working, Number Six couldn’t possibly have seen……..”

    “Exactly, so what did Number Six see?”

    “That’s right, Number Six was certainly agitated about something, he doesn’t get rattled over nothing, unless he’s playing some sort of game of his own!”

    “And if he isn’t playing some sort of game?” asked 100 easing himself off the desk

    “Go to the Control Room, check with the Supervisor. Talk to that gardener who saw Number Six by the Camera Obscura, and when you’ve done that check with visual records and review the film of Number Six when he was supposed to have encountered this so called spectre. I want to know if there has been the slightest anomaly anywhere in The Village at that time, before, during and since. In other words I want to know if there in an ounce of truth in Six’s story. Oh and while you’re about it talk to the old man, the artist and find -out what he knows.”   
    “The artist?”

    “Number Ninety-three, he may have something to say.”

    “Yes Number Two” asked 100.

    “And report straight back to me, it seems that we may not have failed completely. Either that or a ghost from the past has returned to haunt us!”

    As Number 100 walked up the ramp and out of the opening steel doors Number 2 sat with a haunted look on his face!      

    In ‘6 Private’ there was the nightly ritual of the maid making Number 6 his night cup of hot chocolate which was left waiting for him on his bedside table. Then came the following announcement over the black speaker.

    “Curfew time, ten minutes, all citizens ten minutes to curfew, sleep well.”

   Number 6 was in no mood to sleep. From out of the bedroom he emerged carrying his cup of hot chocolate and in the kitchen he poured it down the sink. Then taking a glass of water filled it not straight from the tap, but from a sealed bottle of ‘Village Spring Water’ from the refrigerator. He wanted to see a complete night. He had never seen a night since the day of his arrival. He wanted to go outside and wander the Village streets under the stars, but the door was secured against him, as were all the windows of the house. Finally still fully dressed in piped blazer he laid back on the couch and putting his half empty glass of water on the coffee table, settled himself down. That was when the free standing overhead light kicked in and began to pulsate.


    “Sleep” said a quiet, soothing and hypnotic female voice “sleep…. sleep…. sleep softly until tomorrow, lovely gentle sleep and a lovely tomorrow. That’s right sleep, sleep, sleep allow yourself to quietly drift away.” This combination of the gentle pulsating of the light and the quiet, soothing female voice had an hypnotic effect upon Number 6,

this combined with the drug in his bottled water. Eyes which he

fought to keep open, slowly closed and the book he had been reading slipped from his hand to the floor as he fell into a deeper and deeper sleep.

    The first thing he was aware of when he awoke, was the thumping in his head. The second was that he was slumped over the steering wheel of a Mini Moke. Slowly he sat up and a trickle of blood trailed down his right cheek. Badly shaken his eyesight blurred, Number 6 considered himself lucky. Gingerly he stepped out of the taxi and examined the damage. Surprisingly there was little, a bent front bumper and taxi plate. The old immoveable object and unstoppable force…. Bang! He sat on the side panel of the taxi holding his throbbing head and wondering what his next move would be, when he suddenly had the sensation of wet feet, he looked down and saw that his deck shoes were in fact under two inches of water! The tide was coming in fast and the front wheels of the taxi were already sinking in the now soft sand. This then was his next move, he jumped aboard the taxi and turned the ignition key, but the engine refused to fire into life. Again the key was turned, and for a second, third, forth and fifth time the engine turning over but stubbornly refused to start. The tide was coming in fast and if he didn’t work fast he would be completely cut off from The Village. The water was already half way up the wheels of the vehicle. He stood up on his small island and scanned all around. If he could only start the taxi there was still a chance, as the incoming tide circled round filling the gullies first creating several sand banks, but these would only postpone his eventual drowning. Sitting back down in the driver’s seat, Number 6 turned the ignition key, he frantically turned it again and a again until at last the engine coughed and spluttered into life. Revving the engine he engaged reverse gear and eased his foot down on the accelerator and gently releasing the clutch, the front wheels spun throwing up a mixture of sand and water. And when the taxi wouldn’t budge he pressed down hard on the accelerator, the engine screaming, the front wheels violently churning up sand and water, until at last the taxi pulled back from its sandy trap and watery grave. Pulling hard on the steering wheel he engaged first gear and the taxi sped off across the remaining stretch of sand open to him and as fast as the taxi would go in the now softening sand, for he knew there to be a deep gully cut into the sand between himself and the village, but he was already too late. The gully was already half full of sea water and too deep for the Mini Moke, but he would have to give it his best shot, for there were still several metres between himself and the safety of The Village. Down the slope of the gully Number 6 slowly drove the taxi but keeping its revs up, this so that there might be a chance of the engine not becoming water logged and stalling. The Mini Moke was, it has to be said, ill suited as an all terrain vehicle. As the front wheels dipped into the water it was soon evident that the water in the gully was already too deep for the taxi, the water almost up to the top of the bonnet and lapping over the side panelling. The water flooded the engine which spluttered once, twice then died, leaving the taxi to sinking without trace, and Number 6 with no other option but to swim for it!


