Go back to previous chapter


By Sarah Hapgood

The heat wave wasn’t quite tropical, in fact it was distinctly fresh around the edges, with a breeze that seemed to have wafted in direct from the South Pole. But it was sunshine, it was broad daylight, and that was all that mattered at this stage.

The Indigo-ites celebrated by setting up an impromptu shower-bath on deck. Fresh water was rationed for drinking purposes only, so they used seawater, of which there was naturally a plentiful supply. Adam and Julian decided to take advantage of all this by having the cabin to themselves for a while, but first Brother Iggy had to be removed to the deck.

Brother Iggy had begun to talk alarmingly about euthanasia. His body was broken, he was trapped inside it, so what was the use of anything anymore? Adam said they wouldn’t even begin to countenance the idea of such a thing until they could get him to a hospital and proper medical care, otherwise it was far too soon to say what permanent damage had been done. Brother Iggy responded that to take him to a town would be to endanger Kieran. Adam replied to that that he should leave them to worry about all that, and he was far too young anyway to think of wilfully ending his life.

“You would shoot one of the animals if it was in pain”, said Brother Iggy.

“We wouldn’t be able to reason with one of the animals!” said Adam.

Thwarted in his aim, Brother Iggy took to screaming in frustration. It was appalling to hear, and some of the others privately thought he was selfish to put them through that after what they had just experienced at the Horn.

Lonts and Hillyard carried him up to the deck in his chair. Rumble followed on behind with his blanket to tuck round him, and all hoped the sunshine might at least do something to boost his spirits. Down below a little while later, Adam and Julian, in post-coital cosiness, listened to the shouts and exclamations as Ransey and Hillyard doused Joby with cold sea-water, gleefully assisted by Tamaz.

“What on earth are they doing to him up there?” said Adam, languidly getting dressed as he sat on the communal bed.

“I don’t know, but I hope they keep it up”, said Julian, lighting a cigar “It’ll drown out Brother Iggy if he starts up again!”

“I’ll go and make some tea”, said Adam.

He went along to the galley where Kieran and Bengo were playing dominoes. Joby came thumping down the galley steps with a towel clutched round him. Adam wolf-whistled.

“It’s fucking freezing up there!” said Joby, and he gave Bengo a nudge “Go on, it’s your turn next”.

“I’m in the middle of a game”, said Bengo.

“Go up there and stop being so bolshy!” said Joby “It’s not my fault Josh scared you in Aspiriola!”

“I never said it was!” said Bengo, now halfway up the galley steps “But I can’t help it if it’s made me tense can I!”

“You ent tense”, said Joby “You’re just using it as an excuse to try and be serious. Well it aint gonna work, once a clown always a clown!”

“Joby, put some clothes on”, said Adam “I always think it looks most peculiar when men stand around clutching a towel over their nuts like that, as though they’re apologising!”

“He is!” said Kieran.

“I’m gonna go and get dressed in the hold”, said Joby, taking his little heap of clothes from one of the work-tops.

“Well be careful”, said Adam “Julian’s about somewhere down here!”

Which was why Joby thought he might be safe getting dressed in the hold, except that Julian had seen him go in and followed him in there.

“Relax”, said Julian, pinning him against the door which led to the food-hold.

“I can’t!” said Joby, trying to hold onto his trousers “Josh likes hanging around in here. He might be watching”.

“I doubt it”, said Julian “Surely we would be too depraved and perverted for his delicate sensitivities?”

“It wouldn’t stop him watching!” said Joby “How would you like it if YOUR brother was watching us?”

“I doubt Piers would have the faintest idea what we were doing!” said Julian.

Kieran slipped into the room like a wisp of smoke. Julian exited smartly by the food-hold door.

“Don’t start!”said Joby, finishing off his dressing.

“He can’t get enough of you on this trip can he?” said Kieran.

“This is only the second time he’s tried it on with me since we left the tavern!” said Joby.

“It feels like more than that to me”, said Kieran.

“It does to me and all!” Joby sighed, which made Kieran laugh.

“Here, stop hiding behind all your long hair”, said Joby, brushing Kieran’s hair back from his face “You’re too beautiful to hid it all away”.

