was the first aerial dogfight seen and heard high above Prison XXX.
It meant Klaria’s fortunes in the war with neighboring country
Pyrone were changing for the worse. The countries were evenly matched
in the dogfight. Three-three. Two of the enemy craft were shot down.
That victory hardly helped, since for the first sixteen months of the
conflict the daily news had been about Klaria’s victory after
victory on land and air. This dogfight in Klaria’s airspace
signified that the country of Pyrone was far from the imminent defeat
the six o’clock News never failed to trumpet.
sign of changing fortunes was not seriously for the worse, since
Prison XXX was located in a valley within mountains snow-capped all
year-round. Utterly inaccessible except by helicopter. The dogfight
above the prison this midmorning must have been sheer coincidence,
and not that surprising since the prison location was a mere few
miles from the international border with the enemy.
inmates were out in the yard, exercising, when the overhead
entertainment burst upon them. The prisoners didn't know which
aircraft were the enemy; they cheered on all the pilots.
were only four prisoners, two due to be executed within a week.
all the persons in the yard, inmates and guards, and probably
everyone in the Watch Tower, were distracted by the dogfight, a small
helicopter silently appeared rising from behind the prison wall. It
cleared the wall, moved a few feet over the yard, and shot a cable
down, meant, clearly, for someone in the yard to grab.
in the yard, all inmates wore helmets that displayed their prison
numbers at the front.
cable, twisting and flailing as it sped through the air, accidentally
whacked Prisoner 83-91-18 on her helmet. Had she not been wearing the
helmet, the head injury would have been fatal. As it was, all she
suffered was momentary imbalance from the force of the collision.
than by the cable head-encounter, Prisoner 83-91-18 was irked by the
instantaneous instinctual surfacing in her of a birthright habit:
observing the angular positions of objects, relative to
habit created fun moments in the company of casual friends when she
was a child.
her thirteenth birthday, her Mom bought for her from an army surplus
sale, a theodolite. On non-schooldays, she was allowed to use the
theodolite in their backyard to calibrate the angles her position
made with stars, and the moon.
ambition, not yet achieved, was to find two stars with which her
backyard location formed an equilateral triangle. Her parents made a
promise to her. When she eventually found those two stars, the
parents would build in the family home, her very own astronomy room,
glass-domed, with a powerful telescope.
curbed the habit when she grew into the world of adults as she
learned most adults were not, most of the time, receptive to the
utterly irrelevant information she gratuitously declared,
years and years in her teens, she carried a pocket compass which she
would use to calculate the actual angle degrees of relative
she enrolled at the University of Klaria, she was streamed into
Mathematics, not necessarily as a genius, but certainly as a
natural-born mathematics enthusiast.
penchant for three co-ordinates made her ‘born for
trigonometry.’ That Ancient Greek Mathematician, Pythagoras,
would not have been impressed since in his phenomenal fame there was
not an iota of trigonometry acknowledged.
the days of Pythagoras, trigonometry was merely an unnamed
unacknowledged shadow presence ubiquitous in the well-established
branch of Geometry. It would take another two-thousand years after
Pythagoras for trigonometry to be accorded its separate name as an
independent branch of Mathematics. Was there ever anyone before
Prisoner 83-91-18 who in the twenty-first century discerned the
trigonometrical three as the basis of the Pythagorean theory?
the moment in the prison yard, accessing her congenital
trigonometrical quirk, with subliminal speed, she observed that,
relative to the end of the cable, and to the positions of two other
inmates in the yard, her position was one apex of a more-or-less
equilateral triangle with the other two inmates, her location being
the nearest to the cable. This configuration would not have been
possible had the fourth inmate been present.
a previous yard break while she was absent, someone had entered her
cell and written in sand poured out on her stone bed, to be on guard
for her life. That confrontation happened subsequently in a manner
that made her death a certainty had she not been forewarned in sand;
she had killed her assailant, the fourth prisoner.
