Go back to previous chapter


By Sarah Hapgood

He had spent the entire journey south filled with naked fear and apprehension, and yet Brother Ignatius finally reached them in the middle of a showery May. He had stayed for a while in the Village of Stairs, more out of exhaustion than anything else, staying at Father Levka’s home for down-and-outs. He earned his keep there by playing the harmonica of an evening whilst the other inmates ate their supper.

The little monk in his tattered habit, who was now sporting quite a lot of hair, became a firm favourite with them all, and was affectionately nicknamed Brother Iggy. Late at night, when all the dishes had been cleared away, Levka tried to talk him out of travelling even further south in pursuit of Kieran.

“No one knows exactly what lies to the south of here”, said Levka “I’ve known men who’ve lived in this town all their lives who won’t venture down there”.

But Brother Iggy made up in determination what he lacked in size. He wanted to join Kieran (and Bardin), and he wanted to put as much space as possible between himself and the worst of the pro-Codlik monks. Many time as he crossed the wilds to the south of the Village of Stairs, he asked himself why he was doing this, particularly when he seemed to have found his niche at Levka’s soup-kitchen, but the determination kept him going.

And then the zombies began to appear. Like the Indigo-ites he quickly established that they only materialised after dark, and so he spent the night hours up a tree, tying himself to the trunk with a length of rope in case he fell off in his sleep and thus provided the undead with an unexpected midnight snack.

By the time he reached the lake he was in a state of complete physical collapse. Levka had given him a rifle for protection (and as a means of getting food), and Brother Iggy used it to fire a couple of shots into the air from the shore to alert them on the island.

A handful of the Indigo-ites took out the skiff and went to collect him, barely getting him off the mainland before sunset. Over the next few days he was in such a bad way that Hillyard even began to speculate whereabouts on the island they should bury him. But Brother Iggy rallied. He gradually began to notice Finia’s little brown face hovering over him as he nursed him, and then one morning he was well enough to have morning coffee with Bardin.

“Adam’s put about a ton of sugar in yours”, said Bardin, sitting in the cabin on the sloop with the little monk “Don’t expect it all the time as it normally has to be rationed”.

Brother Iggy sat silent in the presence of his idol.

“We’ve put your old habit on the stove”, Bardin continued “It wasn’t even fit to give to the animals as bedding! Don’t worry, you won’t go naked, you can have some of our cast-offs”.

“Y-you’re not going to end me away then?” Brother Iggy hardly dare ask. “Send you back out into THAT?” Bardin exclaimed, gesturing to the shore “I’d have to be a complete monster! You’ll have to stay here for the duration, but I can’t tell you how long that could be. We’re trying to sit out Codlik you see. He has to die sometime. In the meantime we just get on with living here. Some of our ways might not be what you prefer, but you’ll just have to put up with them. On the whole we do alright. Glad you’ve got a harmonica, we can always do with more music”.

There was a lot of noise as Mieps, Hillyard and Rumble returned from a hunting-trip to the mainland. It was raining heavily outside, and the three of them walked into the cabin soaked to the skin, and liberally covered in mud.

“You’d better strip off”, said Bardin “Bengo!”

He had ordered Bengo to wait outside the cabin door whilst he spoke to Brother Iggy. Bengo came in, wearing his oilskin jacket over his shorts and t-shirt.

“Take all their clothes up to the lighthouse”, said Bardin “It’ll probably need boiling”.

The hunting-party gleefully stripped and threw all their clothing at Bengo. Bardin rescued him and helped him to carry it all up to the lighthouse.

“Oh good”, said Adam, in the kitchen “That’ll help keep Patsy out of mischief”.

“Wishful thinking!” said Joby.

Adam stood at the bottom of the stairs and vigorously rang the hand-bell to summon Kieran down to the kitchen. Ransey, in the wireless room as usual, irritably slammed the door on them.

“Bardin”, said Adam “I think I’d better go and have a talk with him. He seems to be getting obsessed with that damn wireless set”.

