Welcome to Hopeless, Maine!

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.

Walking with spoons

James Weaselgrease has been with the Hopeless, Maine project for some time now. He’s in book 1, as the child Salamandra gives the bear to. He’s helped out at events, helped lug books onto trains, and he’s been part of the performance side from almost the start. He was singing with us before the idea of singing as part of the Hopeless, Maine project occurred to anyone. 

The picture above is James in Ominous Folk mode, or possibly as Jamesthulhu. There may well be an eldritch monstrosity pretending to be his hair.

This autumn, our James started a course learning how to make computer games. He’d been at it about a week when he made this little beasty. We bring you the first spoonwalker in motion, confident that there is more of this to come. We anticipate that there will be Hopeless, Maine computer games in our not too distant futures!

The Unhappy Medium

Drury, the skeletal hound, was curled up contentedly on an old blanket in the corner of the Night-Soil Man’s cottage, affectionately known to all as ‘The House at Poo Corner’.

As far as Drury was concerned, all was right with the world.  To all intents and purposes Philomena Bucket had stopped wasting her time worrying about being a powerful witch, or getting married, and was once more ensconced behind the bar of The Squid and Teapot. Even better, Rhys Cranham was back in his rightful place, servicing the cess-pits and outdoor privies of the islanders of Hopeless Maine. All thoughts of marriage appeared to have left them both, at least for the time being. The status quo had been restored to Drury’s satisfaction.

Rhys looked down fondly at the bony old hound. It would soon be time to drag on his boots, strap on the lidded bucket and once more venture out into the darkness. Doubtless, Drury would accompany him, as he did on most nights. Rhys could not help wondering how things would have changed, had his and Philomena’s wedding plans come to fruition. The role of Night-Soil Man had taken up half of his life, first as apprentice to Shenandoah Nailsworthy, then, after Shenandoah’s death, as Night-Soil Man in his own right. Would he have coped with married life? He had no idea; it might have been a disaster. After leaving the Pallid Rock Orphanage, the night soil business was all that he had ever known. It was probably best not to dwell on the question. Happily, Philomena was still a good friend, leaving a couple of bottles of Old Colonel and a wedge of starry-grabby pie on his doorstep every evening.

Despite the all-pervading misery that seemed to seep into every nook and cranny of the island, The Squid and Teapot generally managed to maintain its reputation for good cheer. A visitor could always expect a warm welcome and, more often as not, entertainment, of a sort. Tonight the venerable Bell-Edison phonograph, which always added a frisson of excitement to proceedings, had been taken out to provide the music for Les Demoiselles de Hopeless, Maine, the troupe of Moulin Rouge dancers who had been shipwrecked on the island a year or so earlier. To the strains of Offenbach’s Infernal Galop (or ‘The Can-Can’ to most of us) the aforementioned young ladies performed their ever-popular routine to an appreciative audience. By a strange coincidence, whenever Les Demoiselles performed in the inn, some of those who rarely patronised the establishment found themselves with a pressing need to pay it a visit.

“Reverend Davies, we don’t often see you in here,” said Bartholomew Middlestreet, with no surprise in his voice whatsoever.

“Quite so,” said the Reverend importantly. “I’ve come to see Miss Bucket, if that is convenient.”

He failed to mention that he had already seen Philomena; she had been walking in the opposite direction.

“Sorry Reverend, she’s out at the moment and won’t be back for a while. She said she needed an hour or so to herself.”

“That’s a shame,” replied Davies unconvincingly. “I can’t wait an hour, but as long as I’m here I may as well have a small drink and watch the… er… cabaret.”

Philomena walked purposefully towards the Gydynap Hills. She was troubled and needed to be far away from other people for a while. Despite the hazards of venturing out into the night on Hopeless, Philomena never felt herself to be in danger. It seemed that the ghost of Granny Bucket was right – or maybe she was just lucky.

Granny, and Philomena’s friend, Doctor John Dee, had both impressed upon her that she possessed great magical ability. Unfortunately, Granny was no longer haunting her and John Dee had returned to Elizabethan England. This was bad enough, but to make things worse, her marriage to Rhys Cranham had been called off, following the violent death of his apprentice, Naboth Scarhill. Philomena felt horribly alone in the world and this feeling that her magic was growing more powerful by the day was not helping. She had never been comfortable having the dubious gift of ‘The Sight’, but now it was as if she had been given an even more burdensome gift, like that of some great wild animal, which she had no idea how to tame. If only Granny was here to help. Philomena sat down on the grass and wept in the misty darkness.

