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By Sarah Hapgood

Adam took some time out that afternoon to go up to his room and have a nap. Lonts dozed beside him, as he lay looking out at the early Winter twilight. He thought longingly of hot, sunny days. Colourful flowers. Tanned skin. Warm air. Then he realised he was getting himself into a maudlin state which wasn’t going to help anybody, least of all himself. So he decided to change gear, and remind himself that there were in fact far worse places to spend Christmas Eve. And he had. In prison for instance, or alone in a bedsit.

He felt much better after this, but when he got dressed again he was still faced with the problem of what they were going to do to jazz up the basic rations they had, in order to do some kind of passable Christmas fare. For a (very) brief moment he regretted tearing up Bardin’s list, but wild horses wouldn’t have been able to ask him what had been on it.

“Of course by tearing it up“, Bengo said to Joby “As far as Bardy’s concerned, it’ll now be open season on us. Whatever we dish up he’s gonna slate”.

“Warn him that he’ll be wearing it if he does”, Joby growled.

“I’ll tell him he’ll get locked in his room”, said Bengo “If he so much as says a word, or gives one of his disgusted looks”.

For supper that evening they spiced up the tinned stew by adding curry powder to it. Adam said that this was a sad and sorry way to try and pretend the meal was something special, and he just knew - with a dismal certainty - that Julian would make some tart comments.

Julian though was remarkably civilised (he had heard about the menu-tearing incident earlier), and, apart from a comment that he couldn’t resist that the rice was ever so slightly over-cooked, he was remarkably tolerant about the meal.

In fact the Christmas Eve supper was a jolly occasion, and they indulged in some fanciful speculation as to what might have happened to the behemoth, as there had been no sign of it since the night when it had put in its memorable appearance. That night, when looked back upon, had a distinctly unreal feel to it, as though it had all been some collective nightmare.

At the end of the evening Bengo said that he probably wouldn’t sleep a wink, as the ghostly card-player might be around. In the event, zonked out by several tots of best brandy, he slept like a log.

By the time he woke up on Christmas morning, the day was already well advanced. When he had dressed and gone out onto the main staircase, he found several of the others (including Bardin) standing below in the hallway, getting togged up in their main outdoor gear. They were going down to check on the galleon.

“Let me come too”, said Bengo “I haven’t been out of the house in ages. You can’t count the courtyard!”

“You’d better ask his lord sovereign Adam first”, said Bardin “We wouldn’t like to earn his gravest displeasure now would we!”

“You’re being silly, Bardy”, said Bengo.

Adam was happy for him to go, and once coated and booted up he joined Bardin outside the front of the house. It was hearty, festive procession down to the cove. Bengo and Bardin were walking a short way behind the others, and suddenly Bardin caught Bengo by the elbow.

“Look at the sea”, he said.

“What about it?” said Bengo, thinking the sea looked very grey, very cold and very forbidding, but that was about it.

“It’s not frozen is it?” said Bardin “That’s what I meant. There would be nothing to stop us setting sail, and holy Christ, we must be free of infection by now!”

“I would’ve thought any disease must have been killed off by this bloody cold weather!” said Bengo.

“And it’ll take us 3 months at least to cross the ocean”, said Bardin.

He looked around at the stark cliff edges behind them.

“I’m sick of this place”, he said “It feels like we’re being watched all the time, even out here”.

“Probably one of those sodding behemoths!” said Bengo.

“It’s weird”, said Bardin “That grim old lady and her mangy dog give me the creeps far more than the monsters do”.

“Probably because we’re living in her house”, said Bengo “She might resent us for living there”.

The others had paused when they realised the clowns weren’t following them, and Ransey was standing waiting, with his arms akimbo, watching them.

“Let’s go and tell them my good news”, said Bardin.

“What good news?” said Bengo.

“Oh try and keep up with the way my mind’s going!” said Bardin.

“No chance!” said Bengo.

“We shall be leaving here”, said Bardin “Very soon”.

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