“I’ll have to get used to disguising meself when we reach civilisation”, said Kieran “Ransey probably won’t let me emerge above deck unless I’m well-disguised!”

One of Brother Iggy’s tortured screams erupted from above.

“I wish he’d stop doing that!” said Joby “It reminds me of being back up at the Big House!”

“He’ll keep on at us until we let him die”, Kieran whispered “Do you remember Yentzi on the island?”

“Yeah”, said Joby “He insisted we had to let him starve to death”.

“We had no choice then”, said Kieran “It would have been sheer cruelty to have kept him alive, even a fanatical Catholic like me could see that! But this … it feels like giving into the evil that tortured him. They wrecked his body to get at his soul, and if we help him to die it feels to me like we’re packing him off to them”.

Brother Iggy screamed again.

“I think they’ve already got his soul, Kiel”, said Joby “What we need to do is find some way of taking him over, and make sure he’s out of their reach. Over where though I couldn’t tell you, unless oblivion’s the only answer for him, and that feels like a waste, particularly for someone who’s never really lived”.

“Stop it!” said Bardin, pulling Brother Iggy’s blanket right around him, as though he was restraining him “We know you’re in pain, but we’re doing everything we can to ease it until we get you to a hospital”.

“Just let me die, Bardin”, said Brother Iggy, through his mouthful of broken teeth “Then you won’t have to do anything for me”.

“Can’t you think of anyone but yourself?” said Bardin “You run off and cause us no end of worry, and you still haven’t told us why you did that, or why you took Hoowie’s clothes”.

“I thought They might be appeased if I offered myself to Them, the Evil Ones I mean”, said Brother Iggy “But then I got to thinking that perhaps I wouldn’t be enough, that They’d want one of Kierans’ family, so I took Hoowie’s clothes as sort of, well like offering the scent to a bloodhound I guess”.

“You are truly barmy!” said Bardin “But why pick on Hoowie? Offering him up as a sacrifice? I thought you got on with him?”

“I do”, said Brother Iggy “But he’s the flakiest one out of all of you. Your problem child Adam calls him”.

“Yes, but he seems to have calmed down a bit lately”, said Bardin “He does when we’re away from it all, it’s civilisation that gets him too excited. But I still don’t understand …”

“It’s for the good of the collective”, said Brother Iggy “If the Evil Ones are offered one of you then that may protect the rest of you. One must die so that all may live, and Hoowie seemed to be the least valuable one”.

“I thought you were supposed to be a man of God!” said Bardin “Is that what the Bishops taught you? To play fast and loose with other people’s lives? How the hell am I going to tell Kieran all this? How can you think this way? Surely you didn’t think we’d agree to that terrible thing? To be so cold-bloodied?”

“I didn’t want to tell you any of it”, said Bardin, now drinking tea with Kieran in the hold.

“You didn’t want me reminded of what a monster I had created”, said Kieran “That the Church would take a sound tenet of loving each other, and building communities, and turn it into something so soulless and brutal, where one human life matters not one bit if it’s for the good of the collective”.

“I knew it would upset you”, said Bardin “It helps explain why he keeps banging on about wanting to die though. He sees it that he has failed ‘the collective’, and because his body’s broken he’s of no further use to ‘the collective’ so …”

“Ssh, you’re getting bitter”, said Kieran, squeezing Bardin’s hand “We can’t have both of us getting bitter. I don’t think there can be a religion in the history of the world that’s failed so spectacularly as my Church has! I can only assume I was too busy having a good time to get me message across properly!”

“No, they’ve either twisted it”, said Bardin “Or refused to see it properly. Perhaps they can’t get their heads round the concept of individuality? That each human being in ‘the collective’ has a right to live their own life. I sound like I’m preaching now don’t I?”

“You’d have made a marvellous preacher!” said Kieran.

“Except I would have had Bengo sitting in the front row”, said Bardin “Shouting ‘that was a really stupid thing to say, Bardy!’”

“Joby used to time me”, said Kieran “And threaten to get up and walk out in front of everyone if I went over me time! Oh Jaysus! Julian’ll be able to go on for centuries now about yet another of my crazy monks going to the bad and causing us trouble!”

Brother Iggy took to trying to get out of bed in the middle of the night, and only stopped when Hillyard remonstrated with him that they kept the cabin door locked and had no intention of letting him know where they hid the key during the night hours.

