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Authors: Charles Kennedy Scott

Bang (4 page)

BOOK: Bang
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‘Ready?’

‘For the disinformation bulletin, you stupid girl.
What do you think we have been preparing you for? Not for your own benefit,
surely? I trust you’ve learnt your lines. You’ve had plenty of time. Days it’s
seemed like. There will be no excuses. However, let me take this opportunity to
welcome you to floor 100.’

 

 

2
– A F
ilm

 

 

Delilah blinked – and looked around.

‘There will be an audience of ten to view the final
piece,’ explained JJ Jeffrey. Of course there will be onlookers, as you would
expect, during the making, whose reviews will be considered unreliable. We’ll
film the whole thing in here. This will be our studio. But I am wasting my
breath, you know all this from the script. Stop looking at my egg. It’s mine,
eyes off! Now, scene one we’ll get going with in about ten or twenty seconds
time, I can’t be any more specific than that.’

Delilah could not take her eyes off the fried egg or
the old-fashioned cup of tea and its contemporary pot. Wrapped shivering in the
towel – which she’d been told had been sown back together by prisoners in
the System – all she could think of was water. But there was no water.
This cup of tea and on the plate the runny yellow egg were all there were, and
they came a close second to water.

‘Disinformation is an exact science,’ the officer went
on. ‘Get it wrong and Society finds itself in all sorts bother. Society, if you
ask me, should stop complaining so much and get on with what’s provided it. You
give society a name like, er, Society, and in no time at all Society has become
a playground for the ungrateful. Who puts a roof over Society’s heads does
Society think? No, no, it’s given them on a plate, the whole shebang. Where was
I? That’s right. And it produces the likes of you.’

‘Delilah made a move for the egg.

‘No, it’s mine. My egg I say!’

Delilah grabbed the egg from the plate.

‘Take that!’ Officer JJ Jeffery stabbed his fork at
Delilah’s fingernail-less finger. She gulped – and grabbed his cup of tea,
risking all the floors the System had to offer for a drink of something, not
that she would have, had she known.

‘And this is what Society gives back. This!’ The
officer turned to the camera and held out both hands, giving it Delilah. ‘Hold
her hand down. Here, help me, you morons. Over here.’ Some assistants rushed
along. ‘Bring in the prop fork. Here, give it here. What are you waiting for?
Not to him,
me
. What would he do with the prop fork, you idle fool, he
is the only the grip. Do I have to do everything myself? If I must. Oh if I
must.’ Officer JJ Jeffrey yanked the prop fork out of the assistant’s hand and
attached it to Delilah’s finger – a fork designed to look like a fork
stabbed into her finger but actually a fork attached by a ring of
blood-disguised metal, which the officer clamped very tightly, so that when
Delilah tried removing it she only caused her finger great pain, and she
quickly realised she was stuck with the prop fork on the end of her maltreated
finger for the foreseeable future. But she’d managed to steal some tea and that
was the important thing, and other than the fork abuse had suffered no direct
consequences yet.

The officer clarified what the film was about. ‘As you
know from the script, the first scene is about a girl who has had her Life
stolen on the way up an escalator. By a mugger, we thought. Do you think you
can manage that?’

‘Of course I can manage that.’ Delilah held out her
hands, and popped her eyes in disbelief. ‘That is exactly what happened to me.’

‘Do not lie, idiot girl. This could never really
happen. This is disinformation. My word, we were up for days, my colleagues and
I, nights, thinking up an example that could never happen but we could use for
our little film. How else could we frighten the populous, or should I say
Society, into behaving? Upstairs has been onto me for months about it. And the
Center of Disinformation onto them in turn. And what did we do? We magicked it
out thin air. Just like that. Happened to
you
indeed!’

‘But officer, I am not lying,’ said Delilah, not ready
to give up yet.

