The hospital, a large stone structure which portrayed itself to be a castle with its high turrets and battlements, but which wasn’t really fooling anyone, is situated in its own grounds and on the outskirts of the Village. Here in ward ‘A’ Number 6 lies unconscious in a hospital bed, at his bedside sits a hospital visitor, reading ‘Village Weekly’ as she sits watching the patient.
Number 6 slowly opens his eyes, and then suddenly sits bolt upright.
The middle aged woman puts down her magazine “Oh you’ve woken up?”
“Where am I?”
“You’re in the hospital” the woman tells him with a concerned look “lie back and I’ll fetch a nurse.”
The woman toddled along and out of the ward through the frosted glass double doors at the far end. Throwing back the sheets Number 6 slowly swung his legs out of bed and rose somewhat unsteadily to his feet. There were eight beds in the ward, five of which were empty, he approached the nearest patient to his bed, he was bound head to foot in bandages. The next patient lay upon his back, a saline drip feed, the needle of which was in the patient’s left wrist. He lay there sweating and muttering something under his breath, Number 6 tried to catch what it was he was saying, but then the double doors at the far end of the ward swung open and the figure of a man, of medium height, greying hair, grey moustache, probably in his early fifties, dressed in a white coat walked towards him. He wore a badge denoting the number 45, he was accompanied by a tall thin severe hatchet faced woman in a black uniform.
“What do you think you’re doing? Get back into bed” the Matron said briskly.
“Why, there’s nothing wrong with me”
retorted Number 6.
A nurse hurried to get the patient back into his bed.
“I think I am the better judge of that don’t you’ said the doctor “thank you Matron, but it’s time for his medical.”
“I don’t need a medical!”
“The after effects can be pretty nasty” the doctor informed him.
“What if I refuse?”
“Refuse by all means, but what harm can it do, just to make sure” the doctor advised him.
“Oh alright” Number 6 replied donning his blue dressing gown, and followed the doctor out of the ward and along the corridor to the medical examination room.
The corridor was busy with nurses leading patients slowly by the arm, or carrying fresh linen, or bed pans, as orderlies pushed patients lying on trolleys, and elderly patients along in pushchairs. Number 6 following the doctor, paused at a single door and peered through the round observation window. In the red lit room beyond the door were two rows of patients, men and women, all sitting on the floor with their backs to the wall. Each patient wore goggles, their legs outstretched, their arms folded and a nursery rhyme was playing ‘Boys and girls come out to play, the moon doth shine as bright as day’, each of the patients were moving their feet back and forth in time with the music of the nursery rhyme.
“Group therapy” the doctor explained standing behind Number 6 “counteracts monomania fixations.”
They walk away, the patient and doctor continue their way along the corridor and round the corner at the far end. On the way they passed a poor wretch of a soul, an infantile man being led by the arm by two male nurses. Dressed in a plain white surgical gown, his head having been shaved and to which the remnants of surgical tape still attached, not because they had cut him whilst shaving his head, but used to secure electrodes.
“I must be firm….. I must be firm….. I must be firm” muttered the infantile man, over and over again as he was led away towards that room at the far end of the corridor.
Once inside the examination room Number 6 is offered a medical chair. The doctor busies himself adjusting the overhead lighting, takes a stethoscope and listens to the patient’s heartbeat, takes his pulse, blood pressure, checks his eyesight, weight, height and finally patellae reflexes. The doctor then steps down to the lower level of the examination room, and stands at the keyboard feeding the medical details into the computer, standing waiting as he strokes his chin waiting for the results. The computer whirred and ground as it calculated the results of the medical details, large magnetic tape reels turn slowly then quicker, a buzz, a grind and final whir and the computer produces a print out card which is ejected through a slot on the control panel, a card which contains the medical diagnosis calculated from the details fed into the computer.
The doctor took the print out card and studied it, he stroked his chin and ran his fingers through his hair as though he was having some difficulty interpreting the card he held “There you are, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you” the doctor announced.