“He didn’t really think he’d get a chance to throw himself overboard?” said Bardin “He can’t even get up the quarterdeck steps by himself, let alone cock his leg up over the bulwark!”

Bardin paced the forward deck in agitation, walking round Brother Iggy, who was placed regally in the centre like the Victoria Monument in front of Buckingham Palace.

“We are in shark-infested waters now, do you realise that?” Bardin rounded on him “You want to get eaten by one of those things, do you?!”

He didn’t wait for Brother Iggy to answer, but thumped down into the galley, where Joby and Bengo were singing “We’re having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave”, accompanied by much bottom wriggling and hand-waving. Joby’s gran had had a habit of singing this whenever there was even the merest glimmer of warm sunshine, and he had now taught it to Bengo.

“Tea!” Bardin barked, throwing himself down on a chair.

“Good manners are obviously a thing of the past round here”, Joby muttered.

“Sometimes I wish I smoked, like Julian”, said Bardin “It might help to ease the tension”.

“Whenever you’ve tried to smoke in the past it’s never agreed with you, Bardy”, said Bengo “It’s like alcohol, it makes you ill. In fact, none of the vices ever seem to agree with you, you can’t cope with sex either”.

“One of life’s natural virgins”, said Joby “Bit like Toppy really!”

“If Brother Iggy keeps on the way he’s going”, said Baridn “I’ll grant him his wish and feed him to the bloody sharks!”

“No, not that one again!” said Joby “I remember us having to do that to Uddle the Stoker. The sight of the blood in the water haunts you for ages afterwards”.

“Yes”, said Bardin, as though he wasn’t quite sure how to reply to that statement “Well I’d better get back up on deck and … and er … keep an eye on things I guess”.

Hillyard astonished everyone by calling a meeting of them all in the cabin later that afternoon. Adam remarked that Hillyard was the last person he’d ever expected to get the meeting bug.

“Ransey and me have got something serous to say”, said Hillyard, when they were all assembled.

“You’re getting married?!” said Julian.

“My bank accounts have been seized”, said Hillyard “So have Kieran’s”.

“How can you possibly know right out here in the middle of the ocean?” said Joby.

“We’ve known since we left Zilligot Bay”, said Ransey “But we didn’t want to put it on you until we’d got safely round the Horn”.

“How very thoughtful!” said Julian “Tinkerbell’s Church is responsible I take it?”

“And how did you find out in Zilligot Bay?” said Joby.

“Ransey found it buried away on the financial pages of a newspaper”, said Hillyard.

“As I’m the only person who reads them!” said Ransey.

“Are we broke again then, Hillyard?” said Lonts.

“It’ll only be a problem when we get to a town”, said Joby.

“Bardy and me could go on the streets”, said Bengo.

“No you could not!” said Julian “That is an outrageous suggestion!”

“He means as street entertainers, Jules”, Adam sighed.

“You can tell which way his mind works can’t you!” said Joby.

“I could sell my jewellery collection”, Tamaz announced, rather grandly, causing everyone to look astounded by this unexpected bit of altruism.

“There won’t be any need for that, Tamaz”, said Ransey “Not for a while anyway”.

“We’ve got a little nest-egg tidied away”, said Hillyard.

“Where?” said Joby.

“Come with me”, said Hillyard, and he led them all into the hold.

They couldn’t’ take Brother Iggy with them, but Bardin removed all the razors from the wash-stand before they left.

“What’s the point of us all being in here?” said Finia, who had a catlike fastidiousness where the hold was concerned.

Hillyard pulled up a couple of the floorboards, under which were concealed two earthenware jars, crammed with rolls of folding notes.

“How long has all that been down here?” said Joby.

“Since Toondor Lanpin”, said Hillyard.

“Is it still legal tender?” said Kieran.

“Yeah it is!” said Hillyard “Bloody cheek!”

“I’m surprised Bardin hasn’t been stamping his foot and saying ‘it’s so unfair, no one’s told me about it and I’m Captain’”, said Joby, when he, Adam and Bengo were in the galley a few minutes later.

