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By Sarah Hapgood

The summer months lulled them into a false sense of security (almost). The days were long and sunny, and some nights the zombies didn’t appear at all. The Indigo-ites concentrated on the bare bones of living, and the time passed fairly pleasantly all told. The wireless was still ignored. It was unanimously decided, in the interests of everyone’s sanity, that it was probably best to ignore what Codlik was saying.

In the autumn though it all changed. A peasouper fog, which had been sitting at the top of the mountains for some time, rolled down and blanketed the lake. It silently covered the island and the surrounding area, and covered the lighthouse up to the level of the walkway round the light.

The horses and the mules were moved onto the sloop, and the goats and the chickens were moved down into the cellar. Bardin also decided that they should all of them spend a few nights (or at least for the duration of the fog) inside the lighthouse.

Bardin was convinced he had made a grave error of judgement in making them stay on at the island. He wished now he’d listened to Bengo’s fears back in May and taken them all off on a lengthy boat-trip. He tried not to make these concerns too public, and only confided them to the longsuffering Bengo in darkened corners, but it was inevitable that the others would all notice.

Julian summoned the two clowns up to the second-floor bedroom and berated Bardin for developing such “Kieran-ish” angst. To really get his message across he spanked Bardin with the paddle, whilst Bengo watched them with a mix of concern and excitement. It was only too true that Julian blamed Kieran for encouraging people to have, as he saw it, such inner strife and turmoil, much in the same way that traditional old establishment right-wingers blamed all the evils of the world on “the lefty, socialist trendies in the welfare state”. Julian, being Julian, went further than merely ranting though, and on the same evening he had chastised Bardin, he thrashed Kieran with the cane.

Kieran took his sore body down to the pantry afterwards, and locked himself in with Joby. The Irishman then dropped his trousers and bent over the mangle so that Joby could rub some healing cream into him.

“You shouldn’t have let him do it”, said Joby.

“You tell me how I was supposed to have stopped him!” said Kieran, who was rather enjoying his current undignified position “He’s about six feet taller than me, or so it feels like anyway! I tried running away but he seemed to keep cornering me”.

“I bet, knowing you, you didn’t try running very hard”, said Joby “You only encourage him you know! He already thinks he’s like some bloody Oriental emperor. He sits up there all day like Queen Victoria …”

“Queen Victoria wasn’t an Oriental emperor was she?” said Kieran “I suppose she was Empress of India …”

“Watch you don’t get your dick caught in the mangle!” said Joby.

“Are you two going to be long in there?” said Adam, rattling the door-handle.

“We’ll be out in a minute”, said Joby.

“Hurry up”, Adam repeated, even more insistently.

“He’s frightened he’s missing summat”, Joby muttered.

Adam was narked by Julian, who had come down from above and pronounced the lighthouse to be in a total shambles. The hatch to the cellar had been left open, so that the animals could have some air, and a lantern set on the top step to illuminate the entrance. Bardin was standing in the doorway to the ground floor storeroom, watching a card-game being played by Rumble, Farnol and Hoowie. Mieps was sitting in the doorway to the wireless room.

Julian sat himself squarely in front of the stove and ignored Adam’s plea that he was in the way there. Adam was so annoyed by this that he went down into the cellar, where Hillyard and Ransey were moving some of the food-supplies out of the way of the goats.

“That’s what you get with these jerks who were educated at elite schools”, said Hillyard.

“But I was educated at an elite school as well”, said Adam.

“He’s getting at me actually”, said Ransey “Doesn’t like the way I organise things, he thinks it should all be left to go to pot instead”.

“It seems to me that to have been given an elite education in your time”, said Adam “Meant that you just got to stay on at school beyond the age of 13!”

“And it seems to me that half the troubles in this world come from men who were over-educated”, said Hillyard “Like Codlik for example. Was there ever a man more bleedin’ educated than him?!”

“I wasn’t given the same education as him”, said Ransey “He was cloistered in some rareified academy, whereas I was taught a proper trade”.

“To be an assassin?” said Adam.

“Accountancy!” Ransey exclaimed.

“Oh yes of course”, said Adam.

He decided to go back up to the kitchen, which felt even more claustrophobic now that Julian had lit a cigar.

“Jules, will you come up to the study with me for a little while”, said Adam “I want to have a word with you”.

“I’m not going all the way up there just for that!” said Julian.

“Julian!” Adam exploded.

“It’s bloody dark up here. Can’t see a damn thing”.

“Wait whilst I light this candle”.

Adam lit the candle-stump that had been left on a tin trunk in the room below the light.

“Well”, said Julian, staring at him in the flickering gloom “Now you’ve provided free entertainment for the others by ordering me up here, you can tell me what the problem is”.

“You’re very worried”, said Adam “I can tell because you’re being at your most impossible”.

“It’s the fog getting on my nerves that’s all”, said Julian “I don’t like feeling closed in like this, and I can’t escape the feeling that we should have got away from here when we had the chance. But if I voice that worry it’s going to sound like I’m getting at Bardin and I’m not”.

“I know that, darling”, Adam stroked Julian’s hair “And even if the fog persists, which I doubt it will, we could still get away from here. We’re not walled up here”.

