Bolb made his slow winding way through the corridors of his master's mansion, pushing a small trolley filled with all kinds of cloths and tins of cleaner, dusting and polishing all the antique ornaments and fixtures as he went. His simple mind didn't even wonder about the fascinating journey they had made through the ages, all he knew was that the dust made him cough and sneeze when he wiped them. It wasn't so bad at first, but now he was getting old it affected him more. Seven years old. Bolbs didn't normally live past five, or at least that was what his master told him, although he had never actually seen another Bolb before. Not to worry, he always thought. It's not my place to question my master. In his own small way, Bolb was proud of his lifetime of loyal service to his master despite the growing aches and pains of old age.
As he entered the main hallway he spotted his master coming toward him. "Ah, Bolb," he said in his impeccable accent. "How are we this morning?"
"Not too bad thank you Guv," Bolb replied in his slow drawl. He never knew his master's name, nor did he ever wonder, and so the semi-formal "Guv" had just stuck.
"Good good," said Guv, rubbing his hands together. "I need to ask a favour of you today."
"What is it sir?"
"Well as you know my, er, associates and I gather in the smoking room once a month to, er, discuss matters. I'd like you to clean the place up a bit, you know, work your usual magic eh, heheheh."
"Of course, master," bowed Bolb. "How could I have forgotten?"
"Ah not to worry Bolb," he said, patting Bolb on the head. "You're getting on a bit now. Getting old..."
He drew in a long sigh and looked a little distant for a while before turning back to Bolb. "Just see that you remember to clean up the smoking room in time for this evening, eh Bolb? That's a good fellow." Bolb was too simple to interpret the weary look crossing his Guv's face as he walked away, so he just headed toward the smoking room with a cheery whistle, slowly pushing along his squeaky-wheeled trolley of cleaning tools.
He ended up spending most of the day there, polishing the oak furniture and cleaning the leather chairs, making sure all the cabinets and glasses were clean. His back was aching by the time he had finished, and just as he was loading his tools back onto his trolley the door opened a crack and Guv popped his head in. "How are we doing old chap?" he asked.
"Just finished, sir," replied Bolb, stretching his back.
"Ah, well done," he said, rubbing his hands. "Just in time, my guests will be arriving soon. Why don't you take the evening off?"
"I haven't done much today sir," Bolb admitted. "Perhaps I should just do some dusting first?"
"Oh no, don't be silly Bolb, you've done enough work, you deserve a rest at your age."
"Very well, Guv."
With that he wheeled his trolley out the door and headed to his room at the back of the house. The squeak from the wheel echoed down the corridors as he went, a sad little noise which embodied the tiredness Bolb felt in his old age. He finally stopped at a small wooden door under a narrow flight of stairs which only the servants were to use, and pulled a large key from his overall pocket. It slid into the lock, smoothed down with familiarity, and with a soft click the door popped open. Bolb pushed his trolley inside the tiny room, parking it in its spot behind an old tattered armchair. Opposite the chair was a small television, and next to it was a wash basin, perched upon which was a camping stove. It wasn't much, but it was all he needed.
He hobbled over to the television and switched it on before collapsing into the soft armchair. He was hungry, but he needed a rest before getting any food. He was so tired, so very tired... as his eyelids began to droop an image flashed before them. A tin of wood polish, left open, lying on a small table by the smoking room door.
Bolb sat bolt upright. How could he have missed it? It was too late now, Guv's guests would be arriving! He looked at the old clock on the wall, its pendulum swinging ponderously. There might still be time...
He pulled himself up and out of the chair and shuffled as fast as his tired legs would carry him, out the room and down the corridors toward the smoking room. By the time he got there the door was closed, and Bolb's heart sank. What a let-down I've been, he thought. He stood for a while, panting and wheezing, wondering what to do, but soon he had to sit down. He lowered himself gently to the cold floor outside the room and took some time to catch his breath. When the sounds of his wheezes had died down he realised that he could hear some of the voices from within the room. He didn't recognize most of them, but every now and then he heard the tones and inflection of his master, even if he couldn't hear everything he was saying.
"The fact is, this batch isn't suitable for our purposes," someone said loudly, almost angrily.
Bolb heard his Guv speaking with pleading tones, but couldn't make out all the words. "We can't just... ... let the current batch die out naturally... ... almost time... ..." he was saying.
"Damn it!" came a loud retort. ".... part of this project... ... too attached!"
"Quiet down," came a calm, old voice. "... ...to review your position... ... do as you're commanded."
"Our superiors have recruited us for a purpose," said a clear, direct and menacing voice. "This new breed is much more suited to their purpose than the old batch. The old batch is obsolete."
Bolb didn't hear that voice again, but even though he didn't understand what the voice was saying, it struck fear into him for some unknown reason. He sat for a while longer as the voices rumbled on in the room behind him, his old and simple brain incapable of understanding what he had just heard. He didn't even understand some of the bigger words and phrases he kept hearing, something about "genetic engineering" and a lot of talk about a "slave underclass". It was none of his business so he paid it no more heed. Just as he began to feel recovered and decided to stand up, the door opened. He turned around, but before anyone came out he heard that menacing voice from before speak again from just the other side. "Yes, I shall have a little fun with mine before he goes," he said. Another voice inside the room said something, then the scary voice again: "Don't worry, mine isn't going anywhere. He has no legs anyway." He uttered a piercing laugh and walked out, his deep, dark eyes fixing upon Bolb as he walked past him.
A shudder went through Bolb as he stood, and he watched all the others walk out past him. They were all rich-looking men, dressed immaculately, and all regarded him with a slight smirk or just ignored him altogether. They knew him by now, after years of coming here, and Bolb recognized some faces, but he always respectfully kept his silence in their presence. Last out was Guv, who looked suprised to see Bolb standing there. "Oh, hello Bolb," he said, strangely subdued. "I thought I told you to take the night off."
Bolb explained about the polish, and Guv handed him the tin without a word. "Best be getting back now then Bolb," he said, his voice wavering. Bolb bowed and did as he was told, heading back to his little room. Unbeknown to him, his master remained in the doorway watching him go, suddenly looking very old and weary himself. He shook his head when Bolb was finally out of sight. "What have I done?" he whispered.
Guv went from there to a room which he always kept locked, and let himself in with the only key ever made for that door. Once inside the small, dark and dusty room he walked over to a large cabinet on the wall and unlocked it, pausing for a moment before sighing and reaching in.
He walked down the corridors, slowly but purposefully, until he finally arrived at a small door set under the servants' stairway. He selected a large key from a keyring full of old keys, and the door unlocked with a soft click.
He found the tired Bolb sleeping in his armchair, bathed in the soft glow of his small television. "A waste," Guv reminded himself. It's all for nothing. He suddenly felt a wave of regret gripping him and culminating in a solitary tear as he slowly walked over, pointed the gun at Bolb's softly breathing head, and pulled the trigger. There was a deafening bang followed by a long, still silence.
"It's done," he eventually said aloud. "It's done." He stood, looking down at Bolb, still lying peacefully as if nothing had happened. If only nothing had happened. He heard footsteps behind him, but didn't turn around. "Well well," a clear, menacing voice echoed down the corridor. "Perhaps you could have been of some use to us after all," it said. "It's almost a shame."
Guv didn't move, he just accepted his fate. There was no dramatic bang for him, no profound silence, just the clatter of his gun as it slipped from his fingers, the dull thud of his body hitting the floor, and the sound of footsteps walking away.