It’s evening while Number 6 is
preparing to retire for the night, a housemaid is busying herself in the
kitchen with her nightly ritual of making his night cap of hot chocolate, this
to help the resident sleep.
Out of the bathroom, Number 6 goes though into the bedroom with the maid carrying a cup and saucer behind him.
“Drink it before it gets cold” the maid told him.
“What is it?” he asked sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Hot chocolate, it will help you sleep” the maid told him, holding the cup and saucer.
He takes the offered cup and saucer.
“Be seeing you” saluted the maid.
While Number 6 sits on the edge of the bed drinking his hot chocolate, the figure of Number 2 was leaving his office in the Green Dome, the old college scarf wrapped about his neck and furled shooting stick umbrella in hand as he walked boldly up the ramp and out through the open steel doors, closing behind him with a loud resounding clang. The French doors he closed himself and with the front door opening automatically, he passed through the foyer and out into the evening air of the Village. Standing at the balustrade of the balcony he looked out over the cobbled square below, it was deserted, as was the street, the general stores having long closed. But there were lights, lights shining in cottage windows and from the occasional ornate street lamps set on the corner of buildings. This was his Village, well for his term of office at any rate, a term which could so easily end as it begun, sudden and without warning. He was proud, proud of all he had achieved during his term, this combined with the amount of personal power he had gained. Who knows perhaps due to his success it would lead to a second term, then there would be no stopping him, perhaps even an unprecedented third term might be on the cards. He was a calm and calculating man, he was also nobody’s fool, he knew that one false slip on his part and all he had achieved would stand for nothing. What was that saying, pride cometh before a fall, well Number 2 was also resilient, and that resilience had seen him through many a scrape. Self doubt, no there was no self doubt, he had done all he could for the benefit of the community and its citizens, he had also broken many a man and woman, after all it had been expected of him. But then there had been Number 6, a man of a different calibre…….. He drew himself up, no when push comes to shove there is no other place he would rather be, than here in the Village, and on a warm still evening as this. Then he thought of Number 1 an unknown quantity and as changeable as the weather, Number 2 shivered, the thought sending a chill down his spine, even on a warm evening as this.
It was past curfew and Number 2 was the only citizen abroad this evening, and so he set out on his journey, an evening tour, one which he had taken to doing, well music may make for a quiet mind, but the peaceful atmosphere was good for one’s soul and well being. Down the steps of the Green Dome he strode, across the street, across the square and through the arch and along the cobbled street, then through the portico onto the chessboard, across the lawn, up the steps onto the piazza, and passed the free sea. Up the steps and through yet another arch which brought him out almost opposite the café, then slowly strolling along the street, following it round by the red and blue stagecoach and down the road towards the Town Hall, his destination this evening and the silence was absolute, almost deafeningly so. But he was no fool, he was aware of the dangers of the Village, the Guardian would be somewhere on patrol and even he wouldn’t want to meet ‘it’ down some dark ally! Yet the Observers in the Control Room would be watching, and the night time supervisor would take any action required, like the deactivation of that membranic thing. A few paces ahead of him was the impressive stone building of the Town Hall, he paused outside for a moment, and looked through and beyond the pair of turquoise wrought iron gates. He could see the statue of Hercules perched high upon his stone plinth with the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Number 2 knew how he must be feeling, then turned up the steps and through the portico of the Town Hall, to disappear into the depths just as two men dressed all in black, black suits, overcoats, black glasses and top hats, both carrying black document cases passed.
“You’re late, it’s after curfew you know” was all Number 2 said.
“Couldn’t be helped, a late session you know” came the reply.
“A late session, anything I should know, or be concerned about?”
The pair of Top Hat officials looked at one another “No Number Two” Number 153 responded.
Number 2 looked at them “It must have been something important to demand a late session.”
“Not really” said Number 211 “a simple case of too much business to go through at one time, and the Chairman, being a stickler for keeping business tidy, wanted to clear any other business before the next session.”
“I take it that I can look forward to receiving a copy of the minutes of the session?” Number 2 asked.
The two Top Hats agreed that they would “On your desk first thing.”
“Be seeing you” Number 2 saluted.
“But not for long!” 153 muttered under his breath, as he and his top hated colleague hurried down the steps of the Town Hall and into
By this time Number 6 was soundly slumbering in his bed, the
empty cup and saucer set upon the bedside table.
It may have been a deep sleep, but it was highly disturbing and had quickly turned into one of those bad dreams he had been having of late, and turning into a horrific nightmare!