“I guess not”, said Julian.

“I think as soon as the fog lifts, Bardin will want to leave”, said Adam.

They all bedded down in the tower for the night. Bardin, using Captain’s prerogative, had secured the best bedroom, the one on the second floor, for himself and Bengo. The others clowns, and Hoowie, were trying to move a large mattress up the stairs to the room directly under the light. Bengo stood at the bottom of the stairs, holding a lamp to guide them.

When they had disappeared up aloft he went over to Bardin, who was perched on the edge of the brass bedstead, repairing his cap by inserting a folded piece of paper inside it.

“You should be able to get a new one in Zilligot Bay”, said Bengo.

“That so?” Bardin smiled “How would you know, you’ve never been there”.

“No, but I’m sure they must sell caps, somewhere”, said Bengo.

He glanced across at the window, still completely shuttered by the dense fog.

“It’s as if we’re up in the clouds”, he said.

Bardin was woken up a few hours later by Toppy screaming on the ground floor. He shot out of bed and grabbed his pistol from amongst his heap of clothes on the floor. He ordered Bengo to stay where he was, and tore down the seemingly endless whirl of steps to the kitchen.

“There’s something slithering about outside”, said Toppy, who had been sleeping in the storeroom with Brother Iggy.

“Is that all?” said Bardin, giving rein to exasperation now that he knew Toppy was safe “I thought you were being murdered!”

“I could be if it gets in”, Toppy bleated.

“If what gets in?” said Hillyard, appearing on the bottom step.

“That’s what I’m trying to find out”, said Bardin.

He cautiously pulled back the tattered scraps of material that passed for kitchen curtains, but only the fog pressed in.

“It’s slithering at the door”, saidToppy.

Fortunately the door was barred. By now Mieps had come down too and so Bardin, feeling empowered by everyone around him, fired a gunshot into the stone flags of the kitchen floor. The loud noise did what he hoped it would do, and the Thing slithered across the door and down the steps outside.

Adam had gone down to the kitchen, but Lonts had decided to go upwards instead. He had heard a familiar screech overhead as Bengo opened the window on the second floor bedroom. He pulled Bengo away from it when he found Bengo leaning far out of the window.

“What are you doing?” Lonts bellowed.

“Trying to see”, said Bengo “This is a safe vantage point all the way up here, so I can try and see if I can see what it is safely”.

“And what if it’s a Reptile Man, Bengo?” said Lonts, slamming the window “They climb walls!”

“I hadn’t thought of that”, said Bengo.

He gave a yelp when he heard the gunshot in the kitchen and ran, helter-skelter, down the lighthouse steps.

“Go and fetch my dressing-gown, Bengo”, said Bardin, when he saw him “And put some pants on!”

The first thing Bardin did when he woke up the following morning was to look hopefully towards the bedroom window. The fog was still there, in all its forbidding glory. He looked at the pillow next to him. Bengo wasn’t there. Bardin yelled for him. Kieran came upstairs, wearing Joby’s dressing-gown.

“He won’t hear you”, said Kieran “They’re making a terrible racket down in the kitchen”.

“The fog’s still there”, said Bardin.

“And it’s got worse”, said Kieran “It’s now covered us completely. We can’t see over the top of it from up on the light like we could yesterday. I wouldn’t normally advise going out in it, but Hillyard’s really worried about the animals on the sloop so …”

“Why wasn’t I woken up?” said Bardin, reaching for his bath-robe.

“Bengo didn’t like to”, said Kieran “He said you looked so peaceful lying there”.

“I’ll give him peaceful!” said Bardin.

He shouted at Tamaz who was sitting sulkily at a bend in the stairs, looking like a waif and stray with his uncombed hair and unwashed face. He was sulking because Mieps had been chosen with Hillyard and Ransey to venture out into the fog and down to the sloop.

Joby was advising them to carry a improvised burning torch, like the ones used by policemen in old London, when they were directing traffic in the peasouper fogs.

“And keep your mouths and noses covered”, he said “If the fog gets on your lungs there’s no knowing what could happen”.

“Before I go”, said Hillyard to Adam, in a rather imposing way “No shutting the trapdoor to the cellar whilst I’m out, like you was threatening to do earlier. The animals need light and air”.

“Have you any idea what it’s like trying to cook for 17 people in a kitchen with a bloody great hole in the floor?” said Adam.

“You’ve got a lot more space here than you would have in the galley on the sloop”, said Hillyard.

“At least that hasn’t got a hole in the floor!” said Adam.

“Hadn’t you three better get going?” said Julian, who had wandered through from the wireless room in his dressing-gown and pyjamas.

“It’s high time you got dressed”, said Adam.

“There scarcely seems any point!” said Julian.

“They’re back”, said Joby, locating Bardin in the second-floor bedroom about half-an-hour later. He was carrying up a jug of hot water.

“How are the horses and the mules?” said Bardin, who had gone upstairs to get dressed. Having pulled on trousers and his tatty blue jumper, he then sat forlornly on the end of the bed, staring at the strip of threadbare carpet.