Prisoner 83-91-81 was not aware of a plan for her escape, she
instantly guessed the dogfight had distracted the planned escapee
enough for them to fail to be positioned accurately.
self-preservation instinct erupted in Prisoner 83-91-81. She made a
dash for the cable.
was thwarted by the earthquake. The first ever in the
seven-hundred-year history of the mountainous country of Klaria.
prison was blown up into the air, and overturned. At the end of those
blasting-off seconds, Prisoner 83-911-81 found herself crashing down
lay still, wedged among branches. She despairingly heard debris all
around her crashing to the ground. When the sounds died away, she
cautiously made her way down the trees. She was aware of painful
parts of her head, but she stoically refused to remove the helmet to
investigate. She decided she would have to accept that, probably, the
helmet was keeping her head bones from falling apart.
recalled the last time she was on the ground it was midmorning. She
guessed that if she had not lost consciousness since then, she must
still be in the same day. She took a few steps and knew she was on
sloping ground. She headed down. A few steps down, she froze!
saw part of a clothed body. She crouched and stayed motionless for
minutes. She crept up to the body. It was headless!
recoiled, and was in a full turn to get away, when two simultaneous
thoughts stopped her. Clothes and identification.
was in prison clothes that had her prison number. She had no
identification documents. She reluctantly crept back.
corpse was dressed in some kind of uniform, and had a wallet with
wallet was easily slipped out of a pocket. A woman! Elizabeth
Sneddon. A straightforward enough name to adopt, thank you. Even
better, no photo identification. Some cash in bank notes. Among the
notes, a piece of paper on which was printed the word Essenwood. The
countless creases indicated the paper had suffered countless
handlings over a long time.
the corpse of clothing was not easily done. It was impossible to
remove the clothing because of the hardened dust and general dirt
covering everywhere. The new Elizabeth Sneddon was about to give up
when she discerned a duffel bag among the leaves of broken branches.
She grabbed it and unzipped it. It contained only a few essential
stripped off some of her convict clothes and changed into duffel
items. She upended the duffel of the rest of its contents, and took
the empty bag with her. She scurried downhill.
became aware of no more head pains. She carefully unstrapped her
helmet, and gingerly probed all over her head with her fingers. She
smiled in relief. She chewed off her prison number on her helmet, and
flung the numberless helmet away as far as she could. She returned to
her downhill spot to rest.
she rested, she heard noises approaching farther down. She cautiously
made her way down. She hid. There was a narrow roadway path running
across the slope.
appeared, moving hurriedly, speaking softly. She listened. They were
fleeing the war! They were from Klaria. She waited until the last of
the dozens passed her. She silently joined the end of the column.
column continued for a while. Somebody at the front passed the word
down that they would have to rest. They stopped, and sat on the
ground. The persons nearest her showed no surprise at her presence.
She sat with them.
elderly woman spoke to her. “Like me, huh? Nothing to eat or
drink.” “Yep. Just jumped up and ran.” “Only
time to grab an empty duffel.” “Uh, yes. Joined the first
group that seemed to know where they were going.” “I hope
we know. Someone up ahead said they have family in a place named
Stoneville.” “Stoneville?” “You know where
that is? I do not.” “It is across the border, I think.”
“It is. In Pyrone,” said a young man. “He said we
will be welcome because we are ordinary folk, not soldiers.”
elderly woman mumbled, “Ordinary folk on the losing side.”
She spoke quietly to Elizabeth.
name’s Yvonne McBride.” “Elizabeth Sneddon.”
“Elizabeth Sneddon? What a coincidence! Long, long ago, I had a
friend named Elizabeth Sneddon. We were born on the same street and
lived there into adulthood. She became a nuclear physicist.”
mouth dried. Was this Yvonne McBride toying with her?
out for Sergeant George L. Neilson up ahead.” “Who is
he?” “He says a Klaria Government agent investigating a
prison breakout. Escaped prisoners, dangerous and on the loose.
Questioned all of us before you joined us.” “What
ahead whispered. “Let us continue. The column moved hastily.
McBride moved closer to Elizabeth, and mumbled softly. “You do
not look army to me. Get rid of the duffel. It is army-issue. Soldier
types are not welcome in Stoneville.” “It's empty.”
