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A long spell of very hot weather afflicted the islands soon after. It made all the inhabitants, both the ones on Fire Island and the Indigo-ites, reluctant to partake in any vigorous activities. There was not even the gentlest of sea-breezes to be had, and the small chain of islands baked in the torrid temperatures.
Ransey occasionally fiddled with the wireless set, but it was hard to decipher anything of value amongst the occasional snatches of garbled messages crunching out laboriously across the airwaves.
“All I can gather is that the violence doesn’t seem to be subsiding at all”, he said.
“Good God”, said Adam “There won’t be anybody left at this rate. Why does the human race have such an innate ability to tear itself apart!”
“Well they’re managing it big-time now”, said Ransey.
“Why?” said Adam “It’s never made any sense. We have no idea who’s behind it all … if anyone. It all just feels like total insanity”.
“It is”, said Ransey.
He nudged Adam into the galley and pushed the door shut.
“We’d better keep an extra-close eye on Kieran”, he whispered.
“Well Patsy can’t really get anywhere, old love”, said Adam “It’s somewhat far to swim from here to the mainland”.
“I wouldn’t put it past him to try”, said Ransey “OR start that damn astral projection lark again”.
“He’s promised not to”, said Adam.
“Hm”, said Ransey, looking understandably dubious.
There was a timid knock on the door.
“Who is it?” Ransey snapped.
“It’s me, Bengo”, said Bengo.
“Oh come in dear”, said Adam, opening the door. Bengo came in, clutching the slop pail which was used to take scraps of leftovers down tot he goats. He looked warily at Ransey.
“Well I’d better crack on”, said Ransey, briskly.
“Has something happened?” said Bengo, when Ransey had gone.
“Not really”, said Adam “Just his usual worry that Patsy might decide to meddle in the madness on the mainland”.
“That was a bit of a tongue-twister”, said Bengo “You said it without a single slip-up”.
“Just call me One-Take Adam”, said Adam.
Kieran woke up soon after midnight to find an intruder in his cabin. He sat bolt upright, and gave a howl of disbelief when he saw it was only Ransey prowling around with a lantern.
“What the fock are you playing at?” Kieran exclaimed.
“Nothing, I was just looking around”, said Ransey.
“Why?” said Kieran “No, don’t answer that, I already know. You were checking up on me”.
“Buggering hell, what’s going on?” said Joby “I was in a really deep sleep then, and that’s not easy in this heat I can tell yer! What the hell are you two playing at now?”
“Ransey was spying on me”, said Kieran.
“For fuck’s sake, Ransey, he’s not going anywhere!” said Joby “I think I might notice if he climbed over me in the night”.
“But you just said yourself you were in a deep sleep”, said Ransey.
“Yeah, and it don’t happen very often!” said Joby “Sometimes I’m amazed anyone gets a chance to get any sleep on this boat. Bleedin’ chaos most of the time!”
“And he keeps thinking I’m going to astrally project”, said Kieran “Even though I’ve sworn I won’t”.
“Both of you go to sleep!” said Joby “I’m right at the end of my tether here!”
The next morning, after breakfast, Joby announced that he was going to disappear off round the island too, Bardin-style.
“Well I hope you’re back in time to do lunch”, said Adam, following him to the bottom of the quarterdeck steps.
“I don’t know”, said Joby “I might decide to disappear for days. I’m having a nervous breakdown”.
“Oh don’t be silly”, said Adam “You don’t have them”.
“First time for everything”, said Joby.
“At least take your pinny off first”, said Adam “You can’t have a nervous breakdown with your pinny on”.
“Why do I get the feeling you’re not taking me seriously?” said Joby, looking down at him from halfway up the steps.
“Because you’re just being stroppy because you had a bad night’s sleep”, said Adam “Which does not in itself constitute a nervous breakdown”.
“Well I feel like having one anyway!” said Joby.
He thundered out onto the deck, where he pulled his pinny off and left it in a small heap on the floor.
“What’s up with our Jobe?” said HIllyard, coming out of the dining-room.
“He’s having a nervous breakdown”, said Adam.
“What? Old Jobe?” said Hillyard “How can anyone tell?!”
“Oh don’t say that in his hearing or we’ll never hear the end of it”, said Adam “I just hope Bengo doesn’t decide to have one as well, or I’ll be really stuffed”.
“Nah he won’t”, said Hillyard “Show must go on and all that”.
Hillyard wandered ashore and found Joby staring out in a westerly direction, towards the mainland.
“Hey!” said Joby, when he spotted his old friend “Can you see smoke on the horizon?”
“Yeah, I thought it might be you having a camp-fire”, said Hillyard.
“Oh don’t be daft, Hillyard”, said Joby “I haven’t even got any matches on me! Summat else has happened on the mainland, bet you anything you like. Those crazy bastards must’ve set fire to something”.
