Category Archives: Island News

A Message from the Hopeless, Maine tourist board

Hopeless, Maine: the holiday destination for the discerning traveller!


Hopeless, Maine, an obscure island off the coast of Americanistan, is the to-die-for destination of the discerning traveller in search of something different this year. Beyond the fjords we know, its chancy inlets and perpetually gloomy interior offers fathomless delights to those willing to take the plunge. Travel options to the crepuscular island (Population: unknown) are unusual, to say the least.  Shipwrecks are by far the popular choice, closely followed by aeronautical accidents, catastrophic navigational disagreements, and near-death experiences. Laying at the heart of a Bemuseder Triangle of other imaginary islands and lost worlds, HM has drawn wayward travellers to its ineluctable shores for millennia – monks on immrama, Vikings with chronic wanderlust, bards in pursuit of elusive muse figures, female explorers out to find somewhere not claimed by a bloody man, lost aviators blown hither by the winds of fate, and casual daydreamers slipping into the Mariana Trench of its page-like folds.  Making landfall (a bit tricky – with its murky pools, bogs, and rickety bridges it’s a health-and-safety disaster) the traveller will find the island charmingly unaccommodating to the needs of the visitor. There seem to be no shops, jolly cafés, gift shops, galleries or museums to while away the day and fritter away your currency (absurd forms of barter seems to be the current accepted mechanism of exchange). Instead, the traveller is forced to draw upon their own genius in exploring the island and finding what delights they can. There is a haunted orphanage, a dodgy-looking lighthouse, and the Bridge of Bottles (a must-see attraction!). The island seems to be a graveyard for Gothic architecture – perhaps this is where it goes when it dies? There are plenty of dangerous looking railings to impale yourself upon, or for the extreme sport enthusiast a brisk jog around the island, running the gauntlet of the lashing tentacles that threaten to scupper the careless perambulator, will keep you on your toes. Swimming is not advised under any circumstances. The visitor may find the inhabitants a tad brusque or inward on first acquaintance. Many seem lost in their own particular neurotic loop. But fear not! You’ll soon be feeling at home. After staggering around the purgatorial pleasure gardens of Hopeless, starving, raving, and ragged, it won’t be long before you’ll fit right in. Which is just as well, dear traveller, because this island is no mere ‘top destination’ for the terminally-bored, it is a terminus of the very definite kind. Once you arrive on Hopeless, Maine … well, let’s just say you’ll be enjoying it for a long time to come.   

Eldritch Bunting


Hello, people (and others) I am pleased to comment on the above. We have been after the esteemed Kevan Manwaring to contribute to the Vendetta for some time, but as he is an academic, author, bard, teacher, artist, poet and writer of books (fiction and nonfiction) he has understandably had a rather full plate. We were most pleased to find this arrive via the ether this week! The timing was exquisite as we also happened to have a tourist information poster from Cliff Cumber (One of our favorite artists at all-ever) So we have combined the two in order to entice you to come and visit Hopeless, Maine (Your chances of leaving are slim, but don’t let that stop you…)

It also allows us to talk about Timequake ! This is an event in Manchester in March 2018 which will have many steampunk (and similar) environments, events and oddities all under one roof. (I’ve not heard of or attended anything like this before) We are pleased to say we will be part of it *and* that we will be stationed at al actual Hopeless, Maine tourist information booth (next to the tea museum as I understand it) There are rumours of twelve foot tentacles. It would be a great understatement to say that we are excited about this. There will be photos, no doubt.


As always, we hope this finds you well, inspired and thriving.


The Fishwife’s Fortune

There are villains and mermaids, sailors and shipwrecks, a larger than life Dame, an evil mortician. There are snake skirts and kelp forests, a bearded lady and even – quite unexpectedly – a creature that is half dog and half squid!

Yes, it’s Panto season on Hopeless, Maine! The Grand Ole Opry is putting on its annual performance of The Fishwife’s Fortune and this years version is just as silly and noisy and colourful as you would expect from the Gristlemain Players. 

The Grand Ole Opry stages its first in-house production since the theatre reopened after the regrettable discovery in the basement last year of the body of Calico Jones, which was covered by this periodical. This reviewer noted the similarities in historic cases at the venue where is seems every 10 years or so an amateur Thespian meets with an untimely curtain call.

However, It was clear from the start that cast and crew were determined to put that all behind them and make it one of Hopeless’s best-ever Pantos.

This reviewer was once more swept off his feet and whisked away to the mud hut on Spikers Moor and the heart-rending plight of wee Mell Mildew. We first see her toiling in the home of her wicked half-mother.