“It has the owner’s initials and identification number
army-stamped on the inside.” “Thanks.”
was on full alert for the first opportunity to discard the empty bag.
But, first, she could not resist the curiosity to see if the bag had
the army-issue stamp.
did, 111-GES. General Elizabeth Sneddon? No mystery there. The
wallet identification card said Elizabeth Sneddon. As for the 111-G,
she had seen similar identification codes at her court-martial.
the caps of two of the three presiding army Generals, the same G.
112-GVL and 113-GBN. The third General sat between the two. She was
not wearing her cap. It was on the table in front of her. By
sequential numbering, her cap number could have been 111-GES. The G
being in all the numbers could have meant General. Did that mean that
mountainside corpse 111-GES had been the middle General at the
court-martial table? Blown up with Prison XXX? Why not? There was a
rumour the official in charge of the prison was a female.
some sense that a female in charge would have had the opportunity to
leave t that warning for her in the sand.
especially remembered the cap numbering because the centre General’s
cap not being worn, compromised the formation of an equilateral
triangle by their four positions.
people of Stoneville, Pyrone, were kind. They helped without
conditions. They did not ask questions. Ordinary people helping
ordinary people who knew little about why their elected leaders had
plunged their countries into war.
of the war, there was a serious shortage of general workers in
Stoneville and throughout the country of Pyrone.
was offered a job as a waitress, or as a baggage porter at the
railway depot. Waitressing paid a higher income because she would be
allowed to keep all tips from customers. But she would meet an
unending list of strangers. She did not want to risk that. She took
the baggage porter job.
rented a single-tenant apartment, and was living contentedly for two
months before her past caught up with her.
was on a break with two porter colleagues, Maynard and Eddie, in an
alfresco section of a cafeteria, when a passing pedestrian on his way
to the train station, glanced at her and stopped abruptly, and called
out, “Enid? Enid Bham?” Yvonne froze.
tried but could not turn to look at the caller. He entered the
cafeteria space and came up to her table.
is me. Obed. Trigonometry class at University.” Elizabeth
forced out a reply, barely, looking at him, wide-eyed, “I am
sorry. I am Elizabeth. Elizabeth Sneddon. I have never been to
University.” Obed stared at her in silence for a second or two.
“Oh. I apologize. You look like her. Only one ear pierced on a
challenge from Oliver. Left ear.”
jumped up, addressing her porter colleagues, “Sorry guys. Have
to go. Catch you later.” As she hurried off, she shot a quick
glance at Obed and spoke rapidly, “Sorry to disappoint you,
stood bemused as he stared after her. One of the porters commented,
“That Enid made one mighty impact, huh?” Obed looked at
him, not seeing him. The other porter offered, “Coffee on me,
buddy. Sit. Tell us about Enid.” He signaled a waiter.
made himself comfortable in the seat Elizabeth had vacated. During
his account, the waiter brought the coffee and put it on the table.
Obed thanked him and smiled as he recalled the occasion with Enid in
class at the University.
Trigonometry class project was to choose and track one of the many
NEOs around.” “NEOs?” “Near-Earth Objects
that could collide with us at any moment. We were tracking one we
chose when our Total Station tracking equipment began to falter. We
tried frantically to fix the equipment. We had only seconds before
the NEO would be out of range. If that happened before we fixed our
T.S., we were going to fail the class project.
grabs a mothballed theodolite from a shelf, does things to it through
the years of dust as she mounts it next to the Total Station. In no
time she had it taking up the tracking of the NEO until the NEO
disappeared out of range.
did not get an A for the project, but we passed since, although we
lost seconds of the tracking because of the Total Station
malfunction, Enid’s obsolete theodolite actually eked out extra
seconds at the end of the tracking.”
gulped his coffee. The porters were in awe.
of the porters mused aloud, “Only the left ear pierced, huh?”
“Yes. The gang tried to get her to tell us why only one ear.
She always refused, somewhat coyly. There is a naughty story there,”
he chuckled suggestively.
finished her shift finding extra work to keep her busy away from
colleagues Maynard and Eddie. At home, she wrestled with her
the other ear pierced? Too risky because too many uncertainties. She
would have to wait for days off from work, for the healing.
of all, it would break the covenant with her identical twin sister.
