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From the writings of Salacia Went

From the writings of Salacia Went, Hopeless, Maine.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”. The accuracy of Darwin’s words becomes more evident by the day. Since the ship bearing me to the new world was slain by a fateful storm and I woke on boards briny and broken, spitting the sand of this place from my mouth, I have seen adaption and I have seen failure lead to death. For the mist-wrapped isle of Hopeless, Maine is magnificent in its cruelty.

Another quote springs to my mind, as fragments of the world outside of this one often do.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Although I am certain that even the formidable mind of Madame Curie would have found Hopeless confounding, I take her words and hold them close and make them my mantra. For there is much to be feared here. Much to be understood.

Many others strive to understand the island and its ecosystem. The local botanist, Miss Nightshade, has already catalogued the local flora, how the heads of flowers and grasping fronds turn to follow you as you pass by, their shapes and scents and their uses if they can be subdued. Reverend Davies is known to have taken copious notes on the fleetingly corporeal fauna of the island, their indistinct forms and devious intentions. Frampton Jones records images of whatever spectacles he can with the infernal photographic contraption that he constantly hauls around like some journalistic Sisyphus. It seems only right that I turn my own hand to recording some aspect of Hopeless’ singular ecology.

And so, I turn my gaze skyward. To the astronomy of this place. A study that could take several lifetimes, I am certain, as there seems little to compare between these skies and those of my long-lost home. What was once a hobby has become my contribution to the island. For the skies of Hopeless are as perplexing and dangerous as everything beneath them.

The first observation of note: There is no sun here. Daytime is defined by a dim glow which passes overhead, filtered through dense cloud cover of some strange composition which taints the light, creating a diffuse sepia tone to the clouds, the air, the wan faces of my companions.

And yet, the nights are so clear. The clouds draw back as a great iris might open and the stars are revealed.

When first I began my study of these skies, I made new drawings each night, filling books and books with notable celestial markers, waiting for an inevitable cycle to show itself, a pattern to emerge.

It never did.

By my reckoning, I have lived on Hopeless for three years now and what nightly performance appears above our heads when the light fades bears no resemblance to any sane celestial calendar. One might describe the study of astronomy here more as drawing from a vast deck of cards.

However, there are observable relations between what happens above and below. Effects that my scientific mind shudders to describe as astrological. And so, I have done as Mr Darwin suggests. I have adapted. My telescope is a tool of divination. My notes have become the scribbled ramblings of occultists. My observations feverish and predictions far too accurate for the comfort of my old self.

Perhaps the most prominent of these, as the phenomenon is hard to miss, is the frequency of eclipses. While a rare enough occurrence in the old world, in Hopeless total solar and lunar eclipses happen several times a year although the former remain only vaguely observable through heavy clouds. As I have come to expect, there is no calculable design to their frequency, unless you consider that the moon simply makes up its mind to visit the sun as it pleases.

The effect on the populace is akin to mild annoyance, but for newer arrivals the phenomenon can be disconcerting if only for the fact that they plunge the island into complete darkness at seemingly random intervals.

An occurrence of particular note comes from the attendees of the birthday party of Hilde Parks, orphan of the Pallid Rock Orphanage. The locals report that, upon blowing out her candles, Hilde made a wish. A series of eclipses proceeded to occur in time with the pointed opening and closing of Hilde’s eyes, much to her amusement and the maniacal screams of the other Hopeless residents. However, once Hilde told everyone what her wish had been, the phenomenon ceased. This event set the record for daily eclipses at fourteen.

Although I could happily list hundreds of similar and entirely different spectacles, the Firefly Constellation is the next most obvious to discuss. Known only as a constellation by the loosest association, several times over the last few years, this swarm of lights has passed over Hopeless. Characterised by twenty or more softly glowing motes which are far too high for it to simply be its namesake. Notes of this phenomenon’s direction do not align with the observed behaviours associated with migration patterns of even Hopeless’ strange fauna.

The effect on the populace is a rare sense of wellbeing among observers, if only as it stands as a sign that there still remains somewhere outside of Hopeless for such things (whatever they may be) to travel to and from.

