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By Sarah Hapgood

Rumble led some of them up to the top of the island, leaving a few others behind to “mind the ship”. It was a miserable, grey, bleak day, and there was a general feeling that This Had Better Be Worth It.

“Is it the Pink Mountains again, Rumble?” Lonts asked.

“No it’s a lot nearer to us than that”, Rumble replied “I just hope it’s still there. It may have turned tail by now and vanished”.

By the time they had reached the top of the path which led to the crest of the island, Farnol was waiting for them at the top, literally hopping about with impatience and excitement.

“Quick you guys!” he said “I don’t know how much longer it will be there!”

They walked to the grassy knoll on the eastern side of the island. There was a small rock out in the steely grey ocean. One that was so small and inaccessible that, in all the time they had been in this part of the world, they had never seen anything on it. Even the seagulls seemed to boycott it. Situated on it now though was what appeared to be a long reptilian creature, rather like a large iguana. It was facing away from the, staring intently out at the waters of the ocean. It was only when it moved slightly that they could see that it had human-like hands.

“Good God”, said Bardin, peering through a set of binoculars “What the hell is it?”

“Is it a mermaid?” said Bengo, excitedly “Ooh I hope it is, we’ve never encountered one of those before”.

“Whatever it is, it’s been there for ages”, said Rumble “Seems to be contemplating the infinite, as the saying goes”.

As if upon hearing their voices the stranger peered over its shoulder at them. Through the glasses Bardin could see that its face was a weird hybrid of human and amphibian. Seaweed-like hair hung in damp tendrils over its bony visage.

Bardin felt a strange sensation in his body, as though something was pulling him up into the vast reaches of space. It was both unsettling and yet pleasant at the same time. When he looked out to sea again he saw the creature pulling itself with its hands towards the edge of the rock. It paused and then plopped itself over the edge of the forbidding depths of the ocean. There was a brief flash of its tail before it disappeared into the choppy waters.

“I think it might be similar to the weird sea-monster we saw when we went round to the other island that time”, said Hillyard, when they were back below deck.

“Except this one wasn’t threatening us in any way”, said Bengo.

“The only reason the other one threatened us was because we were too close to the island”, said Bardin, who had been nibbling on his fingers in a pensive fashion.

“If anything, this one didn’t seem to show much awareness of us at all”, said Ransey.

“Until it got shy when it saw us watching it”, said Hoowie.

“I think there’s another argument for trying that island again”, said Julian, prowling around the dining-table with a cup of tea in his hand “We won’t satisfy our curiosity until we do”.

“OK”, said Bardin “But not until the 30 days of Retreat are up”.

Over the next few days a bone-scrapingly cold wind blew up from the East, and nobody felt much like venturing forth anyway. It was a real battening-down-the-hatches time.

“It’s at times like this I feel like Captain Scott huddling in his tent in the Antarctic”, said Adam.

“Forget anything I’ve ever said about settling for good in this place”, said Joby “I want somewhere bleedin’ warmer than this!”

“I think we should go looking for a desert island”, said Bengo “Like the one you lot were on before”.

“We’ve been searching for one like that for years now”, said Joby “Wherever it is it’s as elusive as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”.

“How very poetic you are today, Joby”, said Adam.

“Well perhaps somewhere near the New Continent might just be the answer”, said Bengo.

“Here, what do you make of this?” said Hillyard, appearing in the doorway and holding up a large skein of seaweed.

“It’s seaweed”, said Joby, unimpressed.

“Yeah, great thinking, Brainy”, said Hillyard “I found it lying on the main deck”.

“Somehow it must have got blown on there”, said Adam.

“Unless the mermaid’s paid us a visit”, said Bengo.

“I thought it looked vaguely Arty”, said Hillyard “We could hang it up as wall decoration”.

“Don’t be silly, Hillyard”, said Adam.

“What’s the matter, Ad?” said Hillyard “Got no taste for the avant-garde?”

“Not when it’s as daft as that idea, no”, said Adam.

“You could call it something like Reflections On Being At Sea”, said Hillyard.

“If that’s the kind of thing that this 30-day Retreat is doing to your brain”, said Joby “Then I think it’s high time we moved on!”

“I can’t say I have much passion for Art that’s smelly”, said Adam “And I could do without the smell of seaweed below deck. We get quite enough of it outside”.

“Alright I’ll chuck it overboard”, said Hillyard “Some people have no imagination!”

“God help us, he’ll be bringing in seagull droppings next”, said Joby.

That night the wind blew in melancholy fashion around the ship. Bardin lay awake in the still watches, aware of a vague electronic-sounding buzzing noise which seemed to be flickering on and off at 30 second intervals.

“What IS that?” he whispered “It sounds like it’s coming from on the ship”.