“I could have told you that!” the patient stated rising out of the chair.
“You’ll be free to go in the morning, we’ll get you some new clothes” the doctor informed him.
“What about my old ones?” Number 6 demanded, in an open and aggressive manner.
“They’ve been put in the incinerator” the doctor informed him coldly.
“You won’t be needing them. I’ll get a nurse to take you back to your ward” the doctor told him opening the frosted glass door and stepping out into the corridor.
Number 6 brushed passed the doctor, passed the nurse, swerved between patients and orderlies until he finally reached that room at the end of the corridor. The sight which greeted him through the round observation window was that of the infantile man sitting in a chair, black restraints holding him now wearing a dark blue turtle neck shirt and dark blazer with off-white piping. A number of electrodes were attached to his head.
“I must be firm…. I must be firm….. I must be firm” the infantile man muttered over and over again as he peered at the screen before him. The man’s face became contorted; he screamed and screamed again “Agh, agh agh.”
Number 6 struggled with the door handle, but the door was securely locked against him “What is it, what is he seeing?”
“His worst nightmare, which has been electrically produced from the depths of his subconscious” the doctor explained.
The following morning Number 6 was allowed to leave the hospital, having been given a new suit of clothes, either that or they were the old clothes of that patient last night, of piped blazer, navy blue turtle neck jersey, fawn coloured trousers, a pair of deck shoes, straw boater and black and white striped umbrella. He caught a glimpse of his reflection, and he looked as though he was back in the sixth form at his old school, well apart from the white badge pinned to his left lapel, the black penny farthing together with the red numeral 6. It was a male nurse in a white coat and sporting a goatee beard who escorted Number 6 from the hospital. Supplying him with his card of identity, health and welfare card, credit card, employment card and a free ride home, indicating the waiting taxi which stood on the gravelled forecourt. The orderly then swiftly turned his attention to an in coming patient, aboard a Red Cross trailer towed by a Mini Moke taxi. Number 6 placed the cards he’d been given in his blazer pocket together with the penny farthing badge which he removed from his lapel, removed his straw boater and climbed aboard the taxi, sitting beside the female driver.
The driver quickly engaged first gear then drove off across the gravelled forecourt and along the long winding rhododendron lined road back towards the village, through the first and then a second entrance arch, before finally coming to a stop at the stone steps a little way passed the Green Dome. Number 6 climbed out of the taxi leaving both his umbrella and straw boater on the back seat.
“Sir, you forgot……”
“Never did like them, keep them as a memento of this occasion” quipped Number 6, and he climbed the steps on his way back home to his cottage of ‘6 private.’
The taxi driver put the umbrella and straw boater onto the seat beside her, thinking to hand them both into lost property! Engaging first gear, releasing the handbrake the taxi sped off, the driver in search of the next fare.
Number 2 was sitting in his black spherical chair behind his desk, watching Number 6 take his free ride home, watched him climb the steps, walk the path, enter his cottage, and now sat watching him make himself a refreshing cup of tea, more than that, tea and a ham and cheese sandwich.
Suddenly the over large red curved telephone began to bleep, he picked it up “Number 2 here….. yes sir he had his medical yesterday…… oh yes sir, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with him……… The Village Day celebrations?............ preparations are going according to plan and will be ready on time, it should prove to be quite a spectacle, a costume parade, fancy dress, Punch & Judy, Bongo Bolero and his jumping Jugglers, Tombola, toffee apples and candy floss stalls, coconut shy, not forgetting of course the ceremony of the unveiling of the statue, the founder of the Village………… oh yes sir, completed and quite safe I assure you” said Number 2 with a great deal of pride with more than just a touch of excitement “perhaps we’ll be seeing you there sir……. no of course, I quite understand, I wish you could be there too!” Number 2 was not at all surprised, it was after all merely a token question………. “Well thank you sir, I’m sure you will.”
