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Friday 2 December 2022

Village Day - Chapter 6


Chess Anyone?

    The morning had begun cloudy and somewhat misty over the surrounding hills and mountains, not to mention the estuary, and looked set to be slow to clear. Even though it was still early Number 6 was already up and about, although he woke with a headache, which he hoped a cold shower would clear…it didn’t! He shaved and dressed and in the kitchen he washed up his cup and saucer from last night’s nightcap of hot chocolate. He was wondering what he should prepare himself for breakfast in order to fortify himself for the rigours of the day, when there came a sudden fanfare to be followed by an early morning announcement.

    “Good morning, good morning, rise and shine, rise and shine” began the cheery female voice “before today’s programme of early morning music, here are two announcements. The weather will continue cloudy with mist lying over the hills, this will soon begin to clear, after which it will be fine and dry with sunny spells. The painting and poetry classes are proving to be very popular, and only a few places now remain. Preparations for the Village Day celebrations are well in hand, Village Day the day when we celebrate the founding of the Village, and the bringing together of this our fine community.”

    “That’s a laugh” he muttered to himself as he opened the refrigerator.

    “There will be a carnival and stalls, a coconut shy, lucky dip, dunk the Village idiot, Punch and Judy, Bongo Bolero and his jumping Jugglers and not forgetting Popsey the clown.”

    Number 6 took butter and a jar of jam from the refrigerator.

    “Costumes will be soon be available, either for collection or by special delivery from the Recreation Hall, please listen out for further announcements. And now we continue with music.”

    The music of Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass played Casino Royale as a young maid in a black dress, white lace apron and sailor’s hat opened the door and entered carrying a breakfast tray. The Penny Farthing badge pinned to her apron denoted the Number 27.

    “And how are we this morning?” the maid enquired, in that flighty manner that could only be hers.

    “We have a headache” snapped Number 6 opening the bread tin.

    “My, my we did get out of bed the wrong side this morning, didn’t we!”

    Number 6 glared at the maid “I can’t be expected to speak for you, but I dreamt I was suffering from insomnia!”

    “Not another bad dream, your nightmares seem to be getting worse, this is the third night in a row. You should see a doctor” the maid suggested, setting the tray upon the kitchen table.

    “Seen one, for all the use they are, he said it’s the after effects, and all they seem to want to do is dope me up. Do you know I’ve never seen a night since I arrived here, all I do is sleep, and it’s one night, not three, you should learn to count!” said Number 6 selecting two slices of bread from the loaf, then switching on the coffee percolator.


    “If you say so, but then what else should you do at night, but sleep?” the maid asked.

    “Yes, and it’s not nightmares either, it’s nightmare singular and always the same one, well nearly always the same one, and I never had that until I came here, if I didn’t sleep at night…..”

    “You would be out on your feet all day” the maid smiled,  “there, coffee, full English” the maid lifted the cover of the plate, two fried eggs, bacon, beans, sausage, fried bread and mushrooms, and toast.”

    Number 6 had carefully watched the maid, as she set out each item then asked “What’s all this in aid of?”

    The maid smiled “Compliments of Number Two, he’s looking to help you settle in” holding up the rack of toast under his nose.

    “So damned cheerful aren’t we……. give you something for it do they?” he returned. The day had only just begun and already there was aggression and a certain restlessness in his attitude.

    “I don’t know what you mean, and I didn’t come here to be insulted!” retorted the maid picking up the tray.

    Number 6 refrained from saying “Oh where do you usually go?” instead he picked up the cup and saucer he had just washed up and set it by the percolator “I don’t suppose you can tell me where this place is, can you?”

    The maid shot him a puzzled look “This is the Village, I thought you knew that?”

    “Yes, I know, I’ve been told that ever since my arrival here. But I asked where this place is?” he asked again, in that abrupt manner of his.

    The maid chose to ignore his question and moving toward the door, then turned “Now have your breakfast before it gets cold, be seeing you” the maid saluted and was gone.

    “It’s already cold” Number 6 shouted after her “and what’s more you can tell Number Two from me, oh what’s the point, he knows already” besides the maid was long gone.

    Turned his head upwards to the ceiling he barked out loudly “I’ve told you before, I don’t want to settle down, I don’t need your protection, and what’s more I can cook my own breakfast thank you very much, so there’ll be no need to bother any of the maids in future!”

