The Man who was Drowned

A man escapes from the mysterious Foundation and seeks solace amongst the waves. Recaptured and placed under confinement, he has little way of finding the answers he so desperately seeks. Why is he here? What is the Foundation? And most importantly, what is his name? Subject to forces beyond his control and seemingly helpless, there appears no end in sight.


12. Confrontation


The beach. The sea and its waves, the sand beneath his feet, the overpowering scent of salt in the air and the roaring wind. It was so close he could almost feel it. As he crashed through the forest that surrounded the Foundation, he knew he was leaving an easily identifiable trail. It mattered not. By the time they had caught up with him, this time, it would be too late. After a long half an hour, he finally emerged from the forest and collapsed atop a sand dune, exhausted. As he surveyed the scene in front of him, it looked as if hardly a day had passed since he had been here last. The beach looked the same.


With one crucial difference. There was a figure, standing tall and upright, down by the water's edge, who was too far away for him to properly identify. As he made his way down the beach the pinstripes on the suit of his unknown companion became visible and all was suddenly clear. This was not an attempt to thwart his escape. The Man knew he was going to be here. He thought back to the key in the cell and the sleeping guard and suddenly a whole host of unanswered questions were solved, yet the situation posed many more. As he approached, the Man smiled.


“My dear boy! Come, join me.” His booming voice was barely audible above the waves, yet there was something in the Man's voice which the approaching figure had not heard before. The Man sounded pleased to see him.

“It was you. The cell, the guard.” His reply wasn't a question, it was an acknowledgement of a fact. He considered that now he possessed this information, he would not be allowed to return to the Foundation. Perhaps that was the intention.

“Why absolutely, and if you walk with me I shall explain all in due course.” The Man set off walking along the waterfront, and beckoned him to follow. Curious, he followed, aware of the fact that the balance of power had shifted somewhat towards the Man and resolved to stay strong.


“I'm afraid to say that you have been our first failure, and let us hope that you may be the last! It would be a terrible shame if the Foundation were to close, so much is depending upon us succeeding.” The Man paused, and his companion thought to himself that the closing of the Foundation would be no great loss, considering all the suffering that had been caused. The Man continued, “ No, it is far better to deal with you as an anomaly. It is unfortunate, evidently, our data and reports on you might one day have been useful, but I am afraid your rebellious streak simply threatened the entire project.”


“Why didn't you just let me hang?” He was curious now, and was enjoying the conversation even though his death was almost a certainty once it concluded.

“ It seems ridiculous really, considering all the other methods we are able to employ, but we are simply not allowed to. You obviously do not remember but initially, you gave us your consent, every inhabitant signed a range of documents granting us extensive powers.” came the reply.

“ Any signature on a form was void the moment you stripped us of our names.” There was now an anger in his voice, in addition to the satisfaction at exposing a potential lifeline.

“ There you are! It is that sort of questioning that threatens everything we are attempting to do here. In answer to your question, that is exactly the logic that led us to conclude that it would be better for you to forget. No names, no memories, no questions.”


He had never before seen the Man like this. It was as if escaping the confines of the Foundation had liberated them both, allowing frank discussion for the first time.

“What happens now?” He asked, almost fearful. The Man simply smiled.

“We can hang the guard in your place. Security breaches can be dealt with, experimental failures not so easily. It will certainly be easier to explain to my superiors.”

“You have superiors?” There was surprise in his voice, all he had ever know was the unrestrained authority of the Man and his army of thugs. He dreaded to think of the power wielded by those above. The Man's booming laugh rang out among the waves as he considered the question.

“Everyone has superiors. Even the most powerful people in our world, the presidents, prime ministers and heads of state are ultimately accountable to their voters. Mine will never know what has happened here.” There was a silence.


“What's my name?” The question escaped his lips and sounded childish, as if he were a toddler addressing their parent. The Man thought for a moment and then smiled.

“You know your name.” This answer infuriated him, after everything he had been though, after all the pain and the suffering, here was a man with all the answers yet refusing to answer what should have been the most simple of questions.


He lost his temper and launched himself at the Man, knocking them both into the waves. The years of manual work had made him strong and determined. As he smashed his fists into the Man, he repeated the question again and again, all the fear he had felt towards this individual evaporating in an instant. But the Man was not as weak as he looked. Within moments the situation had reversed and it was the Man who was holding the head of his adversary under the waves.


He cried out jubilantly to his drowning foe,

“You know your name, it is the only name you have ever known. We never could quite get you to forget.” Under the water, the figure was in a state of confusion. The only name he had ever known? He thought back to the day on the beach, the day when he had remembered his name, if only briefly. He thought back to Marcus, his friend, the boy with the blonde hair and the haunted, grey eyes. Forcing the Man off of him, he had a brief moment of respite and began to cough up the salt water that was stinging his lungs.


Marcus. The only name he had ever known. Those two facts, that had previously been so disjointed, now connected as if they were the two missing pieces in a jigsaw. No one had told him that his friend was called Marcus, because he wasn't. It was then that he knew. I am Marcus. It was the moment of self-discovery that he had been hoping for. It was the realisation that after everything the Foundation had subjected him to, he had triumphed over them. This gave him a renewed sense of purpose and a determination not to let them beat him. It would not be him who perished here, beneath the waves. It would be the Man, it would be the Man who was drowned. Marcus looked up and saw the Man approaching. His pinstripe suit was sodden and he had the look of murder on his face. This would be a confrontation with only one survivor. Marcus struggled to stand and prepared to face down his opponent. At that moment, a wave crashed over them.


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