Number 2 was at last free to put the phone down, anyone would think he couldn’t be trusted to organise the simplest Village Day celebrations! “Yes, what is it now?” asked Number 2 turning his attention to the waiting supervisor, a tall young man, with well groomed black hair, dressed in plain single breasted blazer, olive green polo neck jersey and grey trousers, the number of his Penny Farthing badge being 25.
“You seem very pleased with yourself” the young supervisor remarked “like the cat that got the cream in fact!”
“Well why not, if things keep going the way they are I might even be given a second term of office” retorted Number 2 with a smile “but enough of your insolence, what do you want?”
“I have the reports you were asking about” said the supervisor taking the files from under his arm and dumping them unceremoniously upon the desk “are you sure of Number Six?” asked the supervisor.
“How do you mean?” asked Number 2 emerging from behind his desk with an open file in his hand and scanned it through black rimmed spectacles.
“In allowing Number 6 so much rope, it could be dangerous, if he should discover….” began the supervisor.
“Well he won’t” retorted Number 2 with an air of confidence “give Number Six enough rope and he’ll have hung himself long before he discovers anything.”
“Well our mutual friend was removed from hospital, it didn’t go as well as planned….” the supervisor began.
Number 2 looked at him through his spectacles “Tell me something I don’t know, how is the patient now, I trust the medical team have been able to stabilise his condition?”
The Supervisor shot his superior a glance of annoyance “Yes Number Two, the doctor has him safely ensconced in the black room.”
Number 6 had returned to his cottage to find a maid busy with a feather duster in the lounge, not that the room needed dusting, because it clearly didn’t having been done just the day before and the maid knew this. The maid was a bright young thing, her long red hair done up in a ponytail. The blue dress with white lace apron, topped off with a white sailor’s hat, was he thought, quite fetching. Her Penny Farthing badge denoted the Number 9.
“What are you doing here?” asked Number 6.
“I’m your personal maid, I’m here to look after you” offered the maid with a warm welcoming smile “the Labour Exchange sent me.”
“Are you a nurse as well then?” Number 6 asked her.
The maid looked startled by this question “N....no.”
“Do I look as though I need looking after?” barked Number 6 angrily “I’m not ready for the old people’s home just yet!”
“That’s not what I meant, it’s just that I’m your personal maid and……”
“And I don’t need a maid, you can get out!”
The maid stood there fingering her feather duster “Why do you have to be so mean, I’m only doing my job.”
“Doing what you’re told more like” retorted Number 6 “why are you trying to be so friendly, you don’t know me.”
“You never know when you might be in need of a friend” the maid told him, lifting her eyes to his.
He crossed the room to his desk and from the top drawer he took a photograph and turning back to the maid “And what kind of friend might that be?”
“Just a friend” smiled the maid.
Number 6 held up the photograph “Tell me, were you a friend to him?”
The maid looked at the photograph “He’s almost as handsome as you are; in fact he has a look of you.”
“Some would have it that I look a lot like him, have you seen this man here in this…… Village, perhaps you offered him the same personal maid service?” Number 6 asked her.
“No, I haven’t seen him, but then I haven’t been here long, I don’t
get to meet everyone” the maid informed him, lowering her eyes.
“You’re sure, or is it that you only remember those to whom you were assigned?”
“It’s not like that, anyway I’d have remembered.”
“Perhaps you have just conveniently forgotten!” he replied accusingly.
“You don’t think that you can trust me” said the maid returning to her dusting.
“You don’t have to do that” he said referring to the dusting.
“Its part of my duties” she said smiling
“Even if it doesn’t need doing?” he snapped.
“It will tomorrow, if not today” smiled the maid in her flighty manner and flicking away non existing dust.
“Keeping an eye on me also part of your duties is it, you’ve been assigned to me?” he queried brusquely.