“C’mon, let’s go and find the telescope”, said Hillyard.
Bardin was sitting in his cabin, eating a plate of bread and cheese, and staring pensively into the empty grate, when the others burst in.
“Where’s the telescope, Bard?” said Hillyard.
“Toppy’s got it”, said Bardin.
“What the fuck does Toppy want it for?!” said Joby.
“He took it away to clean it”, said Bardin “What’s up?”
“There’s some big shitty fire on the mainland”, said Joby “And the smoke might be heading our way”.
Bardin jumped up, scattering crumbs everywhere. He went out of the cabin yelling for Toppy, who quickly emerged from the boots-and-wireless room, duster in hand.
“Telescope, quick”, said Bardin “There’s been a plot development”.
Toppy fetched the telescope and presented it to Bardin as though it could come complete with a velvet cushion. Bardin bounded up the quarterdeck steps. He stood on the main deck, intently scanning the far horizon for a few moments.
“OK”, he said, lowering the telescope “We need to get to Fire Island and warn everybody there. It’s massive, and it’s heading our way”.
The galleon was loaded up, and weighed anchor in no time at all, and they headed in the direction of Fire Island. When they reached it they found that, because of the heat, the inhabitants had moved much of their stuff into the courtyard outside their main dwelling, and were effectively living out of doors.
They greeted the galleon with euphoria, and rushed down to the jetty, badgering the Indigo-ites to join them for an alfresco dinner.
“No, no, this isn’t a social visit”, Bardin cried, but even his theatrical tones were struggling to be heard above the clamour.
“No, look stop!” he appealed to Cloris, whom he regarded as one of the cleverer ones “There is massive smoke heading our way. Fires on the mainland!”
“The fire can’t reach us here”, said a little boy of about 6-years-old, who was hanging onto Bardin’s leg as if it was a newel-post.
“But the smog can!” said Bardin.
“We will move everything back inside”, said Lord Robert, and many of the others rushed to do his bidding, much to Bardin’s relief.
“What were you like when you were my age?” the 6-year-old asked Bardin.
“I was never your age”, said Bardin, not unkindly “I was born an adult”.
“Don’t be silly, Bardin”, said Bengo, and then to the child “Take no notice of him. Come on, Farnol will show you how to juggle”. It was like a solar eclipse, only much slower and far more protracted. At its peak it turned day into night.
“Good job we know what it is”, said Jane “Or we might have thought the world had come to an end”.
“For all we know it might have done”, said Kitty.
“That kind of talk won’t help, woman!” said Lord Robert.
They were all assembled around the table of the main room of the dwelling-place. Some of the Indigo-ites were with them. Some had stayed on the galleon, to keep watch on it.
“The fire has been started by someone”, said Bardin “Probably a complete idiot”.
“We’ve seen fires on the mainland before”, said Lord Robert “But not on this scale. What do you make of it, Captain?”
“I don’t know”, said Bardin “All we hope is that they might finally burn this insatiable need for violence out of themselves”.
“I just hope they have no access to boats and get some plan to come out here to these islands”, said Beatrix “I don’t suppose we have a plan if they do”.
“We will think of something, if that should arise”, said Lord Robert, with what Bardin thought was admirable restraint.
After having had a brief holiday from the Cave4, he found them even more draining than before. A fact he wouldn’t have previously thought was possible. And yet the Fire Island natives seemed to cope with them, simply by due process of ignoring them whenever possible. On the close confines of the galleon this had been much harder to achieve.
In a corner of the room Bengo and Farnol were keeping the children entertained, using juggling and Farnol’s notorious sock-puppet, cleaned up though for his new audience.
“I want to be a clown when I grow up”, Lars, the inquisitive 6-year-old shouted “Then I can do awful things to people all the time”.
“He’s got you lot down to a tee”, he said to Bardin.
“Clowns have awful things done to them as well”, Bardin pointed out.
“Yeah, particularly if they’re called Bengo”, said Bengo.
“Clowns don’t have anywhere near enough awful things done to them if you ask me”, said Joby.
He looked around the table, and found that Kieran had slipped out. He went outside to find him, and found him in the courtyard, perched on an old tyre, and wearing a pair of swimming-goggles.
“What do you look like!” said Joby.
“It’s very sensible”, said Kieran “That smog could be awful if it gets in the eyes”.
“Then come indoors you silly bugger”, said Joby.
“We’re going back to the ship”, said Hillyard, appearing outside “Bard thinks we’d better batten down the hatches, and it’ll give everyone here their space back if we move for the duration”.
“Good idea”, said Joby “Can do without listening to bloody Beatrix and her gloomy warnings whilst all this is going on”.
“Huh”, said Hillyard “Now you know what we’ve had to put up with from you all these years!”
“Yeah, very funny Hillyard”, said Joby.
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