All posts by gothicmangaka

The art of the Game

Hello again people (and others)!

As I write this we are engaged in the process of a Kickstarter campaign to fund the new US edition of Personal Demons and also the new Hopeless, Maine Role Playing Game written by Keith Healing and powered by Alan Bahr’s innovative Tombpunk system. Here are some examples of the interior artwork I have done for the game.

This is the culmination of several years’ work (and dark incantations) so I very much hope you will join us.

I hope you will join us too in supporting and celebrating two fellow travellers who are bringing their projects to life by crowdfunding. Chandra Free is bringing us a new and shockingly deluxe version of The God Machine (Originally released by the same publisher and about the same time as the first release of Personal Demons) and also Boston Metaphysical Society: The Book of Demons by Madeleine Holly-Rosing. Boston Metaphysical is a fellow traveller and exactly the sort of unspeakably cool steampunk with supernatural elements and heart we want to see more of in the world. So, please become part of these campaigns too if you can!

I hope, as always, this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

Not for the Faint Hearted part three

Not for the faint-hearted

A tale in three parts by Keith Errington (AKA The Keith Of Mystery)

Part three – a flashback and a finale

Writers can manipulate time you know. Oh, yes, we have that ability. Whether it is the clichéd flashback or the premonition of things to come, writers have been playing with time for centuries. And so now, I am playing my very own time travellers card – I invoke my fictional temporal abilities and take you back to that fateful day when Horace met Flora…

— < ooo > —

Horace had but one thing on his mind, and it wasn’t pleasant. He knew what he wanted, and he knew he was going to get it. Flora was weak – just a girl. He was a man, a strong man, with the power and the strength, the desire and the lust – it all was boiling up inside him as he grabbed at Flora. Even when she went limp his urges did not subside as they might have done in many other men, no, he liked it, now she was totally helpless – a rag doll to do with as he willed.

Except… she wasn’t.

I suppose I should explain. On Hopeless, death was not necessarily the end – many dead people walked amongst the living (I say walked – it was more hovered really) and it wasn’t even particularly rare to encounter one. But Flora was a singular orchid, a mythical beast, an entity as rare as a truthful politician. Flora, through fate and circumstance, had, at some point in her past become one of the part-dead. Dead and living sharing the same body.

And now, in the midst of this turbulent event, the dead was loose. Moments after she went limp, and whilst Horace was deciding exactly how he was going to gratify his carnal desires, a creamy yellow mist formed around Flora’s body. Transfixed by this apparition, Flora still in his arms, Horace watched, unable to move, as the mist coalesced momentarily into the shape of a woman, and then without warning, rushed towards him.

Horace found himself laying the lifeless body of Flora carefully in a chair. Then he turned around and walked towards the door – except he didn’t, it wasn’t him, he wasn’t walking, his body was. Or something? In any event, his body seemed to be moving of its own volition. His brain lacked the ability to comprehend what was happening, to understand the nature of the fate that had befallen him. He walked through the open door of the cottage and up the path, then stopped, returned a few steps and carefully closed the door. Horace at this point was worried – he couldn’t seem to control himself, he seemed trapped in a body he no longer had control over. He felt a rising panic as his body marched along the coast road in pitch-black darkness. A few moments later, somewhere inside his head, he was screaming uncontrollably as he headed inexorably towards the sea.

Back at the cottage around an hour later, and you would have seen Flora up and about, laying out the clothes she needed to iron in the morning, making a small hot drink and then getting ready for bed.

— < ooo > —

If this were a film we might switch from black and white to colour, or have rippling waves across the screen, or perhaps a montage of newspapers whirling in and out of view. But as this is merely the written word, we shall keep it simple and just write: Let’s return to the present and Mr Forager’s quest for the truth.

