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By Sarah Hapgood

They had paused briefly to explore the house on the ridge opposite Erebus’s island. It yielded three gloomy rooms that were so dark, cold and depressing that, even out of desperation, they couldn’t face staying there. Plus there was also the feeling that even here, on the edge of the world, they still hadn’t gone far enough to be truly safe.

The galleon sailed beyond the rocks at the edge of the lake and out into an icy sea which was ringed by high glaciers. They went at a slow, steady pace. The waters were too strewn with hazards to go speedily.

Bengo and Bardin stood at the prow, watching in awe as they floated through this icy white and blue world.

“What’s your biggest fear at the moment, Bardy?” said Bengo.

“Of coming to a dead end”, said Bardin “And having to turn back. That scares me. We have to keep moving onwards. Whatever is happening behind us has to be given plenty of time to burn itself out”.

“Bard”, HIllyard came up to them “We’ve got a bit of a problem. Wesley’s drunk”.

“Well how?” said Bardin “The booze has been kept under lock and key!”

“I think he’s still been able to get out enough to stockpile a cache of it in the hold”, said Hillyard “These boozers can be crafty gits. Anyway, he’s got himself in a state”.

“For fuck’s sake!” said Bardin, heading to the stairs.

Wesley wasn’t normally a belligerent drunk. But there was a negative streak which ran through him and could come out at odd, inopportune times. When Bardin got down into the hold he found him in a fighting state.

“You selfish bastard”, said Bardin “The stores are for all of us! God knows when we’re next going to get fresh stuff!”

“I fucking hate clowns!” Wesley shouted, spitting and purple with rage “Always have! Fucking scary bastards! Hiding under scary make-up …”

“I’m not wearing make-up now”, said Bardin “None of us are. And you’re being pathetic”.

“Fucking, least funny part of a circus!” Wesley went on “And they never speak! They just torment people with their sadistic pranks! Evil shits”.

If Bardin hadn’t felt so fed up with him, he would have found the whole thing utterly laughable. A grown man, pissed as a newt, ranting about clowns.

“Get upstairs and sleep this bollocks off”, he said “We’ll talk about it later”.

“Fuck off, I’m not going anywhere”, said Wesley.

“LONTS!” Bardin shouted.

Lonts thumped down the steps. He loomed towards Wesley like a walking man-mountain.

“Kindly escort Wesley to bed”, said Bardin “And make sure he stays there”.

“I can manage”, Wesley muttered, putting down a half-empty bottle of wine and creeping meekly to the steps.

“He’s now snoring on the communal bed”, said Bardin, when he joined Bengo, Joby and Adam in the galley “Finia’s chucked a couple of towels at him, but otherwise I suggest we leave him there until he sobers up. I’m pleased to say he’ll probably feel as rough as hell when he does”.

“I don’t understand”, said Bengo “Why does he hate clowns? He’s never mentioned it before”.

“Oh he wanted to get at me I suppose”, said Bardin, sitting down wearily at the table “And that’s the first thing he could think of. He probably blames me for stopping him from living on the galleon”.

“But he is living on the galleon”, said Joby.

“Yes, but not permanently, which is what he wanted”, said Bardin “He knows we’ll put the four of them ashore the soonest feasible chance we can get. And as I’m Captain, well I suppose I take the blame”.

“Perhaps he really does hate clowns though”, said Bengo “Some people do. They see us as sinister”.

“Bengo, I can’t think of anyone less sinister than you”, said Adam.

“Neither can I”, said Joby.

“Anyway, stop fretting about it”, said Bardin “What Wesley feels about clowns is spectacularly irrelevant to just about EVERYTHING!”

He stormed out of the room.

“I still don’t understand why he hates clowns”, said Bengo, pitifully.

“Yeah look, stop taxing your brain with it”, said Joby “It’ll go into meltdown”.

When Wesley regained consciousness and sobered up, he didn’t say a word about his drunken outburst in the hold. This was where they saw a side to Wesley which was not appealing. He was moody and uber-reserved. No apology was forthcoming. He seemed to be taking the attitude that it was all everybody else’s fault for not seeing everything his way.

“It must run in the fucking family”, said Joby to Adam “None of ‘em can take the blame for anything. Not Anton, not Beatrix, not Cat Woman, not Wesley”.

“No maturity”, said Adam “It is very annoying, since he broke into communal stocks for his own selfish ends”.

Fortunately, they didn’t really have time to brood on Wesley’s behaviour for very long. The journey continued, and the stealthy and careful navigating through the ice-strewn waters consumed all their concentration.

“I’m starting to not care where we end up”, said Kieran “As long as I can feel warm sun on my bare skin again”.

“I’m starting to forget what the sun looks like”, said Joby “It’ll be a helluva shock to the system we do see it again”.

When they did finally see the sun again it came accompanied by a biting cold wind, but at least it brought some semblance of colour to their monochrome world. By this point they had forgotten how long they had been sailing for. Even their brief time at Erebus’ island now felt as though it had belonged to another world, another era entirely.

By this time they were in desperate need to unload their guests.

“It feels like some bizarre house-party that has gone on for far too long”, said Adam.

“It is”, said Joby “If it was a stage-play it’d be one of those endless dinner-party ones where someone suddenly dies”.

“And all sorts of dark secrets come tumbling out”, said Adam “Except we’ve already had all that”.

“I’m not interested in any more secrets from that lot!” said Joby.

They rounded a headland which, for once, actually showed patches of a brownish sort of greenery amidst the snow and ice. There was a thaw of some sort setting in. Even the very air itself no longer felt like a scalpel being taken to them.

They had absolutely no idea where they were.

“The maps we have are effectively useless now”, said Bardin “We might as well be on another planet”.

“Perhaps we are “, said Hoowie “All this slipping into another dimension stuff, perhaps we have slipped onto another planet”.

“Your brain is as weird as Bengo’s when you kick it into use”, said Bardin.

All they knew was that they were heading in a vaguely south-easterly direction. The south bit was very important. It meant they should eventually be coming into a more comfortable climate.

Joby had gone down into the hold to see if the hens had produced any eggs. He was pleased to find a respectable clutch on offer. He lingered to congratulate “the girls”, and was startled out of his wits to find Beatrix creeping up on him.

“For crissake Beatrix!” he said “I could have dropped the eggs then! As if we haven’t had enough trouble from you bloody lot!”

“That’s not very kind”, said Beatrix.

“Yeah, like I give a damn!” said Joby “If you’re hoping for a patient, listening ear about summat, you’ve come to the wrong man. I don’t give a shit”.

“Why so aggressive towards me?”

“I can’t believe you’ve had to ask me that! We had to leave Snow Lake suddenly because of Kitty. Wesley’s been nicking our booze, and you … YOU keep trying it on with Adam!”

“Trying it on?” Beatrix exclaimed “How dare you!”

“You’ve done nothing but try it on!” said Joby “And we’re all sick of it, you mad, sexually-frustrated old bag!”

“What’s going on down here?” said Ransey, emerging from the gloom by the bottom of the quarterdeck steps.

“Nothing important”, Joby snapped, marching towards him “I’m going back to work”.

“Calm down, Joby”, Ransey whispered.

“Calm down? She’s lucky I didn’t smash an egg over her head!” said Joby “‘Cept it’d be a waste of good food!”

“I’m worried you’re going to put us ashore soon”, Beatrix trilled.

“God, I bloody hope so!” was Joby’s parting-shot.

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