All posts by Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things.

Miss Calder

If you’ve read The Gathering, you will have encountered Miss Calder- it is she who opens the door when Annamarie Nightshade brings Salamandra to Pallid Rock Orphanage. Things do not go well for Miss Calder (spoiler alert) as a direct consequence of young Sal’s night wanderings.

If you haven’t read The Gathering and don’t want to know about the details yet, step away from this blog post now!

During The Gathering, Miss Calder dies. In that book, she comes back as a ghost, and from then on simply continues to work in the orphanage, comforting traumatised children with stories about vampire feasts, the martyrdom of saints and what happens when you die. Her memory is patchy on this score, but she’s not squeamish.

As a ghost, Miss Calder does not age. As Owen Davies has grown closer to her in age, she’s developed something of a crush on him. She’s a little embarrassed about this because she’s known him ever since he was a snotty, dribbling toddler. Also, her skull shows sometimes when she isn’t concentrating, and Owen isn’t good for her concentration, which is awkward.

Miss Calder’s mother was a member of the Penobscot tribe, local to the area. She assumes her father was a man called Calder, but knows nothing about him. She came to the island voluntarily in her late teens, fascinated by the name, and the stories. Her mother called it ‘that place we go to when we are young and stupid and have something to prove.’ Miss Calder’s mother had clearly made the journey and survived to tell all manner of tales. However, by the time Miss Calder made her own attempt on the island, getting out had become impossible. Even in death, it is notoriously difficult to leave.

Miss Calder has taken to death very well. She feels deeply motivated to prepare her young charges for the harsh realities of life, and death and to set them a good example. Having set out to learn about the mysteries of Hopeless, Maine she is quite at ease with having become one of them.

She does have a first name, but it is a private matter and she has never felt moved to share it with anyone else on the island.

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What even is going on with Doc Willoughby?

If you’ve read The Gathering, you will know to be wary of Hopeless Maine’s Doc Willoughby. If you haven’t, I shall skip over some details about his medical practice. As the books progress, you’ll all find out more about his ideas. For now, suffice to say he’s the sort of man to pronounce: ‘sacrifices must be made’ and mean that people other than himself should be making sacrifices. Or being sacrificed.

He is the island’s only practicing Doctor. Now, many island residents have washed in from shipwrecks, bringing up to date knowledge of the world with them. Doc Willoughby is not one of those. He has no formal medical qualifications. He did know the island’s previous resident medic, but ‘training’ would be a strong word to describe what they did together. ‘Drinking’ might be more representative.

It is of course entirely possible that Doc Willoughby has read some medical books. He’s seen the insides of enough dead people to form a few relevant opinions about human bodies. He is, in all fairness, pretty handy with a needle, and people who need sewing back together have a slightly improved chance of survival if the Doc sews them back together than if he doesn’t. This may be because he is never afraid to pour alcohol over a wound.

He prescribes alcohol for most other complaints. Sometimes he adds a few herbs or berries, to change the colour and smell, because he thinks this makes his potions seem more scientific and credible. Usually he sticks to plant material he knows it is safe to eat.

Otherwise, Doc Willoughby takes a philosophical approach to illness, encouraging his patients to square up to their mortality and the likelihood of death. He considers statements like ‘you should die fairly quickly’ to be reassuring and uplifting.

In this scene, he is pictured with night potatoes. Liquor made from night potatoes is especially potent and dangerous – more on that here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2017/07/04/moonshine/

What does Reverend Davies believe?

Readers of Hopeless Maine will be familiar with the gloomy figure of the island’s Reverend – Emmanuel Davies. He’s father of Owen (one of the main characters, for those of you new to this). He raises orphans, holds funerals, owns clothing clearly designed for ritual purpose. Sometimes he talks about God, but which God isn’t always clear.

That he is a Reverend certainly suggests Christianity. But it’s not that simple. He existed as a character, created by Tom, when I took the story on. At that point, we didn’t know much about the Reverend. All I had to go on were the New England Reverends I’d encountered in the writing of Nathaniel Hawthorn, so I started from there. Frankly, that was a gothic and sinister sort of place to start.

If you’ve read The Gathering, you’ll be aware of a short story at the back, about Reverend Davies’ first hours in the job. It suggests a rather different kind of religious background. I admit there have also been times when I’ve wondered if he might be an unwitting Cthulhu worshipper, or otherwise accidentally involved with elder gods. I know there have been plenty of long, sleepless night when the Reverend himself has stared into the darkness and wondered what exactly it is that he serves, or whether it is all in his mind. I know that he hears voices, and some of those voices tell him what to do, and that while he is compelled, he is also uneasy.

In practice, what Reverened Davies believes has a somewhat Zoroastrian flavour. In an island full of lost things, it makes plenty of sense to have someone with a bit of Albigensian heresy to their name. Davies believes that the physical realm is mostly fallen, sinful, probably evil and when you look at Hopeless, Maine, it’s easy to see why he might think this. God is somewhere else, clearly. If there is a good God, they are distant, unavailable, perhaps entirely in a realm of spirit you can only get to by totally renouncing all things of the flesh. Most of the time this means the Reverend is of limited use to anyone else.

