Lady M – another suspected murder victim

By Frampton Jones

What a devastating loss to the island! Cling to your remaining bottles of gin, ladies and gentlemen, cherish every last remaining drop, for Lady M has been cruelly taken from us and we may never see her like again. As far as I know, the secret of her ‘botanicals’ that transformed dubious attempts at alcohol into sustenance for the soul, has gone with her. It is a loss we are all bound to feel most keenly.

I suspect foul play. Doc Willloughby tells me that such lacerations and bruising may reflect wholly natural causes – that it is very much what happens when a person has a hungry sea creature latch onto their head. Had Lady M’s remains been found on a beach, or other body of water, it may have been more convincing. “Air kraken,” Doc Willoughby suggested. “Tree lobsters. Sky sharks. Lots of options.”

There have been no reported sightings of any such things in a while, and the last occasion was just after Armitage Chevin’s seaweed cider party. That was the night people claimed to see the Devil rising from the sea, there were eleven rather awkward instances of mistaken identity, and I ended up with a small stain on my collar.

What makes me suspicious was the way in which Lady M’s body had been carefully laid out, her hands folded neatly across her chest and her skirts straightened and smoothed. It all points at one person – Mrs Beaten, who I recently suspected of murdering poor dear Fiona.

I am not alone in my suspicions. I spoke with a gentleman who wishes to remain anonymous this morning, and he told me he was afraid that his relationship with Lady M may have led to her death, because Mrs Beaten had taken to staring at him in the street and following him round. The anonymous gentleman in question has gone into hiding for the time being, in light of what happened to Nimrod.

Someone needs to sit Mrs Beaten down and give her a stern talking to. She can’t go round wiping out beloved members of our community in this way, it isn’t proper – and that may be the most persuasive thing anyone can say to stop her. It is undignified behaviour to murder one’s rivals, it is unbecoming and unseemly. I sincerely hope that there are no further incidents of this nature.

It has been mooted that we might best honour Lady M by pickling her in gin and installing her at a public location. The consensus however, is that we want to keep all the gin we’ve got. A more conventional burial will take place in a few days time. In the meantime, careful searches continue for any paperwork that will enable us to keep her gin-making wisdom alive.

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Craig Bean has fallen from the sky

By Frampton Jones

Those of you who remember what happened last time giant slugs appeared from cracks in the island, will have been waiting for the birds to come.  Even so, I don’t think anyone was expecting Craig Bean to fall from the sky. To clarify, Craig Bean is not a large bird capable of eating giant slugs, he simply turned up with them. He may be one of our most unlikely arrivals and perhaps the person whose time with us has been briefest.

Having fallen from the sky, Craig Bean made some very peculiar utterances, and then departed this life. The great minds of the island have been chewing over his words for some days now, and have come to no agreement.

“They are coming,” he said. “It will be terrible.” He pointed at the sky, which was then full of hungry, giant birds, so the most obvious conclusion is that he meant them. Except that we’ve not had a great deal of trouble with birds eating people in the past.

Perhaps by ‘they’ he meant whatever came along last time to eat the birds, leading to a rain of blood across the island. We never did find out what that was all about – which may be as well. There can be mercy in ignorance.

Diligent islanders went through the gentleman’s pockets, thus establishing his name, and his involvement with a Martian Expeditionary Force. After some debate, we think this may be some kind of theatrical performance, or some kind of society for people who like air balloons – hence the fall from the sky. There are a few islanders convinced that this means our newly arrived and deceased islander either came from Mars, fell from Mars or was alluding to something coming here from Mars – all of which is patently ridiculous.

The unseasonably warm weather that bought us the giant slugs means that for a change, almost none of us has a cold and we’re all looking less pallid than usual! I haven’t felt so well in ages and it is hard to imagine that anything else falling out of our skies will be any more terrible than the horrors we are already perfectly accustomed to.

 

You can find out about the last time the birds came in this post – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/the-horrors-continue/

And join the Hopeless Maine kickstarter for adventures in death and stretch goals here – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

Susie and the giant slugs

By Mithra Stubbs

(Yes, this obituary title sounds rather a lot like a children’s story, perhaps it will become one in the fullness of time…)

“I know exactly what I’m doing,” she said. Perhaps she did, but clearly the giant slug also knew exactly what it was doing. They often do, and this is by no means the first reported case of one eating a person. Island veterans will know that giant slugs ate three people last time they appeared.

