The Tangram Enigma
“Make sure you tighten those pipes firmly together. You don’t want the steam to blow in your face again, do you?”
Master Morfran immediately took me under his wing when I arrived to work in the underground chambers below the Ministry of Stuff and Things. He’s a surly fellow but he does know the ins and outs of the job. He’s proud of his maintenance skills and likes to brag about how he alone saved the Governingmen from collapse by fixing the heating and returning hot water to the sauna.
“That was one heck of a day. They were this close to abandoning Plana Petram.”
Master Morfran has been working in the chambers since he was my age. He was too young to remember the destruction of the round world and he doesn’t like to talk about it. He thinks it’s all a load of hot steam.
“What does it matter? Who cares if there was once a round world? We’re here now. And we all have to make the best of what we got.”
Master Morfran doesn’t believe in chasing things that aren’t real. That is why he has never left the chambers his entire life. But the long exposure to the cramped, hot passageways have not been kind to his face or body. His skin has wrinkled like a prune and hangs from his bones. And his posture is bent and broken causing him to look smaller than he actually is. Due to his condition he has learned to move in a unique way, hobbling from side to side to propel himself forward.
“Hope is a lost practice best forgotten. Focus on what is in front of you. Get the job done.”
Despite our philosophical differences, Master Morfran has been kind to me for the past several full moons. He has shown me the art of discipline and patience. He is proud to call me his apprentice. I respect the man and I have gained much wisdom from his teachings. I would not have made it this far without him. The brutal conditions under the Ministry of Stuff and Things are much more harsh than I would have imagined.
“Don’t get all soppy on me, lad. Now, pick up the wrench and tighten that bolt. After we’re done you can sneak off to see your girly for ten minutes.”
Natsuki sits at a solitary desk inside a great hall, directly in front of the elevator that leads to the top floor where the Governingmen reside. She is secretary to President Comfort and the others and is their only staff member. While sneaking about the ground floor of the building she caught me but said nothing of the incident to her superiors. Every night after I braved another scouting mission, I’d always end up teetering at the door on the far side of the hall and admiring her. At first she was nervous. I could understand why. Here’s some guy who shouldn’t be here, staring at girl like a painting with moving eyes.
“We don’t have long. I have to type up some reports before midnight for President Comfort. Maybe tomorrow night we can talk?”
One night as I approached her door she stood waiting for me. She smiled and held out her hand. I didn’t know what to think. Master Morfran told me from the very beginning that I should trust no one in this world but myself. That others would betray me and want to hurt me for their own gain. I thought those were some very wise words at the time. But at that particular moment I chose to ignore them. I took Natsuki’s hand. Her skin was soft and clean. Compared to mine her hand seemed like it was crafted from the Goods themselves. Her eyes glowed bright blue and her crooked smile greeted me with a warmth that is hard to describe. I chose to trust her in that very moment and from every moment since then.
“I have some curious information I want discuss with you. I think it might help with what you’re looking for. But you better hurry back to the chambers for now. Security will be making their rounds.”
Natsuki was fascinated by the elder stories I told. She could hardly begin to imagine a complete world where one could walk its circumference. Our land mass, our Plana Petram, is engulfed in a dome and travel beyond it is impossible. In fact, you’re forbidden to reach within a mile of the dome itself. Patrols guard it constantly and are ordered to shoot on site. But sometimes Natsuki and I would sneak away and get as close to the forbidden zone as possible and stare into the vast expanse. In her eyes I could see all the chunks of rock and debris, floating out in space, come together and connect like a jigsaw puzzle. Her whole life she had worked for the Governingmen and forced to do their bidding. While society festered and rotted, she watched as President Comfort and his cronies relished in others suffering. Yet there was nothing she could do.
“I want to help you find the Tangram Enigma. I want the world that once was to come together and be whole again. I want the Governingmen to fall off their high tower and plummet into the graves we’ve dug for them below.”
I was too afraid to ask for her help. I knew it was dangerous for her and if she were exposed it could lead to unspeakable things. Despite the consequences and reality of being murdered or worse, she pressed on in helping me discover the secrets the Governingmen were hiding.
I didn’t know if there were seven other Plana Petram’s. The Tangram Enigma could have been just a fairytale. Everything I was told came from questionable sources. But there were enough consistencies in how each elder told their story that some truth had to exist.
“How was your date, lad? Remember what I told you, trust no one. Especially a young lass with her own office.”
I found it hard to concentrate on work. Natsuki possibly has evidence that would prove some or all of my theory. Master Morfran noticed and I’ve never seen him so inquisitive. He wiggled a mallet in front of my face and grilled me. He wanted to know what my intentions with Natsuki were and what I was planning on doing if we’re found together. I’ve never seen him so worried. His concern frightened me to my core.
Natsuki and I fell in love with this wonderful idea of a round world and playing revolutionaries. But had we considered what the ramifications of our actions would be? If exposed, the people would declare all-out war. The Governingmen would have no choice but to defend themselves and use whatever means necessary. Our way of life would cease to be.
“Nothing in life is worth risking peace. Even if peace is slowly sapping away people’s lives, it’s much better than the alternative.”