“Alright, all things considering”, said Joby “Mieps said he heard something sort of slithering and plopping into the water at one point. But no one can see a damn thing out in that! I’ve saved you some hot water for you ablutions. I heated some up to give Tamaz a wash in the pantry. He’s sulking as well. There’s a lot of it about it seems! Kieran must be amazed I’m not doing it! …. Oh c’mon, Bardin. Don’t take any notice of Hillyard when he gets a bee in his bonnet about the animals. He can be as stubborn as Lonts sometimes. He wasn’t doing it to over-ride you, that’s just his way”.

“I’m a second-rate captain”, said Bardin “What kind of world is it when if you’re born ugly you always have to be the one who plays second-fiddle?”

“You used to get top-billing!” Joby protested.

“Only because of Bengo”, said Bardin “After all, it wasn’t Bardin and Bengo was it, it was Bengo and Bardin. They wouldn’t have come to see me on my own”.

“You’re being really daft”, said Joby, setting the jug down on the wash-stand “I’ve spent my whole life playing second-fiddle so I know what it’s like. Kieran’s friend Joby, that’s all I’ve been known as since I was 17! And before that I wasn’t known as anything!”

“I’m sorry”, said Bardin “It’s just the way Kieran told me about the fog earlier. It almost seemed as if he was pleased to see it still there”.

“He’s Irish, he can’t help it”, said Joby “They tell you the most terrible news and make it sound as though they’re giving you a pleasant surprise! Now come on, use up this water before it goes cold. I had enough trouble getting it boiled up, I can’t see a damn thing on that stove. When we’re doing anything tricky we have to have Bengo standing there right by with a lamp!”

“You won’t tell Bengo about my turn just now will you?” said Bardin.

“Don’t tell me you’re afraid of Bengo!” said Joby “I’d be more concerned about Julian finding out if I was you. Last time you had an attack of feeling sorry for yourself he took your pants down and walloped you”.

“Yeah, but Bengo’ll go on”, said Bardin.

“O.K”, said Joby “It’ll be our secret”.

“Joby! Joby!” Lonts bellowed from the floor below.

“The voice from beyond the grave”, Joby groaned.

“I want you to come down and read me a story”, said Lonts.

“It’s the middle of the morning!” Joby shouted back.

“Adam says you’re to do it for me”, said Lonts “He insisted, he said it would relax me”.

“You must know this bleedin’ story backwards, Lonts”, said Joby, lying next to him on a double mattress on the floor of the bedroom above the kitchen “You’ve heard it so many times”.

“I like this story”, said Lonts.

“You can say that again!” said Joby.

“Joby, listen”, said Lonts, before Joby could resume reading again “There’s an air-buggy going overhead. It’s all muffled by the fog, but I can still hear it”.

“Shit! So there is!” Joby cried, and instantly set up a yell to attract the attention of everyone else in the lighthouse.

All of them ran up to the top of the tower, to the room underneath the light itself. (Lonts marvelled, somewhat whimsically, that with all of them up there, the tower hadn’t topped forward for being top-heavy). Bardin and Mieps went up the ladder to the glass doors and vainly tried to peer out through the fog.

“Are we completely covered by the fog?” said Bardin “There’s none of us sticking out?”

“As long as it stays above the fog, all they’ll see is … well … fog”, said Mieps “You think it’s something to do with Codlik?”

“They’re looking for us”, said Bardin.

“Looks as though the fog’s saved us”, said Kieran, when they had all repaired to the kitchen, once the air-buggy seemed to have gone “Our camouflage”.

Bardin looked at him suspiciously.

“They’ll be back though”, he said “And next time we could be exposed. The sloop will give us away if nothing else will. Most people recognise that boat as ours. When we finally get away from here we’ll have to go down to Zilligot Bay and sell it at the nearest opportunity”.

“Sell the sloop?” said Lonts.

“We have to, Lo-Lo”, said Adam “Bardin’s right, it could give away our location at any time”.

Lonts sulked and stuck out his bottom lip.

“We’ll get another boat”, said Bardin.

“It’s taken Codlik long enough to send a scouting-plane down here to look for us”, said Joby “We’ve been here since Christmas!”

“Ach, it probably took him that long to sort out the paperwork, knowing him!” said Kieran.

The air-buggy came back in the middle of the night. As soon as he heard the buzzing noise Bardin shot out of bed and ran to the next floor.

“The fog’s going!” he said, in dismay, after he had stumbled up the metal ladder “We’re exposed at the very top!”

“So what?” said Hoowie, who had been sleeping in this room with Farnol, Rumble, Hillyard and Mieps “All they’ll see is the top of a disused lighthouse sticking out. They won’t think we’d be actually mad enough to live HERE, in this dump!”

“They will if you don’t put that candle out!” Bardin yelled “They see a light coming from one of these windows and it’ll be a dead giveaway!”

“And if it clears completely, and they see the sloop, it’ll be an even bigger giveaway”, said Hillyard.

“Pray for the damn fog to hang around as it is until morning, when we can get away”, said Bardin.

Brother Iggy, who had appeared on the stairs with Toppy, began to pray in earnest.

“Well I didn’t mean literally”, said Bardin “But every little helps I guess!”

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