The unanswered question

An intense buzz of conversation greeted me as I entered the hall, peopled as it was by a milling crowd. A long table covered with a white cloth had been set up across the middle. Already people were beginning to sit on one side. I shoved through the crowd to join them, not wanting to miss out. One by one people sat opposite. Some were dressed casually, most in bright colours, others had gowns slung over their shoulders like dons, all were young. They were to answer our questions, or so I thought. It was not easy to catch their eye. There were now so many and those around us were jostling to be noticed. When I finally got the attention of one girl, I turned to the person next to me and shook his shoulder. Explaining the question was complicated, but he looked sure of himself, he must have known the set up, so I suggested he ask. Before he had time to respond, the girl opposite stood and sauntered off. I imagined she had gone to consult the archives or to question a supervisor. Surely she couldn’t just have walked away. Her place was taken by others who said nothing, lest it be the expression in their eyes which clearly invited a question. I declined, waiting for the girl, after all she was the one I was talking to, but she’d been swallowed up by the crowd and there was no sign of her return. Others seated opposite got to their feet and wandered off only to be replaced by someone else. At their silent insistence, I tried again. There was a question, of that I was sure, and it had to be asked, but I had no idea what it was. My frustration and annoyance stoked my growing impatience. Distracted, I looked around to see how others were faring. It was then I realised that those supposed to answer questions were no longer being replaced when they left. To my despair, that side of the table was fast emptying until no one was left. The questioners too began to drift away, my momentary companion with them, until I was the only one remaining at an empty table, alone in a crowd, an urgent question on the tip of my tongue.

383 words

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