Welcome to Hopeless!

The Hopeless Vendetta started life as the newspaper for a fictional island. These days, the site is a mix of fiction, whimsy, and news about other Hopeless, Maine projects. 

Hopeless, Maine is a haunted island off the coast of America. It first put out its tentacles as a graphic novel series. The project now includes a live performance team – The Ominous Folk of Hopeless, Maine, a role play game, tarot deck, prose fiction, music, puppets, costumes and a film project. Check out the static pages for further information on those.

I’ve made a Hopeless Handbook to help people orientate themselves. Hopeless is a large, many tentacled entity lurching in at least three directions at any given time.

If you have questions the handbook doesn’t currently answer, please wave, and answers will be forthcoming.

The Hopeless Vendetta started life as the newspaper for a fictional island. These days, the site is a mix of fiction, whimsy, and news about other Hopeless, Maine projects. 

Not a cold after all

By Pauline Pitchford

Yes, they’re real. No, it they aren’t painful although they was when they started. And yes, I know they look odd but I’ve grown used to them now and trying to remove them is incredibly painful.

It started with a sore throat, nothing unusual about that you might think and normally you would be right but this wasn’t normal. I didn’t know that at the time but it wasn’t at all normal. Just a scratchy sore throat that steadily got worse over a couple of days. I decided to try and numb it with a bit of medicinal potato vodka as you do. I wasn’t worried about the possibility of glowing eyes, I figured that wouldn’t last long if I did get them and it would be a small price to pay for the potential result. So I had a medicinal drink or two and went to bed.

The next morning I woke early with a sore head as well as a sore throat and the beginnings of that stuffed up feeling you often get with a head cold. Oh, and my eyes were glowing enough for me to see more clearly in the darkened room than usual.  I didn’t worry about the glowing eyes. Maybe I should have done.

The pain in my head and the stuffed up feeling got worse over the next couple of days. The medicinal evening drinks helped a bit with the sore throat but it didn’t go away and neither did the glowing eyes.

What? No, they don’t glow as much now, hardly noticeable unless I’m in a much darker place.

Anyway, the next thing that started was the coughing. You know the type of thing. Felt like my lungs wanted to jump out my throat sometimes. The medicinal drink helped reduce that a bit.

A week later and I wasn’t any better. I thought about maybe going to see Doc Willoughby but I didn’t want to be told I had something fatal so I didn’t bother.

Then just over a week after the sore throat had begun I felt severe pain in my ears, under my eyes and in my nose. I started coughing really badly. I struggled to breathe I was coughing so hard and that’s when I first felt them. My right ear popped first. I screamed with the pain and started shaking. Then my left ear popped and I felt something dripping out of my nose. Or at least I thought that’s what was happening. I coughed something up but it got stuck and wouldn’t come all the way out.

I know it sounds disgusting! It felt disgusting too!

I think I passed out then.

When I next opened my eyes the room was dark again so I must have been unconscious all day. I felt awful, really stiff and a bit cold but the head ache was finally gone. That sense of pressure in my head was gone too.  In fact as I sat up I realised most of the pain had finally gone. I felt weird though. I could feel something around my nose and mouth and an odd sensation at the back of my throat as if something was stuck there. I reached for the glass and bottle I kept by the bed. That’s when I noticed the glow form my eyes had changed a bit too, it was a bit greener than before. Anyway I poured myself a bit of medicine and knocked it back but the feeling of something stuck in my throat didn’t go away. I also tried wiping my face as I figured it was probably a mixture of snot and drool from being unconscious all day.

That was a mistake I can tell you!

I felt like my face was on fire so I quickly stopped rubbing and began to gently prod at whatever it was. That’s when I realised it wasn’t normal. I felt something tickling beside my ear and went to brush it away. There was something there too, but I didn’t feel any of the excruciating pain I had felt before I passed out so that was an improvement.

I climbed out of bed. I was stiff from lying there so long I guess but other than that everything seemed fine. I went over to the dresser and picked up the hand mirror. I dropped it when I saw what was on my face. It took me a while to get up the courage to look again. One of the tendrils growing out of my ear waved. I carefully put the mirror down and went over to get another dose of medicine. Maybe this batch of vodka was a bit stronger and I was hallucinating. I had another drink. I carefully picked up the mirror again but I looked the same. I put the mirror down and just sat there.

I think I sat there the rest of that night because the next thing I remember is that it was light outside so I got dressed and went downstairs. I had some breakfast, I was very hungry but then it had been at least a day since I last ate anything. Then I very carefully reached up and felt round my face and ears. Yep, they were still there. I had tendrils growing from my nose, ears and out my mouth. I tried pulling on one and soon stopped as that was incredibly painful. So I left them. They didn’t seem to stop me doing anything else that day. The next day they were a bit longer but other than that I was fine.

