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Over the next few days it became increasingly obvious that the damage caused to Yentzi when he had fallen out of the air-buggy was severe and irreversible. He was now paralysed from the neck down, and couldn't do anything for himself. To a man as refined and private as Yentzi this was the ultimate in humiliation. Hillyard had given him the use of his new bed, and the others were more than attentive, but Yentzi raged inwardly at his plight. He felt like a man in a catatonic trance, outwardly dead but inwardly very much alive.
"I'm sorry if Lonts has been hassling you", said Adam, after coming into the hut one afternoon to find the boy standing and staring at Yentzi. Adam had chased him out.
"He's alright", said Yentzi "I think he's rather fascinated by me".
"He's quite safe", said Adam "I mean, he's not dangerous at all".
"I had gathered that, Adam", Yentzi smiled, wryly.
"Ransey told me about the hospitals being closed down. But perhaps that's not the case everywhere. If we could fix the air-buggy we might be able to still get you to a doctor. Somewhere".
"It's hopeless, Adam. I doubt if even a doctor could sort me out anyway. Look at my hands lying on my chest. They're dead. I can't move them".
"You're alive, that's the main thing".
"That matter-of-fact attitude doesn't suit you, Adam. You don't believe in that anymore than I do".
"You have to give yourself time to adjust".
"Adjust? Adjust to what?" Yentzi exclaimed, and then calmed himself again "Anyway, let's talk about practical matters. Did you get the supplies I brought with me out of the air-buggy?"
"Yes", said Adam "I couldn't help noticing the cigars".
"I thought you'd be pleased with those. There's a couple of bottles of rum too, although I know that's not your thing. And chocolate. And toilet paper. I thought you'd particularly need that. W-Why are you laughing?"
"I'm sorry, Yentzi", Adam giggled "But the idea of loo paper being a necessity! For so long now we've made do with wiping our arses on the fern leaves. It means you can always tell who's got diarrhoea by the green stains on his cheeks. Oh dear. I seem to have startled you. I'm afraid my ways were always a bit too crude for you. A diamond is only as good as it's setting, they say".
"One cannot afford to be too prim when one pees oneself in one's sleep", said Yentzi.
"We all appreciate the supplies anyway. Soft loo paper will be a luxury, although I'd better hide it away in case Ransey pinches it to write on. Now, is there anything I can get you, or do for you?"
"A blow-job?" said Yentzi "Don't bother. I doubt I'd feel anything if you did!"
His skin began to crack and blister. However clean the others tried to keep him he still got sore and uncomfortable. From the bed he could glimpse the sea through the open doorway of the hut. It glistened invitingly in the sunshine. Sometimes he heard splashes and screams as the others bathed in the surf. Such times were unbearable. At night, with the lamps lit in the hut, and everyone talking or snoring around him, he did find some modicum of peace. Only for it to be destroyed completely when he tried to turn over by himself, or rearrange his own pillow. His body vehemently refused to obey him, however much he exerted himself mentally. It was a nightmare.
The others were going coconut-collecting this morning. This involved using long bamboo sticks to knock the coconuts from the uppermost branches of the trees. Lonts had been sent into the hut to fetch the sticks from under the table. It was then that Yentzi seized his chance. He called the boy over to his bedside.
"Will you do me a very big favour?" said Yentzi.
"Well what?" said Lonts, looking wide-eyed and confused.
"You think I'm evil!" Lonts exclaimed "You do don't you? Or you wouldn't ask me. Well I'm not, I don't know where you heard that. And don't tell Adam you think I am, or he'll think I've done something wrong and he'll punish me".
"I'm sorry, Lonts", Yentzi protested as strongly as he could "I should never have asked you. I don't know what on earth I was thinking of. Please don't upset yourself".
"Come on!" Joby yelled, storming into the hut "We're waiting for those sticks, Lonts. You haven't even picked them up yet. I don't know what we keep you around here for sometimes. You're fucking useless. All you do is ponce around in your nightie all day".
"Yentzi just asked me to do something really weird".
"Was there something you needed, Yentzi?" said Joby, thinking that he really required the piss-pot and Lonts had probably got his wires crossed.
"No. No really. You carry on with your activities".
After they had gone Yentzi lay in torment. He tried to think of reasons to persuade himself to live. Reasons such as he was no longer in the City, stuck in a dreary office working for a man he hated. He was near Adam. He saw him everyday. But that was worse than anything else. To see that magnificent body at close quarters and not be able to do anything. Gabriel would have been hard pushed to have thought of any punishment worse.
All afternoon he lay listening to the shouts and laughter in the distance. He had come to fetch Kieran back, in order to save everyone from Gabriel. And in so doing he had destroyed himself. He couldn't help but notice that Adam went to very great lengths to make sure Kieran was never alone in the hut with Yentzi. This was so that Yentzi wouldn't start persuading him to go to the City. Adam was protecting Kieran and distrusting Yentzi, and that upset him.