“Are you okay?”

Philomena had not heard the young woman approach.

“Oh, yes, I’m fine. Just being silly,” said Philomena, wiping her eyes.

“Do you want to talk about it? I can sit with you for a while. I’m Marigold. Marigold Burleigh.”

“Ah. You’ll be the nurse I heard tell of. Sit, by all means, but I don’t need to talk, honestly” replied Philomena.

She had no idea why she was being so cautious, but somewhere, deep inside Philomena, alarm bells were ringing.

Trickster could feel subtle changes happening to the meat-suit already. That was a pity. He was enjoying being female and they usually lasted longer than this. The other one, the young man Linus, had given him months of wear. On reflection, Linus had resisted and done his best to get rid of Trickster. He had rarely been sober; that probably had some bearing on things. Anyway, all that was in the past, and this girl was not going to hold together for very much longer; he needed someone new to possess.

“That’s fine,” said Marigold, sweetly, “but I’d quite like us to be friends. How about you and I go for a quiet walk in the moonlight? I’m sure we’ll be safe enough if we’re careful.”

She offered the crook of her arm to Philomena, who took it warily.

“Gotcha!” thought Trickster

To be continued…

Mrs Beaten on moths

Never lick the moths, no matter how tempting they appear to be, or how hungry you are. They only ever taste dusty. Only a person driven half mad by hunger would think it reasonable to attempt to lick such a being. In the winter, when it has been deathly cold for far too long and your chickens are unwilling to lay anything resembling eggs, you might find a moth sheltering in the folds of a curtain, and succumb to the notion that moth licking has merit.

At such moments as these, the true obscenity of eating becomes all too apparent. The fleshiness of one’s own mouth. The inherently sordid nature of chewing and swallowing. The horror of a body that must consume in order to survive. It is as though the moths somehow cause these dreadful thoughts. I have found that the only safe way to prevent further ghastly moth incidents, is to keep my home rigorously free of them.

It is generally good practice to remove insects from the home. They cannot be trusted not to leave dirty footprints on the walls, and have the unpleasant habit of dying in unexpected places. I have benefited greatly from the judicious application of Dr Field’s insect repellent soap. Most moths cannot bear the flavour of cloth that has been washed in this substance. The green stains on my own skin vanished in a matter of days, and were a small price to pay for removing the moth problem.

I also invested in one of Dr Field’s special hunting robots. Although I am now uncertain about the nature of my purchase, for whatever is inside the robot grows as it consumes insects. I can see unsightly hairs pushing through the cracks in the device. I am fairly certain that yesterday I saw it eating a mouse, and I do not like the feeling that it is looking at me. Thankfully however I have had no urges to try and eat it, which is an overall improvement.

(With thanks to Rebecca Field for loaning her face.)

Screaming Geese

Geese are always terrifying, or course, but Screaming Geese are stand-out terrifying. They don’t scream. You will be the one providing all of that. Stood upright, an adult Screaming Goose is about three feet tall to the base of the neck. They can and will bite you in the face, favouring attacks to the ears and nose. They also particularly go for fingers and groins. They have teeth in their beaks. A blow from a wing will inflict pain and can break bones. 

Screaming Geese are a bit paranoid – but with reason. They are tasty. Their large eggs are tasty. They assume everything is a threat and defend themselves by attacking first. While any one bite isn’t that damaging, expect to get a lot of bites from multiple geese if you disturb them. Expect them to chase you for miles – or at least until you have left the woods, or died from the sheer number of wounds. 

Screaming Geese are woodland creatures. They stay off the paths. You should stay on the paths, but you probably won’t.

(Why yes, there is a bestiary on the way to go with the Role Play Game).

