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By Sarah Hapgood

After breakfast, a few hours later, Adam went in to see Bardin in his cabin. He found him sitting pensively by the fire on his own.

“I feel we should move on from here”, said Bardin.

“Well then let us do so”, said Adam, perching on the arm of the chair opposite “There’s no reason for us to stay here. The storm has passed”.

“I want to, but …” said Bardin “It’s that old weirdy over there with all his talk of this being a portal area, he’s got me scared to move on”.

“I sometimes wonder how many portal areas we have travelled through in our time”, said Adam “Without us being aware of it”.

“True, but then Bengo goes on about us slipping into a third dimension for fuck’s sake!”

“He was just having a little joke, Bardin”.

“I know, that’s all we are, a couple of daft clowns”, said Bardin “You’re right, there’s no reason for us to stay here, other than to help Erebus with his blasted maps. Fat lot of use to anyone that’ll be! And it’s not as if we get anything out of going over there. We’re lucky if we get a chance to sit down! End up trailing him around his bloody museum all the time”.

“He is too fixated on his maps” said Adam “They’re his obsession. You get people like that. I wonder if he’s autistic. It would account for his social skills”.

Ultimately, Bardin decided that they would spend another day at the small island, and then move on. As he was getting prepared to go and tell Erebus, Ransey cornered him at the bottom of the quarterdeck steps.

“Alright, alright, no need to nag”, said Bardin, patting the holster he was wearing under his duffel-coat “I never go ashore without my gun on”.

“I wasn’t on about that”, said Ransey “I just wanted to say, wherever we go next, can it be somewhere warm?”

Bardin gave a hoot of laughter.

“Unfortunately we’re going in the wrong direction for that”, he said.

“Not necessarily”, said Ransey “If we head in a westerly direction we should eventually reach the ocean”.

“Where the Sea Of Torment was?” said Bardin.

“We went through it once”, said Ransey “And we’ll be more prepared this time. Anyway, we might miss it completely”.

“Or find it’s moved!” Bardin laughed, heading up the steps.

When he emerged from the doorway onto the main deck he was instantly hit by a whirling blizzard of fresh snow. In frustration, he wanted to hurl his cap onto the deck, but reasoned that it would probably be better off staying on his head.

Bengo suddenly burst through the hatch behind him, pulling on his outdoor clothes.

“I’m coming with you”, he said, breathlessly “I don’t like the thought of you going over there alone”.

“Neither did I really”, said Bardin.

When they reached the gangplank though, they both baulked. The gloomy tower looked even more forbidding in the rapidly worsening weather. Suddenly Bardin had an unwelcome image come into his head, of himself holding a funeral vase of ashes. He was alone in a decrepit bedsit, and he knew immediately that the ashes were Bengo’s.

“Bardy, what is it?” said Bengo, clutching his arm.

“N-nothing”, said Bardin “I don’t feel well”.

“I knew it was a stupid idea to come out here”, said Bengo “Come on, let’s get back below It doesn’t matter whether we see old Erebus or not”.

Bardin was lying on his bunk, watching the large, feathery snowflakes drift past the porthole, when Adam came in.

“Bengo’s told me what happened”, he said, perching on the edge of the bunk.

“I thought he might have”, said Bardin.

“Do you want to tell me about it?” said Adam.

“I think I had some glimpse of how my life might have been if Kieran hadn’t given us immortality, or if we had never met you at all”, said Bardin “Living in some decrepit old bedsit. There’s few things sadder than an ageing clown. You’re not as fit as you were, your reactions aren’t as fast, your timing’s off, and you look grotesque in make-up. Yes, there I would have been, carrying Bengo’s ashes around with me. Why was I given that image? Why did I get it then?”

“I don’t know”, said Adam “This are, plus everything that’s happened lately, bound to play tricks with the mind. Perhaps in some perverse way it’s a good thing. Makes us realise that, whatever else might be happening, we’re still better off than we could have been”.

“I already knew that anyway!” Bardin snapped.

“Bardy, don’t talk to Adam like that”, said Bengo, carrying in two mugs of tea.

“I wasn’t being rude at him”, said Bardin “Just at whoever gave me that image. I find it hard to believe it was planted there with good intentions”.

“More likely your peculiar brain playing tricks with you”, said Bengo “God knows what goes on in there half the time!”

“Well at least SOMETHING does!” said Bardin.

“Behave yourself, boys”, said Adam.

“Perhaps it was telling me that was the real life, and this is the dream”, said Bardin.

“Oh now you’re just being silly, Bardy”, said Bengo.

“If I pinch you will that convince you otherwise?” said Adam.

“Anyway, if we were mortal we’d all be dead by now”, said Bengo “Probably”.

“Well that’s a cheery little thought”, said Adam.

Bardin grunted.

“Anyway”, said Bengo “Ransey says, weather or no weather, are we moving on? At least to the other side of the lake anyway. Or do you just want to lie around here and mope?”

“I bet you said that, not him”, said Bardin “And yes we are moving on, to the other side of the lake. Weigh anchor. I’m bored with Erebus and this shitty little island”.

Bardin went into the dining-room and gave the official order to weigh anchor.

“But we’ll steer manually across the lake”, he said “Saves fuel. It’s hard work but it’s not far”.

“Can I have a go, Bardin?” said Hoowie.

“No”, said Bardin “It needs someone with some muscle on them. HIllyard, Hal and Lonts can take turns”.

In the driving snow the galleon was steered three-quarters of the way across the lake. By this time darkness was gathering fast, and Bardin decided to anchor at a safe distance from the shore, and then they would progress further the following day.

That night they all entertained themselves with a mellow instrumental session in the dining-room. There was a strange end-of-epoch feeling about the day, as though they were about to cross some invisible boundary.

“We’ll travel up beyond the rocks tomorrow”, said Bardin “We’re on the edge of somewhere here. And we have to take the attitude that whatever is beyond is better. Now is not the time to know fear”.

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