فصل 15

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فصل 15

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

‘I can’t believe,’ thought Hilary, ‘that I’ve been here ten days!’ The most frightening thing was how quickly and easily she had adapted to life in the Unit. After only a week she had begun to accept her way of life as natural. It was a strange life, where nothing was real - like living in a dream. Perhaps she would always feel like she was living in a dream… perhaps she would never wake up.

It was interesting, thought Hilary, to see how her fellow- travellers reacted to life in the Unit. She didn’t meet Helga Needheim very often, but the German woman seemed happy and satisfied. Dr Barron, who Hilary sometimes talked to, was impressed with the working conditions and loved his work - although he admitted that he had not expected to live in a prison.

‘But I was paid a large amount of money before I came here,’ he added. ‘And when all this comes to an end, I will be able to spend it.’

‘When all this comes to an end?’ Hilary repeated. ‘Why should that happen?’

‘My dear,’ said Dr Barron, ‘nothing is permanent. In time, the Unit will break up and fall apart. What happens here is too strange, too unreal. It will not last. But until that happens, I am happy to work here.’

Torquil Ericsson also seemed to be quite happy living in the Unit. Hilary didn’t understand him. He seemed to live in a world of his own, a world that didn’t really exist. Only he could see this ideal world where the scientists ruled and controlled everything - it existed only in his own head.

Andy Peters was easier for Hilary to understand. Like her, Peters hated living in the Unit.

‘I had no idea what it would really be like,’ he told Hilary. ‘I have to get out of here.’

‘It won’t be easy,’ said Hilary quietly. They were walking together on the roof garden.

‘No,’ said Peters, ‘it won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. Nothing’s impossible.’

‘I like to hear you say that,’ said Hilary. ‘I hate it here, but I’m more afraid that I’ll get used to it.’

‘Yes,’ Peters said thoughtfully. ‘I’ve wondered about that. What does your husband think? He’s been here a while now.’

‘Tom? I - oh, I don’t know. It’s so difficult. I -‘ Hilary was silent.

For ten days she had lived with - and shared a bedroom with - a man who was a complete stranger to her. She didn’t understand Tom Betterton. He didn’t seem to be upset by his real wife’s death. All he could think about was getting away from the Unit. Again and again he said, ‘I must get away from here. I must, I must.’

But the way he said this was very different to the way Peters said it. Peters was a young, angry man, confident that he would be able to escape. Tom Betterton sounded like a man who was about to collapse, a man who was almost crazy. Perhaps, Hilary thought suddenly, this was what she and Peters would be like in six months’ time.

She wished she could talk to Andy Peters about this. She wished she could say, ‘Tom Betterton isn’t my husband. I know nothing about him and I don’t know what to do or say to help him.’ Instead she chose her words carefully. ‘Tom seems like a stranger to me now. He doesn’t - tell me things. Sometimes I think being shut up in here is driving him mad. How can we get out of here?’

‘We’ve got to plan it very carefully, Olive,’ Peters said. ‘If there’s a way in, there’s a way out. We’ll need to be clever and pretend to play a part - perhaps pay someone who works here to help - but we can do it. We will get out.’

‘I’m sure you will,’ said Hilary, ‘but what about me?’

‘Well, it’s different for you.’ Peters sounded embarrassed.

For a moment Hilary wondered what he meant, and then she realized that he was talking about Tom Betterton. She had come here to be with the man she loved - and she had got what she wanted.

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