‘The Prisoner’ – Ron Grainer
He stood alone. He was waiting.
Outside, the evening rain fell, clattering droplets onto the roof above him. He stood alone in the attic room of a cold West Yorkshire house. So where was his friend? Where was Mr Gordon?
Scratching his clean-shaven chin, he paced awhile, but stopped nervously as a hellish clap of thunder sounded. A flash of lightning quickly followed, and familiar music rang in his ears, as a dim memory infiltrated his mind; something about a man in a black blazer and a series of men called Two. Trying to tap into the music that was dancing elusively about his head, he wondered. Was he recalling fact or fiction? But the only answer he received was the squeal of motor brakes from somewhere in the street outside. He clambered down the twisting attic stairs, onto the vast landing, past the huge stained glass window, and down the main staircase into the hall. As he left the building, he urgently locked the door behind him.
Reversing in the driveway was an orange Volkswagen Beetle, and inside it was a motley collection of his friends. They were in a hurry and he knew it. As one of them flung the door open to let him in, he almost fell over himself clambering inside. Mr Shepherd was here, along with Mr Flowers-Lampwick, Belinda, and a few others obscured by the darkness. But grimly, none of them spoke as he took his seat and Leighton, the driver, turned the car back into the street, towards the nearby town.
‘Destination?’ he asked Leighton.
From the stereo, music played them into the twilight. He knew this tune. It ran through his very core. Surely it was over 20 years old now? Ron Grainer had composed it, and wasn’t he dead now?
Outside the nite-club, he and the others clambered out of the car, which seemed to sigh in relief as its chassis noticeably lifted back to normal. Once out, he looked around at their excited faces. They were all dressed in their usual garish manner; with their outlandish clothes, their long coats; their buckled boots and decorative accessories. Almost all of them had crimped or long hair, and some of them had backcombed and spiked it. He wondered whether or not they realised the true danger they were all in, but mentally conceded that this was a very important night. Although, for the life of him, he could not recall why.
As they walked through the foyer, the laughed and smiling with nervous excitement until Belinda’s voice brought them to silence. ‘Stay calm from now on,’ she said. ‘Keep a low profile. These are the killing fields, and they will be here soon.’
In the dark, black dance hall, the same music played. Why that? Why here? Why now of all times? It only served to amplify the atmosphere of menace that all of them were beginning to feel. Joined by their clean-cut associate, Mr Barlow, Mr Flowers-Lampwick led the way across the dance floor, towards a back room he had arranged use of for the coming meeting. Inside, they all sat on metal chairs in the darkness. The only light in the room filtered through a small ventilator grille, highlighting swirls of cigarette smoke and casting pale strips of whirling light over their still bodies. Even when the muted dance floor music faded away, no one spoke. For a long, long time, the only sound in the room was that of anticipant breath and the percussive underscore of urgent heartbeats.
Eventually, he spoke, turning to the dim ghost of Mr Flowers-Lampwick. ‘They do know we’ll be here?’
‘I’m not wholly sure,’ replied Flowers-Lampwick. ‘You should know. You’re the insider, you’re in charge. This was your idea.’
‘Perhaps it was a bad idea,’ said Barlow.
‘Hmm,’ mused our friend. ‘I’m beginning to wonder just who’s right and who’s wrong. Us or them?’
‘We’re all the same,’ whispered Gordon. ‘Nothing makes us different. We’re all in this together.’
‘I’m unsure of our motives,’ said our friend.
‘They’ll be unsure of ours,’ said Moses and Leighton, almost simultaneously.
‘You,’ he said to Flowers-Lampwick, ‘had better come out front with me and check things out. The rest of you stay here.’
‘I’m coming,’ said Gordon. ‘You know why.’
‘Why?’ asked Flowers-Lampwick.
‘He knows what we’re up against. More than any of us. I know it was my decision that landed us all in this mess, but he knows their routines. Don’t you?’
‘Yes,’ replied Gordon, trying to maintain something like calm. ‘Late 1960s. Top secret. All very hush-hush…’
‘And dangerous?’ asked Leighton.
