Category Archives: Births, Deaths, Marriages

The highly suspicious deaths of our island’s only fashion icons

Written by Mithra Stubbs

Do you remember when the only questions we asked of our clothes were whether anything else might be living in them? Do you remember when Mrs Beaten was the only person making a fuss about properly starched shirt collars, and Frampton Jones was the only person wearing them? Those were the old days, before Fiona and Nimrod Lancaster floated ashore with characteristic grace and aplomb.

When Fiona Lancaster died from a head injury last month, we all mourned her passing. Doc Willoughby said it was probably an accident, and that she had fallen all the way from the bottom to the top of the stairs in a moment of freak unreality that probably happens around the town hall all the time. Some of us muttered to each other then. Some of us had suspicions – but there’s not much you can do with suspicions. If we lynched everyone we felt suspicious of, who would be left to tell the tale? Because while Fiona was much loved, and much emulated, she was also the focus of much jealousy.

In light of the recent accidental death of Nimrod Lancaster, all of these suspicions seem more reasonable. According to Doc Willoughby, he appeared to have backed carelessly into one of his own shoe-making devices, and stayed there until it hammered him to death. It seems an odd way to go for a man who had always seemed so thoughtful and careful. Not all of us hold much stock by Doc Willoughby’s ability to assess cause of death. Only last week he proclaimed that someone who had clearly been savaged by werewolves was in fact a victim of chronic indigestion.

It is my suspicion that whoever killed Fiona, did so in the hopes of better being able to get something out of Nimrod, and on failing to achieve that end, killed Nimrod as well. Clearly they were not after his shoemaking machine, which will never be quite the same again. Who had the motives? Who had the opportunity? And will they strike again? Because this may not be a case of perfectly reasonable private assault, but may be the opening moves from someone bent on a killing rampage, and no one wants to go through all that again.

I think it was Mrs Beaten. She’s always seemed jealous of Fiona, and a bit obsessed with Nimrod. There was that time when she fainted in the street as a consequence of his especially beautiful shoes. With Fiona out of the picture, she might have imagined she stood a chance with the island’s best dressed gentleman. And then, when he resisted her advances – as any sane man would – she fell upon him in a rage – probably quite a literal falling that pushed him accidentally into his own machine.

I look forward to hearing other people’s murder theories. There won’t be any justice for these needless deaths – we’re rubbish at justice. But what we can do is make a series of ever more unlikely accusations and become paranoid about each other, and suspicious of anyone well dressed, and then we can get back to being the dirty, slightly infested wearers of whatever held together when we pulled it on this morning, and that would be much better for all of us.

And before anyone suggests that this kind of clothing Puritanism might be a motive for murder, let me just say that if this is some kind of killing spree, it’s best not to offend the perpetrator and therefore you should pick less likely suspects to accuse.

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Frampton Jones pays tribute to Gregg McNeill

Many years ago, Gregg McNeill saved my life. It is with great sorrow, then, that I must report upon his death, and the probable connection with my own terrible experiences. Those of you who have lived on the island for some years, will remember that I went rather awkwardly mad.

There was that business with the beautiful baby competition, and all that followed. I became convinced that my camera showed me true reality, while what I saw with my own eyes was nothing but illusion. The camera showed me horrors, and things I shudder to recall and will not describe. I came to believe in the truth of my camera, and would not relinquish it.

Gregg McNeill sat with me as I raved, and calmly explained the technical details of cameras to me until I was persuaded to relinquish my grip on the device and hand it to him for repair. My recovery began at that moment, and I have no doubt I would have done myself some terrible harm, had I been allowed to continue. I did not ask what became of the camera, thereafter.

Gregg himself appeared to live a normal enough life, with no more fits of mild and temporary insanity than is normal for those of us who live here. I recall with some fondness the night he climbed onto his roof and refused to come down because of the way the chickens had been looking at him. There was the time he became convinced that the sea creature he had eaten had in fact eaten him – but these things pass in their own way. Who amongst us has not done something of that ilk at one time or another?

Only after his unexplained demise have I come to realise the full extent of the horror that possessed him. Despite what he claimed at the time, he never did destroy that camera, but continued to take photographic likenesses with it, and to develop them. A room in his house was devoted to the images – strange, uncanny things that they are. Faces unknown to me peer back from the walls. Eerily attired, sometimes inhuman – somehow he has drawn these beings from beyond the veil, or through the void and captured them.

The last image Gregg made was of himself, gazing mournfully at the camera. I have no idea how he achieved this self-likeness. I took it home, along with the cursed device, which I will keep safely and make sure no one ever uses again. No matter how tempted I may feel. Gregg stares at me from my mantelpiece. Sometimes I feel that he is trying to speak to me, but I do not know what he is trying to say.

