Tuesday, 17 February 2015



The Interview


The smell within the foundry, was it even more sickening and intense? Stefan had read of nosegays and Newgate Prison, the stench of the great unwashed but at least they weren’t being cooked. The grey man escorted the librarian through a maze of unfamiliar corridors. Evidently the meeting was not going to be held in the usual room. Stefan was struck by a minor revelation: throughout their years together the grey man had always known what they’d be doing and where they’d be going; he’d allowed himself to be blindly led and now he felt foolish.


Doctor Gingras sat beside the Secretary of Heritage. The Overlord’s cabinet minister wore a mournful, hangdog expression. He motioned for Stefan to take the lone chair across the table from them. As he sat he realized it was slightly lower than each of theirs. To see eye to eye he’d have to look up. As he relaxed his weight onto the seat he realized too that one of its four legs was shorter than the other three. He could shift yet never get quite comfortable. Subtle. The grey man hovered somewhere behind him, outside of his peripheral vision.


‘Oh, Stefan,’ sighed the Secretary, ‘my dear, dear colleague, oh, Stefan.’


‘A pleasure to see both of you gentlemen again,’ Stefan replied. He swallowed. ‘If we’re to dispense with formalities, I’m given to understand that we’re experiencing some production problems with regard to the Mall of Heroes?’


The Secretary said, ‘Surely you’d agree that the best way to rehabilitate a criminal is to transform him into a hero?’




The Secretary produced a copy of the Nation’s Eye which he’d been concealing on his lap. The paper was folded to the classifieds. He laid it on the table. ‘Stefan,’ he said, ‘it’s not wise to publish secret messages where everyone can read them.’


‘I’m not sure I understand, sir.’


‘Oh, Stefan, are you really wanting a companion, a sexual toy?’


‘Come now, Mister Secretary, we’re both men of the world.’


‘We are. And we both understand that truth is entirely subjective, don’t we? I have the means at hand to make you tell me the truth. Of course, I can utilize these same means to make you say anything I want to hear and that too would be a form of truth.’


‘If I may interject,’ Doctor Gingras said. ‘The spoilage issue has been, admittedly, problematic. We’ve also found that some of our models can survive a day or more within their castings. The experience is not pleasant.’


The Secretary of Heritage shrugged. ‘You’ve been betrayed, Stefan. Your wife? Your son? One of our agents in the press or the Underground? It’s difficult to know. So many redacted documents cross my desk daily,’ the Secretary sighed sadly. ‘So many.’


The librarian shifted and felt his chair rock and totter. ‘This is all a mistake, Mister Secretary.’


‘Not this time. My mistake was involving you in this great public project. My informants indicated you were something of a contrarian, dedicated to your work and relatively harmless. But you’ve proven to be less than compliant. Your actions -’


‘But I’ve done nothing!’


‘Your actions have made my relationship with the Overlord increasingly delicate. The difficult with dissent, Stefan, is that would-be rebels believe the opposition to be a unified bloc. The reality is a cacophony of factions, all with different desires, visions, what have you. Only the Overlord can maintain order and keep the trains running on time. Enemies of the state seem unable to grasp this simple concept.’


Doctor Gingras said to Stefan, ‘Have you heard of a man called Zenodotus?’


‘Of course I have.’ What an odd question. Where was this interview going? ‘Zenodotus was the librarian of Alexandria.’


The Secretary of Heritage stood. He folded the newspaper. He looked down at Stefan. ‘That man deserves a statue, don’t you think?’

(Part nine of 10)

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