So here I am. They seem to like a drink as they grow a bit more afterwards. Other than that the only other thing is the glowing eyes when it’s very dark. Oh and last month there was a flower, a pretty thing, it didn’t last long though.

Thanks for the drink.

Looking after the organ

The Organ

No one alive now remembers how the organ originally looked. It is hard to think about the organ, and better not to dwell on it too much. The congregation have learned that it is better to accept, and say nothing. Reverend Davies certainly won’t pick up the topic in any substantial way. Ask him about the church organ and he will say things like ‘I think it may need dusting’ and ‘this cold, damp weather plays havoc with the leather.’ He absolutely will not talk to you about what happens when the leather rots away and needs replacing.

Older members of the congregation remember when there were fewer pipes. It is said that the original design had only three pipes and that in the beginning, the organ mostly droned, and this was fine because it’s not like anyone sings actual tunes in Reverend Davies’s church. Occasionally some bold soul will venture a melody, but because no one else knows the tune this just makes the whole thing more raucous than usual. In the beginning, the organ provided drones, and the congregation mumbled its way through hymns with as little reference to notes and words as it could manage.

It is generally understood that enthusiasm is not part of the work of a congregation. Getting worked up is Reverend Davies’s job, as it was the job of Reverend Witherspoon before him. No one remembers any further back than that.

Last week, the leather inside the organ clearly wasn’t in good shape, and some of the notes were unavailable. Last week, the congregation drew lots in somber silence, and having picked the shortest stick, Condolences Jones undertook to dust the organ. The notes are working just fine now, and there are three new pipes for high notes. Shiny, bone white pipes that the congregation tries not to think about. They sounded very shrill during the service in memory of Condolences.

Stranger on the Shore

“I say, Old Boy. I wonder if you might possibly be in a position to give a chap a helping hand with his luggage?”

The voice was as rich and fruity as a particularly rich and fruity fruitcake.

Septimus Washwell, neither old nor, indeed, a boy, turned to see who had spoken. Newcomers to the island were invariably soaked to the skin, woefully bedraggled and often barely alive. The figure on the beach this morning, however, was a dapper-looking gentleman, immaculately dressed in a crisp, white shirt, a Harris Tweed three-piece suit, shiny shoes and a bowler hat, which he wore at a jaunty angle. He sported a bristling handlebar moustache and leaned casually upon a silver-topped cane. The whole ensemble was completed with a regimental tie, flamboyant pocket square and, strung between his waistcoat pockets, a gold watch-chain, from which, presumably, dangled a gold watch.

“Brigadier Reginald Fitzhugh Hawkesbury-Upton,” he said, proffering his well-manicured free hand, “late of the King’s Own Royal Regiment.”

“Septimus Washwell,” said Septimus, accepting the handshake and quietly hoping that his own clammy palm was relatively clean.

“Pleased to meet you, I’m sure,” said the brigadier, affably, “but I must admit, I am a little disorientated. I have absolutely no idea where the devil I am, or even how I arrived here. Dashed rum, what?”

Septimus, who was partial to a dash of rum occasionally, wondered what that particular spirit had to do with the brigadier’s present predicament.

“You are on the island of Hopeless, Maine,” he offered, helpfully, hoping that this might mean something to the newcomer.

“Never heard of it,” replied the brigadier. “The last thing I remember was standing on the dock in Southampton, waiting for the RMS Titanic. I was supposed to be going to New York. I don’t suppose you’ve seen hide or hair of her?”

“Uuuh… no,” said Septimus, truthfully, then added, “is that your luggage?”

He pointed to the large, leather travelling trunk, squatting on the rocks a few yards away. It bore no signs of water damage. In fact, he could have been forgiven for thinking it to be brand-new.

“It certainly is,” confirmed the brigadier, “which brings me to my original request – could you please give me a hand in moving it?  Unfortunately, I tend to over-pack when I travel these days, so it’s fairly heavy. I assume that there is a hotel close by?”

“There’s The Squid and Teapot,” replied Septimus, uncertainly. “I can help you take it there, if you want… although it’s probably a bit more basic than what you’re used to.”

“My dear chap,” said the brigadier with a chuckle, “in my career I have billeted in some of the roughest and most dangerous spots in India, Abyssinia and South Africa, not to mention Aldershot. I am sure that in comparison your hostelry will be absolutely splendid.”

