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By Sarah Hapgood

Roddy loaned than an old covered wagon to drive to the top of the island in. It was completely dilapidated and looked as though it would fall apart at any moment, but it was easier than digging out their own wagon from the depths of the hold.

The journey up across the island was depressing. The island resembled more than ever a large dollop of mud that some bad-tempered giant had flung into the ocean. The only feature on it was the narrow track way which led directly up from the quayside to the Citadel. It cut across the muddy surface like someone running their finger through a mound of wet clay.

“Why would anybody want to live here?” said Bengo.

“They’ve just got used to I suppose“, said Joby “Probably don’t see it as it really is anymore”.

He and Bengo were part of the party of 6. The rest made up of Bardin, Kieran, Ransey and Hillyard.

“Thank God it’s an island”, said Bardin “Otherwise it’d feel like eternity”.

There was no trouble getting access to the Citadel when they reached it, as its large wooden doors were hanging off their hinges at the main entrance. Hillyard cautiously drove the wagon through the archway and into the inner courtyard, which was flanked on all sides by the sprawling concrete mass of the building. No one came out to greet them.

“Perhaps they’ve all gone out”, Joby joked, nervously.

A rather mangy-looking old cat gave them a withering look of disdain and then loped across to one of the many open doorways.

“We’ll follow it”, said Bardin, jumping down from the front seat of the wagon “It might take us to where the humans are”.

They walked into the narrow doorway where the cat had gone, and found themselves in a dark, narrow (and very damp) corridor. There was a row of old service bells hanging loosely from some exposed wires on the wall, but nothing else. The dark corridor stretched ahead of them uninvitingly, and the cat had disappeared into the anonymous depths at the far end.

“Hello?” Bardin called out.

“They must have heard us coming surely?” said Bengo “We made enough noise!”

Kieran suddenly pulled on a wire and set one of the bells jangling. In that chilly silence it sounded horrendously noisy and cacophonous.

“I just wondered if that might get them going”, he said.

“Hang on, I thought I heard something then”, said Hillyard “Might have been a woman’s voice in the distance”.

“It was very faint”, said Ransey, who had heard it too.

“This is ridiculous”, said Bardin, impatiently “They asked us up here!”

“Yeah, and when we get here it’s like the bleedin’ ’Marie Celeste’”, said Joby.

“Come on”, Bardin pulled his torch out of his pocket and strode off down the corridor “If they won’t come and find us, we’ll go and find them!”

A speck of light appeared eventually at the top of a short flight of steps at the end of the corridor. It led them up into a surprisingly light and pleasant room. It was a circular room, with small windows and wooden shutters. The furniture was very old and faded, but looked reasonably comfortable, and the bare stone walls were painted a soft peach colour, perfect for catching any sunlight that penetrated the general gloom of the Citadel. There was still no sign of anyone though.

“Oh stuff it, they can keep their friggin’ poltergeist”, said Joby “Who do they think we are anyway, Ghostbusters?!”

Kieran made as if to say something, but was stopped by a man appearing on another little flight of steps leading up out of the opposite side of the room. The man was painfully thin and exhausted-looking. He wore a dressing-gown and carried a large leather-bound book under one arm.

“You’ve come about our poltergeist?” he said, without any introductory ceremony whatsoever.

“You asked us up here, yes”, said Bardin.

“Come this way”, said the man, and returned back up the steps. The others followed him.

These steps led up to a narrow walkway, bordered on one side by the wall of the Citadel, and on the other by a waist-high iron fence, which had become twisted and broken in places. This made the walkway highly precarious, as on the other side of the fence was a very steep, perilous drop down to the sea some distance below.

“You should get this fixed”, said Bardin, irritated that the man hadn’t had the common courtesy to warn them about it.

The man didn’t reply.

At the head of the walkway yet another short flight of steps twisted up inside one of the Citadel’s many little pepper pot towers. They all ascended this in single-file, until they emerged into a large bedroom.

The windows of this room had been flung open, letting in the chilly atmosphere. The only item of furniture in the room was a double bed occupied by an old man who was clutching the ancient, embroidered bedcover to his chin, as though terrified someone was going to whisk it away from him. Standing near the bed was a rather sullen-looking woman with hostile eyes. She was as thin as the man in the dressing-gown, but her scrawny body was disguised by a huge cardigan, which almost completely enveloped her like a blanket.

“My sister Mary”, said the man in the dressing-gown “She has very sorrowful eyes don’t you think?”

(On the contrary, the Indigo-ites all secretly thought that she had very vicious-looking eyes).

“You want to see what that creature has done to my books!” squealed the old man, pointing a bony finger towards the window.

Bardin crossed to the window and glanced out. He found that someone (or something) had arranged a set of leather-bound books precariously along the window-ledge outside.

“Classic pointless poltergeist activity”, said Kieran casually, when he saw them.

“Do you want us to get them in?” Bardin asked the old man in a raised voice.

“No”, grumbled the old man “Leave them there. It’ll only put them outside again. It likes toying with us. It put all my cushions and pillows out there yesterday”.

“How long has all this been going on?” said Kieran, determined to show Mary of the sorrowful eyes that no amount of fierce looks from her was going to intimidate him.

“A few months”, said the man in the dressing-gown “The activity has been steadily getting more regular … and more violent”.

“Poltergeist activity is often a symptom of extreme repression in a household”, said Kieran “Either emotional, mental or sexual … of all of those”.

“What’s going on here?” came a brisk woman’s voice from the top of the stairs.

They turned to see a mildly attractive woman, with an air about her as being more sensible and of this Earth than Mary. Like the others though she was also very thin, and she looked like someone who rarely saw daylight. She was dressed from head to foot in black.

“My other sister”, said the dressing-gown “Flavia”.

“We were called up here to help”, said Bardin “With your current crisis”.

“I wasn’t told about this”, said Flavia, although she sounded more irritated than angry.

“We can leave immediately if you prefer it”, said Bardin.

“No no”, said Flavia, shaking her head wearily “Stay now you’re here. It’s just that I’m supposed to be in charge around here and I’m not always told everything”.

She moved further into the room. Her movements were very light and graceful. She almost seemed to glide. Bardin wondered, watching her, if she had been a dancer at one time, but decided that on this remote godforsaken island it wasn’t very likely.

“Can you do anything for us?” she asked.

“We can but try”, said Kieran, relieved to get an intelligent, non-hostile presence up here at last.

“Most of the activity happens at night”, said Flavia “Could you spend a night up here?”

“Well we were hoping to leave today”, Bardin began.

Mary shot him a look of outright petulance, like a spoilt child being told she wasn’t going to get exactly what she wanted.

“Oh please”, said Flavia, laying a hand on Bardin’s arm “One more day will make little difference surely? That is all we ask”.

Bardin and Kieran exchanged glances, and it was as if they were reading each other’s minds. There was acute danger in this whole situation, but human curiosity is a powerful thing, and they knew that if they sailed away now, they would be debating amongst themselves for the rest of eternity who these people were, and what this strange place really was.

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