There were a few fluffed lines, the lighting was a bit dim, there was one unfortunate accident with one of the props (a cheese-wire fishing net) but the cast rose to the challenge admirably and we were spirited away to ancient Hopeless and the classic rags-to-riches story we know and love so well. It was truly an evening of music, glamour and glitz.

The performances would surely not have shamed the stage of a mainland theatre. It was impossible at times to believe that we were in modern age and the events on stage took on a reality of their own.

Appearing in his 45th panto as the Dame and directing the performance (as usual)  is local showbiz legend, magician and raconteur, Wilbur Gristlemain. Wilbur brings his wicked wit and cheeky smile to the role of the Ur-hag, who grants wee Mell her most heartfelt wishes.

There really is something for everyone in this show and the gags come thick and fast – much like the very lifelike swarm of horseflies that take Mell’s neglectful family off to the pit in act two when she is first granted a wish by the Dame. This particular set-piece was without doubt a show stopper of epic proportions, the screams of the cast were wonderfully authentic sounding.

In fact it’s hard to single out the best performance. Jenny Greenteeth shines in the title role of Mell, displaying a confidence and maturity beyond her years. In his wonderfully over-the-top role as the mortician, Nahum Drabdoyle had me guffawing from the off – whilst Cressida Jowlfeather took the stage by storm as the villain of the piece (her outrageous headdress and face-paint matched by an equally outrageous performance where she only speaks in tongues). The entire supporting cast were enchanting and delivered one captivating scene after another.

As usual the music is provided by The fishermen of Gro, singing their haunting shanties. There was also plenty of ripe, traditional, panto banter intended to (hopefully) go straight over the heads of the younger audience, including an hilarious skit involving the spring fertility doll, an octopus and the old blind fisherman seeking a new bride… (you get the gist).

Remarkable, too, that this incredibly talented cast has not had the luxury of day-in-day-out rehearsals. When interviewed afterwords in the makeshift dressing room they all said that is was if they already knew their lines and always had known them and that they felt that they were almost in a dream when performing – a testament to the magisterial direction of Wilbur Gristlemain who has assembled a stellar array of local talent.

Gristlemain himself provided the most insightful comment on the Panto when I caught him ducking out of the back door. ‘The story is telling itself, the actors are just the vessels for it and the story will never end. It’s part of what roots us all to this island.’ Then the veteran performer went on his way into the evening, not without a touch of mystery about him.

All-in-all a truly remarkable achievement. Tickets available from the box office of The Grand Ole Opry.

Written by Charles Cutting-art by Tom Brown

A Marriage on the Rocks

I owe my readers something of an apology. Without any explanation, I have, in recent tales, referred to Joseph Dreaming-By-The-River-Where-The-Shining-Salmon-Springs as being the husband of Betty Butterow, the barmaid of The Squid and Teapot.

“When did that happen?” you might well ask. Regular visitors will know that a great affection grew between the two and romance blossomed. My grandmother might have said that they were ‘courting’, however, given the intensity of their relationship, she would more likely have tutted and said that they were ‘carrying-on.’ I remember ‘carrying on’ as being a disapproving and euphemistic verdict passed on those conducting any liaison not compatible with her own rigid moral compass. In granny’s view Joseph and Betty’s moral compass would have been spinning around madly with no hope of ever finding north, either true or magnetic. Happily unaware of this, the couple joyously carried on ‘carrying-on’ with great gusto and enthusiasm at every opportunity until, at last, the day dawned when they both decided that it seemed only sensible to make their carrying-on respectable and official with the exchange of marriage vows.

The word ‘wedding’ conjures up visions of flouncy dresses that resemble fluffy white confections; blizzards of confetti and lucky horseshoes made of cardboard; giggling bridesmaids and awkward pageboys; a best man delivering an embarrassing speech and the wrong person catching a tossed bouquet.

Well, you can forget all of that. This is Hopeless, Maine and none of these things have any place in this tale. Remember also, Betty was a Selkie, a seal-woman and Selkies have their own ways of getting wed.

Every wedding needs a celebrant. This one was no exception. Neither Betty nor Joseph would have tolerated having their vows sanctified by a beaming minister or one of the stern, hard-faced Jesuits that Joseph had encountered in his youth. Instead, both decided that the one person who would understand them best (and not bat an eyelid at Betty’s shape-shifting predilection) would be a shaman from Joseph’s tribe, the Passamaquoddy. And so it was that the two lovers found themselves crossing the choppy channel to the mainland (he paddled, she swam) to exchange their vows on a windy outcrop overlooking the ocean on the rocky coast of Maine. The shaman had made it clear to Joseph that he was disinclined to travel. Perilous expeditions into the spirit world were one thing; going to Hopeless was a completely different teapot of squid that the elderly medicine-man had absolutely no intention of experiencing.