“I hope so, brigadier,” said Septimus.

“Reggie, Old Boy. My friends call me Reggie.”

“Very well brig… Reggie. Let’s get you to The Squid,” said Septimus.

“The weird thing,” said Septimus to his fiancé, Mirielle, that evening, “is that he seemed completely unfazed by finding himself here. He was standing on the docks one minute, and here on Hopeless the next.”

Mirielle gave a typically Gallic shrug.

“Mon Dieu, what do you expect? He is English. They are all mad.”

Septimus took exception to this, but decided not to pursue it. He knew that his ancestors had hailed from England, and he was fairly sure that they hadn’t been mad. Well, not all of them.

“And what was that about the Titanic?” went on Mirielle. “It sank years ago. The man is as mad as an otter, I tell you.”

“Hatter,” corrected Septimus.

“Ah, ta gueule. Otter, ‘atter, what difference does it make?” ranted Mirielle. “If they’re English, they’re all mad.”

Philomena Bucket, who was Irish, had no such views concerning the English. As far as she was concerned people were people, some good and some not so good, and she and the brigadier were getting along famously. It took only minutes before they were on first name terms.

“You’ll need to be a bit careful if you venture out after dark, Reggie,” she advised. “There are some strange creatures lurking on this island.”

“My dear Philomena, I have seen things in my travels in Asia and Africa that are beyond belief. I long ago arrived at the conclusion that there is some pretty rum stuff prowling this Earth, and that there is no point in shying away from them. What is it that the psalms say?

‘Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday’.”

“Oh, I didn’t take you to be a religious man, Reggie” said Philomena, somewhat taken aback.

“Oh, Good Lord, no. Heaven forbid,” replied Reggie, without the slightest hint of irony. “It was one of those passages one was made to learn at school, along with bits of poetry and the like. They tend to stick in the mind.”

Philomena nodded sagely, although this had never been an issue, as far as she was concerned.

“Well, you’ll need to get used to all sorts here,” she said. “We’ve even got a couple of resident ghosts haunting The Squid. Religious ones, too,” she added, thinking of Father Stamage and Lady Margaret D’Avening.

“I’ll be fascinated,” said Reggie, enthusiastically. “D’you know, I’m warming to this island of yours already.”

“Lady Margaret might give you a bit of a shock,” warned Philomena. “She carries her head under her arm and haunts the privy.”

“By Jove, I can’t wait to meet her!”

“You might have to wait a while yet,” said Philomena. “She went into a bit of a sulk the other week and we haven’t seen her since.”

Brigadier Reginald Fitzhugh Hawkesbury-Upton settled surprisingly well into life on the island, easily making friends with all who came into the inn. A few days following his conversation with Philomena, he found himself in the convivial company of Seth Washwell, Norbert Gannicox, not to mention several tankards of ‘Old Colonel’. When midnight struck, Bartholomew Middlestreet called his customary “Time, ladies and gentlemen, please,” and Reggie decided to avail himself of the facilities offered by the indoor flushing privy, before bed.

It was at that moment that Lady Margaret decided to abandon boycotting the privy, and drifted silently through the wall, directly behind where Reggie was standing relieving himself. Although somewhat inebriated, he was aware that the temperature of the room had dropped considerably. Bearing in mind Philomena’s warning, he calmly adjusted his dress and turned, fully prepared to face the apparition with bravery and nonchalance.

Lady Margaret held her head aloft and looked hard at the stranger standing before her.

“Uncle Henry!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

To be continued…  

(And yes, that is Dr Porridge in the illustration, but he does look vaguely military)

Licking dustcats for science

Dustcats are weird, feline inhabitants of Hopeless, Maine who float about being whimsical and mildly threatening.

One of the contributions to the recent Eldritch Broadcasting event – Anomaly – featured a paper on the hallucinogenic effects of licking dustcats. This all started at Raising Steam last year. We were doing some Hopeless, Maine live stuff in which Keith Errington ran a Hopeless, Maine meeting to discuss health and safety issues on the island. This was all very silly, as you might imagine. During the discussion, Susie Roberts (of The Ominous Folk) made some comments about the lovely, distracting effects of licking dustcats.

For Anomaly, Keith Errington took this idea and ran with it (no doubt while laughing maniacally)  and then Susie Roberts recorded the piece for the event itself. 

Island life depends a lot on these kinds of processes, where people playing with ideas lead other people to play with the same ideas, and things expand (un)naturally from there.

This video also has content from Andy Arbon – who started The Eldritch Broadcasting Corporation. 

