Chapter Ten Part One - Locked

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“Easy, Joan, easy…” Jack balanced on the very lip of the craft as Joan guided it gently towards the stone jetty, rope in hand. He turned his head left and saw that at the rear of the odd craft, Jen was poised and ready to leap to the jetty just as he was, enabling the boats to be tied off with at least some level of security

When the gap between boat and stone was narrow enough for Jack to be absolutely certain he would not get wet or worse, knock himself out on the jetty and risk drowning beneath the craft, he leapt ashore and immediately pulled the rope tight.

As Jen and Jack tied off, Joan cut the engine and breathed a deep, heavy sigh of relief. She would not have told anyone but she had been incredibly nervous about the journey from the New Forest to the island of Sark, and now she would not have to do so for she had single-handedly piloted five river cruisers across the English Channel to their destination.

“You OK, Joan?” Jack asked with one foot planted firmly on the jetty whilst the other, much in the manner of a front man of a rock band using the floor monitors, rested upon the exterior lip of the craft. “It’s just that you’re still holding that steering column pretty tight.”

“I’m fine,” she replied with a smile. “Just glad to have made it, you know?”

“Oh I know.” Jack returned her smile. “Let’s hope that ‘Lise, Simon and the rest make it here just as easily as we did.”

“’Lise knows what she’s doing,” said Joan, finally releasing the steering apparatus from her grasp. “As long as the weather stays fine, she’ll get them here.”

“We ought to check the lay of the land,” said Jen. “If this place isn’t safe then we need to know sooner rather than later.”

“Aye,” Jack agreed. “Preferably before we get settled in.”

“You two go.” Joan stretched her wind-stiff limbs as she spoke. “I’ll make sure the fuel tank is full and let everyone ashore to stretch their legs. We’ll leave the gear aboard though, until we know we’re definitely staying put.”

“That works for me,” Jen replied. “At the first sign of trouble though, cast off.”

“Aye, worry about Jen and I getting aboard once everyone else is safe.”

With a nod from Joan and each armed with a shotgun, Jack and Jen set off along the jetty towards the small array of temporary buildings that made up Sark’s harbour. A light sea-breeze was coming off the water, filling their nostrils with the damp, salty aroma.

“Nothing here,” Jack whispered, peering through the window of one of the site cabins. “Looks like there hasn’t been for months, either.”

“Maybe there hasn’t been anyone here for that long,” said Jen as she too peered into a cabin devoid of life; living or dead.

“I don’t know how many people lived here before, Jen, but I’d wager it was a few hundred.” Jack continued talking in quiet, hushed tones as he gestured that they should check through the window of the only remaining site cabin together. “Even if some of them left, I doubt everyone did!”

Each standing with their backs against the prefab wall, one on either side of the window, Jack and Jen nodded to each other and then as one, turned simultaneously and looked inside what was yet another temporary building completely devoid of life. A couple of desks, both with chairs and a computer, and a kettle beside a box of PG Tips, a jar of own-brand coffee and a bag of granulated sugar.

“Find some milk and we’ve got something proper to drink, at least,” said Jen with a chuckle.

“Reckon I’d take a black coffee about now,” Jack replied. “But hey, we’re not here for a tea party.”

“More’s the pity,” Jen replied with a sigh as the two of them moved away from the window. “But I guess as there’s clearly no one here, we go through that tunnel.”

Jack turned with a nod. The tunnel was high, probably eight feet at the highest point, and reasonably wide; enough to fit a tractor and trailer through, at any rate. It was cut through the hillside and was the only way off the dock.

Length-wise there was not much to it, one hundred yards at the most but despite that short distance walked under such sheltered conditions both Jack and Jen were glad of the Sun’s warmth when it hit them upon their exit. They walked across the paved expanse in silence, enjoying the warmth of the day and the calls of many a gull, as they headed for the opposite tunnel. To their right was a track that led inland, but the additional tunnel had caught their respective attentions.

The sight that greeted them as they came out of the other end was one that neither expected; another harbour not quite twice as big as the one at which they’d docked. There were no buildings though, temporary or otherwise, but there were half a dozen boats docked. There was no sign of life though, at least not in the boats that they could reach; a couple were anchored further out and only accessible at low tide or by dinghy.

“Well there’s definitely people here,” said Jack. “Or there were, at least.”

“The only place they’re gonna’ be is the village,” said Jen with a nod of agreement. “Unless there’s anywhere else to hide on this island.”

***

The track from the harbour to the village was exactly that; a track that quite clearly had only ever been traversed by foot, bicycle, horse and trap or tractor. It had quite obviously not been travelled in some time though; briars and stinging nettles were abundant meaning that Jack and Jen had to pick their way carefully, lest their clothes be torn or skin be stung.

Despite their reduced pace they soon reached the village and as with the harbour there was no sign of life whatsoever. Shops, a Post Office, houses... All were deathly quiet.

“I don't like this at all,” Jen said quietly, having checked the final building that the village apparently had to offer. “It's too quiet.”

“It really is,” said Jack, turning his head to the left as something caught his eye. “We've checked everywhere else, in the village at any rate. Guess that's the next port of call?”

Jen nodded with no small amount of reluctance but set off after Jack regardless. The headstones on either side of the path towards the church were old and weathered but those further away were even more so, and she felt a slight chill run down her spine.

“What do you miss most, Jack?” she asked, trying to take her mind off the fact that she couldn't help but be freaked out knowing there were hundreds of long-dead, rotted corpses within a few hundred yards. “About before, I mean.”

“Beer gardens,” he replied without missing a beat, “especially in the Summer. There's nothing quite like sitting out in the Sun with a nice cold beer.”

“Amen to that,” she replied, grateful of the distraction however slight it was.

A set of heavy oak doors loomed large in front of them, and Jack reached out for tha handle.

“How about you?” he asked, struggling to pull the door open. “What do you miss most, Jen?”

“Clean underwear, and that's all you're getting,” she replied with a chuckle. “Is it locked?”

“Well it's definitely not opening,” he said. “If I had to guess, I'd say it's bolted from the inside.”

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