The Jigsaw Floor – chapter 6

She floated there for a few seconds, defying gravity as well as the empirical laws of human mortality.

Ander’s eyes followed her as she danced across the room, almost leaving his field of vision, teasing him even in death, and then back. It was as her image crossed from the wall to the ceiling that it lost its three dimensional integrity, started to waver like a mirage in the dessert. Which, after all, was what it was. A dying man’s last glimpse of what had sustained him in life.

The door burst open, its rims ringing out upon hitting the wall of the cell.
‘What the hell is going on here?’

Two young policemen lifted old Harper up off the ground.
‘I told you to take it easy on them. They’re old. They’re not like the others you’ve brought down here. They lose it a lot more easily.’

Harper’s shaking arms were quickly pinned to the far wall, held there by far stronger limbs. He offered no resistance, and instead looked across at the man giving the orders, a well-trimmed thirty-year-old wearing a shirt and tie, like they used to in the old days.

‘Like a crayon drawing,’ Anders said, his vocal chords barely managing to form the words at all, ‘on the walls. The colours running out, under the lines.’

‘I told you,’ said the young man, ‘they’re not used to sudden change. You have to be gentle’. He bent down and looked kindly into Ander’s flooded and bloodshot eyes.
‘I’m sorry. Mr Anders, isn’t it? This will all be okay.’

Then the young man looked at Harper, still gently. ‘And Mr Harper. I apologise for any unpleasantness you have experienced since you arrived.’ He sat down, removed the creases from his trousers and began.
‘Our function here is to collect anyone who has witnessed something which could call into question the illusion of the Jigsaw Floor. And remove them from Society Above. I believe that this description can be applied to both of you.’

Harper said nothing.
Anders continued to croak.
‘Her arms, her beautiful arms. She’s calling me. Asking me to go with her. Ha! Fuck you, Harper. It’s me she wants.’

‘We really mean you no harm, Mr Harper, Mr Anders.’
‘Then why are you holding us in a cell?’ Harper growled.
‘Merely an intermediary step in locating you more permanent lodgings. I had thought I’d find you something where you could co-habit. Judging by Mr Ander’s current physical condition, that might not be the best of ideas.’
‘Where are we?’
‘Beneath the Floor, Mr Harper. Simply, beneath The Floor.’
‘In the graveyard?’
‘Ah. You saw the graveyard? Yes, that is one part of our subterranean world, but not the whole story. Like the three blind monks encountering an elephant for the very first time, you’ve merely groped at the leg and think that that describes the whole animal. As I’m sure you will have guessed, that is where we keep those killed by the bombs, by the war. And anyone who dies beneath the Floor is also buried there.’

‘Why? Why are you hidden? Why is all of this such a big secret?’
‘Again, the explanation is simple, Mr Harper. Come with me and I’ll explain.’

The two policemen relaxed their hold on the old man, allowing him to stand. He walked over to where Anders was lying, staring at something that wasn’t there.

‘I’m sorry Anders. I’m sorry.’
‘She loves me, she says she always has.’

The young man shook his head sadly.
‘I told you to be gentle with them. The old have seen so much, and are so fragile.’

Harper gulped hard, regret constricting his mouth into a shrunken, lipless shape.
The small muscles around the lenses of Ander’s eyeballs completely relaxed, his focus released.
‘Always has.’

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David Baillie is a freelance writer and artist. Born almost thirty years ago in Scotland, he now lives and works in the East End of London.

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