The Guttering Man

By Keith Errington

Art by Kat Delarus

The Guttering Man was a familiar sight on the streets of the main town of Hopeless, Maine. If you had any sort of house in the town, it would have gutters, and if you had gutters, then you would need the Guttering Man.

You may imagine that this was a convenience. Why clean out your own gutters when the Guttering Man could come and do it for you? But, no, that was not the reason you needed the Guttering Man. You needed the Guttering Man for the same reason you needed the Cellar Scourge Man, or the Bush Bug Man; critters. Nasty, snappy, bitey, poisonous, scratchy, vicious, aggressive critters. Hopeless, Maine was full of them, dangerous varmints everywhere, the countryside, the town, your garden, your cellar and your gutters.

Granted, the critters living in your gutters were small, and in a certain light, maybe even cute. But woe betide you if you mistook their diminutive appearance to imply that they were no threat to you. It was not uncommon for house-owners wanting to skimp on outgoings to end up severely injured after trying to clear out their own gutters.


Mrs Asphyxia Jones, a widow of some seven years, had a particularly severe case of gutter critters – she knew this as she could hear at least one at night, scuttering along, scratching and scrabbling in a way that was guaranteed to get on anybody’s nerves. Have you ever run your nails along a blackboard? That was the level of raw, excruciating, bone rattling, teeth-on-edge, sounds that Mrs Jones was experiencing during what should have been her sleeping hours. She did what any sensible person did with this much provocation – she put out the word for the Guttering Man to come a calling.


The Guttering man was a big fellow, with broad shoulders, thickset, and with a demeanour that suggested he would take no trouble from anyone and would be equally happy to dish out trouble if needed. He arrived at Mrs Jones’ house with his customary critter sack, a range of tools – which may actually be better described as weapons – and a large carpetbag.

Out of the bag, he fished out a sturdy leather jacket along with a pair of gloves covered in mail. The other essential item was, of course, a ladder, which he set down firmly on the ground, propped against the eaves and tested a few times to ensure the ground was solid.

He turned to Mrs Jones before ascending the ladder, “Don’t worry Mrs Jones, I’ll have it sorted in no time, just you see. Yes. No problem. Now if I could just have payment before I start?”

Mrs Jones gladly paid him, as any amount of money was worth it to stop that incessant skittering at night and get a good night’s sleep.

The Guttering man climbed the ladder quickly and purposefully and surveyed the length of the gutter. It was full of leaves, as many gutters in the town were. Even if trees were not nearby, the winds were strong here and occasionally gutter critters would even collect leaves from elsewhere and make a nest with them in an otherwise clean gutter.

About a third of the way along – exactly where the Guttering Man expected it to be, was a large clump of leaves. Except these were not real leaves, they were breathing almost imperceptibly for a start. To his trained eye, the Guttering Man could tell that they were a slightly different hue to the other leaves in the gutter, a slightly different form, and there was something about the way they were stacked that was just a little too uniform.

“Found one, Mrs Jones,” the Guttering Man shouted down, “I suggest you get yourself inside and lock your doors. This could get messy.”

Mrs Jones grimaced and hastened to do as he’d suggested. From inside the house, she could hear a sudden bang, a frantic scrabbling, a loud, “Oof” from the Guttering Man, more scrabbling, more bangs, a loud, “Got yer!” and then finally, silence.

There was a knock on the door.

“All dealt with Mrs Jones. She was a feisty one, that one. Bit of a struggle to be sure, but safely in the sack now. You won’t have no more trouble.”

“Will they come back?” Mrs Jones asked.

“Well, there’s no guarantee, but I reckon you’ll be good for at least six months yet.”

Mrs Jones sighed. “Well, thank you. I’ll let you know if they return.”

“You do that Mrs Jones, and I’ll be straight round to sort ‘em out. You can bet on that.”

“Thanks again”, said Mrs Jones, waving the Guttering Man off.


The Guttering Man headed to the house of the Cellar Scourge Man, where, in a back room, a group of pest controllers of various types were sitting around chatting and drinking homemade beer. They nodded as he entered and sat down. He was handed a beer, and he rested it on the table next to him. He reached for his sack, opened it a little, and talked into it, “Hey, Beatrice, how are you doing? Would you like some leaves?”

He reached into his carpetbag and took out a handful of leaves from a pocket in the end, and proffered them to the sack. There was a sound like a deranged cat’s meow and then munching. “It’s alright girl, your children are safe – there’s plenty to eat in that gutter and I’ll return once they are of age to find them some new homes.”

The Bush Bug man addressed him then, “One of my customers went and got an axe and killed one of my best performers,” he said sadly, “What a brute. But how was your day? Did you have a good one?”

