Go back to previous chapter


By Sarah Hapgood

“Bloody marvellous innit”, said Joby “It’s just typical of us lot. We sit around and dither for fucking ages, and then suddenly wham-bang we actually DO something!”

“Except he still hasn’t told us WHEN we are supposed to be leaving”, said Adam, who was busy opening tins of pineapple chunks for pudding.

“Tomorrow, if I had my way”, said Joby, looking around the gloomy kitchen “And I won’t miss this place, that’s for sure. I’ll never complain about the galley again”.

“I’ll hold you to that”, said Adam, putting the chunks with some goats cheese “Oh look at this. It looks like something one would serve up on a tropical island, wrapped in vine leaves and with black olives. Not for Christmas dinner in Arctic temperatures”.

“Not exactly Christmas pudding drenched in brandy and served with jugs of steaming hot custard”, said Joby.

“Oh don’t!” said Adam.

There was another of those strange animal noises in the far distance.

“I think most of this continent got wiped out by disease”, said Joby “And those that survived morphed into summat big and freakish and horrible”.

“Mindless creatures stumbling around in a permanent state of bewilderment?” said Adam “With only very dim and distant memories lurking in their subconscious?”

“Just a thought”, said Joby “It’s as good a theory as any we’ve come up with yet”.

After dinner Bardin went upstairs to fetch his whistle, as he had been appointed to referee some party games which were to take place in the living-room. When he walked into his bedroom though he found that someone had stripped the bed of all its bedclothes and hurled them to the far corners of the room.

“Did you do this?” he demanded to know of Hoowie, when he heard him talking to Julian out on the landing.

“When would I have had a chance to do this?” said Hoowie, following him into the room.

“Hoowie’s been with me since we got back from the ship this morning”, said Julian.

“And more to the point”, said Hoowie, his dander up at this unfair accusation “WHY would I have done it?”

“Since when has logic ever had anything to do with you?!” said Bardin.

“Now now Bardin”, said Julian “’Tis the season of peace and goodwill and all that jazz”.

“I thought it might have been revenge for me spanking you yesterday”, said Bardin “That’s all”.

“If Hoowie were to get into a hissy fit every time he got a spanking”, said Julian “He would live his life in a state of perpetual rage!”

“I bet you any money you like it was that horrible old lady”, said Hoowie “She don’t like you sleeping in her room. Can’t say I blame her really”.

“Tiresome old bag”, muttered Bardin “I’d order another blessing or an exorcism, ’cept it’d probably do more harm than good”.

Ransey had never been an enthusiast for party games, so he sought refuge in the small study next to the living-room, which boasted the added attraction of a paraffin stove. Wrapping a blanket round his shoulders he dozed for a while, not even letting the intermittent blasts of Bardin’s whistle disturb him.

Gradually he became aware of a nasty, musty smell in the room with him. With a sinking heart he realised that the ghostly old lady was with him. He still got a shock though when he looked up and aw her standing in the corner, watching him with the same malevolence she had given Julian.

“You won’t leave here”, she said, to Ransey’s astonishment. Her voice was surprisingly fey-like and wispy, but there was no denying the spiteful edge to it.

“Who says?” said Ransey, finding his own voice at last.

“I do”, said the old lady, taking a stealthy step further into the centre of the room “No one leaves here unless I say so. And when I do … there are a lot of drowning round here. Unexplained drowning you understand”.

“Not to mention incarcerations”, said Ransey, thinking of the cellar.

A hideous smile crossed the old lady’s face.

“People said I was a rotten mother”, she said “But I loved my children. And why should they have been bitter. Their father left them all his money. He didn’t leave it to me”.

Ransey grabbed the little cup of water which sat on top of the paraffin stove and hurled it in the old lady’s direction. He didn’t pause to see what happened to her, he simply left the study and headed into the living-room.

“Right, that’s it, pack up”, he ordered them “We’re getting out of here. Right now”.

“I still don’t understand though”, said Bengo, when they were out on the high seas.

It was New Year’s Day, and he and Bardin were talking up on the main deck.

“She couldn’t have been the one-eyed bitch”, said Bengo (this thought had been tormenting him for days, ever since they had left the house) “She had two eyes”.

“Perhaps one was a glass one”, said Bardin, wearily “Bengo, who cares? We’ve left the old witch behind! Now let’s go and find some bloody sunshine!!!”


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

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