“You haven’t seriously been thinking that I’ve been working flat out on this damn thing because I’m missing the outside world?” said Ransey.

“Well it had crossed my mind, yes”, said Adam.

Ransey gave a longsuffering sigh.

“I’m doing it”, he said “To try and keep tabs on Codlik. It’s important for His safety”.

He raised his eyes towards the ceiling, as Kieran was somewhere upstairs in the lighthouse.

“Oh bless you”, said Adam, squeezing his hand.

“When do I ever do ANYTHING that wasn’t to do with Kieran’s safety!” said Ransey “I don’t trust Codlik at all. He’s going the way of Father Gabriel, and I don’t just mean in going mad. Those sort of men are bitter and resentful, they get angry because they feel the world doesn’t acknowledge their genius. Codlik wants his power back. And like Gabriel did, he sees Kieran as someone who gets in the way of him being fully appreciated by everyone”.

“And it seems there’s nothing Patsy can do to mitigate that”, said Adam.

“I really do believe that Codlik wants him dead”, said Ransey.

“But surely he must realise that won’t do his popularity any good at all?” said Adam.

“I guess he thinks that people’s grief will be short-term”, said Ransey “Don’t under-estimate Codlik’s arrogance, Adam, he really does believe no one else in this world is as important as he is! I think he sees any reactions to Kieran’s death as knee-jerk, and that it’ll die down in time, and Kieran will be forgotten eventually”.

“Never!” said Adam.

“What’s going on in here?” said Julian “Why did you have the door shut?”

“Will you come out and have some tea, Ransey?” said Adam, pointedly ignoring Julian.

“Yes I think I will”, said Ransey “I’ll just tidy up in here first”.

Kieran, now in the kitchen, was attempting to play Brother Iggy’s harmonica, and was making Joby wince in the process.

“I’ll be able to get a tune out of this”, said Kieran “Given time”.

“One of the goats could probably get a tune out of that”, said Joby “Given time!”

Julian took the harmonica off Kieran and put it on the mantelpiece over the stove. He peered in through the pantry door where Toppy was methodically washing the breakfast dishes.

“What’s going to happen with our refugee now?” said Julian, having completed a successful circuit of the kitchen table “Is he ever going to get out of bed?”

“Jules, for goodness sake!” said Adam “He’s been through a tremendous ordeal and he’s still …”

“Very young”, said Julian “Yes I know, you’ve told me that countless times since he arrived here. But I really think he needs to get up, it’ll give him entirely the wrong idea if we all run around waiting on him hand and foot all the time”.

“I’ve never known you wait on anyone hand and foot!” said Joby.

“Is he going to be one of us?” said Julian.

“He’ll have to be”, said Bardin, who was sitting with Bengo on his knee “For the time he’s with us. What else can we do in such a confined space? Build him a little hermitage on the other side of the island?!”

“No we’re saving that for Kieran”, said Joby “For if he takes up the harmonica in earnest!”

“It’s been so dark all day”, said Bengo, standing on the stairs to the first floor “I did wonder if the zombies would come out, thinking it was night-time”.

“This torrential rain will at least mean we’re not short of fresh water”, said Adam, who was lighting a candle on the ledge above their heads, to brighten the stairway “Not that we ever are anyway”.

He blew out the taper (lit from the kitchen stove, to save on matches), and then took off his apron, handing it to Bengo.

“Jules gets so sarcastic if I turn up in that”, he said.

Adam then kissed Bengo on the hands and lips, pronounced him a “perfect delight”, and went on up to the second floor, where Julian had been reading in the window for most of the day.

“You’ve just been kissing”, he said, after he had greeted Adam “It wasn’t Ransey was it?”

“Don’t be silly”, said Adam “It was little Bengo”.

“That’s a relief!” said Julian “Have you got them on?”

“Yes”, said Adam.

