The Prisoner … Episode 19 … “Half Dozen of the Other.”

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The Prisoner … Episode 19 … “Half Dozen of the Other.”
~
“No further evidence is needed to show that ”mental illness”is not the name of a biological condition whose nature awaits to beelucidated, but is the name of a concept whose purpose is to obscure the obvious.” Thomas Szasz.
~
He hadn’t felt well for several days now. It wasn’t normal, he was never sick. Alternately he felt cold and hot, chilled or feverish. And his energy level was almost non-existent. He had to push himself constantly. He wondered at first if he’d been drugged. There was really no way of knowing. He actually thought he might have to present himself at hospital. He didn’t want tothink about that.
~
“Supervisor?” The new Number 2, a short, stout, balding man in his forties turned away from the screen. “Yes” “Surveillance on Number 31 and Area 6, both. Split screen.” “Done.” Number 2 turned back to the screen. Number 31 was relaxing in his chair. Normal enough for him. Number 6 was making his way through the woods, Area 6, to his contrived personal gym. “Time to pay a call on Number 31. Keep this going. I may want to review it later.” “Of course,” the Supervisor replied. Number 2 was already striding towards the door, moving much faster than one would expect from a man his size, headed for the home of Number 31. Nothing like the personal touch, a personal visit.
~
“And you’re very certain that I can’t persuade you?” Number 2 was speaking to Number 31 across the kitchen table, a wine glass in his hand. “More wine, Number 2? I have a passable white. Tastes the same, looks the same, costs …” “No thank you.” Number 2 interrupted. “This is sufficient. But back to your vocation. Surely you miss the practice?” “Yes, I do. Very much in fact. But I’ve seen no worthwhile subjects here.” “What if I could provide you with one? He’s currently in need of help such as yours. I’d consider it a personal favor, Number 31. And you know that one hand washes the other.” He winked knowingly. “I’d need to talk with him first. Casually, to gauge his receptivity,” Number 31 stated flatly, seemingly without any real interest. “A simple task to arrange an accidental meeting. Will you be near the phone in the morning?” “Certainly.” “Expect my call,”Number 2 smiled. After he returned to the Green Dome he reviewed the tape of Number 31s actions after he had left his flat. The glee was evident. “I have him,” Number 2 smiled at the Supervisor.
~
 “Number 6! Good morning! Good late morning I should say,” Number 2 waved pleasantly, “Its nearly lunch time. Come,” rising from his chair on the cafes patio and waving his hand towards a chair next to his. “I’ve not ordered yet. Please join me.” Number 6 walked over, smiled a stiff smile and accepted the seat. This particular Number 2 had been less intrusive than any other. In fact Number 6 often felt ignored by him. A blessing he counted almost hourly. “Number 6, you look a bit pale. Feeling alright I hope.” “Fine, thank you.” The waitress was approaching. “Give us a moment, will you, dear? You’re in no rush, are you umber 6?” “Not currently, no. I’ve been planning a trip to London but its been postponed.” Number 2 laughed heartily. “Oh, I say,” wiping tears from his eyes, “your wit always both catches me off guard and cheers me. You are a Village treasure.” “Yes, well, enjoy me while you can,” Number 6 smiled a tad more. Number 2, beginning to chuckle, choked back his mirth as he caught sight of … “Say, Number 31! What a piece of luck!” He waved at the new man. “Come, you must meet my good friend, Number 6.” Looking at Number 6, “This may turn into a regular party!” And the three men had what would have been, in any place other than the Village, a very pleasant lunch. Number 31s end of the conversation took odd turns at times but he seemed, Number 6 observed, rather eccentric. It takes all kinds to make a Village.
~
“And your impression?” Number 2 leaned closer to Number 31 as they sat, watching the human chess match. “Actually a very interesting prospect,” Number 31 answered. He referred to Number 6. “Then you’ll … ?” Number 2 had begun a question and then let the sentence trail off. Number 31 smiled. “With pleasure,” he said. “Oh, look!” Number 2 nearly squealed. “The whites in check!”
~
The chills, the fever, the lack of energy thankfully weren’t getting any worse. Regrettably they weren’t getting any better either. This was day six. Hot tea and a good nights rest. Sleep came in fits. And during a lull in the fits the over head light glowed, began to lower itself, began to pulsate.