For a man whose spends his time in the dark fixing pipes, he’s very convincing. But he wasn’t entirely wrong. People have shown up dead from just uttering the Tangram Enigma. If I were to expose it, those deaths are on me.
“Be comfortable with what you are. Don’t reach for something out of your range.”
Natsuki waited for me at the entrance to the great hall. She saw me sneaking about the corridor and ushered me over. Before I even opened my mouth she grasped my hand and dragged me to her desk. A glint of excitement in her eyes. An inflected tone in her voice.
“While sorting through all President Comforts memos and correspondences to the other Governingmen I came across this.”
Natsuki handed me a piece of paper with the initials TTE inscribed at the top. It was then followed by a desire to immediately discuss preparations for departure of PP and disposal of the excess waste.
“I have other curious correspondences that relate in similar ways.”
TTE – The Tangram Enigma. PP – Plana Pentram. Are the Governingmen planning on ditching our world to occupy another? Had they discovered the whereabouts of the other land masses? My mind raced with so many questions but provided few answers. It was a start, though. Natsuki has given us the first solid evidence that proves we are living a lie.
“What do we do now? How does this help us?”
“It doesn’t help you. It helped me.”
The voice was deep and calm but sent shivers down our spines. We turned to find a colossal man standing before us with several armed men, who looked harmless next to him. I had seen his face many times plastered about Plana Petram but those posters did nothing to prepare me for the sheer magnitude of his presence. President Comfort made the great hall seem small. We wanted to run but the doors were already sealed shut.
“There’s nowhere to go I’m afraid. Only one way out for you both.”
“We know about the Tangram Enigma. We know what you’re planning.”
Natsuki stood before the giant and held firm.
“So? There’s not much you can do about it now, Natsuki. And to think, I was considering bringing you along.”
Men with guns surrounded us from all sides. By the Goods above we have no way out. And to think we were only just beginning to discover the truth. Master Morfran was right. Hope is a lost practice best forgotten.
“I tried to warn you, lad.”
Hobbling from behind President Comfort he stops short of me. Master Morfran cracks his back as he looks up and meets my eyes. I can read his face; he’s disappointed.
“What did I tell you from the beginning? Never trust anyone. They’ll only hurt you for their own gain.”
I couldn’t argue with him. He had told me that from the start. I should have expected this.
“Mr. Morfran was kind enough to warn me of your goings on. I was amused by your enthusiasm. You might say I admired it. But unfortunately we can’t have disorder. And it is here where we end this little adventure.”
“I’m sorry, lad. I can’t have things being disrupted. I’m too old for it. Peace comes at a cost. No hard feelings.”
“Yes, no hard feelings.”
Presdient Comfort took his gargantuan hand and threw Master Morfran into me. I managed to catch him in my arms before toppling to the floor.
“Are you mad? That could’ve hurt me!”
“Quiet, you old pipe-cleaner. By the grace of the Goods you’re lucky I didn’t squash you with my bare hands. Now die with the ones you betrayed like a good sewer rat.”
President Comfort returned to the elevator. As the doors closed his mouth grew wider. It was hard to tell but it looked like a smile.
The armed men took aim and cocked their weapons. I held Natsuki’s hand and drew her close to me. I was shaking but she remained strong. Master Morfran muttered under his breath then let out a burst of curse words towards the guards. I never seen him so animated before. He turned to us and pulled out several nuts and bolts from his jacket. A sinister grin formed on his crumbled mouth.
Just then the floor shook and the marble exploded, giving birth to a cloud of steam. Several more explosions burst through the floor and filled the great hall in mist. Screams of men echoed throughout. The blasts must have gotten them and now the hot steam is melting their flesh.
Master Morfran hobbled his way through the misty hall as we followed him. The steam was quite dense but he waltzed through as if it were a clear day. The screams eventually died out as we reached the doors. An explosion had conveniently ble them open and we managed to get through.
We made our way out of the Ministry of Stuff and Things and took shelter in a nearby bush. It provided much needed cover as we catched our breath. I wanted to punch Master Morfran very much but I could see what little difference that would make to our situation. We were fugitives from the Governingmen and they would stop at nothing to hunt us down.
“What do we do now?”
Natsuki wasn’t concerned about our well being but rather what we plan on doing about President Comfort and the Governingmen. If not for her I would have certainly given up and scurried into the deepest hole I could find. Which, ironically, is exactly what we did.
Brian has an itch… A mighty big itch. But it is no ordinary itch, oh no. It’s an itch for storytelling. Brian creates for a living. He can not see himself doing anything else. He has spent the last ten years building a portfolio of work, producing short films, music videos, and short stories. Brian studied film and television in IADT Dun Laoghaire and since graduating in 2011 has been evolving and honing his skills ever since. He has won awards for his work, winning Best Student Film at the Kerry Film Festival ion 2011, and has showcased several other projects in numerous festivals across Ireland, including the Jameson International Film Festival and Cork Fastnet Film Festival, to name but a few. Keep up to date on his Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/dunsterpictures and check out some of his work on Vimeo – https://vimeo.com/briandunster