Go back to previous chapter


By Sarah Hapgood

“It’s quite daunting”, said Julian “This journey we’ve got ahead of us”.

“Yes, it’s a bit like trying to find the North-West Passage”, said Adam.

“That’s exactly what it’s like”, said Julian.

“Well that area had virtually defrosted back in our time”, said Adam “So perhaps it won’t be so cold …”

“Of course it’s going to be bloody cold!” Julian cut across him “Can’t you feel it already?!”

They were talking alone together in Julian’s cabin, a couple of days on from leaving the ruins of the old hospital. The coastline they were sailing northwards along had got even bleaker and infinitely colder.

“I know what the trouble with you is”, said Adam “You’ve run out of decent cigars to smoke. You’re on that filthy-smelling stuff. Smells like unwashed socks and underpants. I don’t know how Hoowie puts up with it”.

“Yes well it’s symbolic of the whole problem isn’t it?” said Julian “We haven’t made ANY proper preparations for this journey at all. Bardin seems to be sailing off in an almost willy-nilly fashion”.

“Nonsense”, said Adam “Anyway, what preparations could we make? There was nowhere to go and get supplies, not without making a hugely significant detour. And food-wise we’re not doing too badly. Ransey and I did a full and thorough inventory only the other day …”

“I bet that was fun for you”, Julian snarled.

“Jealousy is a very unappealing trait, Jules”, said Adam “You really must try and curb the habit. It’s highly destructive”.

“I’m not being lectured on jealousy by you!” said Julian “You of all people!”

“Why not?” said Adam “It takes your mind off your cigar crisis! As I was saying, food-wise we’re doing very well really, although I do admit the tinned vegetables can get a bit tiresome. We are NOT detouring to some town, miles out of our way, just so that you can stock up on cigars! Now, consider yourself told”.

“Oh piss off”, said Julian “You’re even more annoying these days than you were when I first knew you!”

“You mean I don’t automatically do everything you say anymore?” said Adam, calmly getting up to leave the room.

“When did you ever?!” Julian shouted after him.

The huge forest that had dominated the area of The Causeway had gone, and been replaced by gloomy rolling hills, bereft of trees. The only items of note in this area were some large deep pools pitted into the surface of the hills, which bubbled and smoke with some evil-looking black substance. It was a very depressing scene, and Julian wasn’t the only one who began to wonder if they had done the right thing by coming this far north.

To add to the concern, Kieran was still being plagued by the psychic visions of the old hospital. Joby got so exasperated by this that he took Kieran to work in the galley with him, and set him to the task of making bread. Adam praised his efforts so much that Joby got quite annoyed.

“You don’t rave about mine when I make it”, he grumbled.

“You’ve made it so many times I’m used to it”, said Adam.

“Nothing like being taken for granted is there?” said Joby, slamming a kettle on the stove.

“If you don’t stop complaining”, said Adam “I shall have to chastise you”.

“You start and I’ll finish”, said Kieran.

“Between the 2 of you I spect you’ve probably driven me completely mad over the years”, said Joby, glumly “I clearly should have stayed away from blondes!”

Bengo breezed into the room in his duffel-coat. He looked rather fresh of face after his sojourn up on deck in the cold air.

“Take your coat off and do some work”, said Joby.

“OK”, said Bengo, turning to leave the room to dispose of his coat.

“No don’t leave”, said Joby “Or you’ll be gone for God-knows-how-long again. Just hang it on the back of the door”.

“Has anything of interest appeared up there yet, Bengo?” said Adam.

“Some old ruined shack on the top of one of the hills“, said Bengo “Really horrible-looking place. If Bardy had suggested stopping to investigate it I think I’d have throttled him”.

“If it’s only an old, ruined shack”, said Adam “It scarcely seems worth the effort involved to go and look at it”.

“And those holes full of black, smoky stuff”, said Bengo “I don’t know what any of that is. Have you any idea, Kieran?”

“None whatsoever”, said Kieran.

“Why would he know anyway?” said Joby “He didn’t crawl out of one of ’em!”

“No, but Kieran’s really intelligent“, said Bengo “And he knows all abut evil-looking things”.