‘Come on,’ whispered our friend, and the three of them went back out into the world.
They pretended they were deeply involved in a game of pool. All the cues were broken, but they played on. Gordon’s eyes would occasionally flicker about them in a kind of numb anticipation. With the nite-club closed, no music, no bar staff, the tangible nervousness could almost be seen to creep around them in the dim light.
They should never have done what they did. Nor should they ever have involved those countless others. That which had once been their inspiration, was too powerful as an enemy. Only Gordon really knew to what extent that power would now be wielded, and but for the worry in his eyes, he was giving little away. Fear now seemed to be his primary focus, leading the others to quietly conclude that it was now much too late for all of them.
He smiled at Gordon, hiding his own fears. Gordon weakly returned the offering. Flowers-Lampwick lit another anxious cigarette, in perfect time to the sound of explosive violence that erupted in the nearby darkness. Belinda emerged, running from the direction of the back room, hotly followed by Leighton and Barlow.
‘Get out of here!’ she cried.
The startled pool players followed them towards the exit without hesitation, rushing through the foyer and out through the still unlocked double doors.
Leighton gunned the engine.
‘What about Moses?!’ cried Gordon as the others clambered into the Beetle around him.
‘They’ve got him,’ replied Belinda firmly. ‘They’re in there, and they’re more dangerous than we anticipated. Step on it, Leighton!’
Through thunder, lightning and battering rain, the Beetle drove towards the next industrial town. The night was empty, he noticed, and wondered why. The same music started up again, but not from the stereo. This time the music played on the air around them.
They sat, fast and silent. Not a word spoken. Looking at the others, he tried to guess their thoughts and fears. Barlow would be certain that his time was up. Gordon would be mentally shuddering at the dangerous knowledge in his head. Belinda, looking out into the night, would be inviting it to embrace her and hold her safe. Flowers-Lampwick chain-smoked, his thoughts un-guessable. Leighton remained calmly focused on the road ahead. They were all as he knew they would be, as he knew they would look at this time. Sitting under waves of watery orange light, he pondered the sense of eerie familiarity. But, oh god, why and where this music?
Pulling a screeching, sidelong skid by the Chinese Restaurant, the Beetle hurtled towards a traffic island. Leighton managed to break, before they hit anything hard or fast, but all were jolted forwards in their seats. The music had stopped.
‘What’s going on?’
‘What’s that smell? Petrol?’
‘Look!’ cried Flowers-Lampwick.
Coming down the hill towards them came a succession of unusually fast funeral hearses.
The thunder clapped and the lightning flashed.
‘Car’s wrecked. Bail out!’
And he did. Clambering down into the uninviting blackness of the thick trees that bordered the road and ran down into the Valley Gardens. He stumbled through muddy soil, only barely aware of the others running alongside him. Somehow managing to stay together, they halted deep in the valley, by a wall and crouched in the dark cover of the trees, waiting.
A cold eternity passed until Barlow broke the solid silence. ‘We shouldn’t have…’
‘Well, we did,’ hissed our friend. A branch or a twig snapped, wetly, somewhere frightening close by. He held his racing breath and the others held theirs.
‘Found you!’ cried a jack-booted guard, looking more amazed at his good fortune than anything else. But before he could bring either his rifle or whistle to bear, the six of them leapt upon him, muffling his cries and beating him to ugly unconsciousness.
If his own feelings were anything to go by, none of them would have felt happy at having had to enact such brutality, but now, as they ran through the trees, up the opposite slope of the valley, survival was all.
As he ran, he would occasionally look back at the other slope, where, among the trees, torches played, seeking them out.
‘Soldiers,’ breathed barlow as he ran. ‘They actually sent soldiers.’
‘Not just soldiers,’ breathed Gordon. ‘There’ll be all sorts; scientists, civil servants, businessmen, shopkeepers…’
‘Butchers, bakers, candlestick makers,’ breathed Belinda.