“Yes, thank you – a very good day indeed,” replied the Guttering Man, counting his money.

The Ungrateful Dead

By Martin Pearson

Art by Cliff Cumber

“It is quite past a joke,” declared Lady Margaret D’Avening, haughtily. “I have been putting up with the indignity for the best part of a hundred years, and I cannot stand it anymore!”

“I can talk to Mr Middlestreet,” said Philomena Bucket, “But, to be honest, I am by no means sure what can be done.”

Lady Margaret scowled, popped her head beneath her arm and disappeared into the wall.

“I do feel for her,” said Father Ignatius Stamage. “It is difficult enough for me, but at least I don’t have to haunt the privy all the time. I can go wherever you choose to put my hat.”

It was true. It was Father Stamage’s lot to haunt his beloved black, battered Capello Romano, so wherever that particular item of apparel was placed, became home to the ghostly Jesuit. Lady Margaret, on the other hand, was forever doomed to haunt the wall of the flushing privy of The Squid and Teapot, which had once been part of her bed-chamber. This was obviously a lot less portable than a hat and, after nearly a century, was causing her a certain amount of distress.

“If she doesn’t want to be in the privy, she could always haunt the other side of the wall,” said Bartholomew Middlestreet. “There’s only a cobbled path out there, but she could wander around a bit.”

“I suggested that,” said Philomena, “but she said that no one ever uses the path, so she would get lonely. She likes some company.”

“But not necessarily the company of people using the privy,” said Bartholomew. “I can understand that, I suppose. Couldn’t we put Father Stamage’s hat out there?”

“It would blow into the sea,” replied Philomena. “Besides, he enjoys the atmosphere of being in the bar of The Squid. He really wouldn’t want to be outside.”

“I’ll have a look in Sebastian Lypiatt’s old journal. It’s a mine of information for anyone interested in the history of The Squid,” said Bartholomew. “He was the one who built the privy, after all. There might be a clue in there as to what can be done.”

Following a period of neglect and mismanagement of the inn by one Tobias Thrupp, a shipwrecked English sailor, Sebastian Lypiatt, took charge and became the saviour of The Squid and Teapot, making it the welcoming hostelry that it is today. According to an entry in his journal, Sebastian, and his son, Isaac, had salvaged a quantity of dressed stone blocks, and also a fully functioning flushing lavatory, from the wreckage of a merchant steamer, the ‘Daneway’. Sebastian had written that the ship’s log revealed that her captain had ‘liberated’ the stones from the port of Newhaven, Connecticut (the full story of how they came to be there can be found in the tales ‘The Jacobean Manor House’ and ‘The Headless Lady’).  

There was little in Sebastian’s journal that was not already known, but he made a reference to the Hopeless Annual Rock Race. Although interest in the race had waned in recent years, it had, traditionally, been held on the day preceding the first full moon following the vernal equinox. This sounds unnecessarily complicated, but the logic of the race’s founder, Reverend Crackstone, was that those islanders who could never remember when Easter was likely to fall in any given year, could use this event as a reminder (for as you probably know, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following this particular moon). It appears that one year, in order to give Lady Margaret a change of scenery, one of the stones of the privy was prised out and moved to a different part of the island. Unfortunately, someone decided that the smooth, dressed stone would be perfect for the rock-race and, to cut a long story short, it ended up in the shadow of Chapel Rock, famously haunted by the Mad Parson, Obadiah Hyde. By pure coincidence, during the English Civil War, Hyde had been the puritan cleric responsible for beheading Lady Margaret. She had, unfortunately, ticked the boxes of almost everything that he despised; she was an adulteress, a Royalist and a Catholic. Good enough reasons, in Hyde’s mind, to be killed on the spot. To put it mildly, neither ghost was thrilled to discover that they were sharing the same island and Lady Margaret was swiftly returned to the comfort of the privy, where she has been ever since.

“In those days,” observed Bartholomew, “she feared that she was fading away, so only manifested when there was a full moon. Now she is bolder, and comes out whenever she feels like it.”

“I think that’s Miss Calder’s fault,” said Philomena, “filling her head with ideas that ghosts should be free to haunt whenever they want, and not being bound to phases of the moon and suchlike. That’s why she’s getting fed-up with people going in and out of the privy all the time. When it was for just for the full moon, it was bearable; people made a point of avoiding the place.”

“Well, we can’t make the privy out of bounds to customers, just because it upsets the resident ghost,” said Bartholomew, reasonably. “What if we prise a block out, like they did in the old days? We could put it somewhere else on the island.”