   It was a drenched and tired Number 6 who crawled up the stone steps onto the quayside. He lay there half drowned coughing up water but thankful to be alive, if only just! Slowly he rolled over and picked himself up, and sat there on the edge of the quayside by one of the black cannons which flanked the steps. He sat watching the tide claim the taxi, only too glad that it was not himself out there. And now that his struggle for life was over, it suddenly dawned on him that the tide had somehow got either passed or through that barrier which had resisted him so well. But on the other hand, if this was not the case, where had the tide come from, where was it going? He trudged up along the deserted streets and paths of The Village, back to his cottage there to shower and get a change of cloths, which were exactly the same as the wet ones he was now wearing! Afterwards washed and dressed he cooked himself an omelette which he washed down with a couple of glasses of non alcoholic claret. There is always a purpose in everything “they” do, but for the life of him Number 6 could not see it here. Unless of course “they” were still here somewhere, the Observers watching his every move, they were good at that, surveillance. Perhaps he was being tested, seeing how he would react to any given situation. Now that did make some kind of sense.

    “Well keep watching and you might learn something” he shouted out. For Number 6 this was more like a living nightmare. He was alone, isolated from any other human being and without a chance in hell of getting away from this place. His only remaining option was to sit and wait, wait for the good citizens of this community or failing that for ‘them’ to make their next move. As it turned out he would not have long to wait.

    It was early evening and there being no curfew Number 6 decided to take advantage of this fact and take a quiet evening stroll around The Village. It would be the first since his arrival here. So taking a torch Number 6 opened the door of his cottage and stepped out into the night, but there was no need for his torch, the various street lights dotted around The Village were lighting up one by one, there were even lights in the various cottages and residences around The Village. He tried to peer in through some of the windows, but each time his view was obscured by thick curtains and not a sound came from any of the residents. If this was someone’s idea of a practical joke, then he didn’t find it very funny. What if for some reason no one returned, if everyone had gone for good, he would end his days here in The Village all alone. He tried to strike such sorrowful thoughts from his mind and putting his torch in his blazer pocket carried on with his midnight stroll. It was eerie and as quiet as the grave, the only sound which he could here was that of his own footsteps. He climbed the meandering steps up towards the round stone outlook and sat there looking out through the darkness at the night time village, so quiet, peaceful and serene he could at this time think of no other place he would rather be. And then it happened, quite suddenly and without any prior warning it wiped away the whole of his perception, of what to him had been….. reality!


    The black night time sky began to change. The moon began to wane as the stars diminished and darkness quickly turned to light. And as clouds passed overhead the skies began to clear, until they were as clear as crystal, glass even. So that now when looking up and around at what had been only a moment or two ago, a night time sky, Number 6 could now see all around into the laboratory that lay beyond his world. It came to him as a heart stopping shock, Well it would, because everything he had known and come to perceive as reality was blown away in a matter of moments. True he was still  Number 6, a prisoner in The Village, but now it was worse, for The Village was not as he had long discerned it to be, he was not as he had known himself to be. He sat down on the edge of the stone outlook in utter bewilderment, staring up at the white ceiling and florescent lighting of the surrounding laboratory.

    In the laboratory white cowled figures sat working at benches, some mixing different chemicals in test tubes, others writing up notes or peering into microscopes at some minute life form, such as himself! Number 6’s head began to spin, causing him to almost fall to his death as he desperately tried to take this in. His brave new world nothing more than a laboratory experiment. Suddenly a shadow was cast over The Village. Number 6 looked up to see a cowled figure wearing a half white half black theatrical mask peering down at him. Upon his white robe was the circled black numeral 1. Number 6’s pulse raced, his heart pounding fit to burst. Was this then his true reality, his life here in The Village nothing more than a microcosmic experiment? If so how could he be sure of anything, now or in the future, if he indeed had a future! He had at first rejected The Village, he would never accept, except to the point of his own survival and he didn’t accept this his current situation. He stood up and in strong defiance shouted as loud as he could……..

    “Where am I, who are you? Are you Number 1? Let me see your face, what have you done to me and why have you done it? You up there, answer my questions I know you can hear me.”