The unseasonably warm weather and dry spell have of course caused areas of land to dry out. Vegetable plots are especially hard hit. And as is inevitably the case, when the land dries, the soil cracks open in slightly disturbing ways and then the giant slugs emerge and we have to deal with them.

I remind you all to stay away from the cracks and to carry at all times something you can use to fend off the giant, flesh-hungry slugs.

Susie’s plan involved salt from sea water, which I grant you would have had the desired effect on our regular slug population. And it acts as a sort of marinade which may make them fractionally less disgusting to cook. Giant slugs, it turns out, are not especially troubled by salt. As they emerge only in the hottest conditions, they seem unbothered by drying out, or by flame attacks. Perhaps it’s because of all the blood they consume. Susie was a particularly healthy islander with a reputation for her vegetable based diet. I can only assume this will have made her an especially nutritious snack for the slugs and that as a consequence, this lot will be worse than the ones who were feeding on the shrivelled bodies of longer-standing denizens.

They have of course also eaten everything in her vegetable patch, but I do not think this will change their fondness for flesh, sadly. If only vegan principles might be absorbed from within, we would all be safe from further predations!

Whether there is anything left of Susie that we might bury is at present unknown – no one wanting to take their chances with a well fed slug at this point. It seems a pity not to have a funeral of some sort, so we’ll need some collective consideration of the objects that both best represent her and have least use for anyone else, and we will of course bury those with all due ceremony.

Find the first giant slug incidents here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/beneath-us/ 

And part 2 here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/the-horrors-continue/

And the kickstarter responsible for the carnage (but not eating the remains) is over here – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

Cat Treadwell – the afterdeath

By Frampton Jones

Several months ago, Cat Treadwell installed herself in one of the empty warehouses, and began knitting. Many islanders responded to her request for knittable materials – although I think we have stretched that concept to its very limits. In the week that followed, Cat knitted with every scrap of wool we could find for her. She knitted with hair from cow’s tails, unpicked strands of rope, even seaweed. By the end of that week, she had knitted herself into a giant, impregnable cocoon.

Of course the strange cocoon spectacle drew attention, visitors, and attempted sabotage. The cocoon held firm, and from inside it, the sound of knitting continued. None of us knew what was going on in there, but for a while, the cocoon became a popular visiting point and an object of excitement. Island life can be so tedious and predictable, it’s always a delight when something like this comes along.

Three days ago, the cocoon was found to be moving. All knitting sounds had ceased. Rumour spread quickly and a sizeable crowd gathered on the off-chance something would happen. Nothing happened that day, but, given it was that or watch the Chevin twins setting fire to each other’s trousers outside the town hall, most of us stayed to watch anyway. We’ve all seen the trouser lighting act before, and it wasn’t that entertaining the first time.

Yesterday, the cocoon began to open. It was a slow process of a seam unpicking itself. A reverent silence fell towards the end, broken only by the sneezes of unwell orphans. At last the cocoon fell away and we watched as a large, dark, moth-like creature emerged into the night. It flew up into the rafters of the warehouse, and has been there ever since. A number of people have gone to it for advice and predictions.

In the cocoon we found bones that must fairly be assumed to belong to Cat Treadwell. There is some uncertainty about what has happened, and we have two opposing schools of thought. School one believes that Cat had moth eggs laid in her – no doubt a consequence of her wandering round in the woods at night. According to school one, the moth is a creature who has eaten Cat Treadwell and should therefore be reviled and probably killed so as no one else has eggs laid in them. School two says that Cat Treadwell clearly knitted herself out of her previous shape and into this moth form, leaving only her unknittable bones behind her, and that we should treat this moth as a friend and source of wisdom.

As the moth remains in the roof of the warehouse, school one is currently losing the argument. I expect we will follow our most usual course of action and do nothing and then get distracted by something else, leaving only a small, devoted cult behind to keep alive the memory of what might or might not have happened.

You can find Cat Treadwell’s Hopeless Maine story here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2018/06/22/threads/

And the kickstarter that has taken so many lives, is over here – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

 

Kit Cox had no one to blame but himself

By Mrs Beaten

Kit Cox, dandy and self-proclaimed ladies man got no more than he deserved, if you ask me. He has been flirting his way round the island for some time, making a nuisance of himself and lowering the tone with his immodest behaviour. While his shirts are indeed immaculate, his manners are sadly lacking and his wanton antics have clearly led to his undoing.

