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Kieran lay on his bunk, watching the brass lantern swinging rhythmically from its hook in the ceiling.
“It feels late”, he said “What time is it?”
“Gone 11”, said Joby, looking up from where he was reading in his chair “Do you want some water?”
He got up to fetch some from the jug on the wash-stand. In the far distance he could hear a faint rumbling sound.
“What is that?” said Kieran.
“Dunno”, said Joby “It sounds like thunder, but I’m not sure. It’s been going on for some time. It never gets any closer though”.
There was a knock on the door, and Bengo came in, bearing two mugs of cocoa on a battered metal tray.
“I thought you might like this”, he said.
“Bengo, you’re a star”, said Kieran “You must be having to work so hard, with Joby looking after me”.
“I’m enjoying it”, said Bengo “I get to be Adam’s second-in-command”.
“The minute my back’s turned he steps into my shoes”, said Joby.
Suddenly there was an even weirder noise. It was like a radio broadcast that had gone awry. A jumble of indistinct distorted voices, all mumbling into one another, accompanied by a very faint wah-wahing noise.
“I don’t like that at all”, Kieran sat up in his bunk “Bengo, you must go and persuade Bardin that we aren’t to go any further. We must turn round in fact“.
“I doubt he’d listen to me, Kieran”, said Bengo, looking pole-axed by this task “He’s very determined”.
“I wouldn’t ask this if I didn’t’ think it was serious”, said Kieran “Please. It’s very important”.
“What the hell is the matter with everybody?” said Bardin “You’re all turning into a bunch of wimps!”
“Bardy, I’m not having that“, said Bengo “That’s a rotten thing to say. I’m so angry with you! How dare you! You can call me a lot of things, but we are NOT a bunch of wimps!”
Bengo was so furious that he went and sat at the end of the sofa in their cabin, and turned to stare furiously at the wall.
“I’m sorry”, said Bardin, going to sit next to him “I was being a jerk. Forgive me. But what am I supposed to say when everybody keeps bellyaching all the time? Julian keeps blathering on about his bloody cigar shortage …”
“We all need our little props, Bardy”, said Bengo “Yours are your undies and your nightie. We’re not being cowardly. Normally we’d treat this as just another adventure, but there’s something very odd about this one, and it’s affecting Kieran really badly”.
The weird distorted noise happened again.
“What IS that?” said Bardin “I heard it earlier”.
“I don’t know”, said Bengo “But please Bardy, let’s not go any further up here. There’s something dreadfully wrong about it all. Let’s go back”.
“OK”, Bardin sighed.
“Wonderful!” said Bengo “I’ll go and tell Kieran right away. He’ll be so pleased”. Bardin fell out of bed and landed with a loud thump on the cabin floor.
“Oh Bardin!” said Bengo “What are you doing now?”
“Looking for the time”, Bardin growled, scrabbling around on all fours, fumbling for his fob watch which had fallen out of the pocket of his discarded trousers.
“What do you wanna know the time for?” said Bengo.
“Look”, Bardin held up the watch triumphantly “It’s half-past ten, that’s what it is. We’ve overslept”.
“As we were kept awake half the night by those weird noises”, said Bengo “I’m not surprised! Thank God it’s daylight!”
“And the ship’s engines are running”, said Bardin, now pulling on his dressing-gown “You know what that means. Those wotsits have started moving without my permission!”
“Bardin!” Bengo hollered, furiously.
But Bardin wasn’t listening. He went out into the corridor and nearly cannoned into Adam.
“Ah you’re up, Bardin dear”, said Adam “I’ve left some breakfast for you and Bengo in the dining-room, and I’ll send Toppy in with some hot water for you”.
“We are moving!” Bardin exclaimed.
“Yes, in a southerly direction again”, said Adam “We didn’t think you’d mind. Do at least put a comb through your hair before you sit down to eat, there’s a good fellow”.
“But what’s Bardin getting his starchy drawers in a twist about his time?” said Kieran, when Joby went in to take him a mid-morning cup of tea “Bengo said last night that he’d agreed to returning south”.
“Yes, but we didn’t follow procedure did we?” said Joby “We should’ve waited til His Excellency woke up before we started the engines”.
“Jayz, he gets as bureaucratic as Ransey sometimes!” said Kieran “I thought he’d be pleased to be leaving the Sea Of Torment”.
“Sea Of Torment?” said Joby “That’s a colourful way of putting it”.
“They were tormented souls we heard last night”, said Kieran, matter-of-factly “It would account for the bad feel of the whole area”.
“Happen so”, said Joby, who couldn’t think of anything else to say to this.
“Do you not believe me?” said Kieran.
“I haven’t the faintest idea, Kiel”, said Joby “I spose it makes about as much sense as anything else. Adam wants us to do a special lunch to celebrate leaving it anyway. Though God knows what’s gonna be special about using what we’ve got in the store-cupboard!”
“We can make all the plans we like”, said Joby , at the celebratory lunch (spam fried in batter) “We’re still gonna end up back at The Causeway”.
“What makes you say that?” said Umbert, who was doing a genteel accompaniment on the battered piano.
“’Cos we always bleedin’ do!” said Joby “All roads lead back to The Causeway. It’s like one of those bad dreams where, it don’t matter how hard you try, you end up back at the same place”.
“Not necessarily”, said Bardin “We can simply just not stop there, but carry on down”.
“Back to the monastery?” said Adam “60 years out of kilter? Everybody we knew there now gone?”
“I am tired of this defeatist talk!” said Bardin.
So tired of it was he that he was still going on about it later in his cabin.
“Bardy , you’re really gonna annoy everyone if you keep on like this”, said Bengo “I know what’ll cheer everyone up, if I spank you at dinner tonight. That’s be entertaining. We should have put that in our act”.
“Oh yes, a real showstopper!” said Bardin.
There came the unmistakable sound of the hand-bell ringing in the corridor again, and Hoowie shouting.
“That does it”, said Bardin, accosting Hoowie in the doorway “I’m chucking that damn thing over the side!”
“Bardy, you can’t!” Bengo wailed “It’s a family heirloom! We used to keep it in the hallway at Midnight Castle!”
“That doesn’t make it a sacred relic!” said Bardin.
“Come on up on deck”, said Hoowie, grabbing Bardin’s arm. Bengo removed the hand-bell from his grasp, and placed it gently in the room where they stored the oilskins and their outdoor gear.
“Alright, stop pushing me about”, said Bardin, now halfway up the galley steps.
“Go on up, or you’ll miss it”, said Hoowie, smacking him on the backside.
“You do that again and I’ll twist your ears off!” said Bardin.
Up on deck he found that the exceptionally bleak landscape had been enlivened by the appearance of a large creature stalking across it, a manimal of some kind, about 8ft tall.
“Like those behemoth creatures we saw on The New Continent”, said Bardin “I hope it can’t swim!”
“Even if it could”, said Hillyard “We’ll out-run it. Easy. Anyway, I can’t imagine that thing could keep afloat!”
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