~
“You should be glad that Village residents are watched. Its a sign of care. An active interest in you’re welfare, your well being. Who knows what might have happened if you hadn’t been watched. Be thankful, Number 6,” the doctor said sternly. He had opened his eyes only moments before. He had been in bed. He still was, just not the same one. “Where am I?” It was the first thing out of his mouth. “In the hospital,” had been the curt response. “We’re on your side, Number 6. What do you want?” “I want to know why I’m here!” “I meant would you like some tea, perhaps milk? And as to why you’re here, well, you have every indication of a rare form of meningitis,” the doctor answered firmly. “I’ve had chills.That’s not a symptom of meningitis.” “No, it isn’t. You also have a mild flu bug that seems to be hanging on, given the evidence in your blood work, much longer than normal. That’s what got you here earlier tonight. Surveillance noted your fitful sleep in the extreme tonight. It was while running tests, we are very thorough Number 6, that we found indications of meningitis.” “I wasn’t awakened by your ‘medics’. Was it a special blend of tea that I had prior to bed?!” The doctor shook his head, a sort of pity written on his face. “Oh, I know you’ve been drugged in the past, Number 6. But this time you were unconscious due to your illnesses. In fact, I had to give you a drug to wake you just now. You’re a very lucky man, Number 6. Catching it at this stage should make recovery a foregone conclusion. With the proper treatment of course,” he smiled faintly. “You are in the best of hands here. Meningitis isn’t that common among men of your age, but its not unheard of either. This type, rare as it is, requires a very specific care. But not to worry. We actually have a retired immunologist here in the Village. He specialized in the treatment of certain ailments, meningitis being one of them.” “Who?” Number 6 asked. “I wouldn’t think you’d know him, Number 6, but he’s Number 31.”
~
Number 31 stood next to his bed. “Fancy meeting you here,” he said. His voice was flat, flavorless. “You realize its been some time that I’ve been retired.” “So I’m told,” Number 6 replied. “Still, I’m willing. You provided an interesting chat the other day at lunch. I’d be glad to keep you around.” Number 31 smiled, patting Number 6 on the shoulder. So much for bedside manner.
~
“How did he respond?” Number 2 looked at Number 31 earnestly. “I believe he believes that he has meningitis. I don’t foresee a problem, do you?” He looked intently at Number 2. “No, from all indications he’s accepted this diagnosis. But we can’t afford to give him cause for suspicion.” “Then we won’t,” Number 31 said matter of factly.
~
He lay there, looking up at the ceiling, the blasted muzak never ending even in hospital. He didn’t notice it so much at the moment. He was to busy thinking. Thinking it was odd that he had met 31 just prior to his hospitalization. A coincidence? Fate? Luck? Number 2?
~
“We have wonder drugs now days, Number 6.” Number 31 was holding up a rather large syringe, looking at the contents. He looked down at Number 6. “I’d like to be able to say this won’t hurt a bit. It will.” The needle punctured the skin of his arm. Not so bad. Then Number 31 started to slowly inject the medicine. And Number 6 understood fully the words, “It will.”
~
“Number 6, there seems to be, well, certain complications. Nothing we can’t deal with, but there are things that you need to be aware of. The inflammation risks damaging brain tissue. We wouldn’t want the tissue damaged. The inflammation, in effecting the brain, can cause hallucinations, even symptoms approximating mental illness. In treating this form of meningitis we also have to treat these symptoms, just as we would if you were a truly mentally ill patient. This is necessary in order to keep the patient, in this case you, in a mental condition that’s conducive to the physical treatments. Otherwise you could well prove to much for hospital personnel to deal with necessitating that we keep you sedated. Then you wouldn’t be able to communicate with us. In other words you couldn’t tell us ‘where it hurts’. That would be worse than counter productive. I tell you all of this so that, in your more lucid moments, you’ll better understand what it is we’re doing.” Medically much of what he had said was nonsense. Close approximations to unrelated facts giving the impression of validity. Number 6 was intelligent, perhaps brilliant. Number 31 trusted that the medical misinformation fed to him by that mind-altering mental control administered by way of the pulsating light would keep things believable and him confused long enough to effect Number 31s mental treatments. Immunologist. What a farce. A Ph.D. in psychology from an Austrian university under Nazi control during World War 2. And he was very proud of it. This was his chance to both perfect and prove his mind control technique. “Unsere sache wird sich durchsetzen.”