There are many legends surrounding selkies. Some say that the man who steals her skin possesses her. I have no idea if this is true. Even if it were, Joseph had no wish to possess Betty and, frankly, I would be amazed if any man ever could. Having said this, when a Selkie woman chooses to marry a landsman, it is customary for her to entrust her husband with her sealskin. This, you must understand, is purely symbolic, for without her skin she is unable to become a seal, something neither of them would have wished. So, having ceremoniously handed the still wet pelt to Joseph, Betty immediately took it back. After all, she needed to return home that evening and swimming was vastly more exhilarating and comfortable than riding in a cramped canoe that was loaded down with Passamaquoddy wedding gifts.

Joseph had regarded himself to be part of the Hopeless community for some time and the island was the only home Betty had ever known, so there was never any question that they might live anywhere else. They set up house in a cabin in Creepy Hollow, just a short distance and generally upwind of the Night-Soil Man’s cottage. It was a place close to Joseph’s heart, for it was there, some fifteen years earlier, that he and the apprentice, Randall Middlestreet, had disposed of the Wendigo, the creature that had killed Josephs’s mother and also his first wife. Randall not only took on the mantle of the Night-Soil Man that day but also became Joseph’s blood-brother.

Beneath the bar in The Squid and Teapot sits a battered leather journal. Within its covers are the histories and genealogies of many of the island’s dwellers. It is also the book in which many of these tales are recorded. If you could only look through its yellowing pages you would see that the story of Betty and Joseph is far from over.

Art by Tom Brown

The Second Stroud Vendetta

Further classified ads created during the Strange Soiree – part of 2017’s Stroud Book Festival


A Myrtle Turdle was mislaid over 100 years ago but sadly missed by nobody. It has been researched (sometimes) and Fossils of its sweat have been documented in the museum!!! If found, well…. Arc-The-Ologist

Wiped tears accompanied by distant guilt. Must be genuine find.

Lindreygood demon child is missing. Has skin of grey, its eyes seem shut for reasons that shall remain unknown for the safety of the island. If found, give it a shiny object and report where it is to Scarlet Mandle in Mandle’s Home for Strange Creatures.

Pot of colours containing a sparkling rainbow that erupts when caught by a smile. Must not be opened after dusk. Otherwise will be leapt up by darkness forever.

All of my dustcats have escaped before I had a chance to sell them. If someone could return them to me, I would be most grateful. Walden Pond Frog.

One Diaphanous Eagle (rare) answers to the name of ‘Shadow’ ironically.

Lost – spleen. Great sentimental (and physiological) value. Greatly missed.

Lost: My purple, four legged baby. Last seen catching flies outside the cafeteria. I was inside, imbibing a fairy. Bebagoozing was wearing a hideous pink jumpsuit, his choice. He was rather wonderful bat-like ears and a tongue of extraordinary retractable length. Contact Flozmiz.

Lost: The end of my knitting.



A shrieking armchair with a smell of ghostly camembert cheese.

3 bad jokes, 6 farts in a jar, 10 sneezes and a feather.

Found – a spleen – recently vented. If you have lost yours please enquire at The Squid and Teapot.

One portion of tentacle – slightly singed – prone to twitching on Wednesdays. Musty colour, please re-unite.

A sack of pot holes. Very nearly new, I would guess.

Foundered Hopes. (All is lost)

Found: A small clump of demon weed, each stem contains wispy mouths requesting that it be smoked. Bring paper, glue, thick gloves, scissors and a sense of humour to The Squid and Teapot tomorrow at 8pm.

Found: Part of a shadowcat – still alive, shaped like part of a shadowcat. Please take it from me!!!



Amalgam fillings: 10yrs old at least please.

Swindling sticks – extendable preferred.

A bozo for the scuttle. Consider it as a gift. JK

A goat, or goatlike creature. Must respond to verbal commands.

People will to join a ‘hive’ and embark on a community capable of collective intelligence. All food and lodgings are supplied. No money is involved, buy you will enjoy the part you will play in the hive mind which will be capable of the most amazing acts of human achievement and selflessness.

Final line to a limerick – must rhyme with Alan.

Lift wanted to The Pebble, 13 past Tuesday. No wheels or slow coaches please. If return trip likely please turn around. Box No J.