— < ooo > —

It was a modest dwelling that Flora lived in – a well-worn paved path led to a wooden door with a small catch and a simple knocker. Clement raised the knocker and let it go two times. There were small noises inside and then the door swung open and Flora greeted him. For a moment the two regarded each other. Clement noticed her long blond hair neatly tied back in some way, the symmetry of her face and the grace in her fingers as she moved them unconsciously to flick back a stray strand of hair. Flora noticed his piercing blue eyes, his strong jaw and above that – a disarming smile. There was a slightly uncomfortable length of silence before Flora said, “Good day sir, what can I do for you?” Despite the woman’s innocent appearance and complete lack of any characteristic one would associate with danger, Clement, almost by force of habit, replied with a well-rehearsed white lie, “My name is Clement Forager, and I am looking for someone to do my laundry on a regular basis, and I was informed that you might be able to fulfil that role?”

“Of course, sir” replied Flora courteously, dipping slightly, “Do come in”.

Clement was ushered into the front room and a large chair set across from a smaller, less comfortable chair. He sat down and Flora settled opposite. Clement started by asking Flora some questions of her services, what services did she offer? How much would she charge? How long do things take and so on? He kept noticing her exquisite hands, the smoothness of her pale skin, and the engaging way she smiled at him every time she answered calmly and professionally. Then he asked how many others used her service and were there any customers who failed to turn up when they said they would?

She looked bemused but answered him; yes, occasionally customers would fail to turn up when they said they would, but then, that was the way of the world.

Clement changed tack and asked if she was married or did she perhaps have a jealous boyfriend. Suddenly Clement realised he was in trouble, Flora was clearly a very perceptive lady, and now her clear eyes were eying him carefully, reading him for any signs of his intentions.

“I am single Mr Forager, with no current entanglements. Perhaps I should be asking you these very same questions?” her eyes twinkled, “But I would mainly like to know why it is you ask?”

The intensity of those beautiful eyes made him pause. “I’m sorry, I suppose I should be honest with you – whilst you can probably tell I do need to find someone to do my laundry,” he glanced down at his clothes, whereupon she nodded and smiled, “…I have another reason for visiting you miss Flora.”

She leaned forward slightly, “Oh, and what would that be?” She seemed more curious than wary.

“I wanted to ask you about a number of young men who came to visit you” Clement began falteringly.

“What do you mean?” asked Flora with a somewhat cheeky smile, leaning back in her chair watching his reaction.

“No – not that, I mean…” Clement was flustered. He did not do flustered. What was going on? He composed himself. “A large number of men seem to have committed suicide over the past few months – and the one thing they all had in common was either visiting you or heading in this direction. I’m looking into the matter for… a… friend”

“Lots of men – and ladies, visit me – I do their laundry after all.”

“Well, obviously” continued Clement – why couldn’t he concentrate – this was so unlike him. What was it about this Flora? “But these men were not seen alive again.” That seemed to touch a nerve.

“Are you suggesting I murdered them?” her voiced raised ever so slightly.

“No, no, of course not” Clement blustered “But perhaps you could tell me when you last saw them and if they said where they were going?”

Flora studied Clement carefully for a moment and conflicting emotions welled up inside her.

“How rude of me Mr Forager” Flora suddenly said and stood up – can I get you a cup of something or a drink perhaps?

Clement instinctively rose up at the same time as Flora, and almost as instinctively replied “No – I am fine, thank you”. He was not just being polite – when offered a drink in Hopeless, Maine you never could tell what you might end up drinking, but in most instances, you would probably end up regretting it.

“Are you sure – I have some lovely sloe gin I made myself?”

Now that was an offer he found incredibly tempting but he was supposed to be getting answers here. “No, I am quite sure. I hope you won’t think I am being impolite.” He added.

She stepped towards him – “No not all. Perhaps if you let me have the names of these young men I might be able to tell you something about them?”

“Of course,” said Clement and dug the list out of his pocket, then handed it to her. Suddenly, he was very much aware just how close he was now standing to her – she smelt vaguely of violets, and lily of the valley, and lavender and sloes. It was a heady, almost intoxicating combination, and breathing it in, Clement was beginning to understand just how much he desired this angel, this beauty.

