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'La Dolce Vita' a novel by Guy Martyr 14

La Dolce Vita instalment 14 of 20.

Chapter 12.

The journey north, as far as Doncaster, could be made fairly easily by carriage on auto. Horatio noticed gradually more people, as the carriage-way approached its conclusion, walking, also northwards. They seemed listless, weighted with bags and lack of motivation, a gathering, listless tide. It was highly unusual to see anyone walking beside a carriage-way, walking itself being fairly unusual. Walking to get anywhere was unheard of.

By the time he got to Doncaster, the way was clogged; the town seemed to be in chaos. Official types martialled walkers and carriage riders: carriages, whose occupants intended to proceed further, were directed to 'terminus parking' sites.

"Can I proceed on manual?" asked Horatio of one of the wardens, hopefully, but hopelessly flashing his Official Instruction.

"Sorry sir, foot or drone only from here north" and adding ominously "Sector 15? Well, good luck with that one, sir" with what Horatio detected as sympathy. Horatio left his carriage in a huge park full of discarded carriages, and followed the throng to a busy high street lined with lorries.

"Where are you going?" he asked his nearest neighbour in the crowd.

"North! Deported . . . " was the only reply, and, yes, Horatio could see the look, the type: somewhat ragged, unkempt, un-focussed.

"Deported" came a second reply.

So many, thought Horatio, looking round. "Where are you going


"Just north."

"Have you been allocated a . . . dwelling, a place, a town? . . . "

"You have to go north; it's on the Official Instruction; get your ticket stamped."

"Ticket? Stamped?"

Horatio was mindlessly climbing into the back of a military-looking canvas-backed lorry, with his new-found companions: but no warriors these; a collection of old men and women, or haggard-looking younger ones, a few children. The truck jolted, and drove off.

"I'm trying to get to York" said Horatio, to anyone.

Here he was again, in the back of a truck, going - where? - staring out the back at the flat lands of Yorkshire. The noise of the vehicle made talking pointless, so Horatio learned nothing more of his companions beyond their appearance: dark shapes slumped forward or back, wearied by the arduous voyage adumbrated in their dusty shoes.

The lorry stopped; "York!" was shouted; Horatio looked up. "York?" he said hopefully, to . . . anyone, but no one moved. "Am I the only one getting out here?" received disinterested stares. "We aren't allowed into York, man. Don't you know?" and a Paper was thrust at him. He caught its heading: 'DEPORTATION ORDER'. The pointer's finger now scribbled at the paper's nether regions: Places of permitted access . . . Places of denied access, which latter included York - an 'Outpost of London'. See? "Oh," said Horatio, "I didn't know . . . " "Have you got a pass to get in to York?" asked another of the travellers with what Horatio denoted as a touch of resentment, but Horatio did not stay to answer.

He encountered a short queue at a gate in a tall wire fence - a barrier crossing the road and stretching away across land as far as you could see, left and right. Quite a nice fence, thought Horatio, looking at the quality of the poles and the neatness of the joins, until he felt the absurdity of his aesthetic apprehension. Ahead, a dusty-shoed soul was being turned away: the guard was not unduly fierce, just matter of fact, administrative, not unconcerned either, merely carrying out his duties, fulfilling his contract. The traveller retreated faintly, looking round for a straw to grasp; she noticed Horatio's accepted status, and looked towards him pleadingly. "Take me in with you; you can, on your Order" and as she spoke she pulled open the shoulder of her coat and dress in a gesture of offering even the bemused Horatio could not fail to understand. But he did not respond and she was led back to a lorry which lingered as if knowingly.

Another lost soul was being fished out of a ditch. "That's no good. You wouldn't get across at night either - it's electrified" explained the guard.

Horatio's Orders had granted him smooth access to York - he was driven indeed to the Area Commander's residence in an official carriage - very nice. And a very nice residence it was, too: a large, old, neo-classical town house. Horatio half expected Jack Wylie to answer the door, but it was answered by a smartly dressed, middle aged man. "Lieutenant Smith."

"Come in" said the man requiring no further explanation. He showed Horatio into a splendid hall.

"Are you the Area Commander?"

"No, I am." A tall, young-middle-aged woman who entered the hall answered Horatio's question. "Catherine Stanby." A perfunctory hand was offered. "Thank you, Masters." "Yes, madam." The man disappeared. The hand continued its movement to indicate a brown file on the table in the middle of the hall: "You'll need to read your brief" - the hand continued its arc to indicate an upholstered leather chair. "We'll talk later." And she swept out, thin, busy, aloof.

Horatio was all alone, in that beautiful hall; he gazed around at the pilasters, the stucco, the gilding, the wonderful joinery of the doors and architraves; he took in the proportions, the airy height, the fall of light, and he noticed the painted depictions . . . isn't that one

by . . . Peter Rubens? Horatio approached the depiction of peasant figures cavorting in the wild natural landscape - yes, 'Rubens', as confirmed by the sign on the frame. Horatio was astonished to find himself so engaged at the way the man expressed an apparently limitless fecundity, and unfeasible mastery over the un-ordered, unkempt land.

But Horatio was tired; Rubens can wait. He sat with his file - a curious, old fashioned thing, made out of thick, brown paper-like stuff, containing printed sheets - some even sported hand writing! The title: 'Building and Subversion'. Intriguing!

'Executive Summary

Progress in the Building-and-Economy nexus, vital for the stimulation of economic activity over the next decade, is currently seriously hampered by acts of sabotage, both of an overtly military nature, and in the form of deliberate worker negligence.

Military and security steps are actively being taken against subversive, terrorist groups.

Of significant support in the quest for economic stimulation is the assistance being rendered to the programme of re-location of economically under-active citizens by the Transitional Habitation Programme . . . ' So! remarked Horatio, reading on with renewed interest '. . . Domination of loose, or non-conforming thinking and actions must continue through programmes of construction, and organisation of the natural resource . . . ' the trees, the open land, assumed Horatio. He read on; he felt he was being initiated into a secret society; every veneer was being lifted '. . . the state of 'war' or 'war-precursion' must continue in order to assist harmonising exigencies . . . ' beginning now to flick through

'. . . the design of environments to maximise efficiency, and facilitate cleansing operations . . . ' The tone was the same throughout. It had been written, it had to be admitted, with a certain style, the like of which . . . yes! . . . Horatio chuckled ruefully to himself upon encountering its authorship: Jack Wylie!

But Horatio could read no longer; he fell asleep in that rather comfortable chair, in those comfortable surroundings, the log fire toasting his toes. He woke up with a start, not knowing where he was, and heard voices: an outbreak of laughter from a woman, a man's voice sounding jovial. The woman: the Area Commander remembered Horatio, what was her name? And the other . . . it can't be . . . Jack Wylie! upon which the very pair walked in.

"You're awake. Good. Have you read the report?" asked in her brisk manner.

"Yes, no . . . I got the gist . . . "

Jack was smiling hallo to Horatio as they spoke, though as yet Horatio was not smiling back.

"We're sending you on something of a mission, Horatio. You probably got a taste of it on the way up here - we thought it would be good experience for you to see what we're up against" he added. Horatio was only half awake: "Er, yes . . . " he managed. Another mission? "The camps up here have been getting rather, er, unruly . . . "

Now her: "Inmates, citizens, don't seem to want to stay in them."

Jack: "Yes, they keep absconding . . . running off to 'the

woods' . . . "

"Back South . . . where, of course, they are not allowed" the double act continued.

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