“It’s my specialist subject”, said Kieran “Name: Kieran Flannery, Specialist Subject: evil-looking things”.

“And making bread”, said Joby, sourly “If Adam’s to be believed”.

“I have already had to lecture Julian about jealousy today”, said Adam “I can see I’m going to have to do the same to you at this rate”.

“Julian’s jealous?” said Bengo, in astonishment “Who of?”

“Ransey”, said Adam “He doesn’t approve of me going down into the hold with him to do a stock-take. Silly old fool”.

“Is that why you and Ransey love doing stock-takes so much?” said Kieran “I had no idea they were that exciting!”

“Hm”, said Adam “Knowledge is power”.

“How do you mean?” said Joby.

“We found a couple of boxes of cigars down there”, said Adam “Hidden right at the back, the boxes all still sealed up”.

“And Julian hasn’t sniffed them out?” said Kieran.

“No, and don’t go telling him about them”, said Adam “He smokes far too much. I’m determined to get him to cut down somehow”.

“I wouldn’t wanna be in your shoes when he finally finds out they’re there”, said Joby.

“Oh tosh”, said Adam “I can handle Julian”.

“For fuck’s sake, Julian”, said Hillyard “I’m glad I’ve never smoked. I’d hate to get myself into this kind of a state!”

He was watching as Julian rummaged aggressively through the drawers of his desk, collecting any dusty cigar-butts he could find.

“It’s the only damn pleasure I’ve got left”, said Julian, dramatically “The rest of you are all doing your level best to avoid spending any time with me. Even Hoowie keeps sloping off to be with Bengo”.

“Well it’s hardly surprising is it!” said Hillyard “You’re being such a bad-tempered old git at the moment!”

“I might as well not be here”, said Julian “Bardin never asks my advice. And I could help Joby keep Kieran in line but he never lets me”.

“Bardin’s coping alright”, said Hillyard “And as for Kieran, well Joby’s not going to hand him over to you is he, knowing you’d take the strap to him!”

“Kieran has such a delicious craving for punishment”, said Julian “That Catholic zeal and guilt complex of his”.

“Which we could all do without you exploiting!” said Hillyard “You leave Joby to cope with Kieran and his psychic visions. At least I can rely on him not to go too far … unlike you”.

“Hillyard”, said Julian, straightening up and staring into his face earnestly “Promise me faithfully you are telling the truth when you say there are no smokes in the desk in the big saloon”.

“I promise you faithfully there are no smokes in the desk in the big saloon”, said Hillyard, who knew all about the secret cigar cache in the hold though.

“Good”, said Julian “I wouldn’t want this to be the end of a long and beautiful friendship”.

“It won’t be”, said Hillyard “Oh pull yourself together, Julian. Put your coat on and come up on deck with me”.

“Just to look at that bleak view?” said Julian.

“OK, there are no cigar-shops in sight”, said Hillyard “But the air’s pure and clean”.

“Oh very well”, said Julian.

It had begun to snow, the flakes whirling through the leaden-grey air.

“My God”, said Julian, winding his long scarf round his neck “We’re at the ends of the earth”.

“Not unknown for us“, said Hillyard.

Bardin was strutting about, looking as though he owned the ends of the earth.

“Bardin!” Julian shouted out, in such a imperious tone of voice that Hillyard could have quite cheerfully throttled him with the long scarf.

“What is it?” said Bardin, coming over with visible reluctance.

“Are you quite sure you know what you’re doing?” said Julian.

“Of course I know what I’m doing!” snapped Bardin “What a bloody ridiculous question!”

Hillyard stepped between them, like a referee about to break up two particularly pugnacious boxers. He needn’t have bothered though as Bardin, having delivered his line, strutted off again.

“Arrogant little …” Julian spluttered.

“Yeah”, said Hillyard “A real chip off the old block”.

“What do you mean by that?” said Julian.

“You know exactly what I mean by that”, said Hillyard “He’s like you! Credit him with some commonsense Julian, he does know what he’s doing”.

Julian tutted and headed back to the hatchway.

“Is it my bloody fault if I hate cold weather?!” he shouted over his shoulder.

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