What Every Ghost Should Know

Sixteen can be a difficult age. For Naboth Scarhill things had escalated from being somewhat difficult to becoming annoyingly complicated when he discovered that he was dead. It was not the business of not being alive that concerned him particularly. To begin with he had tried to look on the bright side. At least there was no more work to do, his days and nights unhindered by the niggly little inconveniences that bother the rest of us, smug in the knowledge that our mortal coils are as yet unshuffled. There was no one to berate him for leaving his clothes on the bedroom floor, or neglecting to put the toilet seat down, or forgetting to wash behind his ears, all things that the average sixteen-year old boy might be forgiven for not doing. He found that there was no great joy to be had, even if he decided to revel in this new-found freedom. It would have meant nothing, for Naboth was now a ghost, an apparition as insubstantial as the grey mist that lingered sullenly over the island of Hopeless, Maine.

Being murdered is not at all pleasant. There is more to it than simply having one’s life taken away; there is the sense of being targeted and knowing that someone, somewhere has gone to the trouble of singling you out for a particularly unpleasant method of extermination. It is, indeed, a dreadful thing. More dreadful still, however, is when your violent death has been brought about by a case of mistaken identity. Can you imagine it? Oh, the injustice of it all, especially when you are, or, more correctly, were, just sixteen with the exciting promise of life sitting before you like a map, waiting to be unfolded. This left the shade that was Naboth raging and howling through the night, intent on revenge but having no idea how to exact it.

He had learned from Marigold Burleigh – whom, regular readers may have gathered, had been possessed by the recently returned Trickster – that his death had been caused by a vicious thought form, conjured by Durosimi O’Stoat. In the dim chaos of its mind the thought form only knew that it was to kill the Night-Soil Man, a post that Naboth had held for just one day. You can see why he was not best pleased.  Now the angry spirit of Naboth Scarhill desired nothing more than vengeance, and to see Durosimi suffer horribly. The drawback to this plan was that, while Naboth had both a voice and ghostly presence, he had no power to inflict physical harm upon anyone. When he burst into Durosimi’s home and tried to frighten the sorcerer, the only reaction was scorn.

“You cannot frighten me, you deluded fool,” scoffed Durosimi, derisively. “I have consorted with dæmons, ghouls and foul creatures of the pit, each more hideous than you can imagine. Do you think some stunted phantom muck-shoveller is likely to concern me? Now clear off, go and haunt one of your vile cess-pools. That’s all you’re good for!” 

To say that Naboth was taken aback by this response would be an understatement. It had always been his understanding that almost everyone is frightened by ghosts, and even those who aren’t would not be so dismissive of an obviously angry spirit. He needed to go away and think of what to do.

It was a few nights later when he next appeared in Durosimi’s parlour, screeching, wailing and banging his bucket lid up and down.

“Go away, little man,” said Durosimi languidly. “Did you not hear me the first time? I am not scared one iota by you.”

“Fair enough,” replied Naboth, between wails. “But I ain’t going nowhere. I’m going to haunt you every night. You’ll get no rest from me…Oooooooooooooooh.”

And so, for night after night, over the next two weeks, Naboth made Durosimi’s life a misery, until, out of the blue, the sorcerer said,

“Alright, I give up. I apologise for killing you. Now please go away.”

“No chance,” said Naboth, “you’re stuck with me. Dusk until dawn for the rest of your days… oooooooooooweeeeeeeeeee.”

A few more nights passed by in this way, until it seemed that Durosimi had really had enough. Clapping his hands over his ears he ran like someone possessed, out into the darkness.

“I cannot stand this anymore,” he wailed, “I’ve got get away from this awful noise before it drives me mad.”

Delighted, Naboth chased after him, through the trees and out into the folds of the Gydynaps, banging his bucket lid for all he was worth and screeching like a banshee. This was more like it!

Durosimi ran frantically into a dark, yawning cavern etched into the side of the hill. Enjoying his new-found power, Naboth followed.

“Enough, I beg you stop,” cried Durosimi, holding out his hands, as if in supplication.

“Never!” laughed Naboth, “I’ll never give you any peace… ooooooooaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggghhhh”

‘His wailings are becoming ridiculously theatrical,’ mused Durosimi to himself, then, quite unexpectedly, washed the cavern in a ghastly green light, and smiled unpleasantly at Naboth.

“This is one I made earlier,” he said, sprinkling a handful of salt on to the floor, and completing the circle into which the spectral Night-Soil Man had drifted.