Reverend Davies is a man in spiritual crisis, wrangling with the demons of his own uncertainty. It hasn’t yet occurred to him to get out there and wrangle actual demons instead, but the seed of this thought is growing in his mind…

Here’s Reverend Davies with Anamarie Nightshade having a Pre Raphaelite  moment. If this makes you wonder about the history of their relationship, keeping wondering…

We’ve got the original for this on sale at etsy – etsy.com/uk/listing/572025191/the-bemusing-of-reverend-davies-original

It’s also available as a poster –  etsy.com/uk/listing/552719732/the-bemusing-of-reverend-davies-print

 

Horrorscopes for Hopeless Maine citizens in 2019

We all know it’s going to be awful. Each month will bring fresh horrors, nameless dread, and dread whose names we are perfectly well aware of. Misery is a certainty. Failure is guaranteed. Some of your friends or family members will turn out to be awful people. Or will realise that you are the awful people and come after you with pitchforks and torches. Perhaps this is the year the monster who partly controls you will take total control. Perhaps this is the year you will dig up an ancient evil in your garden and be driven to madness by it. Someone certainly will.

So with all of this in mind, each horrorscope in your overview of 2019 is a list of things we think might help you survive, or at least outwit your enemies for a little longer.

Aquarius: Save yourself by carrying a sturdy length of rope at all times. Dead houseplants, collections of feathers and any books belonging to your great grandparents will help you make it through this year in one piece. Stay away from all kinds of delivery people, and give up washing your undergarments. Your lucky item for 2019 is a sock with a hole exactly in the right place for your big toe to stick out.

Pisces: Stay away from water – including baths, but do keep washing because otherwise you will probably be killed by your own skin fungus. Keep a live rodent in your pocket at all times to improve your fortune, and avoid putting your hands in your pockets to improve your fortune by not having your fingers bitten by a rodent. If your rodent dies, you could keep its body but it does not count as a lucky item for 2019. It won’t save you if it’s dead.

Aries: Give up gardening. Don’t dig anywhere, even in other people’s gardens or even if a grave is required at short notice. Throw away all of your digging implements and run away from anyone who comes towards you with anything larger than a spoon. Draw a star on your forehead to attract good luck in 2019. So long as you don’t draw the star on with anything that could itself kill you, you are in with a fighting chance. Also, the rest of us will know to stay the hell away from your garden.

Taurus: Protect yourself with the power of positive thinking and you’ll be unlikely to make it past February. You need all the magical charms you can wear whilst still being able to move. Whether this will protect you magically, or just function well as a sort of body armour is hard to say. Maybe hedge your bets and get some body armour as well. Your lucky item is a lock of someone else’s nasal hairs.

Gemini: Avoid wearing any colours that rhyme with your name. Invite better fortune into your life by opening your door first thing every morning and yelling the ancient spell “nice things are welcome, nasty things can sod right off.” Further increase your fortune by doing this when no one is stood outside your front door. Carry a portrait of your uncle for good luck. If you do not have an uncle, carry a portrait of someone else’s uncle and claim he’s really yours.

Cancer: The less your feet touch the ground this year, the better your chances are. Never go barefoot. Use stilts whenever possible. Invest in a donkey and ride it everywhere. Do not allow children to touch you with their bare hands. Do not allow any bears to touch you with any children’s hands they may have acquired. Better to stay right away from bears, in fact.

Leo: Your lucky item for 2019 is the skull of an animal that has previously been possessed by a demon. It is important to make sure the demon is no longer occupying the skull because your biggest risk of death and madness is being possessed or attacked by a demon that was in a skull you picked up.

Virgo: The trick to surviving 2019 will be to avoid speech and to instead sing your every verbalisation. At least two notes are required in any vocal expression so you need to stay away from one word answers – monosyllabic words such as ‘yes’ and ‘no’ could prove fatal unless you can draw them out in some way. Do not peer through your own letter box at any time during this year.

Libra: Your greatest risk for 2019 is the restless dead. Stay away from graveyards and try not to go out after dark. Avoid séances, Ouija boards, objects belonging to the deceased, and buildings that people have died in. Don’t assume staying home will keep you safe either – the ghosts of angry dead trees may be waiting for you at home.

Scorpio: In 2019, what you do with your own hands poses the greatest risk to you. Stop building that infernal device. Lay aside projects to attract a fairy lover with your raffia work. Stop all culinary experiments. It’s best not to use your hands for eating or drinking either, so this year is going to present some challenges.

Sagittarius: Your lucky item for 2019 is red plant matter, which for best effect should be applied freshly and frequently to the front of your clothing. You may have to choose between dignity and survival in the coming months. If things take a turn for the worse, tip the first spoonful of every meal over the top of your head. Some things can be really put off by this behaviour and the smell it rapidly creates.

Capricorn: Your demise will be heralded by the squealing of bagpipes. If you feel threatened by bagpipes at any time, move slowly so as not to be panicked into fulfilling this prophecy. Carry a sharp implement with you at all times so that you can protect yourself from bagpipes at need.

Mrs Beaten’s Secret Vice

Mrs Beaten slept for a long time. It was a deep, unmoving, dreamless sleep into which nothing intruded from the waking world.