 

You can find out more about the beautiful babies here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/what-beautiful-babies/

And you can find out more about Gregg NcNeill’s Dark Box Photography here – https://www.darkboximages.com/

To get involved with the Hopeless Maine kickstarter – source of all the carnage – throw your non-corporeal self this way – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

Lyssa Lopez Wain has finally unwound

Self-winding automaton Lyssa Lopez Wain was one of the many curious inventions of Testimony Albatross. Most of us do not remember the great inventor himself but everyone will have seen his remarkable creations. The church’s fish powered organ was restored some years ago thanks to the efforts of Balthazar Lemon. The giant musical cockroach no longer plays tunes, but waves its legs mournfully upon the hour, while making sad, crunching noises. And of course there’s the automated glass washing machine at The Hand Of Glory – which still operates late at night. There’s a reason no one drinks at the Hand of Glory any more.

Lyssa Lopez Wain was in many ways, his finest creation. Able to self-wind, she continued for many decades after the inventor’s death. Stunningly lifelike and remarkably communicative, she thwarted many attempts to contain and control her. I believe there were five separate exorcisms carried out upon her on the grounds that she was ‘unnatural’. She fended off all kinds of other uncivilized approaches with considerable style, leaving her would-be attackers humiliated but bodily unharmed. She always did have a rare knack for rapidly un-making garments and many the fool found his undergarments exposed for having tried to meddle with her affairs.

The true purpose of Testimony Albatross’s creations is seldom clear. Lyssa has been no exception in this regard, although I wonder if he created her with an eye to search and rescue missions. How many people has she successfully pulled from the sea? I do not know, but she was always there when a shipwreck had been spotted, striding into the waves to find survivors. Her largely inedible status no doubt helped her greatly when venturing into our hungry waters.

It is possible that at some future time, Lyssa may be fixed. At present, there is no one on the island with the skill to restore her to life. Conscious that her immobile form may attract attention from those who harassed her in the past, a few of us have taken her to a safe place where she can stand, unmolested, until such times as we have a genius inventor amongst us again.

There will be no funeral. Partly because death may prove temporary, and partly because Reverend Davies refuses to acknowledge her as having been a living person. It is my understanding that a number of people she rescued from the sea intend to go to the approximate places where they shipwrecked in order to offer tributes to her. Hopefully no one will be eaten by sealife during these rituals, as that would be no tribute to her legacy.

 

Lyssa is of course another victim of The Hopeless Maine kickstarter. It’s not quite funded yet, so if you’d like to make sure that she did not die in vain, wander this way… https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

 

Gary Death by Poetry

“It was undoubtedly the poetry that killed him.” So said Edgar Melon Foe, the infamous blind poet of Hopeless, Maine.

(It is to be noted that Infamous Blind Poet of Hopeless, Maine, is Edgar Melon Foe’s official title at this time.)

Sources close to the recently departed Mr Gary Death have suggested to me that it might have been because he recently tried to set up a rival poetry event. Or it might have been because of the satirical pamphlet he printed last month. All three copies of it, because that was all the paper I could spare him. Perhaps it was his insistence on driving rhythms and the use of rhyme, suggested another observer who wished to remain anonymous. Edgar Melon Foe supports unstructured, free verse and is staunchly opposed to anything that smacks of traditionalism.

I have always said that it is better if what goes on between poets, stays between poets. It seems that most of the island agrees with me, as in the days since Gary Death’s death, Edgar Melon Foe has continued unimpeded in his business. I can’t say I’m surprised – although it seems to bother the newcomers. This island has a fine tradition of treating murder as a personal, private sort of matter so long as a person doesn’t make too much of a habit of it. And while Edgar Melon Foe has smacked a few people around the head with his cane, he usually considers it sufficient to cause a few bruises.

Gary was, on the whole, quite a popular islander and his humour and helpful inclinations will be much missed. But not missed sufficiently for anyone to consider a revenge attack, by the looks of things.

It seems fitting to end this obituary with the elegy written by Edgar Melon Foe who insisted I also mention that the elegy is a specific poetic form that he has entirely ignored.

I did not like him

He is gone

We do not need poetry obsessed with rhythm

And I find rhymes annoying.

Free verse triumphs again.

Because sometimes the cane is mightier than the pen

And you have to stand up

For what you believe in.

I was merely the instrument of fate.

The hand of the universe.

It was undoubtedly the poetry that killed him.