He stood upon the wind swept cliff top, dressed as he was in his usual Village garb. It was a dirty night, the wind in his hair, the rain on his cheeks, and high in the night sky the full moon peered out at times from behind darkened clouds, and some distance away the Village bell tolled. Below the cliffs was the foreboding graveyard, he could see the tilted headstones in the sand by the moonlight, and there was something else, a mound of sand and more two dark figures, were busying themselves digging, digging a deep oblong hole in the sand. The moon disappeared behind the clouds for a moment, and it was no longer than a moment, for the next thing, Number 6 saw were the two dark figures leaning upon their shovels and gazing up at him, one a grotesque, his face contorted in a most horrible way, looked up and smiled up at him. Oh how he smiled, lips parted in a most hideous grin, with yellow rotting teeth. The grotesque raised an arm and with a bony finger beckoned for him to come down and join them at the grave side. The other figure was far removed from that of the grotesque, yet suggesting something far from being human. This second figure was naked, its skin grey, like the colour of stone and a head shaven with pointed ears, a hooked nose and two large bumps set on its forehead. Black cold eyes stared upwards at the man atop of the cliff, and it too smiled, open mouthed baring razor sharp fangs and teeth. Its muscular body stood tall, nearly eight feet tall, its limbs strong and powerful, huge razor sharp talons gripped the shaft of the shovel, just as a pair of talons sank into the sand. Standing at the very edge of the cliff he tried to back away, but he could not move, as though he were somehow rooted to the spot, forced to watch the obscene and awful sight below as the two figures went back to their digging. He tried to move back a little bit at a time, first one foot and then the other, but then his foot hit a rock and sent it rolling over the top of the cliff, disturbing other rocks as it went. One of the figures stopped its digging, attracted by the falling rocks turned to see a cluster of rocks land in the sand at the foot of the cliffs nearby. Then turning its grey face upwards to the top of the cliffs, its face sharp as though etched in solid granite and once back cold eyes now burned orange and red, like fire itself. Number 6 now found both the strength and will to move, and did so, away from the edge of the cliff. The grey figure rose to its full height, dropping its shovel and suddenly there came a cracking, rendering sound, as from its forehead, two horns began to sprout, and a pair of leathery wings grey sprouted from it’s back. The gargoyle let out a fearful and terrifying scream, stretching it’s wings and flexing its talons, as to him the full horror revealed itself as he stumbled backwards from the obscene and terrible sight, and into to the bushes. Leathery wings began to beat the air, as with ease the gargoyle rose swiftly into the night sky, never once taking its eyes off its prey hiding in the bushes below, Number 6 not once daring to move from cover. The gargoyle swooped down and hovered above him, so close as it was that it could so easily have grasped him with its talons, and with its enormous strength, carried him off to God knows what fate.
Then he made his move, rolling to one side he grabbed at a broken branch and waved it above his head in violent motion. This took the gargoyle by surprise, it flapped backwards studying its prey, but then was again on the offensive, as hovering over the figure below still brandishing the branch, the gargoyle reached down with a hind talon and snatched the branch out from his grasp and tossed it away like a child would a twig. Suddenly Number 6 felt a talon at his shoulder, he fell backwards to the ground, the Gargoyle descended to its powerless prey, ripping open the piped blazer and jersey beneath, then slicing open flesh, drawing blood. He screamed, his chest opened up with one slice of the powerful talon drenching its prey in its own blood. The gargoyle‘s stone etched face grinned down at him, it was a look of pure evil, its fiery eyes blazed. That was when Number 6 acted, and threw a handful of sand into the face of the gargoyle, sending it flying back and high into the air, talons brushed across its face, as blinded it was, but only for a few moments. He gathered what strength he had, and made to make good his escape the gargoyle swooped down, a talon sending him crashing to the ground only inches away from the edge of the cliff. Arms flared out, and fingers grasped nothing but thin air as he fell backwards over the cliff edge. The gargoyle acted quickly, swooping down grabbing a pair of shoulders in its talons, talons cutting deep in to flesh and Number 6 screamed and screamed again, the talons sliced like red rot pincers deep into his shoulders down to the very bone. But gravity is a powerful force to be reckoned with, and not even the powerful grip of the Gargoyle could prevent the inevitable. Flesh tore and rendered itself free of the talon’s grip, his arms and legs flaring out, he fell backwards to the beach below. The sudden impact on the solid sand of the graveyard, forced air to expel from his lungs, his whole body was wrenched with pain, and the last thing Number 6’s eyes recorded were the beating leathery wings of the Gargoyle as it rose high into the moonlit sky, a most inhuman thing, yet worse was the sight of the bent and twisted grotesque standing over him with shovel in hand, with that awful grin upon his face. He cried out from pain or fear, as it took his shovel and began to back fill the open grave. Blackness swept over him, dragging him into unconsciousness it was then that the pain finally stopped.