Flora noticed his gaze and then turned away quickly and read aloud from the list, “Horace D’Arblay?”

“Yes” replied Clement, “Bit of a bully by all accounts, seemed to drown himself after visiting you”. He stared at her intently, watching her eyes for any reaction. For a moment he thought he saw them grow in intensity, fiercer, keener, sharper – and then they just disappeared behind slowly lowering eyelids as her lifeless body fell towards him. He caught her in his arms and then… and then…

— < ooo > —

Perhaps at this point, I should talk about the weather in Hopeless, Maine which is wild, various and worthy of much study. We could discuss the unusually and specifically cruel breeding cycle of the Gnii or the best way to cultivate night potatoes and remain relatively sane. A long discussion of the geology of the island might prove informative don’t you think? Oh, and it never ceases to amaze me just how many types of cottage industries you might find on such a small island – I’m sure there is a book in there somewhere?

But surely, you would like to know about the sixth book across, on the third bookshelf up – in the bookcase on the left, in Reverend Davies study? Or perhaps the intimate details of the interesting way Mrs Beaten relaxes on the weekend? Or maybe, you’d be fascinated (or, more likely, appalled) to know just what is in Doc Willoughby’s cellar?

What’s that? You want to know what happened to Clement? Oh, I am so disappointed in you – wanting some sort of resolution – some sort of ending. Oh, alright then, I’d really hate to disappoint.

— < ooo > —

Clement awoke and rose from the bed, he felt completely refreshed, he couldn’t remember the last time he had slept that well. He dressed and went down the narrow stairs to the kitchen. His nostrils twitched as the smell of coffee (the good stuff) and some kind of bread reached them.

“Good morning Clement – I trust you slept well?” Flora greeted him with a warm smile and handed him a hot mug of brown heaven.

“Hmmm, like a log” Clement replied smiling back. “Thank you, for everything” he added.

She smiled sweetly and gave a little laugh, “I should be thanking you – it’s been a long time since I’ve had company. And such good company too!” Her eyes drifted away for a moment. Then she spun around and attended to the oven. “Sit down and I’ll bring you some food” she instructed.

Clement sat. He was happy. Happier than he had ever been. The funny thing was, he wasn’t really sure why. He wasn’t even sure how he got here. But he didn’t care – why question a good thing – a very good thing.

“Just think Flora,” He said and she turned to look at him as he continued, “Just think, if you hadn’t fainted, we would never have…” he didn’t finish, he couldn’t finish. He just couldn’t quite remember exactly what happened – only that it had been the experience of his life, and he smiled once more.

“A faint?” she responded laughing, “Oh my darling, that wasn’t a faint – it was a swoon!”

NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED PART two.

Not for the faint-hearted

A tale in three parts by Keith Errington (AKA THE KEITH OF MYSTERY)

Part two – a statistical anomaly and an investigation

Simon Stewell was a young teenager obsessed with the births and deaths on Hopeless, Maine to a quite irrational extent. He was a quiet boy – but studious and possessed of an unnatural intensity when it came to maths and numbers. And so it was that these two passions came together and triggered something in young Simon. He realised that something odd was going on.

No wait, that’s probably not helpful, something odd was always going on in Hopeless, so I should say he noticed something out of the ordinary extra-ordinariness seemed to be occurring.

As soon as he calculated it, he rushed around town telling people about it. “There’s been a 52% increase in the suicide rate” he would shout at a random stranger, “strange rise in the people killing themselves” he would remark to a passing child, “worrying levels of suicide this month” he would say, loudly, to a cat sleeping in a window. Eventually, it occurred to him that this knowledge should more usefully be passed on to the appropriate person. But who?

— < ooo > —

Clement Forager was, by all accounts, a very handsome man. Given to moody silences and cryptic looks. He was well-built – but lithe with it. Whatever exercise regimen he utilised – it was definitely working. His face was rugged, chiselled and guaranteed to catch the eye of anyone present. An intelligent and well-studied man, he made a modest living finding things for people or helping them with minor disputes. In Los Angeles, he would likely to have been a private eye, in London a plausible detective, but here, he was just Clement who finds things.