Both had only the left ear pierced.
could start wearing ear rings. It would make her uncomfortable every
minute because she was born with an allergy, probably, against
shrug it off as a coincidence? Surely there are others with only one
brilliant idea exploded into existence. She giggled nervously. She
decided to go with it.
manipulated Maynard and Eddie into joining her at the same cafeteria
table for lunch break at work. She was certain at least one of them
would not be able to resist bringing up Obed for discussion, along
with her left ear. She was right.
was Eddie, the one always more inclined to concocting harmless
mischief in the workplace during worktime.
Eddie. I have never known Obed in my life. The other day here was the
first time I saw him. The fact that he knew about my one pierced ear
means only one thing. He has been taking a stalker’s interest
in me. Which means I am going to need both of you to help me out if
he shows up again.” It worked.
and Eddie assured her they would support her against Obed, if he
showed up again.
was most relieved. She was also sad. Obed had been a most helpful and
fun-loving genius among her sister Enid’s University
science-class mates. There was a brief time Enid confessed to her
twin that she allowed herself to the brink of falling in love with
second frightening blast from her past happened soon after Obed. One
afternoon she walked home after work to find a police cruiser parked
in front of the three-storey high-rise in which she was a tenant on
the third floor. Her heart instantly accelerated. She considered
retreating, but immediately scotched the option as merely postponing
the crisis because there was no hiding from police that she was a
tenant. And, most important, she still was a refugee non-citizen in
entered the building, cautiously. She walked up to the third floor.
She turned into the corridor. The manager and two police officers
were standing at the door to her apartment.
manager instantly announced to the officers, “There she is!
Miss Elizabeth Sneddon!” One officer quickly added, “Miss
Sneddon, you are not in trouble.”
did not help.
manager’s announcement, unwittingly perhaps in triumphant tone,
had already paralyzed Elizabeth into a standstill. The officer
realized this. He quickly added, reassuringly, “Just routine,
Miss Sneddon. We can come back another time, if you prefer.”
She preferred they never come back at any time.
is alright, officer. Now is good, as long as it does not take long. I
am just coming off shift from work.” “We understand. Will
take only minutes.”
the one-bedroom apartment, Elizabeth sat at the kitchen table. The
officers stood. One addressed her while the other casually looked
name Elizabeth Sneddon is fairly common. We counted fifty-four in
Stoneville’s White Pages. We have to check every one.” “I
understand.” “In which country were you born a citizen?”
“This one. Pyrone.” “City?” “Town.
Essenwood.” “Munitions capital of Pyrone. One of the
first municipalities to be bombed out of existence. You were not
there?” “That’s why I am here talking to you,
was mightily relieved that the name Essenwood had jumped up with
instinctive speed in her. A result of recalling both that piece of
paper in the wallet of that corpse, and the many instances of seeing
the name Essenwood written here and there at the train station where
she worked in Stoneville.
a smile in good humour, “Good enough, Elizabeth Sneddon. You
are now off our list. Good night.” “Good night,
closing and locking the door after the officers left, Elizabeth sat
in the dark at the kitchen table. “Sorry, Essenwood, to be
relieved you were bombed out of existence, especially your Registry
of births and deaths, I hope. I have to visit you to familiarize with
the surroundings, just in case the police visit again.”
was on the police radar! To allay suspicions, she dare not leave
Stoneville. If Obed returned, her situation in Stoneville would
become really sticky. Obed did not return. Somebody worse, did.
Sneddon was in the cafeteria, eating in the company of dozens of
strangers, listening to, looking at the 6 o’clock news on the
war is over. The mountain kingdom of Klaria has surrendered. Two
senior military Generals and the Prime Minister have been charged
with treason, the penalty for which is death by hanging. They lied to
their King and Queen about the necessity of war with us, and they
were involved in a clandestine nuclear program.
were secretly conducting underground nuclear explosions in the
mountains close to our border. Something went wrong, and the last of
those tests reached the surface, blowing up a secret maximum security
prison in the mountains, killing all the inmates and the guards.
it was a secret facility run by the military it is still unknown how
many guards and inmates perished. Some are doubting the facility
rumour has it that one of the inmates awaiting execution was a
nuclear scientist who was not involved in the nuclear bomb program
but had independently devised an algorithm to split any atom by a
chemical process, instead of the current electrical method used.
