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The Poet of Tragedy Creek

Some time ago our late, lamented arts editor, Miss Bathsheba Caudle-Green, thought that it would enhance the cultural profile of the island if we had our very own poet laureate. After some consultation with the Mayor of Hopeless (who, at that time, was Alphonse Crackstone), a mutual agreement was reached whereby a modest cottage on Tragedy Creek, plus a small annual stipend, was arranged for the use of the successful applicant. It was later revealed that this was only achieved after Miss Caudle-Green had gained a not insubstantial degree of leverage by making reference to certain interests Mr Crackstone had in the recently re-opened Madame Evadne’s Lodging House for Discerning Gentlemen (Under new management).
Disappointingly, no one from the island applied for the post, so tentative advertisements were placed in the prestigious Kennebec Journal plus several other mainland newspapers. Despite this, only one candidate came forward; a young man named Leonard Stanley. Miss Caudle-Green was much relieved that her artistic ambitions for the island were bearing fruit and Leonard was immediately hired with no questions asked. Having few belongings, to speak of, he was soon transported to the cottage on Tragedy Creek amid a whirlwind of publicity and excited anticipation. Hopeless waited with baited breath for the pure bardic outpourings of its first poet laureate.
After several months of silence people began to wonder if the odd bardic outpouring, or, at least, a bardic trickle of some description, might yet be forthcoming; or, indeed, if the elusive poet was still on the island. Eventually The Vendetta sent Miss Caudle-Green to investigate. She came back shortly afterwards with ‘something he had been working on’ which she published in the paper following week.

Ode to Hopeless
by Leonard Stanley

What a wonderfully strange place is Hopeless,
This island surrounded by mist (and sea).
I really believe I would cope less
well, if anywhere else I should be.
So I think I’ll remain here forever,
as I’m someone who’ll quite often stay
a long time in places like Hopeless,
where the deer and the antelope play.*
So…‘til the mountains all flatten and slope less,
and the gallows (if we had one) is ropeless,
and the Vatican’s empty and popeless,
It’s here I will stay and I’ll mope less
frequently, on strange and mysterious Hopeless.
An island surrounded by mist (and sea).

*Actually they don’t but I like the image and it rhymes.

Sadly, days after this was printed Miss  Caudle-Green resigned her position at The Vendetta, and has not been seen in cultural circles since. Mr Crackstone also vanished. It appears that he had secretly sold the cottage and took the proceeds, plus the funds for the laureate’s stipend, with him. With no job or home and despite (or possibly because of) his heartfelt Ode to Hopeless, Leonard Stanley was removed to the mainland. He was welcomed back by his previous employer who had been looking for him. He has now resumed his position in the piggery of the Bolduc Correctional Facility.

 

Art by Tom Brown

Hopeless, Maine Horoscopes

Horoscopes

Gemini: It’s your birthday, so you’ll be feeling your mortality keenly in the coming weeks. Death omens will be everywhere but if you are very careful, and avoid putting out to sea during the next tentacular spawning, you might just get through the year in something like a state of aliveness.

Cancer: Toilets are especially dangerous for you this month. Remember – always look before you sit, always have a talisman to clutch when you shit.

Leo: Be especially careful during any events of blood rain this month as your chances of slipping and falling to your death are higher than usual.

Virgo: Now is not the time to feel smug about apparent success. Now is the time to check carefully under the bed every night. Try not to sleep too heavily, it’s your only hope.

Libra: Beware of apparently friendly offers, the odds are they want something you won’t want to give.

Scorpio:  Nothing good whatsoever will happen to you this month.

Sagittarius: Next Tuesday you will be bitten by a dog. He’s probably rabid, we’ll have to kill him and some of you.

Capricorn:  The thing you are looking for has been eaten by a chicken, or buried by close family member for esoteric reasons.

Aquarius: Now is a really bad time for starting a new relationship. They’ll die, or they’ll kill you, or will turn out to have rabies from the Tuesday Dog Incident.

Pisces: I wouldn’t leave the house until after the full moon if I were you.

Aries: I’m pretty sure it was your dog. Everyone will blame whichever one of you it is and you’ll never be invited to parties again.

Taurus:  Late in the month, one of your more embarrassing secrets will be revealed thanks to a sequence of really bizarre coincidences.

The Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow

Regular readers of the ‘Vendetta’ will recall that some years ago we reported the discovery of an ancient burial site in the garden of Mr Jasper Fingle. At the time there was a certain amount of shock expressed in some quarters that the island had been host to settlers much earlier than previously suspected. For some of us, however, this came as no surprise at all. Jasper Fingle lives very near to the area of the island known as Creepy Hollow. It was given this name years ago, not long after the arrival of the Founding Families in the early nineteenth century – and with good reason.
The Legend of the Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow, sometimes called the Woeful Dane, has irrevocably intertwined itself with the history of one of our oldest families, the Chevins. Young Ophelia Chevin discovered that she had the dubious gift of ‘The Sight’ when she was only eight years old. Unsurprisingly her imaginary friends were more numerous and a good deal more useful than those of most children. While others enjoyed the insubstantial companionship of mute entities whose function was to be merely there to listen, or take the blame for various misdemeanours, Ophelia’s were kept fully occupied. They not only played games with her but helpfully did many of her chores and made sure that anyone who had been foolish enough to upset her were soon to regret their actions.
The most unusual of these companions was a large and generously bearded wraith who wandered abroad with a pronounced limp and a mad look in his glowing eyes. Although somewhat alarming to behold, he harmed no one but spent his haunting hours frantically searching for his stolen gull eggs. It seems that he had lived on the island centuries before and the details of his tragic demise were related to Ophelia by the ghost himself during his more lucid moments. It is a well-known fact, as any self-respecting psychic medium will tell you, that there are no language barriers in the afterlife. Even the English spirits can manage to communicate reasonably well with anyone, although generally they prefer to speak, and sometimes wail, extremely loudly and slowly in their own tongue, certain in the knowledge that they will be understood.
It was not until she reached adulthood that Ophelia recorded the ghostly account in her journal, now a treasured document still in the keeping of one of her many descendants. I am privileged to have been allowed to peruse this document and relate to you the strange tale of The Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow.
In those far off days the cliffs around the island were home to various colonies of sea birds. They would gather in their tens of thousands, squabbling, feeding, breeding – and most important of all, laying eggs. Like the inhabitants of St. Kilda in the Outer Hebrides, the early settlers became skilled in scaling the slippery cliff-faces, slick with algae and guano, to retrieve the precious eggs which had become, along with the occasional careless gull, the mainstay of their diet.
Old Lars Pedersen was lame and therefore had no skills as a rock climber or egg-thief. He was, however, an accomplished wood carver. He would barter his plates, bowls and spoons for furs, cloth and, more than anything else, gull eggs. The workmanship and art that went into these simple utensils was huge. His spoons, especially, were greatly prized. And rightly so, for the eggs for which he traded them had been hard won (and often hard boiled).
When, one morning, Lars  awoke to discover that his stock of spoons and all of his eggs had completely disappeared he felt as puzzled as he was distressed. His home was well furnished, he had a fine bronze torque, a beautiful copper mirror and many valuable pieces of jewellery that he had hoarded since his seafaring days. To steal only eggs and spoons and nothing else made no sense. Ever practical, Lars shrugged off the intrusion and set himself the task of replacing supplies of both. After a day or two of dedicated carving and oiling his bartering skills with copious amounts of mead he soon replenished his empty shelves with freckled eggs of various hues. Just a few nights later these too disappeared. Those versed in Old Norse profanities may well have recognised a few of the choice comments he made about the incident. Yet another theft was the proverbial straw that broke the pack-mule’s back. He decided there and then to stay awake and catch the thief in the act. For three long nights he lay beneath his furs feigning sleep but there was no sign of the burglar. On the fourth night, just as he began to think that the thefts had stopped for good, he heard an ominous scraping and shuffling noise. At first he could see no sign of movement in the darkened room. Despite this, the scraping and shuffling carried on, occasionally accompanied by some high-pitched, excited chattering. Still no one was visible in the gloom.
“I am bewitched” he thought to himself uneasily.
Suddenly a pale shaft of moonlight shone through the smoke-hole of the hut, directly illuminating the strangest creature Lars had ever beheld. He described it as somewhat resembling one of the fish-egg pouches often seen washed up by the tide; the type sometimes called ‘Mermaid’s Purse’. This creature was larger, though.
“About the length of your hand,” he told Ophelia.
Several sets of tendrils extended from its body. Strangest of all was the fact that the creature was actually entwining some of these tendrils around four spoons and using them as stilts. And by the intricate runic carvings along the handle they were his own spoons, no less! As his eyes became more accustomed to the moonlight Lars spotted other shapes in the dimly-lit space. There must have been eight or ten of them, each wearing spoon-stilts and carrying more eggs in their tentacular grasp. Lars could not help but let out a little cry of surprise. As one, every creature’s eyes suddenly turned towards his prone body, and now they glowed horribly with a fierce green luminescence. He couldn’t move. It was as if their baleful and malevolent gaze had frozen him to the spot. He watched in terror as the weird band thieves scurried stiffly out of his hut, gibbering and squeaking. The wooden eating utensils tapped the ground with an ominous rhythm as they conducted their own version of an egg and spoon race.
It wasn’t until the last creature had disappeared into the night that the use returned to the Dane’s body. Although his limbs were able to move once more he was rooted to the floor, unable to remove the image of those terrible green eyes from his rapidly disintegrating mind.
Soon, all reason had drained from him. In the confused jumble that now filled his head all that made any sense was the memory of those eyes. They burned into his soul and took on the hue and shape of gull eggs. Pale and speckled, sometimes they would be a delicate blue, sometimes brown but eventually, always reverting to those dreadful lurid, luminous green orbs. Eggs and eyes became indistinguishable, portals to a ghastly quagmire that sucked him down ever further into a dark morass of madness.
“ My eggs” he croaked,  trying to rise to his feet and failing miserably. His last actions were to reach out, clutching at thin air in a vain attempt to regain his lost eggs.
He was found at daylight lying cold and dead on the floor of his hut, a look of terror on his face and his eyes wide and staring at something that lurked beyond human vision.
For almost eight hundred long years his troubled phantom has haunted the place that has since become known as Creepy Hollow. He has witnessed the coming of the mysterious fog that seems to permanently surround the island. As the fog rolled in so the sea bird colonies deserted the rocks forever and with their passing the little Danish settlement disappeared, unable to sustain itself without their bounty.
Is it the body of Lars that Jasper Fingle discovered? We’ll probably never know. What we do know, however, is that those strange, misshapen thieves took a liking to spoons. They were a vast improvement on the twigs and bits of driftwood they had previously utilised. With these, they were able to climb and hunt much more efficiently.
Should you be on the island and in the vicinity of Creepy Hollow it would be fruitless to go looking for the Woeful Dane. These days he has become less substantial, and as his shade gradually fades so does his madness. If anyone should stumble on the wraith unexpectedly he would make a feeble attempt at the wild-eyed lunacy they might expect but it would be obvìous that his heart – if he had one – was just not in it. I have it on excellent authority that occasionally the ladies of the Mild Hunt have been seen to call by and whip him up a protoplasmic three-egg omelette but their spaniels invariably overdo the yapping and begging, and this, along with the pungent nether-winds of their famously flatulent mules, quite frankly, spoils the meal entirely for him. I don’t believe he’ll be seen at all before long. But don’t concern yourselves. There are more than enough ghosts and night-walkers on the island to furnish our nightmares forever.