‘Tinkers, tailors, soldiers, sailors,’ said Flowers-Lampwick.
‘It’s definitely them, then,’ laughed Leighton.
‘What nationality?’ asked our friend.
‘Entirely cosmopolitan,’ said Gordon, hoarse now.
‘Where will we go now? We can’t surrender, not now. We’ve gone too far for that to be a positive option.’
‘Who started all this?’ asked Barlow. ‘It was futile from the start.’
‘I agree,’ said Flowers-Lampwick. ‘We should give ourselves up.’
‘After all their lies?’ asked Belinda.
‘No,’ said Gordon. ‘If the car’s out of action, the best we can do is head for the College. I know a short cut that’ll get us there quickly and unseen. I have friends. We can hide there for a while, until we come up with a better plan.’
‘Let’s go then.’
‘Halt!’ yelled a distant, militaristic voice from behind.
‘Just keep running!’ yelled Gordon.
The cold, dark streets were now running with rain. As they ran along the underside of the dual carriageway, fatigued and hampered, they knew they must not stop.
At last, they came to a high gate, behind which was the annexe of one of the College buildings.
‘Won’t they have as much chance of finding us here as anywhere else?’ he asked.
‘Not necessarily,’ said Gordon. ‘Where’s Flowers-Lampwick?’
They found themselves looking around the group, the street, the trees.
‘Apparently we lost him in the confusion,’ said Belinda, calmly.
‘We’ll have to go back. Find him.’
‘No time,’ said Gordon, placing a hand on his shoulder. ‘Over this gate and through that window,’ he pointed. ‘My friends are waiting.’
Inside, the annexe was silent and dark, until someone flicked on the lights. They were in a reasonably spacious office, and Leighton was just closing the window behind him, shutting out the rain that had begun to pool on the floor underneath.
A rumble of thunder, coupled with the opening of the office door, sent them all running for cover, but there was none.
In stepped a trouser-suited woman in her mid thirties.
‘Lynette,’ said Gordon with relief.
‘Danyel!’ she replied, visibly amazed. ‘What are you doing here? This place is restricted. Off limits!’
‘You’ve got to help us, Lynette,’ he pleaded. ‘They’re after us.’
‘What?’ asked Lynette. She moved to the window and looked outside. She turned back to the others. ‘Put that light out,’ she said.
Leighton flicked the light off.
‘You are playing with fire,’ exclaimed Lynette. ‘This is the first place they’ll look! This is practically their territory. They’ve as good as got you where they want you.’
‘Then they might not bother looking right under their noses,’ suggested Gordon.
‘I’m surprised it’s taken them this long to capture you,’ said Lynette. ‘They must be slacking.’
‘For God’s sake, Lynette,’ cried Gordon, ‘will you help us or not?’
‘Put my freedom on the line for the sake of your escapades?’
‘Let’s go,’ said Leighton.
‘Lynette,’ hissed Gordon, ‘you know that what we are doing is right. That’s why I’ve turned my back on them. This is a cause to stand up for.’
‘What can I do?’ asked Lynette. ‘What could I possibly…’
Lynette broke off as the window fell through and a soldier appeared, instantly grabbing Belinda and putting a long-bladed knife to her throat.
‘I must warn you,’ growled the soldier, ‘that any attempt to escape will force me to use this knife on Miss Reid’s pretty white throat. This building is surrounded. You will surrender now and behave appropriately. You are a collaborator,’ he told Lynette. ‘You will be severely reprimanded for this.’
All any of them seemed able to do was stand and stare, until our friend finally spoke.
‘Let her go,’ he calmly told the soldier.
‘Do I have your unconditional surrender?’ asked the soldier, angling his knife suggestively.
‘What did we even do wrong?’ asked Belinda, trembling.
‘Nothing,’ said Lynette. And at this point, everyone realised she had been holding a gun.
She fired it into the face of the soldier, splattering Belinda with his hot blood.
Belinda lurched forward as the soldier dropped first the knife and then his entire, flaccid bodyweight to the thinly carpeted concrete floor.