 

Gary Death brought this upon himself by being an early bird funder of the Hopeless Maine kickstarter. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

Those of you who have been following the Vendetta for a while may recall that Gary wrote us a poem about the blind poet of Hopeless, Maine… https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2018/06/08/the-blind-poet/ 

Barry Dodd has thwarted the psychics, again

At some point or another, every known mystic on the island has predicated something terrible about Barry Dodd. Slightly Mystical Mary was adamant only a few months ago that Barry would be killed by a hideous monster from beyond the stars. Clearly she was wrong.

Some of you well remember when, ten years ago or so, Agatha Innovation Jones had a series of highly accurate predictive dreams about future events. The one thing she got wrong during that period of extreme enlightenment, was that Barry Dodd did not go on a sudden killing rampage in the vicinity of Old Gaunt Town. It is of course possible that her prediction prevented the attacks as for weeks afterwards people shunned the old town even more thoroughly than usual, and shunned Barry for good measure. We had a special food parcel delivery team leaving sustenance at his door in case the cause of the anticipated killing rampage was transformation brought on by extreme hunger, or death.

But in the end, none of it happened, and Eustace Pennygoat had had some kind of vision about how Barry was going to summon an elder God so a lot of people wanted to follow him round and keep an eye on him instead. He ended up also being followed about by a swarm of teaselheads, which as far as we know don’t constitute an elder god even when they band together in large numbers.

I remember when part time astrologer Leniency Jones predicted that Barry Dodd, under the influence of the sign of The Cuttlefish Overlords, would return to the sea and assume his true form. He didn’t.

I remember when Barry started an ambitious allotment scheme to try and grow vegetables that would not fight back. Cuthbert Rockbottom – a recently shipwrecked rune master – assured us that Barry’s digging would uncover the grave of an ancient monster that would devour us all. This did not happen. Cuthbert Rockbottom died shortly thereafter – apparently he got lost in the dark and walked off a cliff. He may not have been the island’s greatest seer.

There are of course many other such examples, but these remain my personal favourites. Barry has foxed the would-be prophets one final time by dying quietly at home in an entirely unpredicted way. Both Eustace Pennygoat and Leniency Jones assured me that it was just a ruse, and that all the signs made it clear to both of them that on the seventh day he would rise up and eat the faces of anyone who saw him. It is day eight, readers, and I have no eaten faces to report to you.

 

Barry Dodd is the director who gave us Ragged Isle (which we love)  http://www.raggedisle.com/ . His current project is Night Is Falling https://www.nightisfalling.com/

Barry’s death was brought to you by the Hopeless Maine Kickstarter. We’re all out of individual graves, but if you back the project and would like to be killed off with a bunch of other people and stuffed into a mass grave, just let us know. We’d be delighted to throw you on the pile…

Israel Skelton has baked his last pie

Leading spookologist and pie maker Israel Skelton has sadly departed from this life. We wait with interest to see if he will return as one of the ghosts, either to continue his ghostly mapping, or his pie making. Either seems possible.

Regulars at The Black Swann Bakery will of course know that for the last seventeen years, Israel Skelton has faithfully kept the shop stocked with tasty, largely edible pies. The secret of his crust goes with him to the grave, having been the subject of great speculation for those seventeen years. What was he making the pastry out of? We will never know. What made the gravy so tasty? The mystery remains. These two factors transformed otherwise normal Hopeless pie fillings into something one could almost feel enthusiasm for eating. It is rare praise to heap upon a person.

Israel Skelton leaves behind him a lifetime’s study of spookology – a patient mapping of ghostly activity around the town and beyond. His work established beyond any doubt that ghosts do disappear sometimes. His extensive interviews with ghostly residents shed almost no light on the issue of life after death – but we have come to know that ghosts have no more idea how being a ghost works than the living have insight into what that’s all about.

His was a life lived fully, and shaped by his twin passions for pies and ghosts. It’s not often one can say this of a person – that they lived their dream to the full, right up to the end.

Mithra Stubbs tells us that she shut the pie machine down very quickly but that there was a considerable amount of her colleague missing at this point. Food waste is a terrible thing, of course, and so she did the decent thing and baked the remaining pies. Some of you are, in effect, Israel Skelton’s final resting place, but comfort yourself in the knowledge that it might have been exactly what he wanted.

Speculation is already rife that the pie machine was in some way possessed by a malevolent and hungry force. Mithra told me this is nonsense and that the pie machine clearly loved Israel and always seemed excited when he came into the room.

