Go back to previous chapter
They drifted in a vaguely north-north-easterly direction, and into the weed-choked wastes of the Middle Ocean. It was here that they ran into a dense sea-fog which enveloped them for miles. It bought back unwelcome memories of the freezing fog they had previously encountered in the Southern Ocean. The big difference this time was that the temperatures were humid. The fog seemed to trap them inside a broiling hell. The 3 galley workers suffered particularly in the stifling conditions. It even put Bengo in a bad mood. He moaned at Bardin, who in turn moaned at Kieran, and said “this is where your bloody policy of drifting at sea has got us!” Kieran was understandably miffed at this choice bit of unfairness, but got revenge by giving Bardin some particularly vigorous “therapy” at his next session.
“Bengo couldn’t stop laughing when he told me”, said Hoowie, gently combing out Julian’s sweaty hair.
“Tinkerbell in charge of Bardin’s chastisement, pah!” said Julian “I’ve never heard such rubbish. More like Kieran will just send him into some depressing spiritual fug. That man’s a ruddy menace for going around driving people in on themselves!”
“Not jealous by any chance are you?” said Hoowie, leaning down to whisper in Julian’s ear.
“It is more a simple fact that I could do better”, said Julian “If Bardin goes any further in on himself I’ll take my slipper to him, and you can tell him that next time you go trying to seduce him!”
Hoowie had another attempt at this ongoing task just before supper-time. He found Bardin standing in his cabin, once more looking pensively out of the port-hole.
“Not now”, said Bardin “It’s nearly dinner-time”.
Hoowie grabbed Bardin’s hand and kissed it several times in an exaggerated, theatrical manner. Bardin couldn’t help but smile at this.
“Let me come and see you tomorrow”, said Hoowie.
“I’m not sure”, said Bardin “Bengo might not like it”.
“Oh Benje won’t mind”.
“He might. This heat’s making him ratty”.
Suddenly the hand-bell rang out, summoning everybody to the dinner-table.
“Tomorrow”, said Hoowie, firmly “I’ll come and find you again”.
They went out into the corridor, where Bengo stamped past them carrying a large saucepan of boiled rice. He put it on the table and turned to scowl at Hoowie.
“Ah Benje, don’t be like that”, said Hoowie.
“I’ll be like that if I want to be like that!” said Bengo “And Bardin, I shall want a word with you later”.
“Oh stop getting all aggravated”, said Bardin, later “Or you’ll make yourself even sweatier, if that’s possible”.
Bengo plucked at his singlet, which was sticking to his body.
“Take that off, and dab yourself down with cold water”, said Bardin “I’ll pour us some drinks”.
Bengo did as he was told, and felt better for the douching.
“You’ve got to admit even this is better than the weather we had in the Southern ocean”, said Bardin.
“Yes”, said Bengo, taking a grateful sip of his drink “But it wasn’t me who was getting his knickers in a twist initially, it was you!”
“Because it’s another bloody fog-bank that’s why!” said Bardin “And every time we hit one I think we’re going to end up in another time-warp, and I’m not the only one round here who worries about that!”
“OK OK”, said Bengo.
“And then there’s something very weird about this one”.
“We say that each time we hit one!”
“No”, said Bardin, impatiently “This one almost feels manmade”.
“Manmade?” Bengo exclaimed “How?”
“I don’t know”, said Bardin, helplessly “I just know it does”.
That night Bardin had a stressful dream. In it he was wandering through a large, rambling old house. Each room led from one into the other like a puzzle-within-a-puzzle, and in each room the atmosphere got steadily more and more oppressive and evil. When he had reached the very worst one of the lot though he had barely time to register he was there, before he was suddenly yanked out of it and into full consciousness. It was as if somebody had unceremoniously snatched him from the building at the very last moment of safety.
A few hours later, after breakfast, he called Kieran into his cabin.
“I did not personally appear in your dream”, said Kieran, when Bardin told him about it “I woke up in the middle of the night, and had some presentiment that you may be in trouble, but that the trouble was something of a more cerebral nature”.
“OK”, said Bardin, who didn’t quite understand, but thought that this was likely to be the best explanation he was going to get “The fact remains though that, wherever I was, you still managed to hoik me out of a horrible situation”.
“What concerns me is that, in this dream”, said Kieran “You may have had a glimpse of something in the future, who can say?”
“Hmph”, said Bardin, in a grunt “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on that one”.
“Let me know if it happens again”, said Kieran.
“I expect you’ll already know!” said Bardin “Kieran, just one more thing. This fog, is it manmade? Have you done it?”
“No, I haven’t”, said Kieran, placidly “I would tell you if I had. Somebody’s done it though, and we will eventually find them”.
Later that day the wireless set broke. Ransey assured everyone that he believed it was only a small, temporary problem, and he and Umbert set about fixing it at once. Bardin joined in, and found the work so satisfying and absorbing that he speculated as to what kind of career he might have had if he hadn’t been pushed into the theatre at such a young age.
“Bardy! Bardy!” Bengo yelled excitedly, galloping down the quarterdeck steps and into the dining-room with his pinny all askew.
“What? What? What?” said Bardin.
“Land!” Bengo exclaimed “We’ve seen land in the distance!”
“The fog must have cleared a bit”, said Ransey.
“It’s now in patches more or less”, said Bengo, impatiently “Oh c’mon up and look, there’s land ahead!”
“Good”, said Bardin “We might at last find out who’s behind the fog-bank”.
Go forward to next chapter
Return to Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales and Strange Places web site