A woman/man/being that has: crazy ideas that perplex me. Humour that’s not fudged but has an edge of ice. Eyes that sparkle and glow in the night. Extra toes on both feet. A heat carton of strawberry macaroon. A desire to dress colourfully inside out.


The Stroud Vendetta

Hopeless Maine Classifieds from the Stroud Book Festival….

For Sale!

186 spoons for sale. All conditions, many showing fine traceries of dried slime. $5 the lot. Please collect soon. Bring weapons to allow access to the door. Address as foll…

Old “sale” signs (business gone bust).

32 vials of the cure for all known diseases. Each vial will treat approx 10 people. £100 per vial, but for all 31 vials I would be happy to accept $2000 as, if one thinks about it, there are fundamental problems with only treating part of one’s Community. Sven Flowermountain 134 Elderberry Road.

Bloodthirsty socks.

Magnanimous vitriol. Would suit most homes.

Last night’s conversation with my Dad. 3 footprints. My book about dots. Job lot £8.50

Copious amount of luscious hairy coffee strands. Perfect for the balding gentleman, or pre-pubescent boy looking to visit the Squid and Teapot. Self adhesive, pungent and durable. Also could be used to fix minor structural cracks.

Irritating younger sibling.

A fish-headed kitchen wench.



Lonely Hearts!

Bubbly obesity sucking gob-stoppers 6 at a time until we POP into a lurve bubble to bounce into perennial Happy Ever After sunsets over frothy coffee seas – Antigani will squeeze forever the night potato of your heart.

Will mate with anything creature so the progeny of my horrible species can continue. GSOH optional.

Desperately seeking a Gloopy Maloopy to gimble and gyre with. And share hairy coffee (before we die) if after… Henrietta Gerbil.

Desperately seeking spoons! Spoonwalker would like to meet spoons. Lots of spoons. Must like long walks and… er… just long walks.

Small furry eyeball seeks monosyllabic wisdom tooth for occasional outings.

AH, YES! Looking for landscapes I can write filthy poetry about. Ah YES! Must have voluptuous features and curves made of innuendo and lust.

Parish Notices

The shrunken head craft workshop will begin four days hence at the ungodly hour. You are encouraged to bring along a head to shrink. Makes an ideal Christmas present! (Hang from the mantelpiece).

Fully qualified Spoon-o-mancer offers spoon readings. Unlock the secrets of your future. The answer lies in your cutlery drawer.

I have been observing you creatures for some time now – it’s all about the journey, right? I mean, you have to be careful around here – direction wise. You could run into the caretakers – Ruby Mace with her doggerel. You don’t want that, not for anything. It comes up right being you before you know it’s there…

Wanted – dead body to fill Parish council vacancy.

The community hedge between mucky meadow and the recreation pound has become uncooperative. Volunteers needed on Wednesday for 12 hours (free biscuits).

(The second half of this happy madness will go up next week…)


The Asylum Vendetta

This edition of the Hopeless Vendetta classified ads section came out of a workshop at The Asylum. And by ‘The Asylum’ we mean that big steampunk gathering in Lincoln. Thank you, everyone who took part.

Help Wanted:

Scavenger for island wrecks. Must be able to carry heavy loads. Wings, experience and sanity optional.


Services offered:

Airship windows cleaned (tethered ships only) Polished portholes.

Tree herder. Any trees herded except pine.

Pine tree herder. No other trees herded.

Tentokil – Do you have a problem with cephalopods? Annoyed by octopi? Niggled by rising squid? Clean, neat and keen, Tentokil™ will be delighted to de-infest your domicile. Professional and discreet, you won’t know we have been. Contact by semaphore.


Wanted urgently, unclaimed soul. Delivery before the rising of the next new moon or not at all.

Wanted: Teaspoons as all of mine have gone missing. Please respond quickly as my need for tea is urgent. Contact Merriweather Jones, the Old Church House.

Wanted: Metal neck brace, preferably coated in garlic.

Wanted: Arm replacement for a human. Silver or any shiny metal would be best, please.

Wanted: gold paid for any information regarding the dark, malign entity that lurks in the depths beyond the shores of this isle. Contact the Captain on the Southern Sands.

Wanted: A bigger boat.


Lost and found:

Lost: Dead cat. Fond of mice, cheese. Tabby pattern. 3 lives left.

Lost: Missing arm. Taken by stranger who started licking the bloody end. Would like it back soon.

Lost: Pitchfork. Probably dropped near the old windmill during the last mob. Has arm stuck on prongs. I hadn’t finished eating it.