Based on Israel’s own work, we understand that haunting tend to follow the bones or stay at the death site, except in the rare cases of strong willed individuals like Miss Calder. If Israel returns, will it be to haunt the machine that ate him, to haunt what remains of his remains, or to haunt those of you who ate his last pies? I can only feel it’s a question that would have greatly interested him.

 

You can find the rest of Israel Skelton over here – http://skeltoncrewstudio.com/  with comics related goodies, including Hopeless Maine pins.

This death was brought to you by the Hopeless Maine kickstarter. If you feel cheated of your death because you missed the early bird pledges, just let us know when you pledge and we’ll slide you gently into the mass grave we have planned.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

Mark Lawrence is dead, again

Today it is my uneasy task to announce to you, my fellow citizens, the latest death of Mark Lawrence. I’d like to say ‘apparent death’ and make it sound like these are simple reporting errors, but I was there for death number three, and I saw what the sea monster did to him. I do not believe that any normal human being could have survived being torn into quite so many pieces.

I have been reliably informed by witnesses to his first death – crushed to a bloody pulp by a falling gravestone – that this death was not survivable, either. At his second death, Mark was bludgeoned to death after a minor disagreement with an immodest number of Chevins. Death four saw our unlikely returnee trapped in a burning building. Nothing remained of the building, and yet… Death five involved a singularly improbable drowning, and death six a rather gory impaling on the fence outside the town hall – which many of you were unfortunate enough to witness. For his seventh death, Mr Lawrence was swept into the sea by an unusually large wave during recent storms.

I feel, and not for the first time, that he is playing with us. How, and why remains a mystery. I have no evidence to prove my point but I ask, can a man die so many times and in such extraordinary ways and not somehow be considered responsible? What kind of sorcerer is he? What ungodly powers are at his command? I shall only speculate until he returns of course, and then I shall go back to keeping sensibly quiet about the whole thing.

Something of a cult-like nature has grown up around the many deaths of Mark Lawrence. So, the usual wailing and keening will take place tomorrow morning at the statue we put up in his honour the first time he died. Betting will then follow as to how long it will take him to return this time. I have been informed that this time there will, with all due pomp and ceremony, be a retelling of his deaths and returns to date.

Until evidence emerges to the contrary, I think we should assume that this latest death is only a temporary setback, and that Mark Lawrence will return to us, as whole and hale as before at some point of his choosing. And then we can get on with the now also traditional ‘lo he has returned to us’ party with all that invariably implies.

 

The Hopeless Maine kickstarter is now out of obituary spots. However, if you pledge and feel sad that you can’t have an obituary, just let us know… we’re sorting out a mass grave for anyone who needs it! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

 

Mark Lawrence (for the few who are not yet aware of this) is one of the finest writers of fantasy in the world, at all-ever.  To explore his work, you would do well to go here.

In Memory of Rebecca Willson

With so few ways to pass the long, grim evenings, it’s a sad inevitability that some people die from their attempts to alleviate the boredom. It must be said that Becca ‘poo-head’ Willson has done remarkably well to survive this long, given her penchant for games involving sharp and pointy implements.

Last week’s drinking contest at The Squid and Teapot resulted in five casualties, and while the other four participants might yet recover – as yet there’s no news from the Hunger Hill Home for the Weak and Confused – Rebecca Willson, did not. She did however, win the drinking competition in question having seen her four challengers slump beneath the table in turn, while she continued with the night potato vodka, seemingly unaffected.

Night potato vodka is a new delicacy for the island, but one that we may not enjoy again in the future, given the implications.

Somewhere in the second round of contested drinking, observers noted that Becca had become unusually pale and transparent – something she had not previously been known for.  During the third round, she began to emit a faint glow and by the fourth round that glow had become pronounced. Friends begged her to stop drinking but reports have it that she laughed, did a little bum-wiggling dance and went for another bottle. Shortly afterwards, the glow increased, until by the end of the evening, there was mostly just glow, and very little corporeal presence left.

It was later discovered that an agent of change had drowned in the last bottle, which may have led to these devastating effects. No one I have spoken to is inclined to experiment with this for the sake of discovering the truth, which seems fair enough.

It may henceforth be most appropriate to consider Rebecca Willson deceased. She’s turned out to be one of those awkward cases where the status of the person becomes uncertain. While mostly non-corporeal, a glowing entity believed to be her remains present in a corner of The Squid and Teapot. Phantasmagorical bum-pinching has become something of an issue in the pub, if further evidence were required that in some way at least, she remains with us.

As there is no body to bury, we’re going to have a massive wake for her in the pub.