Sitting at his desk one afternoon drinking a glass of something to bide the time, he was suddenly interrupted by a young man bursting into his makeshift office.

“You gotta do something mister” an adolescent voice demanded.

“Simon isn’t it?” (You see, Clement knew things, and that’s why he was good at his job).

“Yes sir, you have to do something”

Clement smiled – he liked the earnest tone of voice this young man projected. “Indeed, and what is it that so demands my attention?”

“Death sir. Death.”

Well, that certainly caught his attention and he raised an eyebrow. Without waiting, Simon continued almost breathless, “Yes sir, people are dying, lots of people. More people than before.”

“Sit down, young man – you’d better explain yourself.”

And so Simon did just that. He sat and ran through his findings – the number of suicides you would normally expect and the number that were occurring now.

Whilst Clement agreed it was unusual and Simon’s figures and methods were impressive, he didn’t really see how he fitted in.

“You have to… in-vest-i-gate” Simon had pronounced the individual syllables to give the word the emphasis he thought it deserved.

“Ah, right” replied Clement. He thought for a moment. It was clearly a wild goose chase, but he could see how agitated the boy was, and he seemed a good lad. He wasn’t snowed under with tasks at the moment so it wouldn’t hurt to ask a few questions as he carried out his other work.

He addressed the lad, “Okay – I will ask around and see what I can find out – see if I can find some reason for this…” he hesitated, just what was it exactly?

“Statistical anomaly” filled in Simon helpfully.

“Right. But I am not promising anything mind you. I’ll simply do what I can”.

“Thank you, sir!’ Said Simon. And to Clement, the boy seemed genuinely grateful.

As Simon left Clement, Simon thought to himself, good. That’s dealt with then. I’ve passed the problem on to the relevant person. He nodded and promptly forgot about the entire subject.

And as Simon left Clement, Clement thought to himself, ‘Well, I’m not sure what I’ve taken on here – but asking a couple of questions will keep the boy happy’, and he reached for his amber glass.

— < ooo > —

Over the next few weeks, Clement was kept busy with various small enquiries tracking down items and returning them to rightful owners. And whilst he did so, he asked about the missing people on the list that Simon had supplied. Like with all his work, he was methodical and meticulous, noting down everything and missing nothing. The point came when on another afternoon whiling away the time with a glass when Clement decided to lay out all he had learned about the unusual number of suicides. He was intrigued, that was indisputable – there were elements of each death that were very strange. He noted the facts. All the suicides were male. Which was odd, because although male suicide was more common by a ratio of 2:1, there should still have been some female suicides over that same period of time. Secondly, they were all young males – and seemed to be of a certain type. By the accounts of their acquaintances, work fellows and even friends, they were all bullies or thugs to a greater or lesser extent, nasty towards their fellow man and vindictive towards women in particular.

Several had been in trouble for beating their wives or girlfriends and some had even been accused of murder or manslaughter. Very few seemed to have been on the receiving end of justice though – but that wasn’t unusual for Hopeless, Maine, where the law was notional at best and justice tended to be delivered via firebrands and pitchforks.

They had all died in different ways – one had died from drinking household bleach, one from attacking a glass heron nest (who in their right mind would do that!) and so on. The causes of death seemed to get more and more… inventive?… as time went on, with one man even strangling himself – which seemed impossible, but then when he spoke to Doc Willoughby about it the Doc informed him it was surprisingly common. In fact, the Doc himself had even been personally involved with one or two cases where self-strangulation was pronounced as the cause of death.