She awoke, eventually, with two thoughts in her head: Firstly that she must have tea. Secondly, that she must have oil. This had happened before.

Mrs Beaten took her gnii hunting net on its long pole, and went out after dark. Their fondness for little lights always gave them away. She caught one with ease, then pulled it forcibly from  the stone it had been clinging to. It squirmed in discomfort, but not for long.

Always best to press them fresh.

You couldn’t get any fresher than still alive. The oil looked more golden than green as it dripped into her glass, accompanied by those final, muffled screams.

Mrs Beaten drank the oil slowly, and felt herself rejuvenated.

Gnii are shy and charming creatures.

Cower in dread before your horrorscope!

You said I could not tell the future. You said I was mad.  I have stared at the sky day and night without pause and I have seen the truth of what resides there. The truth, the horror, and the glory of it. We are all going to die. Some things will happen before then.

Libra: Stare into the abyss. Stare until your eyes bleed.

Sagittarius: I still don’t believe you exist. You are all lies and illusions. I refuse to imagine you any longer.

Hideous Goat Things: I hate you. Everyone hates you.

Constellation of the Nebulous Squid: It is all futile, your baleful influence condemns us all.

Aquarius: Something has fallen into your well. Trying to get it out may antagonise it.

Aries: Where are you in the sky? Does the sun rise in your house any more? I bet it doesn’t.

The Great Unseeing Eye: Gods help you if this is your birth sign.

Taurine: I have sipped of your liquor. I know why you are Gods.

The Evil Twin: There’s only one of you, really. You killed the good twin ling ago and have been lying to yourself ever since.

The Monstrous Crab: The sea makes you long to throw yourself in.

The Shoggoth: I know this is your true form. I stared until I saw you. There is no hope for any of us.

Virgo: What are you? Sometimes I think you are a creature from ancient times, raised up from the deep earth to torment us all.

Our Cuttlefish Overlords: I beg that you, our true masters, will take pity on us. May the sun never rise in your terrifying house in the night sky. May the darkness of your sign be perfect and eternal.

Mrs Beaten is judging your night-time activities

Despite the cold, Mrs Beaten lies with her arms outside the covers, pressing her hands against the side of her body in the hopes that they will not go numb. She understands that it is important to keep the arms, and therefore the hands, outside the covers.

People who put their hands inside the covers may end up fiddling about with their own bodies.

Mrs Beaten is not quite sure what the fiddling about would involve. She has a feeling that the body at night, the body under the blankets, is not the same as the body by day. Something happens down there. Something it would be better not to fiddle about with.

As she tries to distract herself from the cold, she wonders who else on Hopeless Maine has the decency to sleep in this way. So many of the islanders seem indecent that she supposes most do not. She imagines the decadent snuggling of limbs beneath covers. The lustful indulgence of putting personal ease ahead of morality.

She supposes other islanders fiddle about in the night with the unspeakable things that go on with their own bodies. She supposes that it is terrible, and the terribleness holds a fascination for her that she cannot help but revisit, over and over again.

Mrs Beaten is judging herself

Mr Beaten. He had a face, I feel certain. I suppose there must have been all of the usual features in about the expected size, number and locations. Surely, if his face had been peculiar, I would remember that much, at least.

A woman should remember her husband. It is a terrible thing to have had a husband and not quite feel certain about why one does not have a husband now. There is a hole in my mind, and I do not know what may have fallen into it. Were we happy? Did he love me? I feel certain that I did not feel any great passion for him, only that which is decent and dutiful. From what I have seen of other people’s great passions, I am fairly certain that I have never entertained any such excitement of the nerves in any context whatsoever.

I feel reasonably certain about myself, but he is mystery and absence. I remember his voice. I think. A remember a voice, that told me what to do, and was stern and sensible. It told me essential truths like ‘always hang the socks in pairs on the washing line, one must have order in all things,’ and ‘none of us are meant to know what we look like on the inside.’

It is not that I miss him, not precisely. How can one miss what one barely remembers? It is more that I feel I should miss him, that there is something indecent in my not remembering, and not grieving. It is not proper, to be the wife, or is it widow, of an uncertainty.

In which Mrs Beaten does not see a Punch and Judy show

A man set up a booth outside The Crow.

I think he is a man. He has a beard. I used to think that beards signified men, but there is a Mrs Jones who has a beard and all is now uncertainty and dismay in this regard. What hellish place is this where a person cannot put their faith in the implications of a beard?

There was a puppet show. I think I have seen such a thing before but have no memory of where, or when. The red curtains, the sausages, the crocodile. There is a meaning here. I do not remember there being so much screaming, either from the puppeteer, or the audience.

I do not remember the crocodile breaking out of the booth, and savaging someone in the front row.

I do not remember crocodiles having so many legs, or eyes.

And yet, an hour later, many of them returned to watch the whole process again. I did not stay to see if the crocodile had come back, or if new sausages had been made, or what sausages in this macabre theatre might be made of. The children, revolting beasts that they are, seemed very much to like it. I think one of them may have eaten the sausages. And the crocodile. I closed my eyes at the critical moment.