Found: Assorted body parts. Various states of decay. If any of these may be yours, please contact soon as some are unable to disintegrate.

Lost: Feathers, 3ft long, purple and green.

Found: Feathers, 4ft long red and blue.

Lost: My sister Mary, who is identical to myself, completely real and in no way fictitious.

Lost: 2 gallons of wine. It was here last night, before my house went sideways.

Found: Smaller boat.

Lonely hearts:

Wanted: beautiful, rich, young lady, 18-25, preferably who won’t try to murder me this time.

Real person who is not at all imaginary in any way seeks gentleman with the requisite number of fingers and toes for companionship and quiet contemplation. Must be prepared to meet alone.

Lonely spoon seeking other cutlery for a fun time. Will try any arrangement. Bring your own brasso. Sporks need not apply.




The House at Poo Corner

Regular readers will doubtless have noticed that a recurring character in many of these tales is the Night Soil Man. This is not unsurprising as these solitary figures have been a presence on the island since the time of the Founding Families. The very first recorded bearer of the office was Killigrew O’Stoat, a bright but introverted young man who saw the role not as a punishment, as many might regard it, but as a viable way of escaping the horrors of having to engage with other people. In his small way Killigrew was a pioneer, the first in a proud tradition of artisans.  Anyone who has visited the Hopeless Heritage Museum would doubtless have felt a twinge of excitement to see the actual bucket that he used for much of his career.

Despite his connection to functions rarely discussed in polite company, there is a certain mystique surrounding the work of this nocturnal tradesman which I have touched upon in an earlier article. However, until now there has been little written concerning the facts surrounding exactly how someone might find themselves in this line of work. In an effort to rectify this I arranged an interview with Shenandoah Nailsworthy, the current Night Soil Man, in his small cottage on a remote part of the island. I’ll admit, I didn’t relish the prospect but was pleasantly surprised by the orderliness of the dwelling. There was no escaping the all-enveloping odour, however, which I sensed embarrassed Shenandoah a great deal but I believe it was worth this small sacrifice to bring you his testimony. Here then, in his own words, is Shenandoah’s tale:

“I was just fourteen when I left the orphanage. Seems like I had been especially selected. This is what they do. The people in charge, I mean. The orphans don’t know it but they are watched from an early age. They look for the loners, the introverts who don’t fit in. Then the biggest and burliest of these boys – it’s always a boy – becomes the chosen one, the Night Soil Man’s apprentice. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t happen often; in fact I’m the most recent. My old master has been dead this last twenty five years and he took me on five years before that. An apprentice is called when something in your bones tells you it’s time. I don’t feel that yet. I haven’t got an apprentice. I don’t need one right now but the time will come…

Well, as I said, I was sent out and given directions to go to a house tucked away on the far west of the island. This house has been the home and work base of several generations of Night Soil Men. Back at the orphanage, once they knew I was being sent here, the other kids would make jokes about the place. The House at Poo Corner they called it but it’s my home now and I’ll stay here ‘til I die.

I can’t pretend my predecessor was a particularly pleasant guy. For the five years I was with him I slept in the bunkhouse. It had no warmth or light. I’ll make sure no apprentice of mine is treated like that but I admit, he taught me some valuable lessons.

The first thing he said to me was ‘Once you get used to the smell it’ll become your best friend.’ He was right about that. It’s kept me safe more than once. Some believe that The Night Soil Man has only loneliness to fear, but I don’t agree. Loneliness is different to solitude and solitude is fine. While most things give me a wide berth you’ve got to be a bit careful if there’s a kraken close to shore. They’re the exception…well, almost  the exception. If the legends are true we should also be wary of the Wendigo. Truth is, I’ve never seen one. Don’t know anyone who has but there’s a story that one of my predecessors was taken by a Wendigo in broad daylight, almost a hundred years ago. Broad daylight, eh? That’s ironic. One of the lads at the orphanage swore he saw it happen right after some game or other. It caused a bit of a problem as his apprentice had to start within a couple of months of being chosen. Dropped in at the deep-end you might say.

This is not a life that would suit most people. Besides the nature of the work and the isolation there is a darker side. Like it or not, we are creatures of the night, as much as any werewolf or vampire. Some of the things we see after the daylight fades is the stuff of nightmares.  And some of it is just plain heartbreaking. Not many weeks pass that I don’t find a body. Sometimes it’s a victim, often of their own stupidity and sometimes it’s just Death taking what’s due to him. Or her. I never could decide. Then I’m the one bearing the news, not that I get close enough to say much. If folks see me in the daylight I’m an omen of death.

