There have been ghosts on this island for as long as there have been people. Most residents will have seen one or two in their time, I have no doubt. Most of our departed did not appear to stay on, but every so often some pale echo of a lost citizen would manifest. Tragic and disturbing though they are, these ephemeral echoes of the once living are a familiar part of life.
I have noticed this year that the numbers of ghosts have increased significantly. They have gone from being a rare, uncomfortable occurrence, to being a frequent sight across the island. Some, like Vortigern Frog and Greta Calder retain many of their human qualities and will even converse with the living. However, many of the shades we are now seeing are far less substantial. I can only speculate as to why the dead are no longer departing as they once did. Are these echoes, or are we seeing spirits, doomed to continue here for all eternity? It is a hellish thought.
This week’s photograph shows a trio of the dead. I cannot identify them, they retain so little of their original humanity. I have never before been especially fearful of dying, but the horror and pathos of these figures fills me with dread. I fear we will none of us sleep easily in our graves, nor ascend to some better place.
Last night’s storm brought a strange arrival to our shores. It was discovered by Hermitage Trott while he was harvesting seaweed yesterday. Assorted learned citizens went down to the beach in order to view the new arrival. No consensus has been reached as to its nature, but so far it has done nothing to suggest it is actively dangerous. However, given the size of pincers, and the speed at which it can move, the curious are advised to view it from a distance.
Despite the glowing eyes, Reverend Davies does not believe that it is inherently Satanic. I watched Jack Ephemery from The Crow make several attempts to capture the new arrival – no doubt with a view to cooking it. The creature resisted, scuttling off at surprising speed whilst making some unearthly noises.
While opinions are divided, my own theory is that this may in fact be a giant brother to the hermit crab, but the shell it has borrowed is unlike anything I have ever seen before. It has an almost metallic sheen, but it is hard to imagine how such a thing could have formed. Balthazar Lemon postulated that someone had made it, but no one who has viewed the shell can imagine any possible use for it. “People don’t always make things to be useful,” Lemon pointed out, and he should know!
The Hopeless Vendetta reaches a remarkable milestone this week. Seventy years ago, Edgar Titus Prerogative arrived here from the mainland, enthused by developments he had seen there. According to his journals, Hopeless was a wilder place in those days, with society structured around the four founding families, and very little technology at all. At first unable to buy or make a printing press, my maternal grandfather erected a large board, painted it black and wrote news upon it in chalk. A tradition that continues to this day, as does the habit of writing personal comments upon it in response to local events.
Five years later, Prerogative managed to buy a small press from the mainland, however, the ship bringing it floundered on rocks, and the press sank. Over the next year, my ancestor dived repeatedly and was able to bring up what he believed to be the greater part of the press, improvising whatever was needed to fill in the gaps. Only at this point did the issue of paper occur to him, and two more years passed during which he mastered the art of paper making. The first press produced copies one at a time, and was remarkably slow and cumbersome to use.
Sixty years ago this week, the first Hopeless Vendetta went to press. It was a historical moment for the island, bringing the community together, facilitating public arguments, and allowing opinions to be widely aired. Edgar’s daughter married one Percival Jones, who took on the business of the press, inventing a new, faster device, and thence it passed to me. The future of this publication lies, it appears, in the hands of Modesty Jones. God willing however, I shall maintain its noble tradition for many more years yet.
Yesterday Reverend Davies launched an appeal to do something about the dire state of his organ. The device, built thirty seven years ago by the infamous Testimony Albatross, is a remarkable feat of engineering and musical genius that Hopeless has perhaps taken for granted. In the many years since the demise of Albatross, the organ has gradually lost tone and some of its more creative functions no longer work. In the last few years, it has lost all semblance of tunefulness, and is consequently only used for funerals.
Inventor and repair expert Balthazar Lemon proposes an overhaul of the fabulous instrument. However, to fix the biggest organ in Hopeless, will require help from the whole community. Donations to the project much appreciated. Any small metal items, including wire, would be of great help. Balthazar Lemon requests any left handed sprockets, cat-stoppers and fids anyone happens to have spare. He would very much like some clewgarnets as well, and a selection of spoons in varying sizes, from teaspoons through to large serving spoons – metal, not wood. Donations can be left at the church or the lighthouse.