Clement prided himself on being open-minded and liked to explore all the possibilities – a trait that had served him well in the past, often people didn’t find things because they simply weren’t prepared to consider the improbable or unlikely. He entertained the idea that these were all the work of a serial killer and, if so, what connected all these young men? Just today he had discovered one rather curious fact, all the men had spoken of visiting Flora the laundry maid or were seen heading off in the direction of her cottage. Perhaps the answer to what Clement now considered as a bona fide mystery lay somewhere in that direction. The killer’s lair must be nearby – or maybe it’s a jealous boyfriend? Although that still didn’t explain the manner of death.

Clement resolved to speak to Flora – maybe she knew something? Maybe these young men never reached her? Or maybe they were attacked on the way back to their homes? He set off with his characteristic purposeful stride to speak with Flora.

Our tale continues in Part three…

Not for the faint-hearted part one.

Not for the faint-hearted

A tale in three parts by Keith Errington (AKA the KEITH OF MYSTERY)

Part one – a beginning and an end

Not much was known about Flora, she lived on the edges of what many in Hopeless just called ‘the town’ – but which was in essence little more than a sprawling, overgrown village. She kept herself to herself and had few visitors. A pale beauty, some suggested she must have suffered from a touch of tuberculosis in her youth – although others pointed out how unlikely this was, as tuberculosis was generally fatal – especially here on Hopeless.

Like many on the island, she was raised in the orphanage and when she came of age she went to work for Mrs Grangewurm – the laundrywoman, but she didn’t last as she started to suffer from syncope – she would faint at inopportune moments. At first, they lasted but a few seconds, and were a minor inconvenience, but over time they became more pronounced and poor Flora became embarrassed and unable to face either Mrs Grangewurm, her job or other people.

So she moved out to the seaward side of town, and somehow, she eked out a living doing washing and ironing for folks who couldn’t afford Mrs Grangewurm’s prices.

And that’s the scene set for our story.

— < ooo > —

Enter young Horace D’Arblay – a thoroughly disagreeable individual of the type usually found in Victorian penny novels tying ladies to railroad tracks for not paying their rent. Although he was brutish and gruff, he nevertheless paid attention to his appearance – his one and only redeeming feature. As if having a neat beard could really compensate for a life of nastiness, meanness and petty grudges. When his latest manservant ran away, he decided to do without and so he called on Mrs Grangewurm to have his collars starched and his trousers cleaned and pressed. There followed an extended argument over prices – which ended with Mrs Grangewurm almost pushing Horace out of her door (she was a tough one, that one), and this meant that Horace had to look elsewhere for sartorial satisfaction.

Asking around in his usual polite and diplomatic manner – that usually consisted of shouts punctuated by thumps – he eventually learnt about Flora and set off to visit her.

Horace arrived at Flora’s humble cottage early evening – the sun was thinking about leaving – but had yet to make up its mind. So there was still enough light to adequately illuminate Flora’s figure as she answered the door to several, unnecessarily loud and insistent knocks.

Even Horace – with his heart made of ironwood – was struck by her beauty. She had a perfectly proportioned face with large, limpid eyes, her skin was wonderfully smooth and almost translucent, and her small delicate hands moved gracefully as she opened the door to face the brute.

For the first time in his life, Horace was stuck for words but managed to mumble something about his trousers, and getting things stiff again. She beckoned him inside and he lay his collars and trousers on the table in the small front room.

Horace now regained his composure and spoke about the work he needed doing and the price he wanted to pay. Flora listened quietly to his demands and simply nodded. The light from the window caught her dress in such a way as to emphasise Flora’s figure, the smooth curves of her breasts lying underneath the thin cotton, and Horace felt a familiar rising of the blood. Horace had always got what he wanted – he never asked permission and never thought of others. Now, with his passion rising he wanted Flora.

He stepped towards her and grabbed her – she didn’t flinch, even though his intentions were plain enough – evident in his burning eyes. He leaned in to kiss her roughly and she fainted, going limp in his arms. Horace simply bared his teeth in an unsightly grin.