A process that would
be free of poisonous nuclear radiation, and of the need for
detonation. And a cure for any illness by infection or mutation.
scientist had refused to reveal the algorithm to the military and the
Prime Minister. That scientist is believed to have perished along
with all the others.
former Prime Minister of Klaria is withholding the identity of the
scientist, in the hope of a trade for a sentence other than death.
Prime Minister of Pyrone is appealing to that scientist, if she is
alive, to come to Pyrone.
will not be prosecuted for any crime. The people of Earth need your
third army General involved in the illicit nuclear project, the only
female, is missing. She was in charge of the secret mountain prison,
and is believed to have perished with the facility. She will be
tried, in absentia, for treason, along with the other two Generals.
other news, medical doctor-turned-multiple Oscar-winning actress,
Enid Bham, is still missing.
just in. A refugee from Klaria has been arrested in Stoneville for
not having declared to authorities she had been in the army in
Klaria. An army-issue duffel bag was discovered in her possession.
She insists she was never in the army because she was not young
enough when the war broke out, and that she had found the bag in a
garbage heap on a mountain trail outside of Stoneville. That
investigation is still in progress.”
was a little depressed. It was a fact that she discovered a chemical
way to split the atom, a way that could be, in addition, a cure for
any illness of infection, or mutation; but the accidental discovery
was not by an algorithm.
had told nobody what it was. Her refusal at that court martial by the
three Generals in Klaria was the main if not the only reason she was
jailed in death-row Prison XXX for treason, and blackmailed with the
kidnapping and holding hostage of Enid, her identical twin.
war was over. Two Generals taken captive. Third missing. Why was Enid
left the cafeteria, determined to remain dead, as the official
records must show or must suggest in the absence of definite facts.
she was alive she could remain dead for as long as she chose. As for
whatever happened to her kidnapped sister by whom she was being
blackmailed, she was resigned to be in hopeless pain forever.
enquired at the train station, where she worked, about how she could
visit the bombed-out Essenwood city site. She was pleasantly
surprised by the information given her.
that the war was over, reconstruction was in full progress all over
Pyrone. Essenwood was a Government priority since it had been the
munitions manufacturing capital of the country.
went by bus. There were returnee Essenwood citizens everywhere. She
could not avoid a feeling of guilt for being there to collect
evidence that would help her pretend convincingly that she was a
native of Essenwood, from birth. She found stunning evidence.
entire downtown street named Elizabeth Sneddon Avenue! It was longer
than the main street, King George V Avenue which was the Mayor’s
had to sit on a roadside bench to help her cope with the overwhelming
feeling of admiration for this Essenwood Elizabeth Sneddon.
Positively, a giant of a personality for a City to grant her so many
honours. A voice brought her out of her reverie.
Elizabeth Sneddon, is it not?” It was Yvonne McBride. She
continued, “Let me guess. You heard about your namesake,
Essenwood’s Elizabeth Sneddon, and you could not resist coming
to see for yourself.” “Something like that, Yvonne. So
glad to see you.” Yvonne sat on the same bench.
must have been a truly remarkable person for a whole City to
immortalize her in so many ways.” “She was.” “You
knew her?” “We were born and lived our childhood on the
same street, here in Essenwood. She was a nuclear physicist at the
University here in Essenwood. I was the older one. I owned a flower
shop. She left for a higher post somewhere else. . Eventually, I
you not left then, you probably would have been a part of a bomb
crater for all eternity?” “Yes. I went to Klaria and was
employed by the Government’s defence department. This was long
before war broke out. And at the time I did not know Elizabeth was
also working in a secret project for the Klaria Department of
the street passable? The one the two of you grew up on.” “I
came to find out. Come, let’s go see."
a public park near her home, Elizabeth sat on a bench at a road
side, one night. She had to go to work tomorrow. She must return
home, now. She headed for home.
was startled by a man suddenly appearing at her side walking along.
