All posts by gothicmangaka

The Ravens of Chapel Rock

Wildlife, or at least the varieties not in receipt of tentacles, is not particularly plentiful on this island of Hopeless. Whatever position any particular species finds itself in, while clinging precariously to the food chain, it can be confident that something, somewhere will regard it as being no more than lunch. Although humans are far from being exempt from this aspect of island life (and death) their innate deviousness gives them a definite edge in the survival stakes. The only other creatures to rival, and indeed surpass, them in this respect are the small colony of ravens that live on Chapel Rock.

In the late 1600s the Reverend Obadiah Hyde managed to browbeat a few of the more God-fearing unfortunates who had found themselves shipwrecked with him to build a simple chapel. Being the pious puritan that he was, he offered them the prospect of an eternity of fiery damnation as an alternative. After his strange and unlamented demise the place quickly fell into disrepair. The ravens, being naturally theatrical creatures, had a fine sense of the dramatic and decided that this would be a splendidly Gothic place to set up a permanent home. They only briefly deserted the area when, about two hundred years later, some young monks thought it would be a good idea to give the ruins a new lease of life as an abbey. When that came to nothing the ravens returned and since then have enjoyed a fairly uninterrupted existence.

As far as anyone knows they were roosting on the island long before any human set foot upon it. The gradual trickle of people coming to Hopeless, whether by design or accident (but usually accident) has had no detrimental impact upon these birds at all. One reason is that virtually every culture that has washed-up here has brought with it a wealth of lore and superstition surrounding ravens, often endowing them with a supernatural, almost god-like, presence. This, coupled with the simple fact that they are not particularly edible, even to the unfussy palate of the average islander, has probably secured their continued success.

Any student of natural history will tell you that the average lifespan of a raven in the wild is about twenty-one years. The ravens of Chapel Rock, however, seem to enjoy greater longevity than this, often surpassing that of a human. Several factors have been attributed to this but the most likely, in my opinion, is the addition of the occasional spoonwalker to their diet. Anyone in need of a spoon or two need only go to the base of the rock to find various bits and pieces of cutlery discarded by their late owners.

Back in the first half of the nineteenth century, in the years before the attempted renovation of the chapel, one of the ravens, which had a distinctive white tail-feather, took to visiting the other inn on the island every night. Here it waited to be fed scraps of meat and the odd beakful of beer. In return it would utter a few words that it had picked up from the locals. It did this for many years and became something of a novelty. In its honour the landlord proudly renamed (and misnamed) his drinking establishment “The Crow”.

I would love to be able to tell you that this bird was the inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem but sadly there is no record of Mr Poe ever visiting the island, as much as the place would have undoubtedly fascinated him. At the time  he would have been newly married and his young wife – his very young wife – would not have liked Hopeless one bit. At thirteen years old she would have been more interested in skipping-ropes than spoonwalkers.

I was asked recently who actually owns the island. There was no doubt in my mind.

“The ravens,” I said.

Art by Clifford Cumber
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Messages in bottles

Hello, people (and others)!

Two days ago, I posted this image and asked our community (Via the electronic ether) what message they would put in a bottle on Hopeless, Maine. Here are the (bloody amazing, funny, wonderful) results of this.

Help me.

Please help me.

Our boat has sunk and I have washed up on some god forgotten land.

I know not of my crew, I hear their voices weeping in the dark dank fog that encompasses this shore but in the two weeks since I awoke on this crag I have seen or met none.

Maybe they are phantoms of the men that they once were, here to torment me until I succumb to the same fate that befell my crew mates.

Maybe they are like me, lost in the fog, waiting for the light to come.

There is an abundance of seaweed that I have come to rely on for sustenance. In my delusion I swear that the weed moves along the shoreline but when I am hungry it is always at my feet. Occasionally I will bite down on what can only feel is some kind of leech in my mouth but I swallow before I realise what I am eating.

I have screamed and screamed but nobody has come. I was beginning to think that this craggy isle was deserted but I swear to you and to the god I hold dear that I sometimes see flickering lights above me, like fires or torches at the top of the cliff. Waiting for me to perish.

I have tried to end my existence by just swimming out to sea and sticking to my doom but in my previous half dozen attempts, I have been gently pushed back to shore by what feels like the very weed that sustains me.