As far as Kit Cox knew, he went as he might have wanted to go – dying in the arms of a beautiful monster. For the rest of us, it was a somewhat different experience.

I do not blame the mermaid. They are not human creatures and cannot be held to the same standards. Anyone not ruled by the uncivilized lusts of the body can see them for what they are – hideous, hungry and persuasive. They are not to blame for what men do in response to them. Perhaps they are here to judge us, and bring down those who are too involved with their own base instincts. In this way, I feel some empathy with our water-dwelling neighbours. I would not object to being such a creature.

We had all gone down to the beach to watch the Mari Lwyd’s shout at the sea. It is a perplexing ritual, but a good opportunity to see, and be seen. Kit Cox had positioned himself so as to be seen, in a waistcoat of such bright colours as to be wholly indecent. Standing near to the sea – where all attention was then directed, he was rather close to the mermaids.

She surfaced, turning a terrifying visage towards the land. I thought that her long teeth sparkled. Seaweed tangled in her hair and fell down across her chest, failing to obscure the exposed bones of her desperately thin body. Anyone could see she was hungry. Kit turned towards her, his expression one of rapture. And thus began the most shocking litany of improper statements.

“I love you…. you are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen! What exquisite eyes you have! Will you not come closer? How have I lived so long without you in my life? What are your plans for the evening? Would you like to see my other waistcoats?” And so on, and so forth. Those of us who have experienced his courting behaviour before were all too familiar with these lines.

The mermaid opened her mouth wide so that we could all see her teeth. Several gentlemen rushed forward, while averting their eyes from the sea monster, to try and pull Kit away. To no avail. He walked towards the surf, crying out his ever more ridiculous expressions of love and longing. We watched, powerless to help him. Or too entertained to help him. Or in my case, too delighted by the poetic justice inherent in the scene, to help him. He splashed in the surf, protesting his love, while the mermaid wriggled and gyrated in the water, and licked her lips in evident anticipation.

He kissed her with shocking abandon, right there in front of everyone. It was as well, for the moral defence of the islanders, that the mermaid did not toy with him longer, and we were not seduced into watching anything worse. She plunged with him beneath the waves.

Some hours later, the remains of his waistcoat washed ashore, and we gave it a decent burial on the beach and made a little cairn next to the other little cairns for people who have not listened to warnings about mermaids.

 

This death was brought to you by the Hopeless Maine kickstarter, in which there are now stretch goals and extra rewards… https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine 

Potia Pitchford defies explanation

By Frampton Jones

Potia Pitchford will no doubt be remembered for her kindness. She was a quiet person, too easily overlooked amidst the dramas of island life. The good she did will linger on.  It makes a rather nice change to imagine something lingering on in a non-sinister way and without distinct connotations of threat.

Hers was an odd departure, to say the least. Numerous eyewitnesses have largely agreed over what happened, and I will share their combined story to the best of my ability.

You may recall the most recent shipwreck was largely a washing ashore of bits of wood, with little semblance of boat and no apparent survivors. We haven’t even had any bits of bodies to bury from this one. There are however, quite a few extra nails, which is always a source of excitement.

Potia was in the party responding to the shipwreck. She usually has been, turning up with blankets for anyone emerging from our viciously cold waters. Witnesses tell me that the sea was in an especially odd mood that day, with larger and more impressive horses in the surf than is normal. They tell me she walked out to one of those incoming horses, mounted it, and rode away into the surf. She has not been seen since.

We all have a fair idea how long someone can survive in the water at this time of year. Clearly, she could not have survived in the water.

We all know that surf horses aren’t substantial and do not last for long. Clearly, no one could ride a surf horse.

We all know that it is impossible to leave the island. Clearly, she cannot have successfully left the island. Especially not on an insubstantial surf horse.

And if all of that is so, then there is no accounting for what really happened.

We will have to chalk it up as one of life’s many mysteries.

In the meantime, let me remind you that the sea is very cold, and that surf horses are largely insubstantial, and that trying to leave the island in this way is very likely to kill you. Failure to find a body does not mean that death has not occurred. We often don’t find the bodies. Bodies are highly edible and we are surrounded by hunger.

