Being Inspired, maybe - 88
A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like. For instance:
The invitation arrived at the editor's office and he had summoned me, Thinking it was for another bollocking, it was a surprise to learn it was the date and time I was to join two other reporters to tour the facility behind the wall.
Speculation was rife about what was there.
That speculation was about to be dispelled by what was being described in our newspapers as the three wise reporters. I would have gone with monkeys but kept that to myself.
There were so many myths out there, surrounding the building some said was a portal to another world, the visible part of a huge interstellar starship, or just a museum. The impenetrable security at the site fuelled those outlandish theories because people preferred to think their government was more interested in hiding something terrible than to acknowledge it might just be something very ordinary.
I personally liked to think that it might be an interstellar starship, being an avid fan of science fiction, and having seen countless episodes of Star Trek, Doctor Who, Stargate and Star Wars.
That thought was uppermost in my mind when the minibus came to collect me from out front of our office. The other two had already been picked up, and being the closest to the site, I was last.
I'd only heard of the other two by the by-line in their respective newspapers and the years journalism awards, both of whom had featured as the best in their field.
James McDougall, investigative reporter, the reporter who had single-handed brought down a huge crime syndicate that had been fleecing people out of their retirement savings.
The other, Isobel Cambridge, a major contributor to the weekend edition of her newspaper, who'd won just about every award there was, bar the Pulitzer.
It was probably the reason why both of them glared at me when I stepped on the bus. I had no such credentials to my name, and it made me wonder why [name] had selected me when there were better qualified journalists at our newspaper.
Perhaps my editor had considered we were not going to get the truth, and that it was not worth the expense of a proper journalist, clearly a completely different attitude to other paper's editors. It had been noted that he was the last of the old school editors, one of a dying breed in the new digital age.
The driver slammed the side door shut and walked around to the driver's side and climbed in. I sat in the front seat, the other two, who clearly knew each other, sitting in the back seat. It was then I noticed that we couldn't see out the windows, not clearly at any rate, but thought nothing of it.
Usually, it was the other way around, the tint stopped people from seeing in. I wondered if the other two had noticed or thought it odd.
They had been talking until I got in. When the van pulled into the street, Isobel said, "You're Alistair Gunth aren't you?"
At least they'd heard of me. "That's right."
"What are you expecting we will find?" she asked.
Perhaps that was what they'd been talking about before stopping to pick me up. But, from her tone, it seemed that no matter what I said it would be a point of amusement to them.
I don't think saying I was expecting a starship would do anything except confirming their contempt for me, but clearly, they were expecting a response. I got a small reprieve when the driver had to brake suddenly to avoid hitting a dog. A curse later, we were back on our way.
It had given me the time to consider what I would say.
"A big empty space most likely, but my best guess is a museum, where they have collected the most important and priceless artifacts pertaining to the country's heritage, a project, if I'm not mistaken, that was set in motion under something of a cloud of secrecy by a government not quite prepared to tell it's citizens the truth."
The look on their faces told me that was not what they were expecting.
And yet 24 hours earlier the best guess I had was the big empty space.
Since then I had spent some time with our chief political reporter, Basil, a semi-retired reporter whom the newspaper had tried to retire years ago, a man who knew more about the machinations of government than anyone else. He'd been studying the latest raft of what appeared to be meaningless housekeeping legislation and found an anomaly.
That anomaly was the Ancient Artefact and Preservation of History and Culture Initiative tacked onto the sundry government expenses act that allocated funds for running most government services. It would not catch anyone's attention but Basil. And the funds allocated, three hundred million dollars. Among billions it cost to run the government it was supposed to be overlooked as petty cash.
It wasn't, not by us. And it made perfect sense.
Then James McDougall smiled. "Of course, this is something only Basil would dream up, isn't it? You had me going there for a moment. You really have no idea."
That might be the case, but he was too smug for me to lose ground in this discussion. "I'll admit I spoke to about four of our reporters who cover government affairs, and it wasn't necessarily Basil. The point is, how do we know about this and you don't."
I looked over, just in time to notice that both of them had fallen asleep, just before my eyelids fluttered, then closed.
I had a thought in those last moments before unconsciousness, that we were not going where we’re supposed to go, but somehow the powers that be were going to fill our heads with what they wanted us to write about, and never get to see anything,
It was, I thought, a dastardly, but extremely clever, plot.
© Charles Heath 2020