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By Sarah Hapgood

Bardin, being Bardin, decided to take a different route round the islands than the others had perhaps anticipated. Instead of going to the first island, his plan was to sail to the outer-most island, and then gradually work their way back to Fire Island.

They were blessed with good weather as they glided along the coastlines of the islands. Adam found Ransey up on the main deck, still wrapped in his dressing-gown, and looking pensively out to sea.

“Do you want to be alone, old love?” asked Adam.

“No, not particularly”, said Ransey “I was just relaxing. Kitty’s had me a bit tense at times recently”.

“Oh I can understand that all too well”, said Adam “I had the same with Beatrix”.

“Yeah, but at least Beatrix saw you as you”, said Ransey “Kitty’s had some bloody fantasy idea of me! And not one I want to live up to either!”

“Ah yes, your granite-faced he-man image”, said Adam.

“I can’t think of anyone who looks less like that!” said Ransey “Except perhaps Kieran. And I DON’T want to be like that anyway. I spent years trying to build a new identity for myself after leaving the Ministry. God knows, they had done their best to remove whatever human character I had had. The very last thing I want is to be pushed back to it!”

“I can’t imagine that would happen for one minute”, said Adam “Anyway, we’re away from the silly woman now. With any luck she’s probably trying to impose her world view on some other longsuffering wretch”.

“God help him that’s all I can say!” said Ransey.

The farthest, most out-flung island was little more than a large rock sticking out of the sea. Turbulent waves flung up against it, but there was no discernible sign of life or vegetation. The galleon circled round it slowly, as though they were checking out a new car. In spite of the intoxicating edge-of-the-world feel in the area, there didn’t seem to be any other reason to linger.

The next island was surprising in that it had trees on it, which considering how windswept the islands were was unusual. Some of the trees were frozen in a permanently doubled-over state, which enraptured Adam the Artist.

This island had distinct possibilities as a settlement, although there was also an argument for being stationed closer to Fire Island, in case of any problems from the lunatics on the mainland.

“We’ll stay here for a short while anyway”, said Bardin, flinging piles of maps over the dining-room table “Jeez, sometimes I really envy how things must have been back in your time, Jobe”.

“Why?” said Joby.

“You had proper maps”, said Bardin “Every part of your world was mapped, from everything you’ve told me. There were no Uncharted Areas, no areas that disappeared and reappeared at random”.

“Yeah but people used to complain it was boring”, said Joby.

“Huh! They clearly didn’t know what they were talking about”, said Bardin.

“Well we’re here now aren’t we”, said Joby “So stop getting your knickers in a twist”.

“And if you could clear the table of all your maps, Bardin, I would appreciate it”, said Adam “Now don’t go all huffy, we need to start preparing the table for lunch”.

“I don’t know what you want all those maps out for anyway”, said Bengo, coming into the room “You’re always complaining they’re no use for anything”.

Bardin made a great harrumphing performance of gathering up all the maps in a slapdash fashion. He then staggered into his cabin next door and chucked them unceremoniously on the floor.

“I’ll ask Toppy to pop in later and tidy them up”, said Adam to Bengo.

“Oh no leave it”, said Bengo “I’d rather put up with the mess than have Toppy fussing around”.

“And tell Bardin to stop complaining about ropey maps”, said Joby “And point out to him it’s easier to travel around in this time than it was in ours”.

“Is it?” said Bengo.

“Yeah”, said Joby “You couldn’t just take off and disappear back then like we can now. There would have been all sorts of red-tape involved in turning up on an island like this. Let alone just setting up home where we wanted to. He doesn’t know he’s born!”

Later in the day, Bardin disappeared by himself and went round to the other side of the small island. This was very uncharacteristic behaviour, but the others, knowing as they did they importance of privacy when everyone lived so closely together, left him to it.

“How long do we give him before we go and seek him out though?” said Adam.

“Early evening”, said Joby “We can go and tell him dinner’s ready. Perfect excuse”.

Bengo already had everything in hand though.

“I’ll go and fetch him in”, he said, when seven o’clock came round.

He found Bardin sitting on a boulder, staring out to sea.

“I hope you’re not planning on staying out here all night”, said Bengo “It’ll be a bit eerie, and I’ll be lying awake wondering about you”.

“I hadn’t realised how quickly the time had gone”, said Bardin “I just needed to get away from the boat for a while. If I’d tried to have a moment on there everyone would have kept bursting in asking questions all the time”.

“It can get like that”, said Bengo, sitting down next to him.

“Sometimes I think the other clowns can’t do a damn thing off their own bat”, said Bardin.

He paused and looked at a neighbouring island, which only sprouted a few stunted trees at its best.

“We’re better off in this area”, said Bardin “That one wouldn’t give us much cover for hiding in”.

“Hiding from whom?” said Bengo “That lot on the mainland I suppose. God, how depressing - the thought that we could be hiding for all eternity”.

“But we won’t be”, said Bardin “The madness on the mainland can’t last that long. It’s not possible [oh yeah?!]. They’ll run out of things to destroy eventually”.

“Oh don’t say that”, said Bengo “Anyway, you’d better come in now, it’ll be dark very soon”.

As they returned along the coastal plath, Bengo pointed at a strange little shelter made out of branches and moss, which was situated dankly in the marshy interior of the island.

“I don’t know what that is”, said Bardin “The grounds too soggy for me to get to it”.

“Looks horrible”, said Bengo “Like the gaping mouth of a monster”.

“This island is having a damn funny effect on everyone if you ask me”, said Joby, as he and Adam were preparing breakfast the next morning “First Bardin, now Kieran’s acting strange”.

“Well be fair, old love”, said Adam “Patsy acting strange is hardly anything unusual. He is one of life’s natural eccentrics after all”.

“He’d better not be going into one of his funny turns”, said Joby “I found him up on deck first thing this morning, it was still cold and all, going on about how he objected to people calling him a saint when saints are usually awful people. I dunno what brought that on”.

“Sounds like some kind of delayed reaction to everything”, said Adam “Bardin’s behaviour yesterday was very similar. It was as if everything had just caught up with him”.

“He’s a bit better today”, said Bengo, coming into the room “At least he’s not threatening to go wandering off round the island on his own. MInd you, at least it’s only a little island, he can’t go far. Not unless that black hut thingy is a time-portal or something”.

“Your brain gets worse”, said Joby.

“I know”, said Bengo.

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