~
“How long?” Number 2 queried. “Depends on his metabolism, but on average no more than twelve hours, no less than five,” Number 31 mumbled as he flipped through the chart. “Keep me posted. Hourly, day and night,” Number 2 said sternly. Number 31 looked up, smiled faintly, “I’ll see what I can do.”
~
Number 2 received hourly updates for six hours. Thirty three minutes after the seventh update he received one last note, short and to the point. It read, “Its working.”
~
Number 2, Number 31, and Number 14, one of the hospitals staff physicians who had dealt with Number 6 in the past, stood over an unconscious Number 6. His face went from placid to grotesquely twisted regularly. “And he’ll remember nothing of this?” Number 2 looked from one doctor to the other. Number 14, pushing blond hair back out of her eyes, answered, “When its over he’ll think he was cured of meningitis. He’ll remember nothing else. He may even be thankful to us for our help. In that, all of this may have a lasting positive effect. He might just decide to fit in after this.” Number 2 smiled at the thought. He would accomplish what nearly two dozen others had failed at. And his primary weapon would have been distance and a benevolent disregard. The others were, one and all, obviously amateurs.
~
The room was brightly painted. The curtains were of a type found in nurseries, horses dancing across their folds with clowns standing atop each steed wielding colorful parasols. A large plastic car, a grand toy, a Lotus with plate numbers KAR 120C, took up the middle of the room. There were three rocking chairs. And muzak. And Number 6, in pajamas with feet. A two way mirror on one wall, every corner hid a camera, every cranny hid a microphone. He could be seen, he could be heard. Most importantly, he could be talked to. The microphones provided the voices in his head.
~
“How do you feel today, son?” A smiling Number 2 entered the room. He walked over to Number 6, put his arm around his shoulder and gave him a fatherly squeeze. “I’ve been worried about you lad. You’ve been ill, most ill. We thought that your mind had left us, that you’d resigned the human race. But we care, son, we care. And you trust us, we’re going to help you be all better.” The arm still around his shoulder Number 2 gave another squeeze, his smile widening. Number 6 grinned. A bit of drool on his chin, Number 2 took out a handkerchief and wiped it away. “Set down my boy. Lets talk. The doctors, they’re your friends, tell me that talking about things, straightening out the past, will clear the way for the future. You talk with me, you’ll feel better, you’ll be better. You’ll see. There’s no shame in getting help, and you needn’t resign yourself to any illness, physical or, in this case, mental. Talking it out, all of it, will still those unwanted voices, the ones that taunt you with your own foibles. I’m here, I’m here for you. Remember that.” Number 6 continued to grin. Number 2 didn’t notice it, he had removed his arm from Number 6s shoulder, but as he said the words, “I’m here for you”, the spine stiffened and the shoulders grew taught. They sat in rockers, looking at each other. Number 2 smiled, Number 6 grinned.
~
Every day for five days he rephrased the same question, always avoiding the direct usage one word when forming the question but using it often in general conversation. The word took slightly different forms. “Resignation” or “resigned” or “resign”. When he slept these were all repeated though the microphones, along with one other word. “Why?”
~
It was day six. They seemed to be getting no where. Every time the conversation was steered in the desired direction by Number 2 something seemed to distract Number 6. The car, the curtains, the mirror, the walls, anything, everything. Number 2 cornered Number 31 in the hall. “Another dosage.” “That won’t help,” said 31. “Then what will? What will?!” “Let me talk with him. Introduce me in the morning, let him rest the remainder of today.” Number 2 exhaled as though he wanted to be rid of something from the inside out. “Oh, alright. Alright.”
~