In the Control Room the night-time supervisor had been alerted to the disturbed sleep of Number 6 by one of the Observers.
“Put up camera twenty-two, sound and infra red” the supervisor ordered.
On the large wall screen appeared the bedroom in 6 private. Number 6 lay in bed twisting first this way and then that, his arms waving about in the air, open fingers seemed to be trying to grasp hold of something which wasn’t there. The supervisor picked up a blue ‘L’ shaped telephone, and was about to contact the hospital, when suddenly the pair of steel doors at the top of the gantry opened and Number 2 entered standing at the railing at the top of the mezzanine level “Problems?” he asked looking at the screen.
“Number Six is having another of his nightmares, a particularly bad one tonight” reported the supervisor “I was about to alert the hospital.”
“Whatever for?” Number 2 asked indignantly.
The supervisor looked at his superior and nervously replied “I don’t know Number Two, I’m not a doctor, perhaps they should bring him out of it and a nurse could stay with him.”
Number 2 turned his face from the screen and looked down at the supervisor “What to hold his hand and mop his brow! Why should we want to do a thing like that, its only a bad dream, he’ll wake up from it himself in a minute I expect, besides can’t have hospital staff running around mollycoddling him simply because he’s having one of his nightmares.”
“But the man is clearly in some distress, we could try to lighten his sleep” the supervisor suggested.
“In fact reverse the effects of the pulsator.”
“No, leave well alone” Number 2 ordered “no-one ever died in a nightmare, besides we don’t want to damage the tissue.”
“No Number Two” was the supervisor’s somewhat reluctant reply.
Number 6 opened his eyes as he lay on his back looking up at the night sky, but he felt confined, closed in and then he realised why, he was lying in an open grave! He remembered the pain, but there was no pain and slowly he ran his hands over his body, there was no blood, no lacerations or injuries of any kind. Clawing at the sides of the grave the sand came away easily, if he wasn’t careful he would finish the job the grotesque had begun. But with much effort in getting a toe and finger hold in the crumbling sand of the grave’s walls, Number 6 finally hauled himself up out of the open grave. He stood shaking the sand from his clothes then looked about him, there lay the two shovels, but of the grotesque and the gargoyle there was no sign, much to his relief. With no place else to go he should have made his way along the beach back towards the Village and the relative comfort of his cottage. But instead he turned from the headland into the cove, making for the cave in the cliff. The rain had stopped and the wind was nothing more than a gentle breeze, the clouds had cleared and the night sky was full of stars and the light of the full moon made night almost as bright as day. The sand was soft, sinking down almost up to his ankles, and the further he trudged on, the further away the cave seemed to be. And that’s often the way of dreams and nightmares, but through strength and sheer bloody
determination he finally reached it and eased himself through the narrow mouth of the cave beyond and to the solid steel door which had previously barred his way, but which now slid open allowing his access into the black depths of the cave beyond. Or at least that is what he supposed, for through the door was a well lit corridor and at the far end another steel door. He walked tentatively through, the steel door slid shut behind him, now there was only one way, straight ahead. The grey wall of the corridor were that and nothing more, no doors, no observation windows, only a single ventilation grill set in the wall, which he noted as a possible means of exit should the need arise. As he approached the second steel door, it slid open automatically for him, as though someone somewhere were watching and easing his way forward. But forward into where, for beyond this steel door was nothing but pitch blackness, a blackness into which not even the light from the corridor could pierce! He stood there at the brink of darkness hardly daring to take the leap of faith. So there he stood at the open doorway peering into the blackness beyond, looking for something, anything, ray of hope, a ray of sunshine, a glimmer of light. Number 6 suddenly felt afraid, the grotesque and gargoyle was physical fear, but this was a fear of the mind, he thought to turn and go back the way he had come. But surely there was nothing to fear but fear itself, and he found himself taking one step from light into darkness. That was enough, he turned as to step back into the light, only to find that the steel door had closed behind him, cutting him of from the light. He stood there in total blackness hardly daring to put a foot forward in fear of what might not be there. His mind brought Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Pit And The Pendulum’ to mind, and that gave him the idea of how he might find the dimensions of this black void he found himself in. In order to successfully circumnavigate the wall he thought to start out with the door to his left….the door was no longer there! He reached out either side of him, there was only the smooth surface of the wall. Taking his identity card from his blazer pocket Number 6 felt the wall at his back for a crack, the smallest fracture, the tiniest break in which to inserted the card, in this way he would keep his back to the wall and edging his way along would pace out the distance until he came to the card again thus giving him the circumference of the wall. He imagined himself to be in some sort of chamber, but dared not to try and cross the floor for fear of losing himself. Eventually his fingers felt a small split in the otherwise completely smooth wall, and into the small split he inserted the credit card. With his back press tightly against the wall, he set off to the right of the card set in the wall, and began to pace out the circumference of the chamber he imagined himself to be in. He counted out his paces and at fifty paces he had come to no corner, door, or turning of any kind. He had but two options, to either retrace his steps, or to go on. To simply go back would achieve nothing, so he went on, moving slowly in the darkness, keeping his back to the wall and after a further twenty paces his hand came into contact with