“We can ask her,” said Philomena, doubtfully.

“That sounds marvellous,” said Lady Margaret, when she heard the suggestion. “And Father Stamage… my dear Ignatius… you’ll join me, won’t you?”

Stamage paused for a second before he spoke.

“But I like it here, Lady Margaret. I don’t really want to be anywhere else. Besides, while I’m in the inn, Bartholomew can keep an eye on my hat and make sure no one moves it.”

“But I’ll be lonely without you,” she wailed. “Pleeeeaasse come with me.”

“No, I’m sorry,” said Father Stamage firmly. “As I said, I’m very happy where I am. I’m not moving.”

“You can always go and live up into the attics,” suggested Philomena, but Lady Margaret shook her head. This involved holding it in front of her with both hands and wobbling it about.

They toyed with taking a block from the privy to the Orphanage, but when asked, Miss Calder expressed the opinion that the appearance of a headless lady wandering the corridors would frighten some of the children. Knowing what the orphanage children are like, this, quite honestly, is unlikely. I can only think that the appearance of Lady Margaret, headless or no and wearing only the diaphanous nightgown that she was slaughtered in, would not be in the best interests of some of the more impressionable boys.

When she found that no one had any real solution to her problem, Lady Margaret stamped a ghostly foot, went into a sulk and disappeared into the wall, vowing that she had no intention of coming out again, ever.

“She’ll get over it,” said Philomena, philosophically.

“If Sebastian had not bothered to salvage those blocks, the steamer would have sunk and she would have had nothing to haunt but cephalopods and fishes,” said Bartholomew. “He gave her a home! Why can’t she be grateful for that, at least?”

“Don’t be too hard on her, she’s very young,” broke in Father Stamage.

While the others had been talking, Stamage had allowed himself to fade unobtrusively into the coat stand, where his hat was hanging. They had quite forgotten that he was there.

“No she’s not young, she was killed hundreds of years ago,” protested Bartholomew.

“That’s as may be, but she told me that she was forced into an early – and ultimately unhappy – marriage, and was no more than a girl of nineteen, at the time of her death,” said the ghostly priest, manifesting fully before them. “That was an awfully young age for her to lose her life, whatever her sins were. The tragedy is, she will always be nineteen.”

The others were silent for a while as they mentally digested this thought.

“Just give her time,” added Father Stamage, disappearing once more into the coat stand. “She’ll get over it.”

“I hope so,” said Philomena. “I really hope so.”

The Coming of Dave

By Keith Errington

An observation from the Hopeless, Maine Scientific Society.

Physics is a funny thing. Full of strange behaviours and surprising outcomes. It can inspire and confound. It can amuse and frustrate. But once you understand it, it’s entirely predictable. Science is like that. Even on Hopeless, Maine, where a good deal of magic interferes with many scientific principles, in day-to-day life science and logic generally still prevails.

Take the properties of light for example, universal and immutable. Refraction works here as elsewhere. And on Hopeless, Maine, it is a combination of refraction, weather conditions and freak cloud reflections that results in a phenomenon that is hard, but let us say, not
impossible, to explain through physics alone. Unfortunately, Hopeless, Maine, is not known for a high level of physics knowledge amongst its inhabitants. I suspect they would probably think that refraction is the process of cutting a cake into even smaller pieces.

And so it is that the phenomenon that happens approximately once a year is referred to as The Coming of Dave by islanders – a very unscientific label in my opinion.

A small, haphazardly organised group of religious followers, or more accurately, nutters, has taken this annual event to heart and formed a fanatical sect. These believers refer to themselves as Davotees. In the month leading up to the possible sighting of Dave, they prepare as best they can and try to spread the word of Dave’s coming to other, mostly disinterested, often irritated, occasionally violent, islanders.

Predicting the coming of Dave has a random margin of error when it comes to knowing the exact timing and place. This means that Davotees have to keep an eye on known manifestation locations for several days. This is known as “Davewatch” and is generally accompanied by Davotional fasting and wailing in equal measure. (The wailing being mostly a direct result of the fasting).

Finally, there will be a faint shimmering for up to an hour and then Dave proper will appear. This generally results in a mad dash to that particular location by all the watchers in the other locations. Nobody wants to miss the Word of Dave.

For up to five minutes (Usually a lot less- one year it was a mere three seconds) Dave appears as a glowing vision, surrounded by a halo of light. During this time, Davotees will eagerly and voraciously watch everything Dave does and religiously record everything Dave says.