Yentzi crapped himself and then had to endure Hillyard cleaning him up, and putting a clean "nappy" round him, which was made up of an old sheet torn into squares for this purpose.
"Which unfortunate person gets to wash these?" said Yentzi, as the clean cotton was fastened around him.
"We take it in turns", said Hillyard "Don't worry about it. We've all had diarrhoea at times. You can't always avoid it".
A loud scream went up from directly outside the door.
"You stupid little tart!" Joby cried "What did you think you were doing?"
"That was Lonts screaming", said Hillyard "Joby! What's going on?"
Joby appeared in the doorway, looking flushed and angry.
"Your precious little Lonts has just smashed those ducks eggs I'd put by for our tea", he said "He did it on purpose. Wanking on about how they had a right to live, stupid little git".
"I don't know what's the matter with him today", Hillyard sighed "He hasn't been right all afternoon. Told me earlier that I shouldn't go fishing anymore as it was murder. Perhaps he's a bit overwrought, delayed reaction after all the excitement of the air-buggy crash-landing".
"Stop making excuses for him, Hillyard", said Joby "You wait 'til Adam hears about this!"
"Joby's too hard on him sometimes", Hillyard muttered, after Joby had gone back outside. He could now be heard lecturing a sobbing Lonts about wasting food.
"I think I might have unsettled him", said Yentzi "Lonts, I mean. I did a rather foolish thing".
"It doesn't matter", said Hillyard, bundling the soiled nappy into a bucket of water "I'll get this sorted out. Oh well, looks like it'll be mashed potato for tea again. How bloody exciting. I'm definitely going to see if I can trap a couple of rabbits tomorrow".
Yentzi lay there after he'd gone, feeling more frustrated than ever. Being an invalid meant nobody even wanted to listen when you wished to own up to something. He lay on the bed quietly fuming with himself over his own thoughtlessness towards a boy who was mentally confused.
Adam came into the hut a short while later leading a sobbing Lonts by the hand. The boy was led across the room and divested of his nightshirt before being ordered into bed.
"I might relent and bring you some supper in a little while", said Adam, sternly "Then again I might not. We were all looking forward to those eggs tonight. Now get in there and lie quietly for a little while".
"Adam", Yentzi called him over "I hope you weren't too hard on the boy".
"Oh not really", said Adam, sitting down on the bed next to him "Just a couple of light smacks on the butt to show my displeasure. We've gradually evolved a scale of punishment between us, and that was definitely at the lighter end. If he's really naughty I put him across my knee and whack him with my steel ruler".
"You'd have made a wonderful Elder".
"Don't you start! I get teased enough on that score from Patsy and Joby. I don't know how I got selected as discipline officer, it's not a job I'd have chosen. But unfortunately I'm the only one Lonts is really afraid of".
"I thought he seemed rather attached to you actually".
"He's alright. Doesn't stop him screaming the place down when I have to spank him properly. We often have a cuddle afterwards though, so I can't be a complete sadist. Now you're laughing at me".
"Not at all. As I said I think you would make a very good Elder in a camp".
"Hardly. Not exactly a great role-model for the young am I? Ex-boozer with a filthy temper, and until we crossed over I'd never had an adult relationship that wasn't sexual. Lonts is good for me in that sense. I have to take care of someone who I don't intend going to bed with".
"You've got that relationship with me now too", said Yentzi, bitterly.
"There is nothing I can say to that, Yentzi", Adam stood up "So I'll go and get you some food instead".
Joby and Kieran had fully inspected the air-buggy, and detached the central key-card from the control panel. They intended to take it back for Ransey to work on. On the way back to the hut they stopped for a while at the waterfall.
"You're intending to go back aren't you?" said Joby, as they sat on the bank overlooking the cascade "To the City, I mean".
"Do I have a choice now?" said Kieran "When Yentzi's broken his spine to get me there".
"I don't wanna sound harsh but nobody asked him to come out here".
"No, but fate must have a good reason as to why he did. Oh Joby!" Kieran wrapped his arms round his friend "I don't want to go. I love it here. But perhaps it was always too good to last".
"We're safe here though", Joby protested.
"Yes, but I don't know for how much longer. Those dreams I've been having about Gabriel have been getting more vivid lately. It must mean something. They're awful, Jobe. In them he's wearing someone else's skin, moving around in it as though it's an overcoat".
"They're just dreams. Kiery, if we go back anything could happen. You could be killed. The rest of us could be killed, or locked up. How can you be sure none of that would happen, eh?"
"I'll go on me own", said Kieran "Yentzi could give me full instructions on how to operate that thing. We can't move him anyway, so you lot can stay behind and look after him, and Lonts, and I'll send for you when it's safe".
