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Bengo was thrashing a clump of lakeside bushes with a fallen tree branch.
“What the hell are you doing?” asked Bardin, his breath wafting in the frosty air.
“I’m trying to smoke out that evil clown who accosted me the other day”, said Bengo.
“Well he’s not going to be lurking in the undergrowth is he!” said Bardin “Not unless he’s shrunk to about 3 foot high! You daft sod. And what do you want to see him for anyway?”
“To scare him again”, said Bengo “I enjoyed it last time”.
“I can’t imagine you’d manage to scare anybody! Don’t delude yourself, Bengo. You’re never going to get to play the supervillain”.
They were interrupted by Hoowie shouting from a few feet away. The freezing fog was so dense that they couldn’t see him.
“Now what?” said Bardin.
He and Bengo wandered carefully in the general direction of Hoowie’s voice. They found him standing at the bottom of a tree, pointing upwards.
“Oh my God”, said Bengo, gazing up round-eyed.
A dead monkey was hanging from the tree. A large, clanking crucifix hung mockingly around its neck. “How did that get there?” said Bengo “I mean, what’s monkey doing up here in this part of the world anyway?”
“More to the point”, said Bardin “Who hung the poor little bastard from a tree?”
“Looks like it’s meant to be Kieran”, said Hillyard, who was standing near Hoowie.
“Kieran?” Bardin exclaimed “It looks nothing like Kieran!”
“No, it’s mocking him”, said Hillyard “The cross, see?”
“You mean someone hung this poor thing just to mock Kieran?” said Bengo.
“We’d better cut it down”, said Bardin “Can’t bury him though, the ground’s rock-hard. Put him in the lake. One more dead body probably won’t make any difference”.
“Your sense of humour’s going all weird these days”, said Bengo.
“Yes, must be something to do with the state of the world”, said Bardin.
Adam and Joby came up from the hold that afternoon, to find Bengo having a ruckus with Mutton Broth outside the galley door.
“What on earth’s going on here?” said Adam.
“The whinging little squirt’s moaning about having to clean the heads”, said Bengo “He’s worse than Hoowie! Says Bardin’s being unfair to him. Give me strength”.
“Bengo, why don’t you go and make Mutton a cup of tea”, said Adam.
“Like hell!” said Bengo.
“Bengo, why don’t you go and make Mutton a cup of tea”, said Adam, more firmly.
“Blimey, Panto season’s here”, said Joby, planting a bag of flour on the galley-table.
“You can’t blame me for getting cross with him”, he said “With everything else that we’re having to put up with, he starts on about Bardin having a sharp tongue!”
“Well he has I suppose”, said Adam “I read somewhere that was the problem with Captain Bligh. He had such a sharp tongue that it quite upset the men under his command”.
“Back in the days when men were real men eh”, said Joby “So why haven’t we all mutineered then?”
“We have somewhat cosier relationship with our boy than Bligh’s men had with him”, said Adam.
“And those stupid dumbass clowns should be used to him by now!” said Bengo, slopping some lukewarm tea into a cup “I’ll go and take this to the whinging squirt shall I?”
He met Bardin coming into the room.
“This is all your fault, Bardy”, he snapped, before going on his way.
“What was that all about?” Bardin asked Adam and Joby.
“Poor Mutton is distraught about having to clean the heads again”, said Adam “One can’t blame him”.
“Oh yes one can”, said Bardin “That lot whinge every time they’re given anything to do. Left to them they’d just sit around all day, gossiping. Well they’re not getting an easy time with me around”.
“That’s for sure”, said Joby.
“Can I get a cup of tea, or has Mutton drunk it all?” said Bardin.
“Am I doing the right thing?” he asked later, when he was lying on his bunk.
“How do you mean?” said Bengo, pulling his nightshirt over his head.
“Making us carry on into the forest like this”.
“You heard what Cloris said on the wireless”, said Bengo, turning the lamp down and tiptoeing over to the bed “We’re safer lost in here. They won’t follow us into the forest. Must be scared stiff of weird clowns and dead monkeys. Anyway, we have to keep going through this to get to Snow Lake”.
He slipped into the bunk.
“God knows what else we’ve got to see between now and then”, said Bardin.
“Can’t be any worse than some of the other shit we’ve seen on our travels over the years”, said Bengo “The Cursed Isle, all those dead bodies on the New Continent”.
“Joby’s relieved we’re in the forest”.
“Is he?” “Yes, he’s always much more relaxed when Kieran’s well out of the public eye. All that talk about bombing the City freaked him out”.
“We’re a very long way off that one. Even Hillyard can’t knock us up a bomber air-buggy out of a ball of string and some glue. I wish the bloody outside world would sort itself out. Then we could go and have our own proper sanctuary somewhere”.
“It’ll happen one day. Kieran thinks we’re past the worst of it”.
“I wish I had his confidence”, said Bardin “Anyway, tree-cutting again tomorrow. Whether there are any monkeys hanging from them or not”.
As Bardin said, another tree-cutting expedition went ashore in the morning. The air was bitterly cold, and a freezing fog hung over the entire area. Much excitement was caused when a wild boar was sighted amongst the trees.
“Mieps is going over it”, Hillyard shouted up to Adam on the main deck “We should have a nice surprise for you later”.
“Nice surprise”, Joby muttered, next to Adam “Butchery in the galley”.
“Now don’t be like that, Joby”, said Adam “It’s fresh meat, and meat is ....”
“A valuable source of protein. Yes I know”.
“And we should be able to salt some away into the hold. Go and sharpen the knives in case they’re lucky”.
“OK”, Joby sighed.
There was a huge flurry of excitement on the galleon a couple of hours later. Trees were brought onto the deck, and the carcass of a wild boar taken below. Bengo, who had gone ashore with Bardin, was more excited about the other news though, and ran below to tell Adam and Joby.
“We found an old railroad track”, he said, breathlessly “Winding through the trees”.
“Yes, so Lo-Lo just told us”, said Adam.
“Oh damn, I wanted to be the first”, said Bengo, pulling off his coat.
“Disused innit?” said Joby.
“I think so”, said Bengo “There’s so much rubble and debris on the shore it’s hard to see how anyone could get a train along it. But it’s the first time since the Gorgon Pit that we’ve seen any sign that anyone’s ever used this area. I don’t count demon clowns and gits who hang monkeys from the trees”.
“Hey, what’s that fucking noise?” Hillyard shouted from the top of the quarterdeck steps.
The galley crew thumped up the steps and back into the cold air. In the far distance was a metallic sound, other-worldly and eerie.
“Are they trying to freak us out again?” Hillyard asked Kieran.
“Not this time, this is something else”, said Kieran “It’s a helluva long way away, whatever it is. I guess it’s yet another of those things we have to expect in this forest”.
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