 

The Kickstarter that caused all these obituaries is still running – we have funded, and you can still pledge https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine 

Michelle Souliere has perhaps melted away

By Frampton Jones

No one quite knows where she came from or how and when she arrived. When did you first become aware of her? For me it began on an unusually bright spring morning outside the library, when I approached a pair I believed to be the Ephemerys, only to find them staring at each other in bemusement. “Why are you here?” he asked. “Why would I not be?” she replied. Then another long silence followed, during which I deduced that something odd had happened. How odd – I did not begin to imagine.

Such scenes played out many times, especially in the day. Those of us who know Mrs Ephemery well know that she no longer goes out in the daylight. This also took a while to establish, as for a long time many of us thought we were seeing her around town. We were not. Anyone we have seen outside in the last few years was very likely Michelle Souliere.

It is an uncanny phenomena I cannot begin to explain. I believe I have scrutinised both of them most carefully. It wasn’t until my scrutiny lead to the question, “Do I know you, sir?” that I realised just how odd things might be. Mrs Ephemery and I have been acquainted our whole lives. I wondered if she had some kind of temporary memory loss, or other affliction. She identified herself to me as Michelle Souliere and told me she was lost and touch confused by how everyone was treating her. I took her to The Crow, and we established beyond any shadow of a doubt that there are indeed two of them.

I have never been able to tell them apart by looking, although they were discernibly different in voice and manner. I am not entirely sure when our strange visitor left us, and she was never able, or willing to tell me how she came to be on our island or what her purpose was. Has she simply stepped back into the mist and returned from whence she came? Did we dream her into being and are we now waking from that dream? We will never know. But, there have been no sightings of her in more than a month, and that is usually my cue to suggest that a person may be lost to us, and that henceforth we must think of them as dead.

I admit to finding it difficult thinking of dead a woman whose whole person I see fairly regularly. It has been a most peculiar business and I am at a loss to explain what happened.

 

Michelle Souliere kindly loaned us her face for the Hopeless Maine character Mrs Ephemery. You can see her in the New England Gothic art remix in Sinners, and also here –

This declaration of probable death was brought to you by the Hopeless Maine kickstarter – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

Chris Mole joins the ranks of the uncertain

Chris ‘The Mole’ Mole shipwrecked on Hopeless Maine five years ago, the sole survivor of a ship that had, as far as anyone could tell, been swept backwards through time. Where most shipwrecks just lie around breaking up while we frantically try and salvage them, The Eldritch Whale simply blinked in and out of focus for a couple of days. There was one, final damp plopping noise, and the strange craft was never seen again.

For the duration of his time with us, Chris Mole perplexed islanders as much as we seem to have perplexed him.  His questions were always challenging, especially his desire to know when people come from, and not where. We know Hopeless Maine has an odd relationship with the state of Maine to which we properly belong. None of us have seen the mainland in a while. We know from what washes in that our attire and speech may be a bit eccentric compared to what goes on inland. But the suggestion that we are temporally out of place has been unsettling.

It makes far more sense to assume that we are perfectly fine here on this island, and that Mr Mole had somehow moved through time towards us.

None of this goes any way towards explaining the digging. My personal hunch is that nominative determinism was at play here. How could a chap called Mole not feel a tug towards the pick and spade? For five years, he dug small holes all over the island, and still, no one knows why. What did he hope to find, or achieve? What did he dig up? No one knows.

As is often the case with island deaths, we can only infer the demise of Chris Mole. No body has been found – he may have fallen from a cliff, been swept out to sea or eaten by something. He may have become undead. He may be with us still but in some non-corporeal form brought on by something he dug up. He may have fallen into one of his own holes and somehow buried himself.

What we do know is that his pick and shovel were found beside a small hole just off the Fish Hill road. There has been no sign of him in any of his usual haunts in the past week. Until or unless a body appears that might be attributed to him, he will join the ranks of the uncertain – and we will shout his name at the sea, the sky and the land on each full moon until we know what happened, or we forget to mention him.

 

Find out about Chris Mole’s comics here – https://www.chrismole.co.uk/comics/

And join the kickstarter that killed him – there’s plenty of room in the mass grave for anyone who regrets not having got in for a personal obituary – just let us know! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

 

Paul Mitchell’s Indecent End

By Frampton Jones

I’ve made several attempts at drafting this obituary with tact and delicacy, but the results have proved almost incomprehensible. Readers of a delicate disposition are advised not to read on – suffice it to know that Paul Mitchell died as he lived.

For those of you who are made of stronger stuff, here are the details.