“Hello, Elizabeth Sneddon?” “Yes.” “I
am George L. Neilson.” “Klaria Government agent.”
“Oh, good. You know me.” “I know about you, agent
Neilson.” “Good things?” “So far.” “You
are from Klaria, too?” “Is this casual conversation, or
official interrogation, agent Neilson?” “A little of
George. When I was in the refugee camp, Stoneville authorities
strongly advised us to not talk about the war because there were
secret agents everywhere up to mischief.” “All I asked,
Elizabeth, is if you are from Klaria.” “Very suspicious,
George, because all refugees were required to be obvious from the
beginning in Stoneville.” “Sorry.” He shrugged,
raised his hands in surrender, and walked away into the dark.
Something about his behaviour alerted her that she had not seen the
last of agent George L. Neilson. Even in the dark she noticed he
walked with a limp. A war injury, or, simply, he was born with one
instinct was right. Someone bumped into her hard enough for her to
tumble to the ground, face-down. Whoever bumped her down, was on top
of her. She grit her teeth and recalled what her Dad taught her and
her sister about the dam's Apple.
kicked hard into the ground for leverage. In a second, she was on top
of him, face-to-face in the dark with him. She smashed her forearm
into his Adam’s Apple, using the momentum to tumble herself off
him. She ran away, leaving him gasping and choking and writhing
violently on the ground.
the following days she made no attempt to find out who her assailant
was. She was content to believe it was one of the many random events
of violence in Stoneville because of the instability brought on by
the after-war chaos.
was Yvonne McBride, who informed her. The woman caught up with her as
she walked home from work, and walked a short way with her. “George
L. Neilson’s dead.”
was a long silence because the elderly woman expected a response.
Elizabeth remained resolutely and stonily silent. “You already
knew?” “No, Yvonne.” “You want to know how?
Where?” “No.” “In the park. A few nights ago.
Suffocated to death.” “Something he ate and failed to
swallow properly?” “The Stoneville police knew he was a
Klaria agent. That is all they have revealed. The body has been
spirited away.” A long tense silence followed.
do you remember George L. Neilson was that obnoxious Klaria
Government agent we encountered on that mountainside?” “I
remember you telling me he was there, but I did not speak with him
L. Neilson was born in Klaria. He tried to enroll in the Armed
Forces, but was rejected because he had been born deformed. One leg
shorter. That did not stop him from serving the military. Over time
he provided them with so much valuable information on citizens, they
eventually created a rank just for him, “Honorary Sergeant.”
“Yvonne, as interesting as all this is, why are you telling
and I will not be divulging to you and everyone else how I got the
Stoneville police to give me this information, on his corpse,
Elizabeth, they found a photograph of you. On the back of the
photograph was handwritten one word. 'Enid'.” A long pause
and slowly, “Yvonne, Enid is not an unusual name. And that
George L. Neilson is not the first stranger here in Stoneville to
mistake me for Enid, whoever she is, or was.”
next day, Elizabeth was in the cafeteria for lunch. The place was
crowded, especially since many soldiers from a nearby military base
were among the patrons.
had seen Obed, Maynard, and Eddie among the customers. She was
careful to avoid them.
lone disgruntled former worker drove his pickup truck through the
plate-glass front window. He exited the vehicle and fired an
automatic rifle point-blank randomly into the patrons.
of the soldiers fired back, killing him with sixty hits, but not
before he had killed forty-nine and wounded fifty customers in the
Among the dead were
Obed, Maynard, Eddie, and an elderly woman.
Elizabeth was hit in
two places by bullets from the weapons of either the murderer or the
soldiers. She slumped over the table, passing in and out of
consciousness. She heard, while her hand was being guided to the
speaker’s ear, a voice whispering in her own left ear, “I
have you, Sis. You are going to be alright.” “Enid?”
“Shhhhh, Prisoner 83-91-81.”
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Story list and biography
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