“Try and get out, by all means, but I can assure you that you won’t, not as long as the salt circle is unbroken. This is something that every ghost should know. Oh, and by the way, just in case that bony mutt, Drury, comes looking for you, I’m going to block up the entrance when I leave. Goodnight dear boy. Enjoy Eternity.”

And with that Durosimi was gone and the cavern was plunged once more into darkness, save for the faint luminesce that hung about Naboth, eerily reflecting on the ring of salt that encircled him.

In the distance he heard the tumble of rocks, rigged earlier that day to block the cavern’s mouth.

Philomena Bucket laid a basket on the doorstep of The House at Poo Corner. As usual she had brought Rhys Cranham, the Night-Soil Man, his supper of starry-grabby pie and two bottles of Old Colonel, courtesy of The Squid and Teapot. Rhys would always consume this half-way through his round, often giving a scrap or two to Drury, whose attempts at eating always ended with the chewed food dropping through his skeletal frame on to the ground, later to be enjoyed once more, but this time by the crows.

Tonight Philomena discovered that Rhys had left her a letter. Intrigued, she picked it up to peruse later, in flickering candlelight, back in her room at The Squid and Teapot.

“My Dear Philly, I hope you are well. I am just letting you know that the troubled spirit of poor Naboth seems to have disappeared. I have not seen him for some time now. I think, maybe, he has come to terms with his dreadful fate and has found some peace at last… “

There were some loving words following this, but these are for Rhys and Philomena’s eyes only.

The barmaid read the note once more. Had Naboth really found peace? The old magic that resided deep within Philomena stirred restlessly.

Something was definitely wrong.

Hopeless Necessity

If you already have a copy of the Hopeless, Maine tarot set, you’ll probably recognise this image as The Wheel of Fate. It was always intended to be a multi-purpose image, drawn for the tarot set but also as the cover of a book that does not exist.

The book that does not exist doesn’t even have a proper title at this stage. The main character is one Necessity Jones, who is an inventor. There’s a mother of invention joke trying to happen here, but it hasn’t quite hatched yet.

The Necessity project started some time before lockdown and then just… stopped. There were lots of reasons. The problem wasn’t really the project, it had more to do with the author being burned out and depressed and having a hard time imagining there was even any point writing the thing. And so it languished in a notebook, unfinished.

It also didn’t help that I’d tried to set it after the graphic novels with no real idea how anything worked at that point. However, last year, I sat down with Dr Abbey and we wrote a book – Mirage – which follows on from the graphic novels. Thanks to Dr Abbey I now have a pretty good idea about how life changes on the island. 

Necessity herself isn’t that involved with the characters we’ve seen so far. The idea was to dive into more of the details of island life, which the graphic novels don’t let me do anything like as much as I want to. So, there are some spoilers for the series as a whole, but not many.

In theory, Necessity will get her story written and go out into the world at the rate of about 5k words a month, over on Patreon. With luck and a fair wind, she’ll emerge as an ebook first, and then in a thoroughly illustrated form – probably with Sloth Comics.

If you’d like to follow her adventures with machinery, demons, zombies, night potatoes and glass herons, amongst others, wander this way – https://www.patreon.com/NimueB and sign up as a pocket sized dustcat, a steampunk druid or a glass heron – depending on how much you want to pay and how much other stuff you’d like to get.

Much as we love the island, it does not pay us enough to live on. Patreon support helps us afford to pour more time into it while still being able to eat. And to be fair, we like starving in a garrett about as much as anyone else does!

The proper arrangement of a kitchen

Mrs Beaten has an inexplicable urge to tell people how to manage their households.

A well functioning kitchen depends on proper consideration of the layout. First and foremost, one must ask, where will the blood go? At the very least, a kitchen should include a channel that will carry blood and other fluids conveniently from the room. If the channel does not have a slight tilt to it, then the contents will simply run out onto the floor when you try to wash it away, which entirely defeats the object of having such a channel in the first place. The channel width requires careful consideration. It should not be broad enough to invite a misplaced foot, but if it is too narrow it may block easily. 