‘Pah. It’s no wonder that you’ve spent time in the
System, with such an imagination. You just say your lines, girlie. Get them
wrong and each time you do, you’ll get a floor. Is this understood? I certainly
hope so, for all our sakes, not least of all mine, my sake especially, the most
important sake of all round here. Now get on with it. I have terrible colic
from all these eggs I eat and must get to a toilet soon. Speak, damn you,
speak.’

It just so happened that Delilah knew all the words to
this scene. She stood in front of the background and acted it out, prompted not
by a prompter but by her own clear and accurate memory. And this was how was
down here on floor 100 when the Authority put together another of their, or
its, disinformation bulletins for the Center.

‘And now,’ said JJ Jeffery, ‘scene two. This is about
how the girl is left stranded – because she has lost her Life. We, that’s
my colleagues and I again, we are especially pleased with what we came up with
here. Would you like to hear? Did your agent get scene two to you in the end.
Only we were worried because he was locked up with some writers in 149 and what
with all the injections he’d had in his tongue we could not make head nor tail
of what he told us – the stupid mumbling nincompoop. Anyway, the girl cannot
get into her housing unit and finds herself in a deserted tract. Here she beds
down for the night – but is happened upon by a wayward bunch, a most
unsavoury gang, who are thankfully more threat than action. You will not
believe what transpires next. And I would not want to put you through it. Well,
I would, but I won’t. Suffice to say she finds herself nearly two days later
shooting out of a hole in System floor 101-stroke-100 into the company of an
officer – where, if you please, she tries stealing an egg, and the
officer, an eminent officer at that, with many years distinguished service, and
greatly decorated, even being awarded a medal for his modesty, which he has
never mentioned to anyone and never will, is left with no option but to counter
this feisty food thief with a quick stab of his fork to her felonious finger. I
admit that at this point we, my colleagues and I, well we were stumped. We
could not think where to take the disinformation bulletin next. We’d hit a
brick wall, so to speak. All we could think of was she winds up in a useless
old towel, but you’re wearing that. No, endings are not our forte, apparently.
I can only hope that what we do have cuts the mustard with Upstairs. Otherwise
it’s my head for the chopping block, so to speak again. What do you think? I am
interested in your opinion.’

Delilah opened her mouth to speak. She knew it
unlikely she’d get any words out. She was correct. The officer said, ‘Anyway,
for you the future is not so rosy, needless to say.’

‘There was a call, sir.’

‘Who said that?’ The officer spun round. ‘Do not
interrupt me. Take that officer away and shower him.’

‘Perhaps you should hear this, sir,’ said another
officer in inside-out uniform, a subordinate like the first.

‘Damn this insurrection. Very well, speak. Make is
snappy, I’m dying to go.’ JJ Jeffrey squeezed his knees together.

‘There was a man,’ repeated the first man, ‘who came
into the Floor 0, into Authority Welcome. And the man asked after the prisoner
here’ – the officer indicated Delilah – ‘and expressed an interest in
posting her bail.’

‘A man. Who is this man?’

Having no one out there, Delilah was also keen to
discover who this man was. She had not banked on a saviour. In her heart leapt
a keen hope. And time and hunger recalibrated themselves, in anticipation of
her release, in anticipation of their return to normality. She felt hunger’s
strong tugs and time’s aching measurements. She thought about getting out of
here, out of the System, and she could barely bear it, the soaring hope of freedom.

‘The man is a Nothing, sir. That is to say, we have
nothing on him. Only that he has associated in the past with a small-time
pickpocket. But this small-time pickpocket is too old for pickpocketing now, so
I wouldn’t worry about that.’


I’ll
decide whether to worry about that.’
Officer JJ Jeffrey drifted into a kind of trance or reverie. Whilst taken, he
mindlessly twiddled the fork attached to Delilah’s finger, as if for
inspiration – causing her great discomfort. Upon return he said, ‘I’ve
decided. It was easy. I ran it through my mind. Weighed up the pros and cons.
When the answer came I knew I had it. I’m not a man given to foggy thought. I
am like the law in that respect, I know my own mind. While the law might not
know its own law, it does, unequivocally, know its own mind. I’ve decided
no
.
We can’t just let her go, just like that. She’s not ready yet. Not at all. It
is out of the question. Not that there ever really was a question.’