“Things have been a bit weird all day”, said Bengo “Go back to sleep”.

“I cannot sleep with that buzzing around”, said Bardin, pushing the bedcovers back and heaving himself into a sitting position.

“It’s not very loud”, Bengo protested “I can barely hear it. In fact, I wouldn’t have heard it if you hadn’t pointed it out”.

“It doesn’t matter how loud it is”, said Bardin, reaching for his bath-robe “It’s the fact that it’s buzzing at all that matters! There is something on this ship that shouldn’t be here”.

He went out into the corridor. He checked the wireless room and the galley first, but nothing was out of place. From the dining-room he could hear the soft breathing of Umbert and Digby, as they slept on their respective camp-beds. A random thought crossed his mind that they should perhaps fashion some proper beds for them some time, although where they would put them was another matter. Bardin continued along the main corridor which ran from the stern to the Saloon at the brow end of the ship.

The buzzing sound was so faint that he had to pause to actually hear it, and out here in the corridor it wasn’t so noticeable above the varied snoring noises around him, and the soft mumbling of the night-watch up on deck. He stopped at the door which led to Julian and Hoowie’s cabin. He opened the door quietly, only intending to quickly peer in, but Julian was awake, and sitting on the window-seat. When he spotted Bardin, he strode over to him, and took him back out into the corridor, so as not to disturb Hoowie, who was fast asleep in the bunk.

“What’s up?” said Julian, pulling the door closed behind him.

“There’s a strange buzzing noise”, said Bardin “Very soft, but I can hear it. Whatever it is, it is not meant to be on this ship”.

“Yes I’ve heard it too”, said Julian “That’s why I couldn’t sleep”.

“Oh thank God for that”, Bardin breathed out “I was starting to think I was going off my head!”

“I strongly suggest we leave it until daylight hours and search the ship then”.

“B-but …!”

“There is nothing to be achieved by turning the boat upside down in the middle of the cold, dark night, and disturbing everyone’s rest”, said Julian, firmly “And God knows, they all need it”.

“But what if it’s a bomb or something!”

“Bloody weird bomb that quietly buzzes away to itself every few minutes!”

Bengo came up out of the gloom, with the look of resignation he often had on his face when Bardin was being awkward.

“Bengo, take him back to bed”, said Julian “And keep him there until breakfast time. Cosh him over the head if you have to”.

“Will do”, said Bengo, pulling Bardin away by his arm.

“Sometimes I wonder who is really in charge here”, Bardin grumbled.

“You are Captain”, said Bengo, shoving him into their cabin “But Julian is Father Superior. I shouldn’t need to point that out to you again after all these year!”

“I was going to do a full inventory of the hold with Adam after breakfast”, said Ransey, chatting to Bardin in the wireless room a few hours later “This is even more of an incentive to do so now. We’ll certainly keep a sharp eye out for anything unusual”.

“I can’t hear it in daylight hours”, said Bardin “Too much noise on the ship, but last night I could. I don’t even know how long it’s been on here. It could have been planted on here some time ago”.

“No, we would have noticed it before now if it was”.

“I’m wondering if perhaps it’s some kind of spying or bugging device”.

“Well if it is, it’s not a very sophisticated one”, said Ransey “Not if it’s so easily detected. We’d have even done better than that at the Ministry, and some of their bugging devices left a lot to be desired!”

“But if it is one who the hell planted it on here, and how?”

“Bardin, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we don’t even know what it is yet, one step at a time. I suggest you take a few moments to calm yourself down”.

“Adam’s going to do that for me”.

“Good!” *

Adam spanked Bardin whilst the others were at breakfast, walloping him hard with a paddle. He had stuffed a hankie into Bardin’s mouth so that he couldn’t cry out, and was completely at Adam’s mercy as to how long the chastisement took. By the end of it Bardin felt almost cross-eyed with pleasure.

“Gosh I’m exhausted now”, said Adam, chucking the paddle onto the galley table “Bet that must have given my arm muscles quite a workout”.

He squeezed Bardin’s sore buttocks like a baker kneading dough, occasionally rubbing his hand into the inside of Bardin’s shorts so that he could feel the warm soreness of his behind.

Bardin spat the hankie out, but his behind was throbbing so much that he could barely utter the words to speak. Which infuriated him as he still had a lot to say.

“Well I suppose I’d better get on with breakfast”, said Adam “Ransey will be wanting to start on the inventory immediately after”.

He lifted up his arm, which he had used to hold Bardin tightly in place with, to push his hair out of his eyes, and Bardin tumbled unceremoniously to the floor.

“Oh you poor thing”, Adam pulled him to his feet, and then half-carried him across to the corridor into his cabin.

“Now Bengo will bring you in some breakfast”, he said, placing him gently in his bunk “And then I think you should have a little nap”.