    So breakfast, was either a question of making his own , or warming up the full English brought by the maid. There was no contest, he tipped the breakfast brought to him into the bin, and instead toasted two slices of bread, onto which he spread butter and raspberry jam, by which time the coffee percolator was bubbling away quite nicely. After breakfast he went out into the Village for his early morning constitutional. This morning he had a particular task to perform, and as he glanced out through the kitchen window, he was pleased to see the mist already starting to lift from the hills.


   Number 6 donned his piped blazer, then went over to his desk, checking first that the hair he placed over the drawer was actually still in place, it was. He opened the draw and took the telescope out and placed it safely in his blazer pocket. Then with a final glance out of the window he walked to the French door, which opened at his approach, somehow he was finding that difficult to adjust to. It was as though someone somewhere was watching him, and when he made to leave, pressed a button on a control panel to open the door for him. But of course he realised that the door, like so many doors of its type, worked on a sensor, well he supposed it did. If it didn’t. The French door closed securely behind him with a familiar electronic hum and click as the door closed with a solid clunk. One day, he vowed, he would beat the door to the handle before it opened!

     In the Control Room, the bald headed, bespectacled supervisor Number 26 smiled quietly to himself as he watched Number 6 on the large wall screen “You’ll have to be quicker than that my friend” then picking up a blue ‘L’ shaped telephone said into it “get me Number Two.”

    In his office Number 2 had been working to clear his desk of the ever growing mountain of paper work, and he had finally beaten it, now only a handful of files and reports remained. The Yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone upon his desk began to bleep.

    “Number Two here” he said with calm authority.

    “Supervisor here, Number Six has just left his cottage, he has the homemade telescope in his pocket” the supervisor reported.

    “And what of it?” Number 2 asked, pouring himself out a third cup of tea from the silver tea pot.

    “Well what do you want me to do about it?” asked the supervisor, who was only too keen to announce an Orange Alert.

    “Do, what do you mean do?” Number 2 asked “do nothing” was his instruction.

    “Nothing?” echoed the supervisor “we can’t allow him to do as he likes.”

    “Well he hasn’t done anything yet, has he?” Number 2 asked, putting his feet up on the desk calmly sipping he tea.

    “No Number Two” retorted the supervisor, unable to hide the reluctance in his voice.

    “You are to take no action against Number Six, not until you get the yellow alert. However keep him under surveillance. Whatever Number Six sees through his cleverly made telescope, he will see there’s nowhere for him to go and the sooner he sees that the better.”

    Number 6 was making his way slowly through the Village, returning one or two greetings given him. Indeed there seemed to be a great deal of activity this morning, and so he climbed the three steps onto the top of the stone bandstand and stood at the balustrade in order to gain an all round view of the centre of the Village. There to the right was the Piazza with its pool and fountain around which citizens promenaded. The Admiral sailing a plastic boat in the Free Sea, and a chap wheeling a Penny Farthing bicycle overtaken by another chap riding a tricycle. Below him was the lawn, the grass of which citizens were invited to walk upon, and yet to his surprise it was different this morning. There was a large chessboard, made up of green and white squares was set out upon the lawn. Standing on each square a citizen stood holding a chess pole which represented the chess pieces. And yet curiously enough, all the human chess pieces were similarly dressed and looked quite alike, in colourful clothes, striped capes, and straw boaters. It made quite the spectacle.


    Number 6 left the top of the bandstand and walking along the road turning right down the steps there and along the cobbled street, and through a curiously pink portico, which lead through onto the chess lawn itself, this in order to get closer to the action.

    “Pawn to king’s knight three” announced the first player.

    “Pawn to queen’s knight three” came the instant response from the second player.

    On the chessboard both pawns had moved with smoothness and precision the two moves called, one square forward.

    “Bishop to King’s Knight two”

    “Knight to King’s Bishop three”

    “Knight to King’s Bishop three” called the first player.

    “Pawn to King four” the instant response.

    “Pawn to King four”

    “Pawn to Queens Bishop four”

    Each piece upon the board mirrored the moves called out by the two players with ease and exactness, which meant that each citizen had to remember the chess piece they represented, and to keep their minds firmly fixed upon the game. To keep listening out for the moves called out by the two players, to know their position on the chessboard, to know the square they should move to and act instantly upon hearing a piece’s particular move when called out. Difficult enough to the casual observer when both sides look alike, you simply have to remember which side you are on!

    Standing watching the game Number 6 was slowly becoming confused. Standing a few feet away was an elderly man in a dark blue piped blazer and straw boater who was leaning quite heavily upon a walking stick.