Afterwards, there will be weeks of debates. What did Dave say? What does it mean? How should we change our lives as a result? (Mostly Dave doesn’t speak – so many times the endless discussions will be over interpreting a glance, or a hand movement or the use of a potato peeler).

Once they observed Dave with a stack of magazines and a box of tissues. Well, that sparked a particularly lively round of debating, as you might imagine.

Dave himself, is entirely unaware of the import his mundane actions might have to a such a deranged bunch of individuals and goes about his daily life blissfully ignorant of the powerful influence he wields. He is not a famous person where he lives. His life is entirely uninteresting. Even amongst nondescript denizens of the world, his ranking is, at best, very, very average. He does nothing exciting, and in fact will do nothing exciting his entire life.

Basically, we have already spent more time in describing Dave that he should ever warrant. We don’t need to know what he does or where he lives – both facts are immaterial to this story and would only serve to increase the sense of ennui that Dave engenders in his peers, neighbours, friends and workmates.

To Davotees however, he is a god, an infallible oracle, an all-seeing prophet – a divine being. During Dave’s brief materialisations, Davotees will hang on to his every word, his every move, his every expression, his every sneeze, or cough, or fart.

There have been a series of official pronouncements from the Davotees – and these are being collected in a tome they refer to as The Book of Dave. Such pronouncements include: “thou must always put your right sock on first”, “thou must never unbutton your shirt completely before removing it” and most controversially “thou must addest the milk after the tea”. Two Davotees had to be forcibly detained after a fight broke out over that one.

As well as the debates, there is a week of official mourning for Dave’s passing after the manifestation ends. During this period, Davotees only wear strictly black and only eat black food. And as this will follow the Davewatch period of fasting, they are all generally in a black mood.

Whilst they are interesting to observe from an ethnological point of view, Davotees really have very little impact on the island, with most others tending to ignore “those nutters”. Generally, the most interesting thing about the whole affair is the physics behind the phenomenon. But as we stated earlier, there are very few people on the island with sufficient knowledge to investigate. Whilst here at the Hopeless, Maine Scientific Society, we have neither the time nor the resources to investigate what is, after all, a relatively harmless phenomenon.

Now The Arrival of Pete, on the other hand…

Gaunt Town March

By Kat Delarus

creeping darkness
swaddles our souls
we hide without light
to keep us from dying

Longer and longer
the time stretches out
we’ve seen what grows
beyond the horizon

beat does the heart
does the heart of madness
that way lies nothing
familiar or sacred

pitchforks and torches
and flasks of oil
wooden planks and nails
and chunks of stone

there is no way
to stop it from coming
the townsfolk marching
aren’t coming back

beat does the heart
does the heart of madness
that way lies flesh
an abyss that kills

back to the town
we hurry and we scamper
packing our bags
we flee what’s inevitable

quick, take a knife
it’s already here
are we too late?
there’s no time to think

beat does the heart
does the heart of madness
ever growing, ever reaching
Do nothing but flee

beat does the heart
does the heart of madness
in your blood and in your head
it’s far too late

(Art by Tom Brown shows the Bridge of Bottles, which crosses the Gaunt River into Gaunt Town, the oldest part of the main settlement on the island.)

The Sky Ship

By Martin Pearson

Even in the sullen, grey light of a Hopeless dawn, it was clear that the dark shape in the sky was that of a sailing ship.

Rhys Cranham, the Night-Soil Man, and Miss Calder had been the first to notice its presence. It had shaken the trees, blocked out the moon, and even stopped Miss Calder being flirtatious, for a while.

There are some folk who tend to rise early on the island of Hopeless, Maine. It was inevitable that word of this strange sight would soon get around, and, sure enough, in that early, misty light, a small knot of people had gathered along the pathway leading to The House at Poo Corner, their necks craned, hardly daring to believe what they were witnessing.

Rhys, ever conscious of his anti-social odour, slipped away downwind. Meanwhile, the ghostly Miss Calder had levitated high into the branches of the trees, in order to get a better look. 

“Surely, it’s an apparition,” someone in the crowd suggested. “Or an optical illusion.”

Miss Calder said nothing. She knew all about apparitions, and the rope stretching from the ship’s bows, and the large metal anchor attached to it, was real enough. Besides, there was a figure making its way down the rope.

She allowed herself to rise above the tops of the trees until she was level with the man, whom she supposed to be a sailor.

He looked to be in difficulty. His face was an unhealthy red, his eyes bulged; he was holding his breath.

“Like a man under water, and desperate for air,” she thought.

Instinctively Miss Calder reached out to help him, forgetting for a moment that, being a ghost, she was incapable of doing anything other than frightening the poor fellow.