    But of course the white cowled masked figure of Number 1 could not hear the tiny voice. He made certain observations of both The Village and of the animated figure shaking his fists at him, then taking a pencil and made some notes on the clipboard he held. Meanwhile Number 6 continued with his ranting and raving, shouting obscenities at the figure peering over him. Then in his excited state of mind lost his footing and suddenly fell backwards over the edge of the stone lookout. Number 1 peered down at the tiny unconscious figure lying on the ground and making a further notation turned and walked away. Number 1 picked up an over large curved red telephone, this being his direct link to his subordinate Number 2.


    Number 6 opened his eyes and leaping off the operating table pulled away the wires and electrodes attached to his forehead and wrists and in his fear and confusion spun around to find himself alone in the laboratory. Surrounding the operating table was an ECG machine and oscilloscope, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide bottles, monitors and control consuls. The remainder of the laboratory contained everything that a modern fully equipped laboratory could be kitted out with, and in the centre of which was the miniature world of The Village under a clear glass dome. Number 6 stared down in both awe and disbelief. The Village was an exact replica in every detail, including the taxi on the beach, only in miniature. So that when he looked down upon his world, he did so as though through the eyes of God, or Number 1, its creator. There was electrical wiring linked to a control panel which would account for the power, and a rubber pipe connected beneath the beach. This then is where the water for the estuary came from and disappeared down when the tide was out! Upon one of the work benches sat a clear Perspex container inside of which was a single syringe, half filled with reddish brown liquid. Number 6 pulled up the right sleeve of his blazer to find see two small bruised puncture marks on his wrist. It was all an illusion, using drugs, hypnotic suggestion and a detailed model of The Village, a variant on a form of virtual reality. At the one end of the laboratory was a pair of steel doors, which when open lead into a dark wood panelled corridor lined on either side with plaster busts mounted on five foot high plinths. He walked slowly along the corridor, the steel door slamming shut behind him. The busts of Voltaire, Beethoven, Napoleon, Winston Churchill, Hitler, Karl Marx lined the corridor, but no trace of a door, except for the pair of oak doors at the far end. He wondered if Number 1 was to be found in the room on the other side, sitting in a cosy armchair by the fire, smoking an Havana and enjoying a fine brandy. With this in mind the Prisoner rushed forward with a look of sheer determination upon his face. Trying the door handle, the doors were found to be open, so with a further turn of the handles Number 6 pushed the doors open and fell headlong down the steps and into the busy street beyond. In a state of utter confusion he picked himself up off the pavement and accosted a couple of passersby.

   “Where am I, what town or city is this?”

    The passers by looked at the man strangely dressed in his village attire of piped blazer and treating him with disdain they pushed him away, leaving him to stumble into the road just as a red double Decker bus came  along its destination board…… ‘Trafalgar Sq, Oxford St, Marble Arch, Paddington.'                       

     The driver sounded his horn, the Prisoner struggled to his feet, the bus swerved to miss him but too late, the bus hit the Prisoner sending him sprawling unconscious in the road.


    Somewhere, a long empty road in the middle of nowhere stretches far into the distance, the Prisoner slowly begins to come round and picking himself up dusts himself down. His body is aching from head to toe and he has no idea where he is. There is a breeze blowing up as dark storm clouds gather overhead. Dazed and confused he starts walking along in the middle of that long deserted road and as both ways look the same it matters not in which direction he walks. Then there comes a clash of thunder and from out of the distance a green yellow nosed open topped Lotus 7 comes hurtling along that long deserted road towards him. He jumps out of its path just in time as it flashes passed him, leaving him sprawled out at the road side. Picking himself up he swears and walks on along that road to god knows where. At this point even hell would be a blessed relief! A second clash of thunder and the very same green yellow nosed Lotus 7 comes hurtling towards him again. This time he is ready and leaps well out of the way and in good time, to watch the Lotus speed past him. Only this time the Lotus 7 begins to slow and eventually stops in the middle of the road just a few yards ahead of him. The Prisoner stands at the side of the road looking at the car. Its driver keeps looking straight ahead, but raising a hand he beckons to him, as though offering him a lift, who then walks slowly towards the car, its license plate reads KAR 120C, this makes him hesitate for a moment, before climbing in beside the driver who keeps looking straight ahead without uttering so much as one word. To say that the Prisoner was more confused than ever, would be an understatement. But as the driver revved the engine, engaging first gear and then driving off at speed hurtling along that long and deserted road, there was little time for him to give much thought to anything.

    The car moves forward.

    “Thanks for the lift, it appears you have saved me from a long walk” shouted the passenger to the driver and against the rushing roar of the wind.