    “Pardon me sir” said Number 6, addressing the man.

    “Why young man, what have you done?” Number 14 asked.

    “Do you play chess?” Number 6 asked.

    “I’m the defending champion” retorted Number 14 without once taking his eyes and mind off the game.


    “Tell me, how do you tell the sides apart?” Number 6 asked casually.

    “You mean how do I tell the blacks from the whites?” asked Number 14 again in that brusque manner of his.

    “Yes” came the reply.
    “You’re not the first to have asked me that you know” 14 said without once looking at the man standing next to him.
    “Are we talking about he game?”

    The chess champion looked at Number 6 for the first time “The chess player on the left made the first move, so he’s white, after that it doesn’t matter if you follow the game.”
    “But how does each player know who is white and who is black, who decides that?”
    The chess champion raised his eyebrows and turned his attention back to the game “They toss for it before the game begins!”

    “Castle” called out one of the players.

    Both Rook and King moved smoothly and with precision.

    “Knight takes pawn”

    The knight move onto the pawn’s square, as he did two men dressed in baseball caps, checked blazers and white shorts walked smartly onto the chessboard and escorted the pawn off the board.

    “Pawn to Queen three”

    “Knight to king’s Bishop three”

    “Why complicate it? Number 6 asked, watching the pawn have both his chess pole and striped cape removed from his person.

    “To keep your mind alert, it satisfies the desire for power, the only chance one gets here” the chess champion explained, turning his mind back to the game “you have to learn to play the game, to distinguish between the whites and the blacks.”

    “How do you mean?” Number 6 persisted.

    “Bishop to king’s Knight five”

    “Pawn to Queen’s Rook three”

   Number 14 pointed out the game for Number 6 with his walking stick “In chess white always makes the first move, so in this particular case white is on our left side of the board, and so black the right side. From the player’s position the pieces facing you are the opponents, and those with their backs turned to you are therefore on your side.”

    “And if someone standing on the board should happen to turn the other way?” smirked Number 6.

    “Now who’s trying to complicate it?” snapped Number 14, leaning back on his stick.

    Number 6 knew precisely whose side he was on, his own, and seeing that the game had already gone beyond its opening gambit, he went on his way, turning back through the pink portico and along the cobbled street in the direction of the Town Hall. He did not pass through the turquoise wrought iron gate, but took the short path to his left, sloping down and past the pink pavilion, and following the road down the hill towards the old people’s home. Several citizens he passed bid him either good day or be seeing you, and he returned their greetings with the regular Village salute and a smile.


    Standing at the white balustrade of the lawn of the old people’s home, Number 6 could see that the tide was out, that several citizens were already down on the beach, the mist was fast lifting and it promised to be a warm sunny day. Two girls in swimsuits playing beach ball waved up at him, and he gave a slight wave of the hand, although you would never know it. The Admiral and Naval attaché were busy with a plastic Battleship and Freighter in one of the shallow gullies of water left behind by the tide, whilst other paddled in the water. Others lounged about in deckchairs, reading or simply asleep, and so early in the day too! There were several blue or red and white tents dotted about the beach, probably used for changing, and more, there was even a red and white kiosk selling anything and everything for the beach, including black and white or colour postcards of the village! He watched the view from his perch positioned on the balustrade, from where he had a clear view right across the estuary and the Island in between. But his position was far too open and public to take advantage of this homemade telescope here, too many old people sat at tables on the lawn, too many guardians to report back his activity. So instead he casually walked on towards the little gate at the bottom of the path, through and along the path out past the white tower and white cottage at the far end of the quay, close to where the path divided down to the beach, or up into the woods. He walked nonchalantly along trying not to attract attention, then choosing a place to sit upon the rocks of the quayside, he settled himself down, taking form his pocket his homemade telescope. There were people around, down on the beach and occasionally walking passed at his back, but as Number 6 sat biding his time, they seemed not to take the least bit interest in him. So satisfied he slid open the one draw telescope and put it to his eye. First he focused it on some of the people on the beach, then across the beach to the far side of the estuary, the mist covered hills and the house in the distance. To his disappointment, he could clearly see the house to be quite derelict, the chimney stack had gone and most of the roof had caved in, caused by the collapsing chimney stack no doubt. The windows were smashed, the front door hung from one hinge and the wall around it half collapsed, as the garden inside was overgrown. All which were signs of years of non occupation and dereliction, if he were to try and escape, to find sanctuary, it would have to be beyond that house, the question is, how far beyond? Scanning further round to the right was the wide mouth of the estuary and the sea beyond, but which sea, which ocean? He could see no silhouette of boats, no ships on the horizon, no tell tale smoke, no planes in the sky and no sign of life beyond the village. He scanned