I don’t want to dwell on death but there is one thing your readers should know, something that few folks appreciate. At the end there is no one to mourn the Night Soil Man except his apprentice, and that’s a heavy burden. When my old master passed I was priest, mourner and undertaker. Come and look…”

Shenandoah led me outside, to the back of the building. About a hundred feet from his cottage was a dark and dangerous looking sinkhole, about four feet in diameter. A rickety circle of palings enclosed it. Gingerly I stood at the edge and craned my neck to look down inside. It may have been some form of optical illusion but it seemed to me that there was a gleam of green fire playing at its very core, unfathomable feet below, in the deep and mysterious belly of the island.

“Here’s where the night soil has gone for nigh on two hundred years,” he said, then added, almost in a matter-of-fact manner, “and quite a few generations of Night Soil Men have gone in there too.”

I couldn’t help but recoil from this. Shenandoah gave me a long and meaningful stare.

“You shouldn’t be shocked. There is really no alternative. The ground here is too rocky for burial and putting someone in the sea seems… well, you know what’s out there; it wouldn’t seem right. This is our way of life and way of death. Besides, no one knows how deep that hole is, or what’s going on down there.”

Shenandoah fell silent then. This was probably the most he had spoken for thirty years. As I made to leave he turned away and, lost in his own thoughts, I watched him as he stared long and hard into the dark depths of the sinkhole. It struck me then that here was a man quite literally gazing into the abyss and I couldn’t help but wonder what might be gazing back at him.

Art by Tom Brown


The Stowaway

To discover the genesis of this tale we need to travel a great distance from Hopeless, to Catamarca Province which lies in the far north-west of Argentina. It was in this area, according to legend, that students of the dark arts would seek out the fabled Salamanca caves, where, some believed, lay the entrance to Hell itself. Here lurked terrors beyond our worst imaginings; terrors even greater than those encountered upon this island.
It was in these caves, in some far-off time, that the creature known as Manchachicoj was conceived, the spawn of a demon and a local witch. Manchachicoj soon grew up to be an eloquent, softly spoken romantic, driven by a burning obsession to seek out and seduce beautiful young women. Although his pedigree was a mixture of native Calchaquí and demon, with his charm and elegance you could be forgiven for arriving at the conclusion that he possessed all of the attributes of a classic Latin lover. Sadly, this was not the case, for Manchachicoj was somewhat hideous to behold; everyone he encountered eschewed the amorous attentions of this stunted, ugly creature.
After many centuries of unsuccessfully pursuing this quest all over Argentina it gradually dawned upon him that he was definitely not widely regarded as being boyfriend material. So, one bright morning in the latter part of 1886, while loitering around the docks in Buenos Aires, he made the decision that it was time to move on – and the three masted barque making ready to set sail for Portland, Maine looked perfect for the task.
With sails billowing as they left the quayside of Buenos Aires, Captain O’Neill looked lovingly around his ship. The Annie C. Maguire had made good progress. The passage from Liverpool to Argentina had gone exactly to plan and now, with a cargo of salt beef, he was determined to reach Portland by Christmas Day. Others on board were his wife and an eleven man crew. Just four thousand, seven hundred and twenty five nautical miles separated them from Christmas dinner in Maine. Little did he know that deep in the hold, sharing a barrel with a quantity of salt beef, was a diminutive and not particularly attractive stowaway.
Being a half-blood demon Manchachicoj’s senses were sharper than that of any mortal. He heard every conversation on board clearly and was able to see perfectly well in the pitch-black belly of the hold. Besides this, he had little need for food or drink. Occasionally, however, it pleased him to help himself to a mouthful of meat, or, in the early hours when the sailor on the middle-watch was half asleep, would steal a sip or two of water.