A particularly perplexing celestial feature is the occurrence of the Myriad Constellation. If this is indeed one constellation or many with similar traits remains to be seen, as the myriad constellation shifts when observed. When viewed from the corner of the eye, the constellation appears as a cluster of nine high-to-medium intensity stars. However, upon closer observation through a telescope, the myriad shifts, defying close observation or notation as to the true positions of the stars.

While the Myriad remains above, the locals have been observed to exhibit oddly transient behaviours. These nights have the streets of Hopeless somewhat busy no matter the hour. People move back and forth between each other’s homes, and some wander off into the woods. Of course, with what we know of the dangers of the wild places on the island, very few return.

Finally, I think it imperative to mention what I maintain to be the most dangerous of Hopeless’ celestial events. Although it manifests rarely, it is one which fills me with dread. For, on those rare nights when the light dies over our island and the clouds withdraw to reveal the Cuttlefish Constellation, the island becomes even more mysterious.

Beginning as a rift of shadow even darker than the void of space around it, at first the Cuttlefish Constellation appears to have scared away any other stars. Then, they begin to appear. Within that fissure of darkness, points of multicoloured light manifest. Truly a spectacle of petrifying beauty, the stars seem to pulse through spectrum after spectrum, often drawing the eye toward terrible colours which the human eye should never behold. And still, they move. They multiply as they undulate in waves of hypnotic beauty. And every eye on the island, although they might try everything in their power not to do so, turns upward.

I cannot describe, illustrate or begin to comprehend what happens next, for no one knows. We all awake in our beds, aching as if from a night of long toil, heads pounding as if we’ve all drank the Squid and Teapot dry.

It is on those occasions when I scoff at Madame Curie’s beloved words. For some things are beyond the understanding by mortal minds, and any sane person should fear them.–

Art by Tom Brown

We have been waiting to welcome Craig Hallam to our dark shores for some years now, as we are great fans of his work. (and we hope this will not be his last visit) We can recommend *all* of his fiction.  His Alan Shaw series is worthy of special mention (and he is working on the final book in that sequence now)  Go here to find out more.

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Uncle Petunia Chevin

Here , in the pages of the Hopeless, Vendetta we have not had a clear and successful reproduction of what Frampton Jones informs us is to be referred to as a “Photographic image” and not, as we have been saying, “infernal magic, AAAHHHHHHGGG” Previous experiments along these lines resulted in strange unsettling images festooned with tentacles and lead to a brief period of madness for Mr. Jones. (which we understand he may have mostly recovered from) This image was taken with a newly discovered (In some wreckage off shipwreck bay) camera device. (which we are keeping away from Mr. Jones for his safety and ours)

On discovering that the new camera does work, Herb Chevin decided that it was well past time that there was a portrait of his dear old uncle Petunia Chevin. Unfortunately, uncle Petunia died some twelve years ago, Herb (who was clearly determined) found the family grave behind the barn and dug him up. At least, he is fairly certain it was Petunia. It’s really sort of a family mass grave, or really, just a pit near the compost pile.  (but with a stone on it!) After identifying the skull of his beloved ancestor, (probably)Herb brought it into the house and set it on a book to pose for the photographic image. He says that his uncle loved books. He could not read (being a Chevin) but was not great in stature and in order to reach his food at table was obliged to sit on several of them.

Here we see the results in all their glory. It really does capture all of the charm and social graces of the late Petunia.

___________________________________________________________________________

Right! Back to what *may* be the real world. Time to break the fourth wall and speak to you as …me. (and I am largely nonfictional, as I understand things) Nimue and I met an amazing couple at Timequake. They were taking and developing actual tintypes or, more specifically, wet plate collodion photography. These photos were just beautiful artifacts on glass or tin.  Gregg McNeill’s passion for the process was contagious and there was always a long line in front of their table. (Unsurprisingly)

I managed to talk to him and ask if I might use one of his images in the Vendetta and he graciously gave us permission.

If you wish to see more (and if you are the sort of person who reads Hopeless, Maine, you probably will) you would be well advised to go here.

 

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

 

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)

Recently discovered residents of Hopeless, Maine!

New residents discovered!

Hopeless, Maine sits in a particularly cold and damp pocket of Casco bay and is hardly a tropical isle. Thanks to the efforts of two recently discovered residents though, it has just become much, much cooler.