"That's got to be the stupidest idea you've ever had".
"It wasn't very good was it?" Kieran sighed "But I just want to take care of you, Joby".
"Oh shut up and give us a kiss".
They lay in each other's arms for some while until Kieran began muttering vaguely about getting back to the hut. Joby agreed reluctantly, and sat up.
"Are you alright?" said Kieran, a short while later "You've been staring into space for ages".
"I thought I saw something", said Joby "In the cave beyond the waterfall. It looked like a little monkey-type figure".
"Perhaps it was".
"Have you ever seen any monkeys on this island in all the time we've been here?"
"It's not there now".
"No. I expect I imagined it. Could have been a trick of the light against the water. It was sort of hairy and white, and crouched down".
"We can go and look if you like".
"No", Joby shivered "Let's get back. Whatever it was I don't feel like chasing it".
"You're right", said Kieran "I've got a strange feeling about this place. Come to think of it, I always have had. I've never much liked coming out this way".
"Do you think it's haunted?"
"I don't know, but there's something peculiar about it", said Kieran "That's probably why no one's ever suggested exploring those caves. Quite unusual for us, we normally go poking around everywhere. God, you're shivering like crazy, Joby. Come on, I'm taking you back".
"It was seeing that thing", said Joby "Hark at me! I'm carrying on like Lonts. Even if it was real it was only a peculiar little animal of some kind. If it was really dangerous they might have tried attacking us by now".
"Certainly weird that we've never come across any trace of 'em before. I expect you just saw a ghost, what do you think of that?"
"Great", said Joby, sarcastically "Makes me feel a lot better".
In the City Gabriel had ordered the building of a maze of tunnels beneath the Ministry Headquarters. He gave no reason for this bizarre request, and no one questioned him about it. In fact, most of the staff got the distinct impression that it would not be in their best interests to mention it at all. The plans were confidential and made no sense, as the tunnels didn't lead anywhere, but merely flocked around each other to form a very intricate maze.
A shaft leading down to this labyrinth was to run from Gabriel's office. Whilst the works for this were in progress Gabriel moved his desk down to the entrance foyer of the building. There he sat, demanding ledgers and files, and looking distinctly off-putting. Not only was his general appearance running to seed, but there was a marked odour about him that could only be described as reminiscent of the worst kind of sewer. It certainly wasn't a pleasure to do business with him.
Whilst he was preoccupied with the tunnel-building though, it at least eased the "reforms" in the City. There had been demonstrations in the streets against his closure of the hospitals. He had ignored the first set of demo's, believing them to be the work of militant agitators, and the people would soon get tired of listening to them. The demo's had renewed again a short time later with renewed vigour. This time the demo was so large that even Gabriel couldn't dismiss the people as cranks. Instead he sent out his elite force to open fire on them. The City was so shocked by this wanton sacking that the dead lay unburied in the streets for several days. Gabriel was hurt and wounded by the demo, unable to believe that his people could mistrust his motives so entirely. He wanted to go out onto the balcony and tell them that he cared only for their welfare. Fortunately for him, he listened to his advisors on this occasion when they cautioned him that this wouldn't be wise.
The first snows of the winter arrived a month before Yule. They coincided with a large meeting Gabriel had organised, to which all the Constables of each province were invited, to discuss the effect of the reforms on their particular manor. From Port West, Marlsblad, Lixix, Husgalonghi, the seven cantonments that belonged to the City, and various other regions the men came. They arrived in a city already in the grip of winter. It was noticeable that there were far more of the sick and poor on the streets than usual. Many of whom froze to death in the doorways and under the bridges. And yet when the Constables arrived for their first meeting Gabriel would only discuss the skating at the frost fair. He believed he was befriending them, acting sociable. They believed at best that he was living in a world of his own, or at worst was completely callous towards his people's suffering.
The highlight of the visit was to be a glittering state banquet on the last evening of business. Gabriel had had high hopes for this occasion, knowing that every detail of it would be reported in the papers the following day. He had intended to walk in at the head of the Constables, and stride the length of the banqueting-table. That day though he felt so weak that he had had to be seated in his place before the festivities officially began. His humiliation was compounded when he had difficulty eating his food, and repeatedly dropped his cutlery. He was fully aware of some of the significant looks that were being exchanged surreptitiously up and down the table.
The following day the press mischievously concentrated on Gabriel's lavish hospitality, emphasising the variety and splendour of the food that had been available. That afternoon a window was smashed at the front of the lobby at the Headquarters. Through it someone hurled the corpse of an emaciated dog. The word "HUNGER" was scorched out of its bedraggled fur.
Shaken and outraged, Gabriel retreated to his private quarters and announced that he wouldn't leave them until the tunnels were finished.
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