Position your kitchen table over the channel. This will allow you to bleed the dead as required. Should you find the blood wholesome and suitable for black pudding, a bucket that straddles the channel and that can sit beneath the table will suffice. When the draining is for purposes other than culinary, simply let the blood run out into the channel, and sluice down with water at the end.

Where the channel exits your abode, you should be alert to the possibility of attracting vermin, and demons. That which is vacated from the deceased body, that which is unsavoury, may prove attractive to undesirable entities and it is ill advised to have them congregate in too close proximity to yourself. Chickens can be a good choice for both processing your disgusting waste and seeing off demons. A decently sized chicken will also eat rats, and their brightly glowing eyes provide useful illumination at night.

A large sink is essential in a well designed kitchen. Once the body has been drained you will want to wash it thoroughly. Consider where sink water will drain off and if possible, align this with your blood channel.

Your larder must be cool and shady. Be alert to any means by which a fly might enter this space bringing putrification and undertaking to steal your precious provisions.

While a sturdy range with ovens and plates is of course desirable, a great deal can be done with a cauldron suspended over a fire, and the judicious use of griddles. 

You will need knives. Very sharp knives. Also a knife sharpener so that you can keep those knives absolutely lethal at all times. A large meat cleaver is always a good investment especially for the processing of larger bones. A good chopping board will help to mute the noises made by using the meat cleaver. 

Some kitchen implements will turn out to be cursed, possessed or haunted. It is advisable to keep a few sturdy boxes along with chains and padlocks against such eventualities. However tempting it may be, never throw possessed or haunted kitchenware into the garden. Such items may ambush you in the future, seeking revenge or furthering other unnatural schemes. Always lock your suspect items in a secure place before seeking professional advice.

The District Nurse

If Doc Willoughby had truly received the classical education that he liked to imply, or indeed, possessed a half-decent dictionary, he would have been aware that the words ‘Patience’ and ‘Patients’ were both derived from the Latin ‘patientia’, meaning to bear, or to suffer. As it is, this particular homonym hung like a raincloud over the Doc, for while he had never enjoyed an abundance of patience, he always felt himself to be burdened with far too many patients. It was, therefore, with a certain amount of foreboding and an unwelcoming scowl that he answered the door to a young lady whom he did not recognise.

“Can’t help you,” he growled, before she had said a word, “too busy. You’ll have to make an appointment. Sometime during the week after next there might be a free spot.”

Doc said this, ignoring the fact that his surgery was obviously empty and the unmistakable waft of the Gannicox Distillery’s Finest Aqua Vitae emanated from his every pore. The girl tilted her head to one side and smiled with such radiance that even Doc’s frostiness thawed a little.

“Oh, I don’t need an appointment, doctor,” she said sweetly, “I was hoping you might be able to give me a job.”

“I don’t need a housekeeper, cook, secretary or any other domestic service you might be offering,” replied Doc brusquely, and made to close the door.

“No… you don’t understand. I am a qualified nurse and I thought I might be able to help. You obviously have a really heavy workload.”

“Oh, I do, I do,” lied the Doc, whose cure for everything usually involved alcohol, both for himself and his patient. “A nurse, eh? Well, maybe you can be of assistance. Come on in and let’s talk about it.”

The possession of curricula vitae or references have never featured greatly in Hopeless, Maine’s employment market. People arriving on the island generally have a short life-expectancy and frequently disappear without a trace. Any skills they might possess must be quickly utilised before they are lost forever. It was not deemed unusual, therefore, for the Doc to accept the nurse’s qualifications on face-value. ‘’After all’’, he reasoned, ‘‘what harm can she do?’’

Nurse Marigold Burleigh stood in the gloomy living-room, dispassionately observing the pale, angular woman sitting before her.

“It’s chest pains,” simpered Mrs Davies. “My husband, the Reverend, is concerned that I might have acute angina.”

“You needn’t worry on that account,” said Marigold, “I can promise you, you haven’t got a cute anything. Now, stick out your tongue.”

Mrs Davies obediently thrust out her tongue.

“Hmmm… that’s not good,” said the nurse. “Now show me the palms of your hands…  and keep your tongue out. Try humming a tune. Now wave your hands from side to side and roll your eyes.”

Marigold’s face registered no amusement, just professional concern, as Mrs Davies threw dignity out of the window and followed her instructions.