Ladies and Gentlemen of Hopeless, I present to you photographic proof of the existence of spoonwalkers. A recent explosion in their population no doubt accounts for the unusual number of missing spoons our island has suffered of late. Spoonwalkers are shy creatures, tending to be active at night. At this time, their glowing eyes are the most notable feature, should you happen to encounter one. As you will notice from the image I captured, spoonwalkers have no discernable feet, and when deprived of aids, find mobility difficult. I assume that the wild entities they descended from employed wood and other natural debris as a mode of transport, while descendants have moved into homes and adopted cutlery as a preferred source of material. These borrowed leg extensions enable them to take longer strides and move at remarkable speed. It also explains why spoons and sometimes forks will turn up in the most unexpected places, abandoned perhaps when the borrower no longer has need of them.
It is my great pleasure to lay this mystery to rest, thanks to that most remarkable of modern innovations, the camera. Given time, science will provide answers to all such mysteries.
During this difficult time with so many folk being sick, young people have really been letting the side down. Vortigern Frog says that non-return of library books is at an all time high. He said ‘I understand its hard for people when they are ill, but I suspect some people of deliberately retaining books for their own nefarious purposes.’ Questioned further, he revealed that the worst offender is none other than Owen Davies, son of Reverend Davies. I caught up with the miscreant at his house, and challenged him about non-return of library books. Owen claimed he had intended to take them back and merely forgotten. I also note that that the young offender had a number of spoons in his possession and can only wonder if he is responsible for all these spoons going missing lately as well. Revered Davies told me he would look into the matter.
Back in my youth, people did occasionally leave Hopeless. Ships sometimes arrived entirely of their own will. Back in those days, we were more optimistic as a community, and a good deal better off. When did anyone last build anything new here? I imagine it must be a disheartening place to grow up. I offer these thoughts as a counterpoint to my nephew’s report. What are we doing to build a future for our younger citizens? What do they have to look forward to? Can we blame them for small crimes inspired by futility and despair? The weather has improved, and I encourage you to spare whatever time you can for the bridge project. Parents with wayward young sons, in need of hope and direction, are encouraged to send their lads along. We can give our young folk something to believe in!
For the last two weeks, I have not had the strength to gather news, much less work the printing press. I have recollections of fever induced nightmares, sweating and fighting with monsters no one else could see. I gather I was one of the first to be struck down by this sickness. In these last weeks, and I estimate that nearly a half of the islanders have suffered from this monstrous contagion. Hunger Hill Establishment for the Weak and Confused has become a temporary hospital for the afflicted. Modesty Jones is currently in residence there (see photograph) which has not been a disaster for local journalism.
A number of eyes opened on my skin. I was not personally able to see through them, I do not know if anything else could. During the fever, I considered myself inhabited and others who have recovered report similar experiences. Most of the eyes have gone now, aside from one in the centre of my chest. I did not experience the outgrowths of tentacles, although others have suffered these disturbing growths. Some fall off with time, others have not, thus far.
I have not ascertained the extent of this sickness, but it appears widespread. I am not aware of any fatalities as yet, although there is much concern that abnormalities will remain. The cause is unknown, and there appears to be no cure beside waiting it out. Doc Willoughby remained unavailable for comment, which is unusual for him. All insight in this matter will be much appreciated.
When I interviewed Mrs Witherspoon about recent events at the orphanage, she told me she slept soundly all through the night when one of the little girls was taken and Miss Calder was killed. I tried to talk to the little girl but she just stared at me. I guess she’s too traumatised to talk.
Apparently other people can see Miss Calder and talk to her, but I can’t see her, so that didn’t go very well either. Maybe she wasn’t there. How do you tell? But what Mrs Witherspoon did say is that all the spoons have gone missing from the orphanage kitchen too. I suspect a connection with the theft from The Crow. Did they break in to steal the spoons and kill Miss Calder by mistake? Or were the spoons an afterthought? All very mysterious.
In the absence of any better news to report, I have printed my nephew’s latest attempt at journalism. It may divert people. I have spoken with Miss Calder, but her recollections of dying are so fragmented that I can make little sense of them. As for the spoon business, it is simply another spoonwalker epidemic. Little creatures are stealing our spoons and using them as stilts. It’s happened before. I remember it very clearly and am certain others must as well. The less experienced amongst us are perhaps too hasty in jumping to improbable conclusions.