The long voyage passed without incident, and on the afternoon of Christmas Eve the imposing tower of the Portland light came into view. Manchachicoj was quietly dozing in his barrel at the time and the buzz of excitement on board brought him fully awake. But there was something else, some sound in the distance beyond the hearing of the others that drew his attention. It was enchanting  – a voice so achingly beautiful that it stirred him in ways he had never known. He was suddenly wrapped in a maelstrom of tenderness and lust, joy and sorrow, sunshine and moonlight. This must be the voice of the lover he had sought for so many centuries.
He scrambled from the barrel and made to climb out of the hold. He swore to himself. It had been battened down to safeguard the cargo as they entered the rough seas around the coast of Maine. Undeterred and driven wild with desire to see the owner of such a wonderful voice he found a marlin spike and began to hack away at the wooden walls of the ship with a superhuman frenzy.
If you examine the official report regarding the sinking of the Annie C. Maguire you will be told that she struck the ledge at Portland Head Light. The Lighthouse Keeper and some volunteers made a makeshift gangplank with a ladder, allowing everyone to clamber to safety. The report goes on to say that the cause of the wreck was puzzling; visibility was good and the crew swore that they had plainly seen the Portland Light prior to the disaster.
The truth of the matter is that the barque’s rudder had been damaged when Manchachicoj burst through; she was out of control. And so was poor Manchachicoj. His head was filled with an unworldly music that promised pleasures beyond all comprehension. Little wonder that he was so determined. There can be few in this world more obsessive and insistent than a siren-besotted Calchaquí-demon hybrid.
There we must leave the crew of the Annie C. Maguire, who all survived without a scratch and doubtless got to enjoy their Christmas dinner in Portland, though salt beef would more than likely have been off the menu. As for the barrels of meat, many made their way to the grateful populace of Hopeless. How that little episode eventually unfolded, however, is a tale for another day.
Oblivious to the damage he had caused, Manchachicoj swam frantically towards the source of the sweet-voiced songstress – which happened to bring him close to the coast of Hopeless. Demonic types conceived on land are not the most natural of swimmers. His technique, for want of a better word, resembled something between a dog-paddle and a panic attack but nevertheless, what he lacked in style he made up for in enthusiasm. Through dogged determination he fought his way through the icy waters towards his goal.
Both of his hearts leapt in unison as he saw her, a vision of loveliness perched daintily on an outcrop of rocks, known to the locals as The Devil’s Fingers. She was as beautiful as he had hoped and envisaged – and he was not at all fazed by her fishy extremities. As far as he knew, all of the girls in Maine looked like that. You must understand, Manchachicoj had never seen a mermaid or even heard tales of their fatal beauty. He had no inkling that, if he were a mere mortal, by now he would have drowned, having been driven mad by her siren song. Happily ignorant of these facts he was in love and anyway, drowning isn’t an option for a demon, half-blood or not, however badly he swims.
By the same token, the mermaid was impressed. Here was someone who had survived long enough to put himself in line to be properly seduced by her. It had never happened before. And looks aren’t everything, she told herself. Manchachicoj pulled himself up onto the rocks and the two gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes…You may ask if there was a ‘happy ever after‘ for these two? Some of you will remember the report in The Vendetta a few years ago of a mermaid turning up and singing seductively on The Devil’s Fingers. We nearly lost a few good men that day, including the venerable Doc Willoughby. These fellows were more than a little appreciative of the song she sang and it took a great deal of combined effort to stop them jumping into the sea. Fortunately everyone survived, including the mermaid. She was something of a disappointment to those who saw her, though. To put it mildly, she certainly wasn’t gifted with classic mermaid good looks. Have a look at the picture. Let’s just say she takes after her father.