The fog is getting thicker. I have not seen my own skin in days. My breath feels wet.

I am hungry.

I still hear their voices.

Help me.

Please.
Simon La Thangue

Send underwear. Urgent!
Fraser Hale

Grandmother says a bottle will get you off this island better than any boat, though neither works for long. She means gin. It killed mother and Nelly but somehow all it does to Grandmother is pickle her. It makes her harder, more bitter, and helps her to forget where she is. Better to whisper down a well than try to get a message to the mainland, she says. She isn’t even certain there is a mainland any more.

But I‘m going to try anyhow. The sea scares me, and the fog. So I’m rolling this message up and putting in one of Grandmother’s empties. I will throw it into the waves in my stead. It may still smell of sloe gin.

We need … something new. Something solid and rooted to the ground. A window to the outside to let in new colours and a wind that will blow away all these ghosts. Hopeless has been left alone too long. It’s gone sour … it’s gone wrong … every angle too sharp or too open … all its truths undermined. We don’t need to leave, we just need the possibility of doing so. A bridge to the world. A way for what we’ve lost to come back.
If you find this [here damp has reduced the remaining message to a dark wash of ink swirls]
Mark Lawrence

Message in a bottle: Dear Tax, revenue and customs, my new address is Geezo’s Bight, Hopeless Maine, The Middle Of Nowhere. Good luck recovering the £3,000,000 I owe you for my (now bankrupt) hamster-wheel-powered taxi service. Take consolation from the fact that avoiding my liability is the only up-side of living here! Yours Faithfully etc etc.
Charles Cutting

SOS. Have run out of spoons. Pls send c/o Hopeless, Maine. P. S. No sporks. Thk u.
Clifford Cumber

Send Champagne, or failing that a small quantity of explosives. What cannot be sent directly can at least be obtained locally with the right tools.”
Stephen Mosley

This is Charles Oliver. An unseasonal wind has arisen and blown us far off course. Do not trust the Henstridge sisters, they be foul wyches.
Dickon Springate‏

OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE!!!

My Dearest

I am Nigerian Prince, King of Smallish island of Variable size, I seek you most trusted beloved for discreet partnership and Trade.

I hvae 1,000,000 pounds US stirling and strange-awful-betentacled things in jars, souls, human sacrifice. too exchange for goods, linens, building materiels, a good time, alcohol, armaments, particularly ones using fire, holy water.

Send supply-laden cargo ships! My address!

The Non-Functioning Lighthouse,
Spiked-Rock Shore,
Hull-Tearington,
Hopeless, Maine 666.

PS I have much monies!

Clifford Cumber

“Get in the bottle”, they said.
“It will be fun”, they said.
Now I lie in here, hopelessly stuck on the foggy shore of a forgotten island *sigh*…

Cynthia

I had to get out of there; I needed the quiet. Although, going from living in a town surrounded by people to being trapped in the middle of nowhere is quite the adjustment. For now, this place is my new home. This desolate island just between a sea of infinite darkness and the path from where I came. Pretty sure there’s a sea monster skulking around somewhere under the murky, green depths, too.

Not that I’m planning on going back.

Sabrina

To whomever finds this message, They won’t let me leave, I try and they won’t let me leave, The chattering is infernal Stay away, I beg of you, stay away. Capt Hubert , HMS Persephone
Adrian TrevelyanIn 1939 Mr Ross Parker and Mr Hughie Charles were walking along a beach on the south coast of England when they found a bottle containing the following message. After reading it the two gentlemen were inspired to dash off and write a song…

From J. Nailsworthy, Hopeless, Maine.
A whale was beached here a month ago and we’ve been living off it ever since. Here’s my lament:

Whale meat again,
Don’t know where,
Don’t know when
We might get fresh meat again before next May.
We’ll keep smiling through,
But we’d love Irish stew,
Or something cordon bleu,
Not whale-meat grey.

Martin Pearson


Cat Treadwell

Help! Please come rescue us! We’re mired on Tentacle Point – bring your ship straight in (the rocks aren’t nearly as dangerous as they look, I promise) and save us from the awful creatures here! We will dismemb be eternally grateful for your delici valuable aid.”
Laura Perry