Derek Dubery and Lisa Cunningham-Black have heroically donned Hopeless, Maine attire and done a series of photos for us. We (it hardly needs to be said) are over the mist-enshrouded moon.

So, without further ado, please allow me to introduce you to our new found islanders, they are “Captain” Jerrimiah Thomson Flynn and Bonnie Black. (It’s unknown whether the Captain title is genuine or not) If Bonnie and Clyde were to have been born off the coast of Maine, it likely would have been these two. The Captain has at some point in his “career” led a group of local brigands, but they have disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Not long after this, he was seen in the constant company of the young lady pictured. When asked their feelings regarding the underground residents of the island, they expressed a willingness to go “which ever way the wind blows”.

This reporter is not entirely certain they can be trusted, but they are certainly stimulating company.

 

Local Woman Takes The Plunge

artistLOCAL WOMAN TAKES THE PLUNGE AND OPENS GALLERY OUT ON GEEZO’S BIGHT

Local artist, Fuschia Van Der Hvergulmir, has taken the plunge and opened a gallery out on the small bay known as Geezo’s Bight which is situated on the northern coast of Hopeless.

The designer, who has previously had her work exhibited in the town hall, makes jewelry and ‘objets d’art’ from items that she discovers in the pit near Geezo’s Bight.

‘I’ve been exploring the pit for a few years now’ Mrs Van Der Hvergulmir told Frampton Jones of the Vendetta ‘ I used to beach comb but that became problematic when an albino seal (at least I think it was a seal) got very territorial and took to chasing me away every time I went down to the beach.’

‘Then I discovered the pit when out for a walk with my husband and our dog, Pepper. I still haven’t got to the bottom of it yet!’ She laughs.

Mrs Van Der Hvergulmir said that she and her husband Glenn thought long and hard about opening her own gallery given the current bleak economic outlook, but decided she would regret it if she did not at least try.

‘I’m really excited’ she said.

“I’ve had a really positive response – fellow businesses have been particularly supportive – and so far we have had five customers since we opened our doors three months ago.’

Mrs  Van Der Hvergulmir has built a workshop at the back of the gallery so she can make jewelery while being on hand for customers.

The jewelry and ‘pieces’ themselves are somewhat hard to describe given the strange quality of the materials used. This reporter particularly liked a crouching figure made from a sort of crumbly pumice stone entitled ‘Lier-in-wait’ and also a necklace made of a dark viscous substance that gives off a dull brown radiance.

The Van Der Hvergulmir Gallery produces one-off commissions, including engagement rings and is open to the public on Saturday between the hours of 1.00pm to 3.00pm.

(This Vendetta contribution was written by Charles Cutting, of http://charlescutting.com/ author and illustrator of the most excellent graphic novel – Kadath. Art on this piece by Tom Brown.)

Disaster Narrowly Avoided

(By Frampton Jones)

This enchanting creature very nearly seduced Doc Willoughby!

Last week’s thunderstorms and wild seas cast a great many fish onto the bridge, and our platform out on the Devil’s Fingers.  Amongst the more usual residents of the ocean, was a mermaid. Once the storm abated, her enthralling singing drew many folks towards the bridge. Those of us who remember the last such experience stuffed our ears with wax and fabric to keep the singing out, and mounted a barrier on the bridge to keep people at a safe distance. Some of our younger men (my unfortunate nephew included) made efforts to get out to the mermaid, but we were able to keep them safe.

Our venerable Doc Willoughby, who really should know better, was completely overwhelmed, and, unable to gain the bridge, threw himself into the sea. He was fortunate, his clothing prevented swimming, and the mermaid herself was unable to get down from the platform, or else he would surely have been drowned and eaten. Jed Grimes had to knock him unconscious before the good Doctor could safely be returned to dry land.

When Doc Willoughby regained consciousness, and had his ears blocked, he was all for a few of us going down the bridge and ‘killing the ghastly creature’. There was much support for this and some folks went so far as to arm themselves. However, Sophie Davies made a plea for compassion. She asked if anyone had the decency to return the mermaid to the water. Not a single man offered to help. (In my defence, I was preoccupied with keeping the bridge closed). Annamarie Nightshade stepped forward however. We were treated to the unlikely sight of the Reverend’s wife and the resident witch assisting the mermaid back into the water. Despite their fierce reputations, the creature did not attack either woman, and made a rapid exit. It is said to be tremendously bad luck to kill one,  but worse luck still to be lured by their fatal music.