— < ooo > —

Are you imagining the hideous fate that is to befall Flora? Are you shocked, dismayed, truly horrified at the events that have come to pass in my story? But no, I am not that kind of writer. Let me continue…

— < ooo > —

Over the next few days, there were no sordid tales in the local paper, no funerals for fallen women, in fact, no stories related to Flora at all. Flora’s small band of loyal customers continued to get their needs met – no shirt went un-ironed, no clothes were left unclean. If anyone asked how Flora was (although they never did) they would have received the reply “same as ever”.

Over the next few months, tales of Flora’s beauty attracted a number of visitors whose motives were not entirely wardrobe-based. Some were young men who were too shy or too polite to actually do anything, but at least they came home smartly dressed with the most immaculate collars and clean, pressed clothes.

A second group were bolder and propositioned Flora – presenting flowers or other small tokens and asking her to walk with them, but Flora always refused in the most wonderfully polite and sensitive manner, and these considerate fellows left it at that – disappointed but satisfied that they had at least tried their luck.

Sadly, there was a third group – a few bold and brazen types who were cocky and self-sure, pushy and occasionally violent who didn’t understand the simple no and would go that one step too far, with no regard for the consequences.

— < ooo > —

In many societies, suicides would be remarked upon, they would be noticed amid much outrage and outpouring of emotions – why didn’t we do more? I wish I had just spoken to them. How could they be so inconsiderate? And the like. In civilised societies, suicides are rare – or at least rare enough to cause comment. Some sectors of society even consider them sinful and frown upon the practice perhaps hoping to stop practitioners repeating their offence. Not so in Hopeless, Maine where suicide is often seen as a valid option for escaping the island. In fact, one could truthfully say that death was pretty much the only option if you were bored with life on Hopeless, Maine. And deaths were surprisingly common as the many interesting obituaries attested to.

And so it was, that no-one really thought too much about it when Horace’s body was found washed up on the shore. He’d probably just walked into the ocean – a common occurrence amongst the lost of Hopeless, Maine; or perhaps he had jumped off of the nearby Corpulent Cliff – a site well-known for attracting those tired of what passes for life on Hopeless.

Our tale continues in Part two…

The Murk

Obadiah had forty different words for fog. From his fishing shack on the waterfront, he watched various fogs come and go, ebbing and flowing around the town. He needed every one of the words to describe the varied types that ran their blurry touch over the island.

There was the mist, the slight tendrils of cloud just barely wrapping around the houses. That one was so omnipresent that folks rarely even bothered to note it. Most of the town was mist-touched at any given time. The moments where you could see clearly end-to-end were the real rarities. Obadiah had no word for that kind of weather. It had never seemed worth it.

There were the pea-soupers, the thick deep fogs that ate the sound and blocked out all sight more than an arm’s length away. They rolled in on the regular, removing the rest of the town from view and giving Obadiah the impression that he lived on an island the size of his three rooms. If the windows weren’t sealed it was even less than that, as the fog seeped in through cracks and hid even the corners of his own house from him.

In between the two extremes were the mousters, the corrywinders, the bell-smiths and dozens more. Obadiah knew every sort of fog the sea could cough up and had names for them all. Seventy years of waterfront living would do that to a man.

Which made this fog all the more unusual. It wasn’t like any other he’d ever seen. It crawled along the ground in slow waves, gently rolling along paths and around corners like it was looking for something. It didn’t spread out evenly, either, but clumped together in great dense folds. Parts of it were nearly transparent, while others seemed almost solid.

Despite its intermittent thinness, it muffled sound as well as the thickest fog Obadiah had ever seen. The whole house felt wrapped in cotton batting. The lapping of the sea, the creaking of the dock, the mournful calls of the birds—all of these, the background of Obadiah’s life, were gone. It was this sepulchral silence that kept him staring out the window. He told himself he was just casually watching, but the truth was that he needed to keep an eye on the world to reassure himself that it was still there.

A booming knock sounded at the front door. Obadiah startled from his chair, the sudden sound no less concerning than the silence that had preceded it. He craned his neck to try to see along his front porch, but the drifting fog and awkward angle kept him from getting a good view.