One of the young ladies from The Red House came to my office yesterday to report Paul Mitchell’s demise. She was almost inarticulate with grief. I visited the scene and attempted to interview the others, but there was rather a lot of sobbing, so I may not have the details in perfect order, but here is my best understanding of events.

Paul Mitchell departed this life from The Red House in the early hours of this morning. Of the seven young ladies currently resident at that establishment, three were too exhausted to talk to me for long. All seven blamed themselves for overtaxing the deceased gentleman. It is evident that rum was involved.

Perhaps the most telling comment from the whole debacle came from Esmerelda, who told me, “He was never a customer. We just used to invite him round.” The further explanation of why they used to invite him round cannot be printed in a publication such as this. Clearly, he will be much missed in certain quarters.

Reverend Davies preached an impromptu sermon outside The Red House on the sins of the flesh and the way in which a debauched life is bound to bring a person to such an end as this. His words only seemed to encourage people into The Red House, which was not, I imagine, his intended purpose. Reverend Davies has been a long standing critic of Paul Mitchell – frequently speaking out about the ways in which his bawdy and irreverent music would corrupt the young. I might comment that many of our younger, and less young people have been entirely open to such ‘corruption’ and readily persuaded that there is no particular virtue in misery.

There will be no official funeral – not that I imagine Paul Mitchell would have wanted Reverend Davies to bury him. The young ladies of The Red House have set their hearts on a burning ship burial, notifications of the date and time to follow. Bring musical instruments, rum, improper poetry and songs that cannot be sung in polite company.

 

If you would like to be led astray by Paul Mitchell’s music, start here – http://ragingpagan.yolasite.com/

And to get involved with the kickstarter that killed him, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

New light on suspicious deaths!

Following on from Mithra Stubbs Item in the paper yesterday, New Evidence has been found that may (or may not) shed new light on the case. You will have to read the note that has been found and come to your own conclusions.
TO BE READ IN THE EVENT OF MY UNTIMELY DEMISE A ‘head injury’ the papers said. My darling Fiona no more died from a head injury than from a broken finger nail. I know this fact because I was able to carefully examine her head at around 09:30 as she lay on the ground under Evangeline Plumage’s sewing machine, still wearing the chartreuse-coloured wig that she had been given by another of Evangeline’s clients, not five minutes later. The client in question was Marine Molly, taxidermist in waiting to the village aquarium, one of the region’s foremost photographers of sewers and Frampton Jones’ half-sister. The broken finger nail in question was really no more than a scratch in the shellac, but it was nevertheless clear evidence that a struggle had taken place, most likely a struggle between Fiona and Molly. After checking for signs of physical injury (of which there were none other than the scratched nail) I carefully stepped into the handbag that Fiona had been carrying and soon discovered that Molly had made away with the bronze key to Fiona’s shoe room. I hastened back to the room myself, entering through the secret staircase from the laundry chute, where I found fourteen pairs of almost identical black court shoes, one pair on each step. When I reached the shoe room I found further evidence of a struggle, this time seven pairs of green court shoes along with four dresses, two pairs of trousers and three skirts; Fiona had clearly been in a hurry to get dressed that morning. The broken clock on the floor suggested she had still been getting dressed at 10:30. I returned to Evangeline’s sewing room (via the Black Swan Bakery for a light breakfast), arriving around 9:15. As the sound of Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony from Testimony Albatross’s fish organ filled the air from the nearby church and as the village clock struck 9:00, I became acutely aware of a metallic taste in my mouth and I started to feel unsteady. Tumbling forwards, I pricked my finger on Evangeline’s sewing needle before grabbing a lock of the chartreuse wig on my fall to the carpet. Desperate circumstances call for desperate measures. I must find out the true cause of and hopefully prevent Fiona’s demise, to which end am going back to my workshop to continue work on my time travelling shoe machine. To date I have succeeded only in travelling back from an F fitting to an E fitting. If I can travel back from a size eleven to a size ten and a half, then the future of the island will surely lie in my hands. Should my own life come to an apparent end in the pursuit of this objective I implore the finder of this note to seek out the toxicology report on the chartreuse hair and I bequeath my collection of tintype portraits of cats, ferrets and subterranean clowns to the village museum. NR
If you are wondering why the mortality rate on the island is so dreadfully high at present, it is because Nimue has offered to write one hundred obituaries for the early birds from our kickstarter campaign to launch a new line of Hopeless, Maine illustrated fiction. It is ongoing, and can be found here.

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.