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By Sarah Hapgood

Over the next few days Bardin frequently went over to the tower to help Erebus with his maps, as best he could anyway. One day Adam accompanied him, and was thoroughly unnerved when Erebus immediately him pigeonholed as a time-crosser.

“How did you know?” said Adam, nervously.

“Because I know who you are”, Erebus laughed “We may be a bit out of the way up here, but I did finally figure out that I had seen pictures of your ship somewhere”.

“I see”, said Adam.

“Which makes it all the more exciting”, said Erebus “Not only are you well-travelled, but you are from another dimension”.

“Another dimension?” said Adam “But we’re time-travellers”.

“I know that is what you believe”, said Erebus “That you travelled 2000 years into the future, but did it never strike you that that was a little odd? That in just 2000 years the world could have changed so utterly dramatically?”

“Two thousand years is a long time”, said Adam “And the world was already going through rapid unprecedented changes even in our time”.

“No”, Erebus shook his head “But no my dear sir, you’ve slipped sideways, not forwards. You are in a parallel dimension”.

“We did sometimes speculate …” said Adam “Well whatever it is, this world has been our home for a very long time now, and we have no wish to slip back. I don’t think we would know how to function in our old world anymore”.

“We’re still human”, said Bardin “Most of us are anyway”.

[Mieps and Tamaz probably couldn’t technically be put in the wholly human category].

“I’ve sometimes wondered”, said Adam “If anyone from this time …. dimension I mean, slips into ours?”

“Yes it happens”, said Erebus “And not just people. Creatures have crossed over. Reptile Men, vampires, demons. One doesn’t want to imagine what damage they must cause”.

“How do you know all this?” said Bardin.

“I’m a scholar, it is my duty to know things”, said Erebus “I have been on the outside observing things all my life. I have studied the world in all its rich forms. Plus I have to warn you that this is a portal area. People have slipped through the cracks here, as it were. When I realised who you were I particularly wanted to warn you of that”.

“We will take every precaution”, said Adam.

“Of course you might wish to go back”, said Erebus.

Bardin looked alarmed and distressed at this, like a puppy about to be abandoned on a roadside.

“I have already said we have no wish to do so”, said Adam, annoyed at Erebus constantly harping on the subject.

“Good good”, said Erebus “May I ask, how many of you are there now?”

“Not entirely sure”, Bardin shrugged “About a couple of dozen I expect, plus we have four guests travelling with us, until we can find somewhere suitable to offload them”.

Bardin had a wild hope that Erebus might ecstatically gasp and say “They can come here!” Naturally, something so blissfully convenient didn’t happen. Erebus showed no interest in them at all.

When they returned to the galleon, Bardin went into his cabin and tore off his outdoor clothes in a bit of a temper.

“What’s up, Bardy?” said Bengo, in concern.

“That old weirdy over there”, said Bardin, pointing shorewards “He tells us that the time-crossers aren’t in fact time-crossers after all, but that they’re from another dimension”.

“So?” Bengo shrugged “What difference does it make?”

“Well none really”, Bardin conceded “But it makes us a bunch of freaks”.

“How?” said Bengo “We’re all human”.

“That’s what I said …”

“You’re being silly, Bardy. I don’t see as how it makes any difference at all. It makes more sense than the other anyway. I never understood how anybody could time-travel, not really, but slipping across into a different world, well that’s a different matter”.

“All the rules are certainly different in our world”, said Bardin “In their dimension Kieran would have perhaps just always been an ordinary man, but here he’s something else entirely, something almost supernatural”.

“I can’t believe, wherever he was, that Kieran would be ordinary!” said Bengo.

Kieran manoevered himself so he was sitting next to Bardin at dinner-time. They discussed the possibility of being in a portal area.

“And perhaps that’s what’s bugging me”, said Bardin “If I brood on that fact too much I’ll end up too scared to move us on anywhere!”

“You must fight that”, said Kieran “Anyway, that’s not like you, Bardin. Our fearless, intrepid Captain”.

“I’ve been out of sorts ever since we got back from over there”, said Bardin.

“I’ve been thinking”, said Bengo “What if we moved on into a third dimension, not this one, not Kieran’s one, but another one entirely. I wonder what would be there”.

“It’s always unnerving when you start getting your brain to work”, said Bardin.

“Perhaps in a third dimension Bengo’s really brainy, an intellectual!” Farnol, one of the other clowns, laughed.

“Excuse me?” said Bengo, haughtily.

“Well I don’t think I’m quite ready for that prospect”, said Bardin “A brainy Bengo could be dangerous”.

“Joby”, said Bengo “Was Kieran ordinary in your world?”

“Eh?” said Joby, who was returning from a quick trip to the heads.

“Bardy has this idea everybody’s different in different dimensions”, said Bengo.

“Isn’t it time he went to bed?” said Joby.

“Like I could be an intellectual in another dimensions”, Bengo continued.

“Joby could be cheerful in another dimension”, said Adam.

“Well he wasn’t in our time!” said Kieran.

“So was Kieran ordinary in your time?” said Bengo.

“He wasn’t some Messianic figure if that’s what you mean”, said Joby “Just a scruffy little Irishman. But no, he always had something to him. He was never ordinary”.

“That argues that WE ourselves don’t change”, said Adam “As we had the same personalities then as we do now. It means the world expects different things from us. It is circumstances which change, not us”.

“But Kieran had something to him, as Joby said”, said Bengo “Which people recognised when he came into this time, otherwise nobody would have taken any notice of him”.

“All this is getting too much for me”, said Bardin, rising from his seat “My brain will overheat at this time of night if we start getting all lowdown and abstract like this. I dread to think what it’s going to do to yours, Bengo!”

Bardin woke up in the night to hear men singing in the distance. His first thought was that the other clowns were having a sing-song, and his irritability went into overdrive

“Thoughtless bastards”, he complained, trying to disentangle his feet from his nightdress as he clambered out of bed.

“Don’t be silly, Bardy”, said Bengo “It can’t be them, it’s too far away”.

“Then who …?” Bardin stumbled across to the porthole, walking into the dogs and a side table on the way.

“What are you playing at, Bardin?” said Joby, from the sofa “Go back to bed!”

“It’s coming from the island”, said Bardin.

“So what?” said Joby “Probably just means old Erebus has been on the cooking sherry, or the bath-tub gin”.

“Then who’s that singing with him?” said Bardin.

“Probably that enormous human fish we met when we first arrived here”, said Joby “The one in the sou-wester”.

“We don’t know how many are over there, Bardin”, said Kieran “They could just not be very sociable with strangers”.

“Go back to bed!” said Joby, chucking a ball of rolled-up socks at Bardin “It’s not them who are keeping us awake it’s you clanking on!”

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