“No I don’t think he will”, said Bengo “Not this time. Ransey’s talked about us buying a water converter with some of the money when we get to civilisation, and Bardy’s quite excited about that”.

“It would certainly save us a lot of worry if we could get one”, said Adam “No more water rationing. And as long as we’ve always got access to fresh water we won’t have to put into port too often”.

“No more washing in sea-water!” said Joby.

“But why did they take Hillyard’s bank accounts?” said Bengo “I don’t understand. It’s not as if he’s meant to be dead like Kieran”.

“I guess they’ve ruled that he is an outlaw”, said Adam “So he’s not entitled to legitimate funds. It’s all completely ridiculous, but we can’t challenge it without taking them to court, and that doesn’t bear thinking about!”

“Hillyard as an outlaw!” Joby guffawed.

“I know, it makes him sound rather like Robin Hood doesn’t it!” said Adam.

“As long as he doesn’t start wearing green tights!” said Joby “I don’t think I could bear it!”

“Adam, this is terrible!” said Lonts, coming into the room “They’ve got no right to do that. It’s Hillyard’s money, Woll gave it to him. They shouldn’t be allowed to touch it”.

Adam sat him down at the table and tried to soothe him by stroking his hair.

“And Tamaz”, Lonts continued “Offered to sell his jewellery collection! Wasn’t that good of him?”

“Yeah, I’m still wondering what the little bugger’s up to!” said Joby.

Arriving in Lixix was an event that had to be handled with caution. Even in a busy port like that they couldn’t hope to avoid any undue attention, but they could try and minimise it as much as they could. Their main objective was to pick up supplies and Do Something about Brother Iggy.

Bardin felt that getting his broken teeth sorted out might help to revive Brother Iggy’s low spirits, and he decreed that Adam, Hillyard and Rumble were to escort him to a dentist. Meanwhile, he (Bardin that is) was going to buy a water converter with Ransey. Bengo was annoyed that he wasn’t allowed to come as well, and wasn’t mollified by Bardin’s remark that Kieran also was confined to base.

“You’d be bored”, said Bardin, putting on his cap, prior to leaving “So you might as well stay here and mind the sloop”.

He gave a scowling Bengo a perfunctory kiss on the cheek and went across the forward deck. Tamaz had appeared, with his sun-hat on, and his jewellery box tucked under his arm. He had obviously been crying as he sorted out his little treasures and put them away.

“But Freaky, we agreed”, said Adam “There’s no need for you to sell them, not yet anyway. We’ve got the money for what we need at present”.

Adam called over Finia, who gently escorted Tamaz back below deck.

“You don’t really want to sell these do you?” said Finia, turning over the trinkets once they were in the cabin “They brighten the place up”.

“I know they’re going to have to be sold sometime”, Tamaz sniffed.

“Not necessarily”, said Finia “We might find another place like the Bay, where we can live without money”.

“Didn’t you want to go ashore?” said Tamaz “This is where you came from isn’t it?”

“No, I came from Husgalonghi”, said Finia “That’s several days’ journey away, on the other side of the desert, far inland”.

“I’ve never there”, said Tamaz.

“You’re not missing much!” said Finia.

“I’ve been to Lixix before though”, said Tamaz, now getting very emotional “When I was evil I killed someone there, slit his throat, and this was where I sent the Wang Man after you all, the one who got Hillyard in Krindei. And you’re all going to think of all that now we’re here …”

“No we’re not”, said Finia “That’s crazy talk! It was all a long time ago and we have other things to think about these days”.

They heard voices on the other side of the door, and they both busied themselves with the jewellery box, so that their faces, brimming with teary emotion, couldn’t be seen. Bengo and Hoowie came into the room, arguing.

“Why don’t you go down into the engine-room?” said Bengo.

“What for, the boat’s not running!” said Hoowie “Anyway, I don’t like dark, confined spaces”.

“Since when?” Bengo exclaimed “I’d have thought they was your natural habitat myself!”

“You’re just narked ‘cos Bardin wouldn’t take you with him”, said Hoowie.

Bengo blew a raspberry at Hoowie. Hoowie boxed his ears. Bengo boxed Hoowie’s ears. Finia threw a wet flannel at the pair of them and ordered Hoowie to leave the room.

“Why have I gotta be the one who leaves?” said Hoowie, but he left anyway.