He looked at her in horror. If apparently lunging towards him had not been enough, Miss Calder had inadvertently done ‘The Face’. It is something that happens when she gets overly excited; it is enough to perturb even her closest friends. Her once beautiful face had suddenly become a hideous grinning skull. 

While having the presence of mind to keep his mouth tightly clamped shut, the sailor threw his arms wide in alarm, letting go of the rope.

“Oh no!” wailed Miss Calder, her good looks returning. “You’ll fall to your death from here.”

It is not often that Miss Calder can be shown to be in error, but on this occasion she was. To the surprise of everyone watching, the sailor floated away through the air, like a balloon, up towards the ship.

From her vantage point Miss Calder could see a life-belt thrown out and arms pulling the intrepid sailor back on board.

“Should I go up and speak to them?” she wondered, then thought better of the idea. The sailor’s reaction to her offer of help had been quite upsetting. Besides, levitating to a little above the treetops was one thing, but the ship was at least fifty feet above that. If seemingly solid ships could float about up there, it made the sky a much more uncertain place. She had no idea what would happen to her at such a height.

Suddenly, the uppermost branches of the trees began to move. Miss Calder looked down and saw a figure scrambling around in the thin foliage.

“Septimus, is that you?”

Young Septimus Washwell, lately famous on the island for his dancing skills, stuck up a thumb in salute. Being more agile than most, he had shinned up into the tree and, even as Miss Calder watched, was hacking away at the branches in an effort to free the anchor.

After an energetic few minutes, which he coloured generously with a variety of obscenities in both English and French (obviously learned from his fiancée, the delectable Mirielle D’Illay), Septimus freed the anchor.  From where she hovered, above the trees, Miss Calder waved her arms and shouted to the sailors who, by now, were lining the deck, and wondering what exactly was going on, down there in the depths.

I suppose the combination of shouting and arm-waving is a universal language, and to everyone’s amazement the thick rope tightened and the anchor was drawn up through the air, swaying majestically in the morning breeze.

Only Miss Calder was close enough to see the sailors on deck, waving back in gratitude.

Sails were hoisted, and the huge, dark shape slowly drifted away through the morning air, casting its shadow over the island, until it disappeared forever, into the thickening fog.

The talk in The Squid and Teapot that evening, and for many more to come, was all about the strange ship that had sailed through the skies. If its anchor had not caught in the trees, no one would have ever known that it had been there.

“Do you have any idea what it was, or where it had come from?” Bartholomew Middlestreet asked Philomena Bucket.

Philomena thought for a moment, and shook her head.

“Not at all,” she said. “But I am fairly sure that I remember Granny saying that such a thing was seen in Ireland years ago. After all, there are more things in heaven and Earth, Mr Middlestreet, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

“Oh, that’s profound,” said Bartholomew admiringly. “You should write that down somewhere.”

“Oh, it isn’t original,” confessed Philomena. “It was something that Doctor Dee said to me once, in a tavern, when I visited him in Tudor England.”

Author’s note: Granny Bucket was, as ever, absolutely correct. Towards the end of the eleventh century, Bishop Patrick of Dublin catalogued, in Latin Verse, the twenty-seven wonders of Ireland. One of these was of a ship glimpsed in the air, and a fisherman who swam down to retrieve his spear. Earlier, in the eighth century, The Abbey of Clonmacnoise was cited as a spot where a ship’s anchor snagged in the altar rail, and a sailor almost drowned retrieving it. It is likely that these two sightings may have arisen from the same legend, and, in the manner of such things, become somewhat embellished with the telling. Leastways, it was a good enough tale to inspire the poet Seamus Heaney, who quoted the episode in his poem ‘Lightenings.’

As Philomena so rightly said, there are certainly more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. I can only imagine that when Doctor Dee told her this, a young man with theatrical ambitions, recently down from Warwickshire, had been sitting at a nearby table, eavesdropping and quietly making notes with his quill-pen.

Crow Queens

The Queen of Crows started life as part of the tarot deck and I developed her as as a character in our Hopeless Romance live show, for which I wrote her a song. More of that over here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2022/04/29/the-queen-of-crows-2/

The illustration with this post shows me as a crow queen. It’s part of the image we’ve been using this year with The Ominous Folk. 

There’s something evocative about the queen of crows, something that speaks to more people than just me. One of the people who has found the idea meaningful is Pauline Pitchford. In the video below, Pauline explores the idea of crow queens from the perspective of a member of The Hopeless, Maine Scientific Society. It’s a beautiful piece, full of magic, possibility and menace.

How do you become a crow queen?

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.