 

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.

 

Towards Hopeless

 

Hopeless Vendetta

Bill Jones is an artist, writer and performer (As Miserable Malcolm) from that centre of the creative universe that is Stroud, UK. (This enables us to stalk him regularly)

He has quite recently released (Via publisher- Head of Zeus) a new book titled The Life and Times of Algernon Swift which is gloriously saturated with puns, double meanings and artwork like that above. We own a signed copy, I’ll have you know!  It can be got via online book selling sites and in all fine book stores (Possibly several middling book stores, but we wouldn’t know, as we don’t go into those) His website is to be found here.

A most Hopeless diet

We’ve been out and about… waving our tentacles in the ether

Druid Life

When I’m dealing with fantastical settings, I like to know how the practical details work. I think it’s getting the little, mundane things right that is key to making big, strange, magical things feel plausible. I experience this as a reader as well as when writing. I want to know where you go to take a shit, what people are wearing in terms of materials, how they keep warm, or cool, and what they eat.

Hopeless Maine is a lost island. It used to be more connected, and resources used to head its way, but these days, new materials either come from natural resources or wash in from shipwrecks. Recycling is a must. The Hopeless Maine diet is not for the squeamish. Food is in short supply, and you have to be willing to eat anything passably edible that comes along. This is why ‘bottom of the garden stew’ is…

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Book Review: When We Are Vanished by Nimue Brown

Some appropriate love for When we are Vanished by Nimue Brown (My partner in life and creative madness)

Meredith Debonnaire

When We are Vanished by Nimue Brown, art by Tom Brown

No corpse.

This is a book with serious depth. I am already fifty pages into my second read of it, because I just know that there are things I didn’t quite get the first time round. When We Are Vanished is a beautiful, quietly kaleidoscopic piece of work. It has the feeling of a fever dream just before waking, when sleep logic and waking logic meet for a few moments. It also has a wonderful, sometimes sharp sense of humour that runs through the entire book and that had me chortling to myself at more than one point.

The story is set in a world where computers stopped working. In fact, all silicon-based tech is now useless. Most of the plot takes place some years after this has become the norm, and everything is crumbling away and being reclaimed by nature. The remaining people soldier on through the new…

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The day I swapped ‘crime’ for a ‘majickal-hare’…

Here is a thing that will more than reward your time! (We are ‘Saztaculous Matlock Folk’, you will not be shocked to hear)

Niff Soup

writedeskConfession: I’ve killed people. Sometimes meticulously, sometimes casually, nearly always brutally and most probably unnecessarily.  Worse – I made money from it, initially felt overjoyed by the simple thrill of opting out of ‘the rat race’ with this new, exciting and often ‘sought after’ lifestyle.

‘Sought after’?  Allow me to explain…  Twenty-years ago I was a crime-writer, and had a series of what were termed at the time ‘psychological thrillers’ or ‘why-dunnits’ published by HarperCollins.  The theme was ‘suburban bleak’.  Living on the outskirts of London, I was able to swap the daily commute into the capital for a fictional ‘life of crime’. I was in my early thirties, blinded by the dubious lights of success and just about able to scrape a living by simply doing what I enjoyed the most – writing.

Friends at the time were envious, some wrongly assuming I was somehow fabulously wealthy (I wasn’t…

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Dusting off our tentacles

 

 

 

We have slept for a while.
Dark things dreaming.

Now we stretch, unfurl,
Unravel and recall.

Just a little bit hungry,
We are most fond of you.

Come and play with us.
Stay for tea.

For we are returning
As the year wanes

With plots anew,
Our tentacles resplendent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hopeless Vendetta rises from the dead this Autumn. Keep an eye on this page as we shake off the dust, for there is much afoot and we have plans for you.