“But it’s 9 o’clock in the morning!” said Bardin, finding his voice.

“Do as you’re told, Bardin”, said Adam, sternly “This is all part of your own Spiritual Retreat programme, as we decided all along. At some point later this morning I’ll ask Hillyard to give you a massage, as we don’t want you seizing up. And then I shall give you another sorting out later today. By the end of it you should be completely helpless. And if you’re not, then we shall have to carry on trying until you are”.

“I hope he was alright after I’d dropped him on the floor like that”, said Adam, in the galley after breakfast “He must have thought I’d done it on purpose”.

“You mean you didn’t?” said Joby.

“Oh don’t worry about him”, said Bengo “He’s a clown, he loves all that sort of thing”.

“I know, but he was already feeling tender after the walloping”, said Adam.

“Serves him right for all those times he criticised my pratfalls over the years”, said Bengo “You can drop him on the floor as many times as you like. I just wish we could have seen it”.

“You can both watch when I spank him again later this evening”, said Adam “I might do it outside the galley door, at the foot of the steps”.

“Oh they’re particularly fun, those ones”, said Bengo.

“I always think of those as more morning ones”, said Joby.

“Well alright, we’ll do it cosily in here by lamplight”, said Adam.

“And do a galley door one tomorrow morning?” said Bengo.

“Absolutely”, said Adam “I must say this Spiritual Retreat is turning out to be even more fun than I expected”.

“In spite of the weather”, said Joby “I was hoping that when we had another Spanking Bardin Holiday that it’d be in warm weather like the last one, but this one’s alright”.

Ransey appeared in the doorway, carrying a clipboard and two torches.

“Are you ready, Adam?” he said “I think we should get on with the inventory now”.

“Ooh isn’t he masterful!” said Adam “Yes, I’m coming, sweetie”. *

Bardin slept heavily for a couple of hours. When he woke up, he stood up and did some gentle yogic exercises to try and loosen himself up a bit. He then changed his shorts, perversely choosing an even more sheer-fitting pair to chafe his sore behind. The ones he had worn earlier had been so sturdily starched that they could almost stand up by themselves. There was always something very satisfying about the way the paddle thwacked against the crackle of those. He draped them over the back of a chair approvingly, intending to pull them back on when he was ready to be Sorted Out again.

He went over to the armchair which stood next to the grate, in which a small peat-fire was burning. He gingerly began to lower himself into the chair.

“Hold on”, said Bengo, coming into the room “You need a cushion”.

He pushed one underneath Bardin, and then helped him sit down.

“God help us if we have to suddenly do anything dramatic and exerting”, said Bardin “I won’t be in any fit state to move! Particularly if I’m going to get spanked again later!”

“You’ll be alright”, said Bengo “I shall rub some cream into your sore posterior and give you a rub-down”.

“I thought Hillyard was doing that”.

“No I’M doing it”.

“O-ho, frightened we’ll might get jealous are we?”

“Behave yourself Bardin, Adam’s not the only one who can put you across his knee you know”.

“Well if it comes to that I could put you across mine”, said Bardin “You’ve been asking for it for ages”.

“Ooh goodo!” said Bengo, delightedly “Mind you, I don’t know how you’ll manage it when you can barely sit down”.

“I can find a way”.

“You’ve really lightened the mood around here, Bardy. Everybody’s so happy, it’s just what we could all do with. This may even turn out to be the best Spiritual Retreat ever. Umbert’s talking about arranging a musical evening for later”.

“That should just about complete my torture”.

“Come and lie on the sofa, and I’ll massage your behind”.

He helped Bardin to his feet, and they kissed each other hungrily.

“We haven’t done enough of that lately”, said Bardin, when they came up for air.

“There hasn’t been much time has there”, said Bengo “Everything’s been so up in the air for ages. This is the first time we’ve had a chance to pause for breath. I’m even starting to wish we could stay on this island, even though I know it’s not practical in the long-term”.

“Not really”, said Bardin “About all it’s good for really is peat for the fire! We need somewhere we can build a proper smallholding”.

“Bard, sorry to interrupt, mate”, said Hillyard. He paused and looked searchingly at the erection sticking out of the front of Bardin’s shorts.

“Yes, what is it?” said Bardin, adjusting himself.

“The yacht’s appeared”, said Hillyard “Round the side of the island”.

“What?!” Bardin exclaimed “Cloris’s yacht?”


“Oh what the hell do they want!”

“Dunno, but it’s just appeared out of the gloom like”.

“Is it too late to weigh anchor and run away?” said Bengo.

“I think so, they’ve seen us”, said Hillyard.

“Hell’s teeth”, said Bardin “OK, give me a moment to put my trousers on”.

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