Art by Tom Brown

Save the Succubus Wasp

Octavius Chevin is a man with a mission. Originally trained as a naturalist he has spent his entire adult life on the island making galoshes for the fishing community. However, his retirement has allowed him to return to his first love of entomology. Recently he has campaigned tirelessly for the protection and study of one of the island’s rarest and most curious arthropods – the Succubus Wasp. A species he himself discovered, frozen in a block of ice, a year ago.
He’s written books and papers about Vespula Hasturis, to give it it’s proper name. He’s formed the local environmental organisation that seeks to protect the Succubus Wasp and, until recently, campaigned to expand the membership of the charity.
Unfortunately he remains the sole member of Save the Succubus Wasp. Due to becoming bed-ridden he has had to completely abandon his efforts to increase the organisation’s influence among the local community, but his passion for environmental work is undimmed.
Today, he lives by himself in the old mill out near Geezo’s Bight.
When this reporter visited the door was already open and he was met cordially by Mr Chevin who received him in his bedroom.
In person Mr Chevin cuts quite an imposing figure –  Despite looking alarmingly emaciated and somewhat wild-eyed, the man turns out to be rather welcoming. Speaking candidly and openly about having lost the use of his legs and being only partially able to use his arms, he remains sanguine. His voice is high pitched with a faint sibilant tone and he also has a nervous tic of punctuating his sentences with a short buzzing noise from the back of his throat. He becomes animated as conversation turns from his ailments to his beloved wasps.
‘I am privileged to be on a mission to preserve the natural habitat and therefore the small population of Vespulis Hasturis for the benefit of present and future generations’ he says. ‘It is a beautiful creature, but its numbers are dwindling: at the moment there is only one live pregnant queen wasp and two dormant, pregnant, ice-bound queens, on the island. There were more, of course, but since the discovery of the frozen colony and their subsequent revivification by my hands last year, they have inevitably come into contact with humans’.
He continues – ‘This resulted in their habitat being encroached on at a rapid rate and also some regrettable deaths, in both the wasp and human populations.
As a result, a lot of misinformed and plain ignorant opinions about these shy and retiring creatures have come about.’ Mr Chevin has started to push himself forward and attempts to lean in closer to me.
He carries on – ‘The wasp has a fascinating feeding cycle. The queen will inhabit the nearest living creature it can find and appears to exert some sort of mental control over it’s host by releasing a special type of pheromone into the nervous system, as a result the host loses all interest in eating and sleeping. As it feeds further on the host’s spinal fluid the host rapidly becomes paralysed. As there is a finite supply of spinal fluid, this necessitates that the queen must find a new host after a while. It is quite slow to disentangle itself from the cerebellum of it’s current host so it has to keep it’s potential prey occupied for quite a while before it can attack and infest it. They can’t survive for long outside of another living thing, you see’. Mr Chevin is now shaking with excitement.
I edge back a little as Mr Chevin seems to be unconsciously trying to grasp my wrist.
‘They only lay eggs once in a lifetime so it’s important that a steady supply of hosts is available to increase the chances of Queens giving birth to fertile males of the species and therefore being able to immediately mate again. Sadly the males die after the procreative act, only the queen matters!’
His voice becomes tremulous – ‘Our number one priority is to see them growing healthy and breeding and spreading and to stop this trend of dwindling numbers’ he says fixing me with that commanding stare of his. I agree that we have a duty to help promote the future of these fascinating insects but decide to excuse myself as Mr Chevin seems to be having some manner of fit. His head is shaking violently and rapidly from side to side and he sounds as if he is about to cough something up.
I make a hasty exit as I fear that my presence may have exacerbated his condition. In some extremity of discomfort I believe he involuntarily threw something after me, as I heard a thud as if something had forcibly struck the fine mahogany door as I closed it on my way out.
Environmental concerns are all our responsibility and this reporter asks his esteemed readership to consider taking up Mr Chevin’s ‘adopt a wasp’ campaign which proved so unpopular and short-lived last year. Subscriptions can be delivered by postal order to the Vendetta.
This dark gem is from none other than Mr Charles Cutting with art by Tom Brown.

Master Scutcheon’s Hairy Coffee

Master Scutcheon Bugleblower of Hopeless Maine has recently released a new beverage from his coffee concoctionary (otherwise known as his cellar). Master Scutcheon is well known for his Brown Lining coffee shop, where he has sold many strange and very brown coffees to the unfortunate souls who were lured in by the promise of ‘Genuine Coffee Liquid in A Cup’.

This new beverage has been named by Master Scutcheon as ‘Hairy Coffee’. After having left a cup of coffee lying about for several weeks and accidentally sprinkling exotic fungi spores into it, Scutcheon found himself confronted one morning by a large cup coated with hair, underneath which when he had managed to summon up enough gumption, he found lurking some coffee whose taste sent him into an ‘exquisite reverie’ that made him fall in love with coffee again and renew his vows to the Goddess Kafeteria.

Scutcheon then proceeded to find out how he had created this hairy coffee and having spent several months obsessively perfecting the right amount of fungi spores needed to create the ideal coating of hair, he finally announced from his shop door the dawn of a new age in coffee culture. Scutcheon has strong views about what constitutes real coffee, which he proudly tells anyone who asks, were passed down from his grandmother. Real coffee as he believes is all about the Brown Lining. This he will not elaborate on, so zealous is he about keeping his coffee recipes secret, but as drinkers of his coffee will tell you: ‘Brown and more brown, combining into a strata of solid brownness upon which you can rotate your finger for up to a minute without anything giving way’ often is what you find Scutcheon making and serving you.

A Hairy Coffee public trial day was held last week at the Brown Lining, where Scutcheon appeared apparelled unfailingly in his brown matching breeches, jacket, waistcoat, and tricorn hat. Several individuals participated, whether they were tricked into it or chose out of their own will, is as yet unknown. The Hairy Coffee was reverentially served with several of his stale biscuits from the bottom of the tin. At the time of the drinking Scutcheon gave a libation to the Goddess Kafeteria, and then he began to chew meditatively on one of his finest stale biscuits, enjoying the sound from the kitchen of his huge greasy coffee vat slowly congealing. The Hairy Coffee was particularly hairy that morning.


(By Robin Collins- art by Tom Brown)