“I haven’t been assigned to anyone, I am simply doing as I was instructed” returned the maid dusting a bronze statuette of a soldier “if you are dissatisfied with the service provided……..”
“Instructions from Number Two no doubt” he grinned.
“From the Labour Exchange” replied the maid assured him, setting the statuette down on the coffee table.
“Don’t bother to come back tomorrow, you’ll not be needed!” snapped Number 6.
The maid looked shocked, then angrily she whipped round her feather duster and without further words stormed out of the cottage, through the already opening door.
Later that day, for a late lunch, Number 6 made himself a meal of a cheese omelette and non alcoholic red wine, to the music of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance playing through the black speaker. At first the music was a welcome thing, at the very least it broke the otherwise silence of the cottage. Then there came an announcement, a cheery female voice informing of the weather forecast “This afternoon will continue fine and dry, but with the possibility of showers later on in the evening. Ice cream is still on sale, the flavour of the day is strawberry, and now to return you to music.”
What did Number 6 care, as Mozart’s Requiem played, about the weather or what the ice cream flavour of the day is, trivial rubbish! Even the music, after a time, began to play on his nerves and he stood staring at the black speaker wondering what he could do about it. There was no on/off switch that was plain as he turned it round in his hands. Then lifting it above his head he had the idea of putting it in the refrigerator, thus soundproofing himself and his cottage against
the continuous music, “Cleverly done” he thought to himself “I bet no-one has thought of doing that before!” And so it was, feeling pleased with himself with his small victory, that he donned his piped blazer and went out into the Village, in order to explore this strange new world of his.
The brass band was playing the William Tell Overture; such concerts were a regular afternoon event and were well attended by citizens young and old alike. Citizens who all wore brightly coloured clothes, colourful striped capes with open striped umbrellas.
The café was doing a marvellous trade, citizens sitting at the outdoor tables enjoying the warm afternoon sunshine, and just down the road a vendor was busy serving ice cream from his kiosk to his eager customers, each customer in turn asking for the flavour of the day.
“I…Ice Cream n…Number Six?” asked Number 99 politely and with scoop in hand “the flavour o..of the day i..is straw..b..berry.”
Number 6 shook his head and walked on by, leaving number 99 to serve a stout woman.
Number 6 was carrying on with his exploratory stroll around the Village. He gave the taxi rank a wide berth, his attention being attracted by the red and blue stagecoach and then by the ‘Free Information Board’, which was an electronic Map of Your Village, just push a button to find out. He studied both the map and the bank of black buttons, each with a white numeral. Curiously there were two number 6’s, plus a 6h, and no number 7, not even two digit numbers which would contain the digit 7. He decided to press the number 6, and looking at the map he saw the light indicating his cottage. Pressing the second number 6 button brought about no such response on the map, “curious” he thought.
Walking on, there was the candy striped canopied telephone booth ‘Information’ lift and press the sign read, and then turning a corner and further down the street the ‘Tally Ho’ vendor, the Tally Ho being the Village news paper.
“Read all about it” shouted the newspaper vendor “Number Two set for second term of office, read all about.”
Number 6 stood looking at the strange wooden contraption, with its candy striped canopy and two white rollers which turned via the operation of a handle by the vendor Number 113b. This then was the dispensing operation, The Tally Ho newspaper was torn from the bottom roller and handed to the customer. This strange device reminded him of something similar, a mangle used by his mother
years ago for the operation of wringing clothes.
“That will be two credit units sir” said the newspaper vendor standing there in his pink piped blazer and straw boater.