Gordon turned to Lynette. ‘Why did you…?’
‘Realisation,’ she said. ‘And rationalisation. I…’ She winced, clutching her temples as if suffering a sudden headache. ‘No,’ she growled in pain. ‘They told me that in the event of… no… It’s… the indoctrination… They… no…’
‘Lynette?’ asked Gordon, horror crossing his features as his friend writhed in agony.
‘She’s been through this before,’ said Belinda. ‘She’s been through an indoctrination process, which means she’s betrayed them before.’
‘And… they made me forget…’ breathed Lynette, painfully. ‘I can see it all so clearly now, they… they took those memories away from me. Hid them. You must… go now. While you still can.’ She pointed at the interior door. ‘End of the corridor… through the door…’
At the end of the corridor was a blue door. He opened it and ran through, finding himself running what felt like downwards; the others close behind him. But time seemed to slow itself, warping around them and it was like they had run forever, only to find themselves running into forever again. Images of the most obscure things flickered from what might have been holograms, placed carefully along the route they ran: Superman, Richard III, Winston Churchill, James Dean, The Beatles, and a thousand other iconic figures.
Finally, after what felt like two thousand years, they found themselves in a ballroom, ball in full progress. The music and lights were graceful, and the sudden pleasant atmosphere of people, faces, voices and the smell of wonderful food and drink caught him off guard. He had the apparently brilliant notion that he might hide beneath the stage where the band was playing. He had the equally brilliant notion of communicating this idea to his friends, but the words never left his mouth. A yellow mist was suddenly and quickly clouding his already startled vision and the room was beginning to spin into blackness to the sound of a strangled hiss…
His eyes flickered open to reveal a watery, blurry new world. He was certain that he was now alone: no Belinda, no Leighton, no Gordon, no Barlow. And it was this specific kind of ‘aloneness’ that he knew Gordon had long feared. Here it all begins, he thought. This where I lose… Where I lose… Lose what? he wondered. Well, whatever it is, here’s where I lose it.
Rising gently, he realised he had been lying on a small sofa. The chalet he was in was small but ornate. Suddenly feeling claustrophobic, he leapt towards what appeared to be the front door. Glass panels hinted at a green and fresh world beyond, but he panicked at the lack of a door handle. ‘Where the hell am I?’ he heard himself ask. Certainly not the College.
He then noticed a small button set into the wall. He pressed it and the door swung open electronically.
Outside, the morning – if it was morning – was beautiful. The air was fresh and perfumed with a salty seashore smell. Red carnations bloomed in the pretty garden outside his chalet, but the wider view took him entirely by surprise. The chalet was set in a village of similar buildings, all neatly presented, brilliantly coloured and built in a quaint, European style. He then realised that not only had his surroundings changed, but so had he. He now wore a black blazer, and tan coloured slacks. He touched his head and felt his hair, which was now short and soft and parted down the left hand side. The identity he had cultivated for so long was now, quite deliberately, gone. A sudden panic rose within him and he ran, angrily, down the steep path from his chalet and into what appeared to be the village square. But it was devoid of people. Not a sign of life flickered or breathed about him and he felt suddenly very, very lonely.
‘Hello,’ said a cultured voice from behind.
He jumped up and turned from his desperate introspection to face the newly and stealthily arrived figure. He was an older man, aged about fifty or sixty. He wore identical clothes to our friend, but carried a colourful umbrella on the crook of one arm.
‘Where the hell am I?’
‘In the village,’ said the newcomer.
‘How did I get here?’
‘You were brought here.’
‘What do you want?’
‘You won’t get it.’
‘By hook or by crook, we will.’
‘Who are you?’
‘I’m the new Number Two.’
‘Who is Number One?’
‘You are… Number Six.’
‘I am not a number, I am a free man!’
The newcomer laughed a mocking laugh and ran towards a nearby bell tower.
Number Six chased after him, reaching the building some seconds after Number Two had disappeared inside.