Our Organ Restored!

What does God smell like?

(Frampton Jones)

I am pleased to announce that the repair of our church organ has been an almost complete success. Testimony Albatross’s fabulous device has been repaired by Balthazar Lemon, with some curious additions. The repaired organ was played this Sunday by Mrs Sophie Davies, and the music delighted everyone. Some doubts remain however, over the smells the organ now releases. The original Testimony Albatross design included a large tank, the purpose of which no one had truly understood. It is now full of fish (see photograph). I suspect it is no coincidence that, when played, the organ now fills the church with a distinctly fishy smell.

Questioned on the matter, Balthazar Lemon said, “It’s obvious this is how the organ was designed. It sounds better now.” He has a point. Filling the tank seems necessary. Lemon continued, “The organ is a thing of beauty, designed to bring us closer to God, through sound, scent and visual impact.” I asked him why he had filled the tank with fish, and not, for example with flowers, fruit or some other more appealing thing. He responded by saying, “What do you think God smells like?”

Bridging the Divide

The Hopeless Band

(Frampton Jones)

I delayed the Vendetta this week so that we could use it to celebrate a most historic moment. I am proud to present an image of The Hopeless Civic Band performing at the grand opening of the bridge. It is now possible for people to walk all the way out to The Devil’s Fingers, where platforms have been built, allowing visitors to view the sea. This crowning achievement of modern technology, engineering and determination was greeted with great enthusiasm and a party that lasted well into the night.

A rather unfortunate fight between Malcolm Atilla, and Jim ‘Lardbucket’ Smote, caused several sections of balustrade around the centre of the bridge to collapse under the shock. Repairs begin on Monday, but despite Jim ‘Lardbucket’ Smote being cast into the sea, the bridge is entirely safe to use. It provides some excellent and new views of the sea, and the fishing from here is very good, by all accounts. Most importantly, this completed first stage will enable us to strike out further, and eventually reach the mainland.

The Devil’s Fingers

Grasping the Devil's Fingers
Grasping the Devil's Fingers

(Frampton Jones)

 I can only apologise for my neglecting of the Vendetta last week and the shoddy excuse for journalism you were forced to endure in my absence. Although it is true that Shrove Tuesday Jones recently gave birth to a horned baby, but the horn is far smaller than the turkey image may have lead you to believe.

 The news is that tremendous progress has been made on the bridge. We’ve taken advantage of the warmer weather and calmer seas to get some serious building work done. The bridge itself has been successfully tethered to the Devil’s Fingers, and it won’t be long before it will be possible to walk out to the small island. Plans are afoot for a celebratory party once we reach land. We’ve all learned a lot during this stage, insight that will serve us well as we make the next stage from The Devil’s fingers. Balthazar Lemon has made a spying glass and we are searching for other rock outcrops to work with, or signs of the mainland. I am confident that we will soon be back in touch with civilization!

Freak Baby!

Gerald

(by Modesty Jones)

Frampton Jones is really busy with the bridge, and its going really well, but he’s forgotten what day it is, so yours truly gets to write the news. And the news is that my little sister Shrove Tuesday Jones has given birth to a freak. Seriously people, I have seen it. She won’t let me take any pictures though. But what makes it really weird, is that my cousin Mendip Jones had a turkey born a bit back and it’s got the same freakish problem going on as my nephew. Have you ever seen a forehead horn like that on a turkey before? Mendip’s been getting ones with side horns for years, but this is a whole new kind of strange. Really, you should see the baby though. Go and visit her. It’s well worth a look.

Now, I got to thinking that really this must mean something, having a turkey and a baby turn up about the same time and both of them having a horn growing out of the tops of their heads. That can’t be just coincidence. Shrove Tuesday Jones has not named the father, and our father is on the warpath, I can tell you. I reckon there’s something unnatural going on. I asked Reverend Jones if he thought it meant something, and he said ‘Probably not,’ but he hasn’t seen either of them.

So, if you see a guy who has a horn like this growing out of his head, you’d better keep your daughters and sisters safe from him. And your turkeys. And we should check out anyone with a big hat, in case they are trying to hide a horn under it.