Number 6 handed over his credit card to pay. Duly clipped and returned to him, he placed the credit card in the breast pocket of his blazer, and read the headline ‘No 2 Set For Further Term.’ A two tone horn sounded behind Number 6 and he stepped smartly to the side of the road in order let the taxi pass. There was a picture of Number 2 accompanied by an article about him, praising him for his dedication to his administrative details. Yet despite the headline, reading between the lines of the article there seemed to be a question mark hanging over this Chief Administrator’s future. But what was such Village politics to him, nothing, that’s what! Rolling up the newspaper, perhaps for later scrutiny he continued upon his stroll round the Village. Eventually he walked passed the Town Hall and down the road to the Old People’s Home, where people sat at tables set out upon the lawn enjoying afternoon tea. As indeed did two tall, gaunt looking undertakers as they watched the figure of Number 6 cross the lawn and descend the steps at the balustrade, down onto the quayside.
There was a peculiar looking yacht or ketch at the quayside,
“Why not take her out?” suggested a voice from behind.
Number 6 turned to see an elderly gentleman dressed in a black and red jersey, blue flannel trousers, deck shoes and a British Naval officer’s cap “I’m sorry?” Number 6 replied.
The Admiral stepped forward, his cap badge covered by the white penny farthing badge, with the Number 66 “Got lovely lines hasn’t she?”
Number 6 decided to humour the old gentleman “Yes, indeed Admiral.”
“She’s good in any weather, sailed her many a time” the Admiral announced with pride, and went aboard humming “what shall we do with the drunken sailor, what shall we do with the drunken sailor, early in the morning” to himself.
Leaving the Old People’s Home Number 6 took the path leading towards a white square tower. At the father end a colourful statue of Lord Admiral Nelson, as he stood in a haughty manner, the French Tricolour draped over his arm, as if fresh from a victory over the French. Steps lead up to the squat square tower, and the plain wooden door of the tower which was solidly locked. Beyond, through a covered walkway was a white cottage, white as the tower had been, and beyond the path lead along the rocks of the quay, then forked, either down onto the beach or up into the woods.
There were people down on the beach, along with red and white, blue and white beach tents. A nearby kiosk had everything for the beach. Girls in swimsuits and bikinis, men in swimming trunks played beach ball, while others sat sunning themselves in deckchairs, and some paddled in the pools of water which had been left behind by the out going tide. Everyone was enjoying themselves, even the Admiral and his flag officer who were messing about with plastic boats in the water. To the casual observer it seemed just like it would be at any seaside holiday resort. Number 6 sat himself down upon some rocks looking out across the great expanse of open sand, wondering what lay out there. For he could clearly see that the Village was actually set on an estuary, in the middle of which was a small island, and the far side of the estuary seemed merely a short walk away and he could see nothing from stopping him from…….. it was then he recalled the Guardian to mind. Scanning the far side of the estuary he could clearly see the green hills beyond and wondered what lay beyond them? He turned his attention to the small island shading his eyes against the glare of the sun. From what he could see the island was green pasture, and deserted, but with patterns of dry stone walls, and there seemed to be the ruins of a small house indicating past occupanc
y of long ago. Turning he gave the island a final glance and went on his way, back towards the Village where he called in at the cafe. Sitting at one of the outdoor tables he ordered coffee from an elderly waiter and unfolded his copy of The Tally Ho and began to make a study of the single page broadsheet. There was a chess problem at the bottom of the page, White to play. This position is a variation from the tenth game of a match between Numbers 157 and 77. How does white finish off? He was giving the chess problem some considerable thought as the waiter brought his coffee on a tray and set the cup and saucer, along with cream and sugar down on the table before the customer.
“That will be two units if you please sir.” said the waiter.
“And if I don’t please?” quipped Number 6.
“I beg your pardon sir?” replied the waiter.
“Don’t worry about it” he said taking his credit card from the breast pocket of his blazer.
The waiter took the offered card and clipping it asked “Don’t worry about what sir?”
Number 6 examined his credit card before slipping it back into his blazer pocket “How quaint, they used to clip ration cards in the exact same way during and after the war.”
“Ration cards sir?” asked the waiter.
“Yes, you remember ration cards…… tell me just how long have you been here in this Village?”