After he had gone Finia shook Bengo like a large cushion. Toppy appeared rather forbiddingly in the doorway, wearing rubber gloves, and carrying a mop and bucket.

“The heads are an absolute disgrace!” he said “I’m surprised we don’t go all go down with a terrible disease! Absolutely dreadful!”

The rest of the afternoon seemed to be taken up with people coming home again from their various errands. Bardin and Ransey carried home the water converter and presented it to the others like a conjuring trick. Julian had taken two of the horses to exercise them on land, riding one and leading the other. When he returned them to the hold, Kieran grumbled that he could have helped him with them ashore. Julian gave him a light whack with his riding-crop in reply. When he heard about Bengo and Hoowie’s fight he whacked them both with it too, only much harder.

Lastly, and just when the others were starting to get concerned, Adam and Hillyard returned from depositing Brother Iggy at the hospital. They told a harrowing tale of Brother Iggy at the dentist, having a broken tooth excavated from his top gum, where it had become so embedded so far up in it they were amazed it hadn’t stuck out of his nose!

Dinner was served on the forward deck.

“This pastry’s uneven”, said Ransey, cutting into his (tinned) meat pie “It hasn’t been rolled out properly”.

“Done with a trowel and a spade I’d say”, said Hillyard.

“That’s not fair!” said Bengo, leaping out of his chair “I had to do the pastry all by myself. Oh, I haven’t enjoyed today at all!”

“Bengo, sit down!” said Bardin, pulling him back into his seat.

“We didn’t know you’d made it”, said Hillyard “I wouldn’t have said anything if I’d known it was you. I thought it was Joby’s work”.

“Oh thanks!” said Joby “So you don’t mind if I get upset then!”

“Not really”, said Hillyard “I know how much you enjoy getting the hump”.

“I have a complaint”, Toppy announced.

They all groaned.

“If it’s about the cleaning, Toppy”, said Bardin “Just can it! Most of us aren’t interested”.

“Not unless you’re offering to clean the tack”, said Julian “The saddles could all do with a lick of polish”.

“I’m not a groom”, said Toppy “I’m a house-steward”.

“He’s really lost it now!” said Joby, as Toppy flounced below-deck.

The others calmly carried on eating, until Toppy screamed. Bardin shot below first, and after a bit of calling he located Toppy behind the cabin-door.

“What are you doing?” said Bardin “Stop pratting about!”

“There was a man in here, a strange man”, Toppy panted “He was sat at the desk, going through Julian’s log-book”.

“Bloody cheek!” said Julian.

“What did he look like?” said Bardin.

“Dark hair”, said Toppy “That’s all I could see. He had his back to me, his shoulders all hunched up. And then the next minute he had just gone”.

“It could have been Josh”, said Joby, sitting with Bardin and Toppy up on the poop-deck “Looking for summat to nick”.

“No, he would’ve taken Tamaz’s jewellery box if that was the case”, said Bardin “It was left out on the wash-stand”.

He was pouring out tumblers of whisky. Toppy, who had instantly drained his glass, held it out for a refill.

“I wish the spirits would leave us alone”, he gasped.

“You leave the spirits alone more like!” said Joby “Don’t go guzzling the whole bottle, we’re not made of money anymore you know”.

“This is purely for medicinal purposes”, said Toppy.

“Yeah, that’s what they always say and all!” said Joby.

Bengo came over and complained that there was nowhere to sit.

“Sit on the floor”, said Toppy.

Bengo did so, but only after he’d swiped Toppy’s drink form him and begun to drink it himself.

“Have you got any strategy worked out for the near future?” Joby asked Bardin.

“See how Brother Iggy gets on”, said Bardin “Hillyard’s suggested that this might be a good place for him to start a new life, he could lose himself here, and it might be better for him than coming back to us. He’ll never be able to put the past behind him if he stays with us. And other thing is to get in some more necessary supplies”.

“It’ll be weird having to watch our money again”, said Bengo.

“You won’t notice it most of the time”, said Joby “Except when we put into port like this”.

Down on the forward-deck Lonts was lighting up his post-dinner pipe.

“One good thing about being broke again though”, said Joby ”He won’t be able to buy much more of that filthy old tobacco!”

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