The knock came again. Obadiah headed for the front door, taking up his stout oaken stick as he did so. If it was a neighbor who needed help outside, he’d be happy to have the extra support to keep his footing in the thick fog. And if it turned out to be someone who meant him ill, he could still hand out a pretty good wallop.

A third time: the knock. “I’m coming!” called Obadiah, his voice abnormally loud in the silent house. “Who is it, anyway?”

“Me, Obie,” came the muffled reply. He cocked his head. Sounded a bit like Isabel, the neighbor woman. Nice woman, lovely young mother, but not the sort to just drop by randomly. Especially not in weather such as this.

“What do you need?” he asked, opening the door. To his surprise, the battered wooden porch stood empty. The rocking chair creaked gently next to the door, but only the wind was stirring it.

“Your help.” Isabel’s voice drifted up from the bottom of the steps. Obadiah squinted into the fog. It was swirling thickly here, obscuring even the railing posts beside the stairs. He could make out a humanoid figure, but no more.

“What is it, Isabel?” Maybe she needed his help finding a lost animal. Maybe she’d gotten lost herself. “You need to come in?”

He took a step back, holding the door open, but the fog-shrouded figure shook her head. “No. I need your help. Can you come down here?”

Obadiah hesitated. Something was off about her voice, though he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was. Still, if she needed help, he wasn’t about to turn her down.

“Let me get my coat,” he said.

“You don’t need it. Please, hurry.”

The air was chillier than he liked, but if Isabel was that desperate, he could handle the discomfort. Surely she only needed him for a short time if she was encouraging him to go out coatless. With a sigh and a shrug, he stepped onto the porch and closed the door behind him.

The fog had thickened again. Everything was a uniform shade of grey. Even the bottom step was hidden from view now. Obadiah gripped the railing with his left hand and his walking stick with his right, stepping carefully down the weathered steps.

“Isabel?” he called, unable to see her through the fog.

“Right here,” came the reply. He took a few tentative steps toward the sound.

“No, over this way.” Her voice was to the left of him now. He edged forward again, but still saw nothing.

“Where are you?”

“I’m here.” Her soft tones came from the right of him now. “I can see you. Just walk toward me.”

Two more steps, and there was still nothing there. “Girl, are you playing games with me?”

“Never, Obie.” But there was laughter in her voice, and not the kind sort, either.

“All right, enough of this. Nothing better to do than taunt an old man? I’m going back inside,” he grumbled.

“How do you plan to do that?”

Obadiah took several steps forward, expecting to see his house swim into view. It did not. There was nothing but an endless grey wall. He stopped, befuddled. “Musta gotten turned around in this.”

He turned back and tried the other direction, but found nothing there either. The fog swirled hungrily at his legs, hiding his feet from view. Isabel’s voice rang out from all around him, laughing gaily, shifting positions with every sentence.

“This way.”
“No, over here.”
“You’re close.”
“Right here.”

“Obie.” This one practically a breath in his ear.

“Enough!” He whirled, striking out with his walking stick, but the heavy wood swooshed uselessly through the air. Obadiah staggered and nearly fell as the momentum tugged him to the side. The fog fluttered in its wake, forming curlicues that winked and smiled before vanishing into the main mass.

“Try again,” whispered Isabel’s voice. Clearly mocking though she was, Obadiah settled his grip on the cudgel and took her advice. He struck out blindly, swinging from shoulder to hip in a repeated X-shape. The laughter rose around him, mocking as he hit nothing but air over and over again, but Obadiah gritted his teeth and continued.

With every strike, he took a small step and made a quarter-turn. Swoosh, swoosh went the stick, and the circle Obadiah walked in grew steadily larger. He might not know which way his house was, but he knew it had to be close. If he just maintained the pattern….