The waiter glanced about him somewhat furtively “You must not do that sir.”
“Do what?” asked Number 6, adding three lumps of sugar to his coffee and stirring.
“Enquire, someone may be listening” replied the waiter glancing about him “you can’t be too careful you know.”
Number 6 beckoned the waiter closer “Someone is listening.”
The waiter became startled at this, his eyes glancing at the customers at the tables “Who sir, who is listening?”
“I am!” Number 6 said taking the photograph from his inside pocket and showing it to the waiter “have you seen this man?”
The waiter took the photograph and studied it carefully “Yes I remember him, he’s Number Six, or was.”
Number 6 looked astounded “Number Six? But that’s my number!”
“Really? He would often call here for tea, just like you, he has the look of you or should that be the other way around?”
“Yes that’s as maybe, but when did you last see him, when did he last call at the café?” Number 6 persisted.
The waiter took one last look at the photograph and handed it back “You shouldn’t ask questions!”
Number 6 ignored the waiter’s suggestion “Will he be here this afternoon, if so I’ll wait for him.”
“Oh I shouldn’t think so, he hasn’t been to the café not for some time he hasn’t” the waiter informed him.
“He must have a cottage, I don’t suppose you know which one?”
The waiter thought for a moment “No sir, but I remember he was like you."
“Yes you’ve said that already.”
“No sir, what I mean is, like you, always asking questions, refusing to wear his number.”
Number 6 was about to push the waiter for more information, but the waiter picked up the tray and turning away disappeared inside the café, leaving him sitting at his table sipping his coffee.
There was just sufficient time that afternoon to make attending the regular brass band concert worthwhile. Number 6 took the vacant seat next to a middle aged woman wearing a blue trilby hat, on the lawn close to the bandstand. The woman’s eyes were closed, either through sleep or she was in fact concentrating upon Dvorak’s Carnival overture being played, he wasn’t sure which. He glanced down between him and the woman, and there upon the grass was an open carpet bag. He could see coloured wool and a pair of knitting needles, a paperback book, a cheese roll and a pair of tortoiseshell rimmed spectacles. Accidentally on purpose Number 6 dropped his newspaper, and reaching down to pick it up, he allowed his hand to stray into the carpet bag. And so with newspaper and spectacles in hand, he rose to his feet and returned to his cottage of 6 Private, making one call along the way.
“A what?” asked a somewhat bemused Number 2 into the telephone.
“A roll of masking tape” the shopkeeper replied.
“And is that all?” asked Number 2.
“Not quite sir, he wanted to know if I sold cardboard tubes” the shopkeeper said.
“Cardboard tubes, what would Number Six
want with cardboard tubes?” Number 2 asked, unable as he was to see the
reasoning for this sudden and somewhat trivial report.
“I’ve really no idea sir” the shopkeeper replied.
“And you reported this to me because………?” Number 2 enquired.
“Well one of your predecessors always wanted any unusual activity by Number Six to be reported directly to him” the shopkeeper explained “I thought you would want to know.”
Number 2 couldn’t believe it, here he was, trying to make a good impression upon his masters,. and now this twerp with a needless report on Number 6’s shopping activities. “Well I don’t. Any such further reports direct them to the appropriate quarter understand?”
“Yes Number Two” replied the shopkeeper, hurt and down in the mouth he replaced the black receiver on the phone.
Number 6 meanwhile had made his way back to his cottage and had already set himself to work. He had taken a toilet roll from the bathroom and a roll of kitchen paper and unravelled them both, then taking the inner cardboard tube he sat them both down upon coffee table next to the roll of masking tape, scissors, and the two pairs of spectacles. Breaking both pairs of spectacles he selected a round lens from each pair and checked them for size against the cardboard tubes, their roundness having proved to be an almost perfect fit, which was lucky. Then having polished the lenses, set them to one side whilst he prepared the cardboard tubes themselves, the one fitting snugly into the other and with a smooth sliding movement. At each end strengthening strips were added, along with the inserted glass lenses, all of which were held securely together with masking tape.