the far side of the estuary, he could see no-one, and not a thing stirred. It was no distance at all to the far side, one could so easily walk it, he could see no problem in that, and he wondered if it had not been attempted before. To reach the far side would be easy enough, but where do you go after that? The hills were restrictive enough, but the mountains beyond, and what mountain range were they, and more, was there a pass through them? Scaling them alone was quite out of the question. No he expunged the thought from his mind, and turning to his left focused instead upon the island set in the middle of the estuary. Even there on the island there were signs of past habitation, the remains of an old stone house and a series of dry stone walls all across the island, but how long ago, certainly no one could live there now, The Village would not allow it for one and who would want to for another, only a hermit would dream of living there! The house was just an empty shell of bare stone walls, there wasn’t even a roof! He continued to scan across the beach, over the island and further along the far side of the estuary, but inland. And then he spotted a lone figure far out on the sand of the estuary, he could hardly believe his eyes, for the figure was flying a kite! Continuing to watch he estimated that the kite was some two hundred feet in the air and still rising as the figure continued to play out the string. But then came the siren blaring out loudly across the sand, as a white taxi drove down the slipway and onto the beach, sped across the sand, and splashed through a shallow gully of water, with two figures sat inside, and heading straight in the direction of the kite flying figure. The figure at hearing the siren turned to see the taxi speeding towards him and he frantically began to wind in his kite before they reached him. The figure was too slow, or the taxi too fast, for one burly man jumped out and was upon the figure in an instant, wrestling him to the ground and releasing the kite to blow away with the breeze, before crashing down on the island. As for the figure, he was taking a beating from the two men in the taxi, who then sat the half unconscious figure in the back of the taxi and drove off back in the direction of the Village.

    Number 6 had maintained watching the events unwind, unsure what the figure with the kite was trying to achieve, unless it was simply to try and attract attention, but from whom? There was no boat, no ship, no plane, the only attention the figure was successful in attracting were the observers watching!

   “What are you looking at?” a voice behind him suddenly asked.

   Number 6 put his telescope down and looked round to see a woman standing behind him.

   The woman was middle aged, 8 was the red number on the Penny Farthing badge pinned to her blue swimsuit. She had a yellow towel draped over her shoulders and a yellow and white hat was perched on her head, and nothing on her feet.

    “Someone was flying a kite, that’s all” he told the woman, slipping the telescope into his blazer pocket.


    “I don’t see anyone flying a kite” she said, shading her eyes against the sun as she gazed across the sand.

    “The figure’s gone now” he told her.

    “Well he would be, wouldn’t he?”

    “Would he?” he asked, and wishing this woman would move on her way.

    “That’s the sort of thing they don’t like here, don’t want to attract attention to themselves you see, and don’t want others doing it for them. Do you mind if I sit down?” the woman asked, sitting down before any possible reply.

    Number 6 shifted his posture “If you must, but I was just going for a walk….. so if you’ll excuse me” he said about to rise to his feet.

    “What were you really doing, you’ve got a telescope!” said Number 8 with a smile of curiosity.

    “I was just sat here minding my own business, unlike some people I could mention!” he snapped back at her.

    “The possession of a telescope could mean the breaking of the rules, and should be reported” she informed him “where did you get it anyway?”

    He thought for a moment then replied “Lady you must be seeing things.”

    “I wasn’t, but you certainly were, can I see it?” she asked, moving closer beside him.

    Half standing Number 6 resumed his position upon the rocks, looking at the woman quizzically.

    Number 8 was quick to pick up on this “You can trust me.”

    “Can I?” he asked, not knowing who he could trust, besides himself.

    The woman looked Number 6 in the eye “All I have to do is call out, the observers will pick it up on the microphones and that will be that.”

    Number 6 looked at the woman still unsure “Now lady, where would I get a telescope, the local Chandlers perhaps, along with navigation charts, sextant and distress flares!”

    Number 8 smiled “I like you. So where did you get it, perhaps you found it, is that it?”

    He could see it was no good “I made it, if you must know.”

    “How cleaver of you, can I see?” she asked with enthusiasm.

    Number 6 took the telescope from his pocket and showed it to Number 8, who was very impressed and said “If you’re thinking of escaping, if it’s a good plan I could help you with it.”