“Number 6! I want you to meet the Doctor. He’s one of your good friends.” And Number 2 gently pushed Number 31 forward. They spent the day together, Doctor and Number 6, chatting away, the topics meandering, Number 6 stiffening imperceptibly every time he heard the word “resign”, “resignation”, “resigned”.
~

“I’m telling you it takes time and what you’re suggesting simply will not work. In order to produce the desired results …” Number 2 stopped him there, his finger shaking in his face. “Results? And you’ve obtained exactly what? So far you’ve made him drool. I need more than spittle!” Number 31 began to go livid. “Now look here, Number 2 … ” “NO! You’ll do the looking and what you’ll see is success on my part. You’re technique is lacking. We’ll try mine now and you’ll see, you’ll see!” “You’re going to ruin … ” “I’m going to WIN!” Number 2 shouted. “Nearly two dozen others have failed at this. Several more than once. I will NOT fail, YOU will NOT keep me from the prize! You’re drugs have worked a wonder and for that I say thank you. But beyond the drugs you’ve obviously lost the touch. Now its my turn and I’ll add MY touch!”
~

He spoke in a low, deliberate way. “Lad, I’m here to help. You know that.” Number 2 took a step forward, towards Number 6. “And you want me to help, we both know that. But,” Number 6 took a step back as Number 2 advanced again, “we can’t continue like this forever. For me to help you,” and he took yet another step towards Number 6, “for me to help you I need for you to help me. One hand washes the other, we both know how that works,” Number 6 took another step back. Now he had retreated as far as possible, now his back was against the wall. This physical reality, his back being against the wall, had a psychological impact. Number 2 continued to talk. “You want to please the old man, don’t you lad? And the Doctor. You like him, you know,” Number 6 was grinning but the grin was changing, “that he wants to help you. Its why he’s here,” and he took another step, slowly. This physical reality, this last forward step, with Number 6 backed up against the wall, had yet another psychological impact on the mind of 6. And this psychological turn took, in turn, a physical twist. The now twisted grin turned into a smile. A few minutes later, the room filled with guards holding Number 6 and medics attending Number 2. With the blood wiped away it was obvious that the nose was broken in more than one place. They were taking Number 2 to hospital. Number 6, even though held by several guards, was still smiling. A certain touch had been added to the whole affair. A boxers touch.
~

“I told you! Didn’t I say … ” Number 2 interrupted Number 31. “Yes, you did,” it was hard to talk through the bandages, “but just now I have other concerns. You’re excused, Number 31.” The tone lent itself to no quarter. Number 31, face red, teeth clinched, bowed slightly and walked up the ramp. In the foyer the butler handed him his hat. Number 14 stood close by Number 2. “You’ll be needing these,” she said, and handed him what seemed a rather large bottle of pain killers. “Thank you, Number 14. You may go now.” The red phone buzzed. Number 2 sighed, trying to exhale through his nose. He was at that point veryglad for the bottle of pills. He raised the phone to his ear. “Yes sir…”
~

Number 6 sat quietly. He wore regular hospital issue pajamas now. The laundry was washing the blood of Number 2 out of the others. He smiled to himself. Drugs could do so much, but only so much. The mind, the body, under certain types of stress, would create its own and these in turn might well off set the man made pharmaceuticals. Number 14 stepped into the room, a chart in her hand. “Ah, Number 6, whatever shall we do with you?” “If it were me I believe I’d send me home as a punishment,” he quipped. She looked at him, shook her head, turned to the medic with her and said, “See to his release.” Turning to Number 6 she smiled. “I’ll send you home Number 6. Remember that home is where ever you hang your hat. It is, after all, six of one …” “Half dozen of the other, yes, I know.”
~

Be seeing you.

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