“What’s he up to?” asked Number 86, who was strangely absorbed by what she was watching on the wall screen in the Control Room.
“I did wonder when I saw him unravelling
the toilet roll and kitchen paper” replied the supervisor.
“Where did he get the two pairs of spectacles?”
“One pair was reported lost, the other missing, perhaps stolen” said the supervisor continuing to watch the screen “You know I do believe he’s making himself a telescope” “he’s most inventive, don’t you think?”
“That’s ridiculous” sneered Number 86 “It’ll never work.”
“I wouldn’t be so quick to put Number Six
down if I were you. If he thought it wouldn’t work, he wouldn’t be doing it” said
“Shouldn’t we stop him, or at least report this to Number Two?”
“He doesn’t want trivial matters concerning Number Six to be reported directly to him, but to the appropriate quarter.”
“What proper quarter?” asked 86, an attractive middle aged woman, with long brunette hair, she wore a dark green jersey, and dark coloured slacks.
“Us!” replied the supervisor with a wry smile.
86 stood by the side of the Supervisor, a tall man wearing a dark blue double-breasted blazer, his black hair had a receding hairline, “Wherever would he have gotten such an idea for a homemade telescope in the first place?”
Suddenly the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone on the control panel began to bleep, the supervisor picked it up “Supervisor here…..yes sir she is” he handed the telephone to Number 86.
86 took a gulp and spoke into the telephone “Yes sir.”
“I want to see you in my office in five minutes, we have things to discuss.”
“Yes sir, straight away.”
“What were you doing in the Control Room
“Watching Number Six… he was making a homemade telescope” she reported.
“Colditz!” Number 2 said suddenly.
“I’m sorry sir?”
“A German prisoner of war camp
“Sounds to me that you are in admiration of him” was Number 86’s observation.
Number 2 shot 86 a disarming glance “I admire his ingenuity, such a man of his calibre can be put to good use here, or elsewhere.”
“One day you’ll let him go too far, then where will you be?” asked 86 sternly.
“Let me worry about that, for now we’ll leave Number Six to it. He’s doing no harm for the time being. Now tell me, how are the preparations coming along for the Village Day celebrations?” Number 2 asked changing the subject.
“All the costumes are nearly ready and many have already been packed for sending out to the citizens, or for collection” 86 reported “the Recreation Hall is all decorated with bunting, balloons and banners. The special placards you asked for are having the finishing touches made to them and the ‘Special’ invitations to the Ball are all ready to be delivered. The ‘Punch and Judy’ man has a special variation on the theme.”
“A variation?” Number 2 asked.
“So I am informed, but whatever the variation, Number Twelve is keeping it very close to his chest. Not so Bongo Bolero and his Jumping Jugglers, I’ve seen them rehearsing their act, they have been at it for days.”
“And the special Village Day statue?”
“You mean the bust” said 86 correcting Number 2.
“Bust, it was supposed to have been a statue!” Number 2 replied.
“The Committee, for reasons of their own, decided that a bust would be more in keeping with the Village, a bust of the subject set upon a plinth” replied 86 “it’s almost finished and being kept well under wraps, and the sculptor has been sworn to secrecy upon the sculpture’s identity. He’s done a very good job, and the bust is a perfect likeness”
“I should think it is a perfect likeness, otherwise there wouldn’t be much point, would there?” Number 2 asked.
“No Number Two” retorted 86 “whilst were on the subject, what about Number Six?”
“Leave him to me.”
“It’s bound to be a huge shock for him, don’t you think?”
“Shock, yes I suppose it will be” he replied with a wry smile.
“Aren’t you afraid that such a sudden shock could easily turn Number Six?” 86 suggested.
“Oh I do hope so, that would save me an enormous amount of time and effort” grinned Number 2, eager with the thought.