set in the wall, a light switch perhaps, the knob of a door…….it was something
thin, it was his card of identity! How was this possible, he had set out to his
right and now the card in the wall was to his left. Then realized the full
horror of his situation, the chamber was in fact circular, and he had paced out
the complete circle finishing where he had begun. But worse than that, had he not
had the forethought to place his identity card in the gap of the door frame he
would have…. And then he felt a difference in the wall, there was a frame set
into it, and in the frame the steel door! It did not open automatically for
him, so he pressed against it, trying with all his strength to force the door
open, it would not yield. He slumped to the floor to rest, and would try again
in a few minutes. As he sat there in the pitch blackness he considered his
position. He could try to force the door open, which he was unlikely to
achieve. And that led to the question of the door appearing in the wall again,
suggesting that person or persons unknown had used it since. Either that or
person or persons unknown were giving him a false hope of escape.
“Is anyone here” he shouted “can anyone hear my voice? Shout out if anyone can hear me” but his words were swallowed up in by the darkness. He had two options, he could remain where he was, sat on the floor and wait but for how long? Or he could, take steps into the darkness, to what end he knew not. Getting to his feet, he felt the floor under his feet and took the first tentative step, then two three and then backwards to the wall, for the blackness ahead was blinding. And there was the door to consider, if he should lose his way, he may never find his way back to the door, it being possibly his only way out. And yet he needed to know, to know if he was the only thing in this chamber, or if there was more to it. Number 6 was suddenly filled with new a found confidence and the courage to step out into the darkness, the chamber was a perfectly circle. As long as he made it across to the far side of the chamber, he only had to go this way or that in order to come to the door in the wall again. So as they say “fortune favours the brave” and so it was with arms outstretched that he took his first tentative steps into the blackness. After ten paces he stopped, the blackness was complete. It surrounded him, more it enveloped him, and he could no longer be sure if he had been walking in a straight line or not. A straight line would take him to the far side of the chamber. He walked on in the direction he faced, but after another ten paces he had become lost in the dark! There was no option but to walk on, walk into blinding white light! He put his hands over his eyes, but the light burned into them so he could see nothing. The light was worse, worse than the pitch blackness. He stood there for several minutes blinded by the light, daring not to remove his hands, and open his eyes. And yet he began to adjust to the light, slowly taking his hands away and opened his eyes, but then shut them again instantly. They began to water, he blinked, the light strong and intense, but he began to see again. He stood in a large open area of light, surrounded on all sides by the
dense blackness from which he had emerged. Across the other side of the floodlit area were grey electrical cabinets, a work bench cluttered with all manner of scientific and medical equipment and apparatus, surgical knives, scalpels, saws, clamps, forceps, a case of syringes, clear plastic Petri dishes in which cultures were being grown for whatever purpose. And drugs, swabs and dressings all locked in a separate cabinet. A set of different coloured cylinders were all linked together, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon monoxide, this being the anaesthetist trolley, and quite obviously some form of medical experiment had been taking place here. There was also a large screen set in the wall, and in front of the screen was an operating table, and lying on the operating table was a figure with a white sheet draped over it from head to foot. Electrical wires trailed from under the sheet linked to a life support machine, the electrocardiograph monitoring both pulse, heartbeat and other life signs, and a saline drip feeding into the patient’s left arm. Being a curious kind of fellow, and seeing as he was here, Number 6 slowly approached the operating table, and was about to whip the sheet aside, when he heard the sound of footsteps coming from somewhere in the blackness. Swiftly he dodged across the lighted area and back into the darkness, from where he waited and watched as a figure emerged from the blackness on the other side. A middle aged woman of small stout stature, wearing glasses and a white coat, her black hair scraped back in a bun and wearing a most severe expression on her face. Number 10 was a doctor who had come to the Village of her own volition, such has been her opportunity to carry out certain medical experiments which had not been afforded to her not since the “old days!”