    The driver remained silent, nor did he turn to acknowledge his passenger, he probably hadn’t heard what he had said. Such an open topped sports car is hardly conducive to conversation. However the passenger was open to observation, even though the wind blew his

hair in his eyes and which he fought to keep open against the force of the driving wind. The driver was tall, which meant that the top edge of

the windscreen hampered his vision, so he had to lean slightly out of

the car to see the road ahead. The driver’s light brown hair was neatly combed and strangely unruffled by the wind, his eyes light blue. He was dressed in a charcoal grey suit, black polo shirt and his face was contorted into a grimaced look of sheer determination as he engaged fourth gear and floored the accelerator. The small windscreen giving little or no protection against the persistent rushing wind, however the passenger found it invigorating. He remembered his own MGA roadster. As the car continued to hurtle along that long and deserted road the driver suddenly turned to face his passenger, and instantly he recognised him as the man he had seen in The Village. The words ‘I am not a number I am a free man’ suddenly returned to haunt him, and the passenger began to wish that he had refused the offer of a lift and not climbed into the car.


    The driver turned back to face the open road.

    “I expect we’ll be there soon, but if you like you can drop me off anywhere along here.” but the wind blew his words back in his face, mocking him.

    The driver looked again at his passenger, his face still locked in a look of grimaced determination, but which now began to age and quite dramatically. His hair grew long and white before falling out, the skin yellowed and began to rot and decay, the stench of corruption filled the car despite the wind. Eyes bulged and fell out of their sockets, his mouth opened in a grimaced laugh of stark horror as the jaw bone fell away revealing yellow rotting teeth. The cloth of the charcoal suit, together with black polo shirt rotted away with age, revealing the rotted flesh of the driver. The passenger could hardly believe what he was seeing. He felt the churning in his stomach and bile rising in his throat and was violently physically sick, before he screamed and screamed again. The rotten flesh and sinew decayed into a filthy sticky ooze on the driver’s seat and floor, the stench of which became unbearable. All that now remained at the wheel of the Lotus 7 were the bones of a skeleton, and suddenly they collapsed into a heap amid the foul ooze on the seat and floor. The Lotus 7 suddenly swerved violently out of control. The passenger gripped the steering wheel, put his foot on the brake peddle, but it slipped on the ooze and wedged itself between the accelerator and brake pedals. He reached for the ignition key switching off the engine but it was too late. The car veered off the road and onto the grass verge coming to a sudden stop in a ditch, which brought the passenger’s head in sharp contact with the windscreen. He tried to sit up, but the world spun round as blood trickled from an open head wound and blackness overcame him.

    Number 2 paced the floor of his office in agitation, his hands clasped in the small of his back and his assistant Number 100 was perched in the curve of the desk as usual. Suddenly his mobile phone began to ring out its unmusical ringtone. Number 2 hesitantly picked it up and pressed the green button. The illuminated green screen indicated that it was a text message from his superior.

    “You have gone too far, crossed the line, your fate sealed!”

    Number 2 realising that he has no further choice in the matter, that he was no longer the flavour of the day, phoned the hospital and ordered the operation of mind manipulation on Number 6 to cease at once.                                         153                                      

    “Why? We were doing so well” said 100 casually.

    Number 2 glared at his assistant.

    “Sorry sir, you were doing so well” said 100 easing himself off the desk.

    “Apparently too well, I am reminded from the power that be, that Number 6 was brought here for his own protection and I have exceeded my orders, and now I have to pay for the consequences.”

    “I’ll be sorry to see you go” said Number 100.

    “Well I haven’t gone just yet, so don’t be so keen to be rid of me!” snapped Number 2.

    “All I meant was….”

    I don’t give one tinkers cus for what you meant. Now get out, get out!” barked Number 2, taking to his chair.

    Number 100 looked at the once powerful man.

    “I failed, I failed alright, I failed myself because I made the mistake of listening to you!” returned Number 2, now cringing in the comfort of his chair.

    Number 100 turned and marched briskly up the ramp and out through the open steel doors, leaving his once superior to wallow in his own self pity and fear. Number 2 once a strong and confident man, was now reduced to that of a mumbling nervous wreck. One simple text message was enough to reduce him to that, because it was the fear with which his superior instilled in his subordinates. The fear of failure and the fear of the consequences to pay for any such failure.

    “But I had not failed” mumbled Number 2 still cringing in his chair “all I did was step over the mark, that wasn’t so bad and where was the harm?”

    Suddenly the large wall screen came to life, Number 2 swivelled his black spherical chair round to see. Upon the screen a taxi was pulling away from the hospital, towing behind it a Red Cross trailer. Number 2 stared up at the screen as the taxi wound its way along the rhododendron lined winding road, and into The Village through the pair of entrance arches, finally stopping in the cobbled square. Two white coated medics alighted from the taxi and from the Red Cross trailer and carried the slumbering figure of Number 6 on a stretcher up the steps, along the path to his cottage. Number 6’s nightmares were now over, but for Number 2, his worst nightmare was about to begin!


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