“No I mean turn him mentally, you could lose him” said 86 who was beginning to show signs of concern for the subject.
“I had no idea you were also a psychiatrist Eight-Six!”
“You know I’m not.”
“Well then. Have you your costume?”
“Yes Number Two, Popsey the clown” 86 replied, looking impressed
with the costume or the title.
“Ah yes, Popsey” smirked Number 2 “and you will be doing ….. what?”
“Mingling, laughing, dancing and generally entertaining the madding crowd. This way I shall be able to keep close to the action, so to speak” 86 explained “how is your speech coming along?”
“Very well, you will no doubt be surprised to learn, I intend to keep it brief …….”
“I’m sure that will please everyone” quipped 86 turning to take her leave.
“….. and to the point” completed Number 2,
although the truth of the matter was that he had not been instructed to make
any kind of a speech, which puzzled him somewhat, although it was not unusual
for a Top-Hat to officiate at such proceedings.
Number 86 dressed in blue trilby hat and colourful striped cape turned on her heel and walked smartly across the floor and up the ramp towards the pair of opening steel doors.
That evening in ‘6 Private’ Number 6 had completed the construction of the single draw telescope and was now standing at the window testing it’s ability to bring any subject closer to him, this by focusing on a point through the window. Pleased with his handy work he placed the telescope in the bottom drawer of his desk, then pulling a hair from his head, licked it and carefully placed it across the top of the drawer, this just as the French door opened and a maid entered the cottage.
He spun round “Yes, what do you want?” he snapped.
The maid was not the least bit perturbed by Number 6’s attitude, and calmly said “I’ve come to make you your night cap sir.”
“Night cap?” queried Number 6 quietly.46“Yes sir” said the maid on her way through to the kitchen “a night cap of hot chocolate will help you asleep.”
“Very well” he said quietly, seeing that this was simply that and nothing more.
Then from the black speaker an announcement from the familiar cheery female voice, but in a quieter and soothing tone said “Curfew time, eight minutes to curfew.”
Number 6 took off his piped blazer and hung it on the back of a chair, in the bedroom he undressed, donned his pyjamas and dressing gown and went into the bathroom. By the time he emerged again the maid had made his night cap and had placed it upon the bedside table.
“Goodnight sir” the maid said, greeting him on the landing.
“Goodnight” retorted Number 6, and he went downstairs to see that the maid had actually gone. She had and what’s more the French door was soundly locked against him, as were the ground floor windows.
Finally retiring upstairs for the night, there once again came the quiet, soothing tones of the female voice over the speaker “Allow us to lull you to sleep with a lullaby, good night everyone, sleep well.”
The soft gentle tones of the lullaby drifted throughout the cottage, Number 6 picked up the cup and saucer from the bedside table and sitting on the edge of the bed sniffed the hot chocolate, as he began to drink he couldn’t help but wonder what it was that happened at night time, here in the Village. But that is all he could do and not for very long, because suddenly he began to feel very tired. He took off his dressing gown, laid it upon the bed and climbed in. It was not long before the combination of the night cap and the lullaby began to have its full effect as he drifted off into a most troubled sleep, tossing this way then that, grunting and sometimes shouting out in his sleep.
Sometime during the night Number 6 sat bolt upright, his eyes wide open, sweat pouring from his brow. The cream telephone by his bed began to bleep, he picked up the receiver.
“Not sleeping well Number Six, is there anything I can get you?” asked a kindly voice.
“What do you care?” he snapped into the mouthpiece.
“A doctor could be sent round, I’m sure he has something to help you sleep” the kindly voice assured him.
“Yes I bet he has” he snapped before slamming down the receiver. He fell back in the bed, his head on the pillow as sleep once again began to overtake him with the aid of the pulsator hidden in the overhead light which descended over the face of Number 6, deepening his sleep, helping to send him back to the troubled sleep and the nightmare from which he had awoken.
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