“Oh, that’s bad. That’s very bad,” said Marigold. “I’m afraid you have a bad case of numptiness, but not to worry. I don’t think it’s likely to be fatal.”

“Oh gosh,” said Mrs Davies, coming perilously close to blasphemy. “What can I do?”

“There is a cure… but you might not like it…”

“Tell me, tell me… I’ll do anything.”

“Okay, if you’re sure. Is there a fresh-water pool anywhere close by?”

“Yes – Nudger’s Pond is quite near.”

“Perfect… now here is what you have to do… “

“Golly Mr Gannicox! I have never seen one quite as big as that before,” said Nurse Burleigh, with genuine surprise.

The bony lump which had formed at the base of Norbert’s big toe was unfeasibly large, by anyone’s standard.

“Bunions seem to be a family curse,” he said miserably. “Both my parents suffered with them.”

 “Sadly, there is not a lot I can do,” said Marigold. “Although, I imagine Doc Willoughby could remove it with surgery.”

“No, no, that’s okay,” said Norbert hastily. “I’ve put up with it for this long…”

“There is an old folk-remedy you might like to try. Do you know where Nudger’s Pond is?”

“Yeeees,” said Norbert, uncertainly. “What do I have to do?”

“Numptiness?” said Seth Washpool. “That’s a new one on me. How did I catch it?”

“It’s possibly congenital,” replied Marigold.

“That’s not likely,” said Seth indignantly, “not at my age. Why, I can’t remember the last time…”

“No,” Marigold quickly interrupted, “I mean that you probably inherited it from one of your parents.”

“Well, that would be all I did inherit,” said Seth, somewhat bitterly. “Can anything be done about it?”

“Hopefully, if you act now, it won’t be fatal. There is a cure, but you might not be too keen to try it… Do you know Nudger’s Pond, by any chance?”

Word soon spread that numptiness was, apparently, endemic on the island. Along with a series of very minor ailments that could be similarly addressed by the application of a quaint folk-remedy, the disease kept Marigold busy all day. She reported back to Doc Willoughby later that evening, reassuring him that nothing of any concern had arisen during her rounds and the islanders of Hopeless were, by and large, in rude good health. The Doc gave a most uncharacteristic smile – if, indeed, the chilling rictus that creased his face for the briefest instant could be construed as being a smile. Marigold beamed back at him. She was an absolute beauty, and no mistake. If the doctor had been a younger man and remotely sober he could have been more than a little smitten with her.  Sadly, he was neither of these things, and quite possibly, never had been.

Despite that it was almost midnight, Marigold had one last call to make. Durosimi O’Stoat’s house was more than a little forbidding in the misty moonlight, but it troubled her not at all. She banged on his door, making it rattle in its frame. Durosimi thrust his head from an upstairs window.

“Yes? What do you want at this hour?”

“Mr O’Stoat? I’m Nurse Burleigh. I am Doc Willoughby’s assistant.”

“I need no medical help,” said Durosimi dismissively. “Any business I might have with Willoughby has nothing to do with his quackery.”

“I must speak to you,” said Marigold. “It is regarding your personal safety.”

“My safety?” Durosimi laughed mirthlessly. “You should worry about your own safety, young lady, disturbing me in the middle of the night.”

“Oh, I am safe enough,” Marigold’s voice had changed. There was an ancient darkness to it that make Durosimi start. “You should beware, O’Stoat. A vengeful spirit stalks you even as we speak. It is the ghost of a young Night-Soil Man. Does that ring any bells?”

For a moment Durosimi’s face went ashen, then he composed himself.

“How do you know this?” he asked.  “Come to that, who are you, exactly? Certainly not some lackey of Willoughby’s, I’ll wager.”

Marigold laughed and walked away. A wind suddenly shook the trees and Durosimi could have sworn that it spoke.

While Marigold and Durosimi were exchanging unpleasantries, a mile away, across the island, Rhys Cranham and Drury were an hour or so into the Night-Soil Man’s round. Suddenly the silence of the night was broken by the sound of voices.  Rhys stopped to listen; there must have been ten or twelve people chanting, by the sound of things. That was unusual; Nudger’s Pond was no place to be at this time of night. The noxious odour of the Night-Soil Man guaranteed that no night-prowler could stand to come within yards of him, but if people were out there singing they were definitely in danger. And then he saw them, illuminated by the pale full-moon peering through the mist. Wading around the pond, dressed only in their underwear and obviously in a deep trance-like state, was a group of islanders.

