Cadet’s Dilemma

I awoke one morning from uneasy dreams to find a foreign person standing at the foot of my bed, shouting at me. This was the beginning of a series of events so disturbing, so uncanny, that I am reluctant to tell you about them, for fear that I will not be believed. But I am in a quandary, for if I do not unburden myself of this tale I will surely go completely crackers. Such is the fate foretold by the foreign person. It was among the things he was shouting at me, as I awoke. I did not understand him at the time, for his tongue was alien to me, and in any case his shouting was so deafening that I could not make out individual words, but later I had everything translated, read aloud by a trained actor, and recorded on a cylinder. Maddeningly, however, it was clear from listening to the cylinder that the shouting foreign person had forbidden me ever to speak of the things that happened, for not only would I go crackers but I would suffer from ague and the dropsy and the bindings and my legs and arms would be broken and my belly would be a thing crawling with worms and I would shrivel up and die. What a dilemma I was in, to be sure.

I said that the shouting foreign person was standing, when I awoke, at the foot of my bed. In truth, it was not really a bed, but a wooden pallet laid any old how on the floor, on to which I had dragged a mattress, or what passed for a mattress under the present regime. So the foreign person was not just standing there, which would have been alarming enough, but towering above me. It was a foreign person of no mean stature who shouted at me in his weird guttural language. I would say he was seven feet tall, at a guess, and if that sounds implausible, broaden your mind. This globe is dotted with extremely tall persons hither and yon, and all I am saying is that one such person was standing at the foot of my pallet shouting at me.

I think if I had still had a bed to sleep in I would have been better able to cope with the situation. The shouting foreign person would not have loomed so titanic had I been raised up from the floor, the angle from my head to his less acute. Also, I would have had blankets to pull up to my chin in a protective gesture, rather than having no blankets. The regime is dedicated to the reinvigoration of its citizenry, and that is why we are bidden to sleep on pallets, without covers, and with any windows that have not been bricked up flung open as wide as they can be flung. Such measures are, as of today, still optional, though rumours fly, as rumours will, that the era of coercion will soon be upon us. I am doing my best to help usher in the bright new civilisation promised by the regime, and I can say with pride that I was the first person in my Cadet Tower to smash up my bed with a fire axe and nail the broken clutter of wood into three pallets, donating the spare pair to the Rex Harrison Tower For The Destitute, to which I had already given two thirds of the stuffing from my mattress. That we still have need of a Tower For The Destitute has been described as a blot upon the regime, but I challenge anyone to show me a regime without a blot. It can’t be done.

The shouting foreign person was also a sort of blot, in that his appearance was anomalous and untidy and a sort of rupture in the natural order. He ought not to have been there, but, unignorably, like a blot, he was. I am afraid all I could do at the time was shriek. This did not stop him shouting. And boy o boy did he shout. It was so loud he would have raised the roof, if I’d had a roof rather than the frayed tarpaulin stretched over my room at the top of the tower.

The actor I engaged to record the translated shouting on to a cylinder did not shout, but he declaimed the words in a thespian boom that was quite loud enough. I had come upon this actor when I went to see a regime-recommended production of Jasper Poxhaven & His Amusing Electrical Wiring Systems, a play of great potted resonance. I am not much of a theatre-goer, and I doubt I would recognise potted resonance great or small without a prompt, but I swooned with pleasure whenever this particular actor opened his mouth, so he was the natural choice when I needed someone to record the translation of the foreign person’s shouting. Hiring him was easy enough, as he was a part-time cadet and lived below me – far, far below me – in the Cadet Tower. More troublesome, before that, was finding a translator. Bear in mind that I had no idea from whence this foreign person had hoved, nor in what barbaric language he did his shouting. It was with some reluctance that I asked around in case anyone else had been woken by the blot, for I did not want to gain a reputation as a cadet in thrall to anomalous phenomena. Lord knows we have enough of such creatures, more and more of whom have been crawling out of the broken brickwork since the regime adopted its current very wise policy of isolating them in a tower of their own near the frontier. Soon we shall have no more of these tiresome cadets in my own tower, and that will be a small but significant step towards the bright new civilisation we are promised by the regime under the guiding hand of the Great Helmswoman. I never did find anyone who admitted to having been woken up by a shouting foreign person at the foot of their pallet, and happened upon my translator through pure chance. I was paddling in an approved paddling pool and struck up a conversation with my one fellow paddler. In the course of our conversation she told me she was a translator who specialised in barbaric and guttural languages. I hired her on the spot, without telling her what it was I wanted her to translate, and as we each towelled our feet dry while sitting on the cement blocks surrounding the paddling pool I swore her to secrecy. At first she baulked at this, for she suspected moral turpitude, as well she might, but she was reassured when I flipped my Cadet Coupon out of my pocket. She did the translation that very day, and the next day I ran to ground the actor with the booming voice, and had him record the cylinder.

Thus it was that I learned that I would go crackers if I did not tell anyone about the shouting foreign person at the foot of my pallet and all the subsequent oddities that befell me, and crackers accompanied by other fearsome maladies if I did. That was, and remains, my quandary. I am of course making the assumption that the blotty foreign person shouted the truth. It has never for one moment crossed my mind that his shouting may have been twaddle, either purposefully so or otherwise. Nor have I entertained the possibility that my paddling pool translator’s grasp of his barbaric tongue may have been less than expert. I have implicitly trusted both parties. Perhaps that makes me a fool, but the crunch is that there is no one I can ask to judge, due to the nature of my dilemma.

I can see where all this is leading, you know. I know that the regime will succeed, must succeed, in reinvigorating the citizenry and realising the accomplishment of our bright new civilisation. But now I am as sure as a cadet can be that by the time that golden era dawns, I shall have been turfed out of my tower, and I shall be languishing either out at the frontier, in the Tower For Cadets In Thrall To Anomalous Phenomena or, worse, just down the road in the Rex Harrison Tower For The Destitute. Whichever comes to pass, I shall no longer be the perky cadet I am now. I will be a blot.

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