 

This death was brought to you by the Hopeless Maine kickstarter. At time of writing we are nearly out of empty graves… https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine

Bob Fry – the inevitable has come to pass

Readers, it is with great sorrow but no surprise that I must announce to you the departure from this life of Mr Bob Fry. It has been apparent to those of us who know him, that his war against spoonwalkers must eventually be his undoing. Friends will remember the spoonwalker deterrent of a few years ago that instead opened some kind of portal through which a modest abomination attempted to get a hold on the island. Anyone who attended last year’s church picnic will never forget the anti-spoonwalker missile and the absolute destruction of the cake table. Granted, there had been a spoonwalker on the cake table, but there had also been seventeen cakes, an assortment of china and several casually resting hands and elbows that will never be quite the same again.

Bob has been a distinctive figure on the island in recent years. Those of you who do not know him by name will no doubt have seen him, silhouetted against some dramatic sky as, armed with net and club he pursued thieving spoonwalkers across the hilltops of Hopeless. The skyline will not be quite the same without him.

Those of us who have lived here longer and wrangled with spoonwalkers ourselves had tried to tell him. They aren’t easy to kill. They look like they should be – small and squishy as they are. But, luck favours them in the most unreasonably ways. I am certain that it is only their uncanny good fortune that allows them to pilfer spoons from householders with such great success.

Dear, departed Bob had a love of spoons to rival that of any spoonwalker. His spoon collection is a marvel to behold, and he has protected it with a ferocity that has, inevitably, killed him.

It is my understanding that last week, Bob set off on what would be his final hilltop pursuit of his sworn enemies. He was seen from afar by Gommer and Gof Chevin – the twins were horribly drunk at the time so it took them several days to sober up enough to mention this to anyone. They report that three or four Bob Frys ran across the headland together, and that this sight was incredibly funny. Bob, or perhaps Bobs, cornered the spoonwalker on a rocky outcrop and attempted to reclaim the spoons it had taken. However, the cliff edge proved unstable, and Bob was dropped unceremoniously into the sea.

We wait with interest for the reading of his will and to discover the name of the person, or persons who will inherit his most exceptional spoon collection. In the meantime, some of our more responsible citizens have removed said spoon collection from Bob’s abode, to the safety of The Squid and Teapot, where all of the spoons, I am assured, will be kept perfectly safe.

 

Bob Fry died as a direct consequence of his pledging to our kickstarter. We have some slots remaining (at time of writing) so if you would like to see your own preposterous Hopeless Maine death scenario, follow the link… https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine 

Bertram Fiddle’s death a total mystery

It is my unhappy duty today to inform you that beloved islander Bertram Fiddle has died. Bertram was declared dead in the surgery of Doc Willoughby late last evening. It is only by chance that I happened to be passing as Doc Willoughby was attempting to remove the body from his office, and in assisting him, I was able to also interview him about the tragic death of this much loved local figure.

Here are the various answers our good doctor gave to the question ‘how did Bertram die?’ I repeat them here in the order in which I recall them which may not be the order they were given in – as I was helping move a body at the time I had no free hands with which to make notes.

“It was nothing to do with me.

It was an accident, clearly. He just came in here and died, just like that. Didn’t even tell me what was wrong with him first.

He was a dear, dear friend with whom I have never once had anything even slightly resembling a falling out. I would certainly never have hit him. And we weren’t drinking. We were going drinking together, you understand, but we had not actually started drinking.

It’s a complete mystery to me how he died, but death often is a mystery, isn’t it?”

Readers, I can only leave you to draw your own conclusions.

It is a tragic loss to the island. We will all miss his unique humour, his unique facial hair, and his unique relationship with reality. I also note with some unease that we have now lost our one resident detective. Who can forget his work on the case of the uncanny night shaving, or his relentless efforts to solve the conundrum of the pig in the latrine? And now, faced with the mysterious death of Bertram Fiddle himself, who amongst us has the skill and determination to step up and find answers?

Not that island justice can be relied upon to deliver anything much. Whether it’s our usual apathetic response of shrugging and supposing we have to live with it, or our heavy handed torches and pitchforks response that invariably punishes the wrong person anyway… justice is not our collective strongpoint. And I can only feel, in the sad loss of Bertram Fiddle, that our collective scope for justice has just taken a sorry blow and may never truly recover from it.

There will be a memorial service next week, and a wake, but no actual funeral because Doc Willoughby was so upset that he just got on and buried his dear friend himself.

 

You can find what remains of Bertram Fiddle here – https://www.bertramfiddle.com/

Bertram’s death is in no small part a consequence of the kickstarter we have underway at the moment. At time of posting, we have 38 open graves remaining for would-be corpses. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/countrostov/tales-of-hopeless-maine