When he reached the top, Number Six realised there was no one there. He looked out across the pretty little village and wondered where his tormentor could have gone. Scouring the deserted streets and alleyways, he noticed movement in a pretty little walled garden. Two people, planting things. Making a mental map of how to get there, he ran back to the staircase.
‘Hey!’ he cried as he rushed towards them. ‘Help me please!’
‘Go away,’ said the man.
‘Who are you?’ he asked.
‘Planted,’ said the woman, smiling at her colleague and clapping in triumph.
‘Good,’ said the man, wiping the sweat from his brow and putting his trowel into a small tool bundle.
‘What’s going on?’
‘What does it look like?’ asked the man, steering the woman quickly away from the newly turned earth.
‘I shouldn’t stand there if I were you,’ she quipped over her shoulder.
He ran to join them as they hurried toward the cover of a nearby statue of Pan.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Escaping,’ smiled the man.
A sudden and fierce explosion erupted from the place they had been planting, sending soil and sods flying into the air. Dirt and grass rained down on the gardeners as they admired the newly gaping entrance to a hidden, metal-walled tunnel.
‘Guards,’ said the woman, pulling her cohort by the hand, and running for the hole.
Number Six ran for cover as the sound of machine guns tearing at the wall and soil reduced the two fugitives to ripped and torn fragments of what they had once been. He watched as the soldiers – dressed like military police – kick at the inert bodies, and then run back to wherever it was they had come from, full of the urgency needed to close the tunnel.
Once they were out of site, he considered entering the tunnel himself, but then noticed a small manhole cover set into the side of an adjacent grassy embankment.
Prising the cover loose, he climbed through the manhole and dropped into a densely populated underground corridor. Here, scores of old friends and acquaintances stood, like zombies, in long, long queues – but to where? Walking along the line, he tried to establish contact with, first, Sonia, and then Nicky. But there was no response. He knew then that everything he had set out to achieve was doomed to fail.
Emerging from the manhole and back into the pretty village, he was alarmed at the sudden notion that he was home. That this might not be a bad place to be, after all. And then he noticed the returning guards. As he ran, desperately trying to remember the location of his little chalet, he heard the ricochet of bullets behind him. Feeling an unutterable sense of relief that they had missed him, he was shocked when he stumbled to the floor and noticed the tranquilliser dart in his hand. As his consciousness began to fade yet again, he realise that his troubles were only just beginning…
I love The Prisoner! Oooh, I love it.
The previous sequence was what I dreamt last nite/this morning.
‘Suedehead’ – Morrissey
Suzi, with her beautiful face and her delicious cheekbones and her magnificent hair, fading to blue nothing…
‘Route 66’ – Nelson Riddle
SO, THIS WEEKEND…
I came home today.
Why, oh why, did Belinda dream of my death on Saturday nite?
MUSIC: The Timelords, Fields Of The Nephilim, Belinda Carlisle, The Doors, Morrissey, S-Express, Ofra Haza, Ron Grainer, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Sisters Of Mercy.
[Images subject to control of individual Copyright Holders including works originated by Elton Townend Jones, but excluding any images or design attributed to ‘The Situation’ which are copyright of The Situation (see specific acknowledgements in the ‘Thanks to…’section below) / ‘Berwin Groomstool’ is an iteration of the Situation character‘William Whicker’ and falls under joint copyright of Elton Townend Jones and Waen Shepherd / Based on true events and designed as a study of parochial British cultural and emotional life in the late 20th century, this blog is a work of fiction – cultural icons excluded, all characters and incidents featured are entirely fictional / This blog is non-profit; all video clips are used for illustrative purposes and always come from YouTube / No copyright infringement is intended – just trying to get things into context. Never forget: no man is an island. If you think anything I’ve used is damaging you in any way, please comment and immediate action will be taken to minimise offence / This notice was amended on 1 July 2012 and is intended to cover this and all posts on www.25yearstoolate.blogspot.com that precede it]
Next time: ‘Horse Fair…’