The doctor wheeled a trolley beside the operating table, checked the patient’s life signs and was about to pick up a syringe when she was disturbed by a noise somewhere behind her. So leaving the patient for a moment the doctor walked away to investigate, however finding nothing or no one there, she returned to the operating area to find the figure of Number 2 standing over the patient lying on the table. He had pulled the sheet away and was looking into the face of the patient who lay there.
“Just doing my rounds doctor, not neglecting your post I hope, absconding from your duties?” Number 2 asked folding the sheet back in place.
“No Number Two, I thought I heard something back there” said the doctor, in perfect English, but with a strong German accent
“Mmm indeed” said Number 2, looking curiously in the direction indicated by the doctor “did you see anyone?”
“There was not a thing” said the doctor, who gave of an outward air of subservience, yet underneath she saw Number 2’s presence as an unwarranted intrusion, but the Village as means of her completing the work she began so many years ago.
The doctor went back to her work attending to the patient, checking his pulse and heartbeat with her stethoscope, then pulled back part of the sheet, rolled up the sleeve of the blazer which the patient still wore, swabbed his arm and with the aid of a syringe, took a blood sample.
“And how is our friend tonight?” Number 2 asked in a jolly manner.
“A friend to you he may be, to me he is a subject just like any other. As to his medical status, it is the same as it was last night, and the night before that, no change in fact since he was brought here from the hospital” replied the doctor, placing the syringe in a safe place.
“No change there then, but what of the phenomenon which you reported?”
“It is this” said the doctor switching on the large wall screen.
Number 2 stood and stared at the screen in disbelief, he found it difficult to take in what he was seeing. There was a tall man with light brown hair and light blue eyes, wearing a charcoal grey suit and black polo shirt. He strode purposefully along a dimly lit corridor. The expression on his face was not one of anger, simple one of determination as he pulled the double doors open and stormed into the office beyond. A bald headed bespectacled man sat behind the desk, with a bland expression on his face as he looked up from his work. Now there was a distinct sign of anger from the man as he burst into the office, pacing back and forth shouting out his words in anger, then taking an envelope marked ‘private and personal’ ‘by hand’ from his inside pocket he slammed it down on the desk, as well as his first, upsetting a cup in its saucer set upon a tea plate in the process. Before storming out of the office and retracing his steps along that dimly lit corridor. And this event was played out on the screen over and over and over again in something which could be said to be an anguish pattern.
“I wish we could hear what he is shouting about” said Number 2.
“I tried that, I hooked up a speaker” said the doctor.
“And?” he prompted.
“Nothing” retorted the doctor.
“But there must have been something?” he urged somewhat disappointedly.
“There was, static!”
“I want a lip reading expert to see this, perhaps then we can learn what it is that made our friend here so angry, what it was that made him resign” Number 2 ordered.
Suddenly Number 6 woke from his nightmare in a sudden start, he sat bolt upright, sweat covered his brow and his breathing was heavy. The cream telephone on the bedside table began to bleep and continued bleeping for some moments. At first he tried to ignore it, but you can only ignore something for so long before you have to respond. Throwing back the sheets he picked up the telephone and hurled it to the floor. But the telephone was not to be out done, as it lay upon the carpet, the receiver off the hook, the now impatient bleeping continued. Growling something quite incomprehensible, he flung himself back into bed and hid his head under the pillow.
In the control room the night time supervisor watched Number 6 hurl the telephone to the floor and fall back into bed, the covers pulled over him and pillow over his head, upon the wall screen “To sleep, perchance to dream” he muttered to himself.
“What was that?” one of the observers asked crossing the control room floor.
“Nothing, nothing at all” replied the supervisor “what is it you have there?”
Number 72 carried a tray, on it was a selection of hot drinks for the Control Room personnel “Tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.”
“Hot chocolate?” queried the supervisor.
“Its good for you” retorted Number 72 with a smile.
The thought of the hot chocolate being good for him, sent a shiver down the supervisor’s spine.
“Whatever is it supervisor, you look as though someone’s just walked over your grave!” 72 grinned.
“Black coffee, two sugars” said the supervisor “and less of the lip!”
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