Suddenly, the stick collided with something solid with a resounding crack. The impact jarred the walking stick from his hands, sending it spinning off into the fog. Obadiah reached out with desperate fingers and grasped the wooden ball that topped his porch’s newel post. He wrapped his arms around it, grabbing it like a drowning man seizing hold of a piece of floating wreckage.

“Wait!” called Isabel as Obadiah hauled himself up the three stairs to his porch, one hand always maintaining a strong grip on the railing. “I’m still out here, Obie. I still need your help.”

He shook his head. “No, you aren’t.”

“Look.” And then, in a voice quieter and more tremulous than before, “Obie? Is that you?”

He looked over his shoulder. Behind him, a path had cleared in the fog, the mists shifting aside to make a brief corridor. At the end of it, fifty yards away or more, stood Isabel. She looked confused and afraid. She appeared to have been crying.

“Obie, help!” She took a running step toward him and then the mists fell over her again, consuming her.

“See?” Isabel’s voice again, though Obadiah knew well it was not her. “She needs your help.”

Obadiah shook his head once more. “All I can do if I go out there is give you another voice to play with. And I don’t even have my coat.”

“Wait!” called the voice once more, but Obadiah was already at his front door, opening it to step into the safety of his house. Fog swirled in with him, but it dissipated quickly when the solid wood slammed shut behind it, tiny wisps of cloud vanishing against his carpet runner.

The knocking started again, loud and insistent. Obadiah, ignoring it, walked slowly around the house, checking the latch on each window and then pulling thick curtains to block out the view and muffle the sound. He turned on the record player, settled into his chair and let the scratchy sounds of a trumpet flow over him. He could still hear the knocking in the background, but he figured it would give up soon enough when it realized he couldn’t be lured back out.

Soft cries could be heard behind the trumpet now, the sounds of a young woman in distress.

“You can still save her,” whispered a voice clustered outside his windows.

Obadiah dragged his chair over closer to the record player and increased the volume. He’d seen too many men swept overboard in storms to wonder if Isabel could really be rescued. All you could do by jumping after them was add another death to the tally.

“A murk,” he said out loud. “That’s a good name for it. A murk.”

The fog would pass. They all did, eventually. He’d go find Isabel after that. If there was anything left of her to find.

By Micah Edwards, with art by Tom Brown.

Micah and Tom have collaborrated before and it is likely that they will do so again.

The lighthouse

Hello people! (and others)

If you have been following the blog at all, you will know that there is a short Hopeless, Maine film in the works. Hopefully the first in a series. I’ve drawn the storyboards for a thirty second trailer which will require (among other things) the lighhouse that was built by Balthazar Lemon.

Claire Peacey has built the lighthouse for us in 3D, ready to be resin printed, painted and delivered to the studio (More on that process as it happens) To see more of Claire’s work please go here.

Hoping, as always, this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

Designing Hopeless, Maine for film

Hello again people (and others).

As some of you will know, we are working on translating the Blind Fisherman (The prelude to Hopeless, Maine) to film. Towards this end, I’ve started sketching settings that will appear in the film to help me visualise the settings so that I can move on to storyboarding. Once the script is finalised, we’ll storyboard and go on from there. In order to help make all of this possible, I’ve begun studying producing and other aspects of filmmaking. We have a studio, cinematographer, production design and an art director. Our plan is to make this the first in a series of Hopeless, Maine set films.

In the words of our cinematographer, Gregg McNeil ” We’re making a strong statement with this first chapter of the Hopeless Maine Anthology and we hope to continue this with other filmmakers, directors and storytellers each weaving their own visual tale.”

We will keep you up to date on our progress!

Hoping this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

Bringing Salamandra Home

The sea gives, and the sea takes.

It takes the heat from your body and the breath from your lungs.

It gives you mystery and awe.

It takes the living, and gives back the dead.

It takes the dead and gives back the beyond dead… the changed… the terrifying.

The sea takes from the living and gives us shipwrecks, salvage, treasures to use for daily life.

It gives us people who did not want to be here.

And sometimes, just sometimes, what the sea brings to us

Is life.