‘And she stole your egg, sir.’

‘That she did. If you had mentioned that at the
beginning, there would have been no need for me to waste time deciding.’

‘She had away with your cup of tea, too, sir.’


No
? That I did not notice at all. Who can this
man in Authority Welcome possibly think he is, attempting to bail such a
recidivistic and dangerous criminal.’

Delilah wondered this too. She wondered also why this
person wanted to bail her. This
why
was bigger than that
who
. But
biggest of all was the
when
 – the
when
that went with the
When
will I get out of here?

JJ Jeffrey said, ‘That’s it then. I’m going to the
toilet. You. Yes, you, you edit the film. No,
you
do it, I do not like
the look of you’s face. It is like an inside-out vegetable. Then show it to the
audience of ten, don’t give into their demands of popcorn, and then send them
along to the Center of Disinformation to chat about what the film was about.
Tell them to pass on its key points as best they can.’ He rubbed his hands. He
clapped them. ‘When all this gets back to Upstairs in a few weeks or so, I
should be looking at another promotion, and the Decorating Officer will come
looking for me. I’ll certainly deserve it. Am I still here …?’

And then he was gone.

‘What should we do with her now?’ the one subordinate
officer asked the other. Both resembled each other and Delilah had trouble
telling them apart.

‘It wasn’t made clear, was it,’ said the other. ‘I
could not interpret Officer Jeffrey’s expression at all. I failed all my
expression-reading tests in the Academy.’

‘I shouldn’t worry about that. I passed mine, every
single one of them, with flying colours, and still couldn’t decipher Officer
Jeffrey’s expression. It is a special ability he must have, something we can
but aspire to. You can see what separates the top officers from the merely
mediocre, like us.’

Delilah spoke up, ‘He was just desperate to get to the
toilet, that’s all.’

‘Quiet.’

‘Quiet!’

‘So what should we do with her?’

‘We could feed her?’

Delilah’s heart gave another of its leaps. But this,
she thought, I must learn to control. I mustn’t get my hopes up. But it’s hard,
not to
want
.

‘What, food? Do you think so? Let’s have a look, see
if any instructions were left. Lift up that chair, look underneath. I’ll do the
table.’

‘Mind you check under that plate too.’

‘And in the teapot.’

‘There’s a bag in it.’

‘What kind of bag?’

‘This kind. Do you think it’s a clue?’

‘Do clues usually drip brown liquid over tables?’

‘You’re right. I don’t think it’s a clue. But I do think
it would be allowable for us to give to the prisoner.’

‘But what would she do with it?’

‘I thought she could eat it.’

‘What a splendid idea. She could have it with some
eggshells. I know where there are eggshells, lots of them.’

‘Well that’s that problem sorted.’

‘We make quite a team, you and I. We should open a
restaurant.’

The two officers shook hands. Delilah settled down to
her breakfast. Or was it her tea, or supper, or lunch? She didn’t know. She had
no idea. All she knew was that what she ate was the
worst meal in the world
.
And as she ate it the prop fork wobbled around painfully and very annoyingly.
The shell texture gave her the shivers, bits of it sneaked up into her gums,
wedging in the hole from which her broken tooth had finally been extracted by
the intricate dentistry of the water jets in the shower unit. And the tea
leaves – she ate them, and even wolfed down their paper. But still it was
the
worst meal in the world
.

‘Cut!’ shouted somebody, and everyone but the two
similar-looking officers scurried out of the room, dragging with them their
equipment, screeching it along the metal floor, onto which Delilah now fell,
exhausted, banging her chin on its hard metal, knocking herself out.

BOOK: Bang
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