Forever 1.6: The Cave, Yet Another Man

            The Great Hall was as empty as before, only this time Glen thought to lower himself off the raised platform and down to the floor below.  He saw it was covered with an inch of dust and undisturbed for ages.  He knew then that the men in the rooms never came down there.  He also knew there were no other people – no one as he imagined to come in and out of the Great Hall or go in and out from the outside.  There were no workers, no citizens, no people of any kind.

            Glen thought for a moment that he had come into a loony-bin, but again his curiosity rose up and he wanted to see what the treasurer had to say.  It was the last cave, and he imagined door number one, two or three.  According to the game this should have been door number one, but then he started at door number three.  This time he knocked on the stone archway before he spoke.

            “Excuse me, the chief officer said he would whip through the papers so I could receive assistance.”  It was a statement, but he made it sound like a question. 

            In this room a very round man sat in a very small chair in front of a tilted table.  This man had one book, a ledger, and he was going over it most carefully.  He looked up when Glen came in.

            “Be with you in a minute,” he said.  “It would not do to have these numbers add up wrong.”

            Glen stood quietly while the man worked, but after a while he grew tired of waiting.  “Excuse me,” Glen said again, but the man was not moved.  So Glen began to inch forward as if wanting to take a look at the book.  The man responded by picking up his quill, he put a period on the page and closed the book quickly.

            “Now, what can I do for you, citizen?”

            Glen had to repeat himself.  “The chief officer said he would whip through the paperwork so I could receive assistance.”

            “Hmmm.  Well, he would,” the fat man frowned.  “But I see no paperwork here.”  He looked at Glen and smiled a smile that said, sorry. Glen could not stop his tongue from asking.

            “But the chief officer decided, so that should be good enough, shouldn’t it?”

            The frown came back and deepened.  “Sadly, it does not work that way.” 

            “Why?”  Glen wondered.  “What is it you do here?”

            “Why, I’m the Treasurer, the Treasurer.  I oversee the accounts, the treasury.”  Glen shook his head and some red rose up in the man’s fat cheeks as he furrowed his brow to match his frown.  “Look, the Leader can recommend all he wants, and the Officer can decide things all day, but I have to determine what we can afford and not afford.”  The man got down from his little stool to stand on his stubby, fat legs.  He put one hand on the tilted table which Glen guessed was a desk of some kind, and he began a more thorough explanation.

            “It is really quite simple.”  The man cleared his throat.  “Public money cannot fairly be shared.  It is the one thing in life that must be vested.  Why, if we let the ordinary people have their own money there is no telling what they might spend it on.  It would be anarchy, I tell you, everyone for themselves.  Only one can rightly oversee the public trust.  It is a great and grave responsibility to have such control, I know.  But I believe my fairly large shoulders can bear it for a while longer.  It is good to hear your concern, but you can trust that I will bear the burden with honesty and spend only what is in the best interests for all.  Thank you.  Thank you.”  He waved, though there was no crowd to applaud. 

            “Of course,” Glen said, and though he still did not understand, he was not sure he wanted to.  He turned back toward the archway but the man waved at him and made a great show as he opened his desk.  The whole top of the table lifted and he pulled out a yellow, cardboard Banker’s Choice cigar box.  He was careful not to let Glen see the contents, though Glen caught a glimpse of a piece of string, a jack and a small piece of common quartz.  He also heard a few coins rattle and watched as the man carefully pulled out a copper.  He held it out.

            “Here, citizen.  The Leader has said we must be gracious to our citizens and since you say the Officer has decided, let this copper be for you.”

            Glen stepped up as the Treasurer closed the cigar box lid.  “Thank you,” he said.

            “Now the tax on earnings,” the Treasurer did not pause.  “Is two copper coins.”  He held out his hand.  Glen saw no reason to hold on to the one he had been given, so he handed it back, but then he shrugged.

            “I only have the one you just gave me,” he admitted.

            “I see, I see.”  The treasurer frowned again as he returned the coin to the box and the box to the desk.  “You will have to work off your tax then, I suppose.  Please see the Chief Officer next door and ask him for a work assignment.”  The Treasurer went back to his stool, his quill and his ledger and paid Glen no more attention.

            Glen stepped once more into the main cavern the others called the Great Hall.  He found a surprise.  The table was not empty.

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