    This took him aback “What makes you think I have an intention of trying to escape?”

    “Everyone tries to escape when their spirit’s broken” she told him.

    “Lady for your information my spirit is not broken, and even if it were, how could you possibly help me?” he asked putting the telescope back into his blazer pocket.

    “I have often helped others with their escapes” Number 8 informed him eagerly.



    “Strange, how are you still here, none of their ideas and escape plans ever worked I take it!” quipped Number 6, turning to look out across the sand and not at her.

    “They were never any good, but in that way I could be invaluable to you, at least I could tell you what not to try” she said trying to please him.

    Number 6 turned to look at her “How do I know I can trust you?”

    “That’s the risk you’ll have to take!” she returned sternly.

    “What, like so many before me, I should coca!” he said rising to his feet.

    “You already have, you’re forgetting the telescope!” she said smiling up at him.

    Number 6 strode off along the path up into the woods, then along the cliff path. For the time being he had no intention of trying to go anywhere, not until he found out what if anything was on the Island and the lay of the land on the other side, without such intelligence any escape attempt was useless. Because to escape from anywhere one has to know where one is escaping from!

    Concealing himself amongst the bushes atop of the cliffs, Number 6 had a clear view of the open mouth of the estuary, again he would focus his telescope out to sea and along his side of the estuary. But then something, or rather someone caught his attention down on the beach below the cliffs, in the graveyard in fact. Edging forward he could clearly see three figures below amongst the headstones and crosses. Some of which tilted this way and that, many of which were old, weather beaten and covered in green algae. Whilst one or two stood white and upright, like two good teeth amid so many bad and rotten ones, and serving as a reminder to Number 6 that where there is life, death is always near at hand and never more so than here in the Village. One of the three figures, a short stout woman with a black pony tail, wearing glasses and dressed in a white coat, stood a few paces back with her arms folded, supervising two men, one of whom was a burly set man, in a red sweater, the other tall and lean wearing a striped jersey, both busy digging a deep rectangular hole in the sand with their shovels. There was a black body bag lying on the sand. When they had finished digging, the tall lean set man was the first to climb out of the hole, then having helped his colleague out, they together walked a pace or two picked up the black body bag between them, and carrying it over to the grave, quite unceremoniously dropped it in with a soft thud, watched by the woman in the white coat. Picking up their shovels, the thin lean set man paused to rest on his shovel, lowering his head in something of an attitude akin to a sign of reverence. The burly man did likewise at seeing his mate even though neither knew the deceased. This to Number 6’s way of thinking was extraordinary, to have a graveyard on a beach. He imagined the shifting sands, and the sea washing up its dead on the beach as the two men below busied themselves filling in the grave as the woman, possibly a doctor, stood looking on as witness to the scene.


    Once the grave was back filled the three figures walked off along the beach into the cove round the headland. Number 6 got to his feet and back to the path he followed atop of the cliffs, trying to keep the three figures in sight, but their clear footprints in the sand would eventually lead him to the foot of the cliffs and into the cave beyond, into which the three figures had trooped, the one behind the other.          Number 6 made his way back along the cliff path, then down onto the beach, through the graveyard and into the cove beyond the headland, following the three steps of footprints in the sand, yet there were three sets of footprints coming from the direction of the cove, two were deeper than the ones returning and he knew why. Coming from the cove towards the graveyard the two men between them had been carrying the black body bag! Once in the cove he continued to follow the footprints, through a pool of water, then back on the beach towards the cliffs. Then there it was, a narrow mouth of the cave set into the cliffs, narrow enough to get through, but narrow enough to be missed by the casual observer. For him there was only one way to go and that was to follow the footprints into the cave, there was nothing to suggest that the three figures he had seen had turned upon their steps, so reasoning would suggest that they were still inside, but for what reason? Easing himself through the narrow mouth of the cave he moved slowly along the wall of the cave, not knowing what to expect, or what he might find. Mentally he had prepared himself for anything, yet not for the solid steel door which now barred his way a mere ten feet inside the cave! He pushed against the steel door in a vein attempt to open it. In the dim light he searched the cave wall for a secret switch, but found none. Thwarted this time he swore to himself that he would be back, and that he would find a way to open this obstruction. Call it what you like, a sixth sense, anything, but Number 6 felt that something dark and terrible lay beyond that steel door, and possibly the answer to the quest he had undertaken since that day in Prague. Slowly and with some reluctance, he turned and took his leave of the cave making his way slowly back to the Village and the confines of his cottage.


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