Go back to previous chapter
“Now come on Hilly, don’t be churlish”, said Adam “There is no way they’re going to be able to walk any further. They will need the little truck to get them to Hannah’s. They’re not going to be able to go any further in their condition”.
“I know I know!” said Hillyard “I was just having a little moan. Kieran’s the saint round here, not me”.
“And the bus isn’t practical for them”, Adam went on.
“I know!” said Hillyard.
He stamped away to get the truck ready for the refugees, who were sitting around the camp-fire, cradling mugs of beef-tea. It had been established that they had fled from service in the City army. The final straw had been reached when they had been ordered to oversee an internment camp.
“We know what goes on there”, one of them spoke with difficulty “Human beings slaughtered like cattle, for food”.
“Who for?” said Joby.
“Them”, the refugee replied “The Satanic Regime. We made a deal that we would run from it. We seem to have been travelling rough for an age. An eon. There’s very little food anyway. They’ve been bombing the fields, wiping out the crops and the cattle whenever they can. We’ve been living off what we can find in the woods, and anything we can get fishing. It hasn’t been much”.
This was patently obvious. The day was passing on. The Indigo-ites decided it was best if the refugees got to Hannah’s by nightfall, so there was to be little in the way of hanging about.
Julian, standing under a nearby tree, watched them getting ready to setoff. He called Joby over to him.
“What’s up?” said Joby.
They watched as one of the refugees kissed Kieran’s hands. Julian sighed.
“Oh come off it”, said Joby “I’d rather have ‘em doing that than torturing him or covering him in buckets of shit. And that could be what we’ll come to next”.
“Bad enough hearing that there isn’t a building left standing intact in the City”, said Julian.
“I know”, said Joby “Depressing innit. Reminds me of that time we entered the City after Father Gabriel had wrecked it”.
“Perhaps that’s the curse of immortality”, said Julian “To see everyone keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again”.
“Huh”, said Joby “I’d argue you don’t need immortality for that one!”
“It’s a mistake we make as humans”, said Julian “To think the human race will keep on improving. All too often it doesn’t. Bloody depressing. Are you worried about Kieran? Probably a bit of a silly question I know”.
“I don’t even know what it is we think we’re trying to achieve”, said Joby “He’s got no intention of taking over again. Why don’t we just go back to Hannah’s and create a sanctuary there?”
As if on some kind of psychic impulse they both looked over at Bardin, who was standing watching the departure with his arms folded. His cap was pulled down over his eyes, which was always a sign of deep brooding contemplation.
“Can’t we just stuff him in a trunk somewhere on the galleon?” Joby whispered “We did it with Kieran once, and I can’t imagine Bengo would mind!”
“Nice idea”, said Julian “But you know as well as I that it’s not going to happen”.
The refugees were waved off in a small truck, carrying a note from Adam to Hannah and Cloris, explaining what had happened. It was a poignant moment, even more so than leaving the lakeside in the first place had been. It would have been oh-so easy to start up the bus and follow them.
They had amassed valuable information from the refugees. The City was no so destroyed that the government - what there was of it - had long since moved out. It wasn’t clear where they had gone, but the refugees felt they may have moved to a sanctuary northwards. The Indigo-ites meanwhile seemed to be travelling on Kieran’s instincts, which so far was leading them in an easterly direction.
“Which fortunately is the way the path goes”, said Bardin.
“That’s probably why Kieran chose it!” said Joby “Nothing mysterious or psychic about it at all”.
The bus set off in front. The horses followed on behind, and would catch the vehicle up at some point further up the track. Some of the Indigo-ites travelled on foot. Hillyard seemed to have commandeered the driving of the bus, although Ransey made it quite clear that he would want a gun at some point.
It wasn’t long before the path found it’s way out of the woods and emerged as a track running alongside a lake. In the light of this sunny morning, with mountains in the distance, it was hard to believe there was any trouble in the world at all.
“Well we certainly look like a bunch of travelling players”, said Bengo, who was walking alongside Kieran.
“You’d like that wouldn’t you?” Kieran laughed.
“And you’d like us to be a proper religious order”, said Bengo “I don’t suppose we could be both?”
“Quite easily”, said Kieran “The air’s like wine this morning. So crisp and clear, and intoxicating”.
“Why do people have to cock things up all the time?” Bengo sighed.
“Mankind has been asking that once since the dawn of time”, said Kieran.
Bardin galloped past them on one of the ponies, kicking up dust as he went.
“He even has to be in a tearing hurry out here”, said Bengo “Good job HE’S not driving the bus. It’d be wrecked in next to no time”.
“He’s suffering from a surfeit of adrenalin”, said Kieran.
“Reminds me of the times when we’d put on a gala show”, said Bengo “He was always like that then too”.
“We’ll whack him round the head with a mallet if he keeps it up”, said Kieran.
They watched as Bardin cantered up to the bus and shouted something through the driver’s window. A chunky arm came out of the window as Hillyard waved him off.
“I think we should stop for a tea-break soon”, Bengo sighed.
They found an abandoned octagonal-shaped brick building on the banks of the lake. From the way in which it had windows in all sides Adam suggested that it may have been built as a summerhouse, so that someone could catch the light from all angles. He said this so wistfully that the others were momentarily reminded that he was an artist at heart, not just their chief cook and bottle-washer.
“Makes you wish we had the galleon here doesn’t it?” said Joby, joining him inside.
To their pleasant surprise, Bardin ordered that they stay here for the rest of the day. The only one who wasn’t too pleased was Hillyard, who had to be practically prised out from behind the steering-wheel of the bus.
“How are we going to get anywhere if we keep stopping every time we see some nice scenery?” he complained.
“Who knows how much longer we’re going to get nice scenery”, was Bardin’s response.
Adam found Bardin in the summerhouse a couple of hours later, doing what seemed to be some contortion exercises with a plastic bunch of daffodils.
“Found these amongst our old props in the hold back home”, said Bardi “There used to be a trick whereby you could pull these from any part of your body, without the audience knowing”.
“The possibilities must be endless”, said Adam.
“A bit silly I know”, Bardin sighed “God knows if we’ll ever have an audience, or if they’ll be in any mood to watch us!”
“The flowers don’t squirt water do they?” said Adam.
“For once, no”, said Bardin.
He went and stood at the open doorway, staring out at the achingly beautiful landscape.
“I know we keep asking this”, he said “But IS this the end … of everything?”
“Well the world has been through plenty of catastrophes before”, said Adam “We even got hit by a damn comet once, and everything carried on. People gradually got things back together again”.
“There sounds like a ‘but’ coming”, said Bardin.
“That bright flash we saw back at the other lake”, said Adam “If it was a nuclear explosion, though God knows where they got their hands on it after all this time …”
“There would be no turning back”, said Bardin “The human race would be done for. But the refugees didn’t mention it”.
“They may not know”, said Adam “That’s why I’ glad we didn’t mention it to them. There is the other entirely selfish thing we have to address sometime”.
“If it’s the end, what happens to us?” said Bardin.
Bengo ambled round the side of the building, with his hands in his pockets.
“What’s the matter with you two?” he said.
“Just having a chinwag about the state of the world”, said Bardin.
“Good God”, said Bengo “No wonder you both look so far fed up!”
Go forward to next chapter
Return to Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales and Strange Places web site