Were they drunk? Rhys dismissed the thought when he recognised Norbert Gannicox, who eschewed strong drink. And there was the unmistakable scrawny form of Seth Washpool, who definitely didn’t. And… was that…? It can’t be, but it looks like…? Surely not! But it was Mrs Davies. Something had to be done. The Reverend’s wife could not be seen wandering around Nudger’s Pond in her nether garments. Drury must have had the same thought, for in an instant he was running as fast as his bony old legs would take him, excitedly barking towards the Vicarage end of the Pallid Rock Orphanage. Within minutes the wraith of Miss Calder could be seen fluttering towards them, while the Reverend, resplendent in a striped nightshirt with matching cap, came plodding behind her, intent on preserving his wife’s modesty and reputation.  It was then that the wind which Durosimi had heard rustled through the trees circling the area. It seemed to be laughing at them. Rhys thought that he caught a single word whispered in the leaves.

 The sound they made was “Triiiickksterrrr”.

Fear the prickle eye bush

I’ve taken a fairly sensible folk song and done terrible things to it! The chorus remains unmolested, but the verses… It’s one of those traditional songs where I like the tune and the chorus, but the verses are usually a bit on the dull and repetitive side. Also disappointingly short of anyone being stuck in a hedge!

The Hopeless, Maine version has an abundance of being stuck in a hedge, and you know that the eyes of the prickle eye bush are very present, and not an extra beat to make the words fit the tune. We had spiky pears all along so it seemed only reasonable to mention them.

It’s a bit of island silliness, and it featured in our 2021 show, where James Weaselgrease tried to get the spiky pears, but found himself trapped in the bush. Then, to assuage his desperate hunger, someone offered him live snails to eat once he got out.

The ghastly fate of Barry Lupin

Barry Lupin had an unhealthy passion for systems. He had come from some distant and exotic land where the natives pracriced such curious rituals as filing. Although ostensibly he spoke English, he dropped strange and arcane words of uncertain provenance into his conversations. Systems analysis. Research protocol. Data retrieval. He spoke these terms with such conviction that members of the Scientific Society who had no idea what he meant felt obliged to just nod their heads respectfully.

The trouble with having a passion for filing paperwork, is that this necessitates having some kind of paper supply. Hopeless has never been a place where paper making has ever occurred in significant quantities. The ‘imports’ available through shipwrecks often leave a lot to be desired for quality and may have already been written on. While Frampton Jones has always supported the Scientific Society, that support has never included a desire to sacrifice his constantly recycled paper supplies for them.

And so it was that Barry Lupin came to the pragmatic decision that he had best paint the walls of his house black so as to be able to write on them with chalk. He was certainly not the first person to go for the squid-based wall blackening, although more normally this would have involved cult membership or occult aspirations. Barry just wanted a viable paper substitute. Thereafter, he was able to plan out his systems, protocols, methodology and other record keeping theories, washing ideas away when he had explored them to their limits and discussing them at length with his bemused friends.

In his tiny, precise handwriting, Barry slowly covered the walls of his home in observations, ordered according to the systems he had so thoughtfully planned. His stairway became a catalogue of dustcat observations. The bedroom he filled with things he had witnessed that defied physics and all of his calculations relating to those circumstances. In the living room he made notes upon the noises he heard around the house at night but could not explain. The first few remarks having been written in jest, he became increasingly obsessed with this subject.

One evening in the early part of winter his friends found him, writing the leter A over and over again across his exposed and painted floorboards. He would not speak to them, and when he had run out of floor he simply continued into the garden. None of them could stop his slow and crawling departure into the woods. Although to be fair, the trio who found him were so confused by his behaviour that they did not greatly exert themselves and instead observed the scene carefully in case future notes were required.

Only later did they explore the house, tracing the relentless ‘A’s back to their point of origin in the phrase ‘the horror, the horror, I am screaming all the time I write this.’

(With thanks to Andy Arbon for loaning us his face!)

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