Julian removed Adam’s shirt, and then fastened a leash round his neck, which was normally used for the goats.

“I’ll probably get fleas”, said Adam.

“Shush shush”, said Julian.

They were both recovering on the bed when Ransey came upstairs. Adam, still wearing the leash, pulled the covers over his head so that it couldn’t be seen, although the jangling of the chain rather gave it away.

“We’ve picked up noise on the wireless”, said Ransey “Only we can’t figure out what it is. Do you want to come down and hear it?”

“We’ll get dressed first”, said Julian “Alright, there’s no need to hang around and watch us!”

Hillyard was standing in the doorway of the ground-floor storeroom, holding a saddle which he’d been in the process of cleaning. He noticed Adam was walking stiffly.

“Been at it again eh?” he chortled, giving Adam’s behind a slap.

“Lost your horse have you?” Adam retaliated, aiming a kick at Hillyard.

In the wireless room he found Kieran sitting at the desk, holding up the headset to his ear. Joby was on one side of him and Bardin on the other, both crouching close to try and hear for themselves.

“It sounds like Angel having his dinner to me”, said Joby, trying to make light of a noise that was at the same time both incomprehensible and weirdly disturbing.

At the far end of the line, at what sounded like the ends of the earth, was the sound of someone chewing and gulping in a greedy manner.

“I’m disabling this for now”, said Ransey, pulling out a couple of the wires.

“But I thought you wanted to keep tabs on the world”, said Adam.

“I don’t know about that”, said Kieran “But someone’s keeping tabs on us”.

The wireless was kept disconnected for quite some while, and everyone studiously ignored it. The weather turned sunny again and they were all preoccupied with other things. Brother Iggy got well, and in Bengo’s opinion, began to make a bloody nuisance of himself.

Brother Iggy’s adoration for Bardin was undiminished. Bardin in return treated him as though he was in the second row of the chorus, giving him faint praise when he did something right, yelling blue murder and threatening to evict him when he did something wrong, and the rest of the time completely ignoring him.

Bengo, Brother Iggy’s erstwhile companion, began to wish the little monk had never turned up at all. He refused to resume their old clowning lessons, claiming he was too busy in the kitchen, and even tried to use that same excuse when Bardin summoned him outside one afternoon. Bengo went only on Adam’s insistence, and so Bengo joined Bardin at the far western tip of the island.

“You could at least appreciate me putting my best togs on for you”, said Bardin, who was wearing his smartest shirt and a cravat tied in a big floppy clownish bow. He did look very striking and smart, in a foppish, bohemian way “I thought I’d make it a treat for you, getting you out of the kitchen”.

“I LIKE being in the kitchen”, Bengo snapped “And I’m sure Brother Iggy thinks you look lovely”.

“Have you gone completely crazy?” said Bardin “What is all this about Brother Iggy? You’re the one who used to witter on about how I needed to be kinder to him!”

“What do you want from me this afternoon?” said Bengo, still scowling fiercely.

“Sex mainly”, said Bardin “And before you suggest it, no I don’t want it with blasted Brother Iggy!”

He pushed Bengo onto his back and lay on top of him in the grass, scooping up Bengo’s long brown curly hair in his hands and framing his face with it.

“Don’t you fancy a bit of loving then?” asked Bardin.

“Yes but …” Bengo stammered “Bardy, I love the lighthouse, it’s a fun place to live, but it doesn’t feel safe here anymore. If Brother Iggy got here then so could anyone else. And I know the zombies can’t reach us but what if one of those tall things appeared, like the one we saw up by the old windmills that time? We’d be trapped here then, at its mercy”.

“Not necessarily”, said Bardin “We could hide in the cellar, it couldn’t reach us in there. Do you have a craving to go round the Horn of Wonder, is that it? Look, we’ll stay here for a while and see how it all turns out. We can always move on if things get tight here”.

“O.K”, said Bengo.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License.

Go forward to next chapter

Return to Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales and Strange Places web site